The All Stars games have all passed and nearly everyone should be recovered from any offseason surgeries. Now begins the race to Indianapolis and Phase II of the draft process. The second leg of the five phase draft process is the longest, but the most important because it will determine how prospects will perform for the scouts.
Combine training is here.
For many NFL hopefuls it is an eight week process that begins in early January and climaxes with the departure to Indianapolis in late February. Each position group will report on a different day, which leads to a staggered start. So some positions will have a few extra days of preparation, but the 6-8 week training protocol is fairly standard.
The first step after an agent is selected, is to decide where the athlete wants to train. There are facilities in California, Phoenix, Florida and many other places that specialize in preparing players for the drills and tests they will see at the combine. Some players elect to stay home and train at their school, but those days seem to fading fast. Agents now promise exclusive and expensive combine training as part of their pitch to the players and most of the players are ready to move on from the campus lifestyle.
Most of the specialized tests measure a specific aspect of a players athleticism. The 40 yard dash is the most famous measure of linear speed and is crucial for skills players. Within that run, a 10 yard split is also timed. The two primary timed agility tests are the 10 yard pro agility and the L Drill or 3 Cone. Each of those measure lateral mobility, while the L Drill also tests a player’s hip flexibility or how “stiff” are their hips. Outside of those tests, are the jumps, both a Vertical and Broad. Both are standard tests to measure explosion and leaping ability and are more important for some positions than others. The last core test is for upper body strength. The 225 lbs. bench test measures the quantity of reps players can lift at a standard weight to identify upper body strength.
All of the aforementioned tests have varying degrees of importance to different position groups. The 225 lbs rep test is much more important for Lineman, Linebackers, Running Backs and Tight Ends than it is for Defensives Backs, Wide Receivers and quarterbacks. The reverse can be said for the 40 yard dash. How often does an Offensive Lineman run 40 yards on a football field? Not often. So their times are not a critical to their evaluation, however the 10 yard portion is still very meaningful to measure their “burst.”
These tests are broken down into segments and trained at nausea for the training duration. Most training regiments will have a few days a week that simply prepare for the linear speed and jumping portion of the combine and other couple days dedicated to agility and position skill work. The days are long and usually begin with a morning training session of either weights or field running. After a 90 minute workout its time for massages or any type of soft tissue work. Yoga, foam rolling, stretches or cold tanks are other options to help ease to the pain of training. After lunch and some time to rest, then second training session of the day begins. It will be the opposite of the weights or running from earlier in the day. The average day will typically conclude with video work dissecting the footwork missteps from the drill and testing portion of workout.
The last piece of combine training is preparing for the interview process. Many seasoned agents prepare their players for the tough questions they will face GMs and Coaches. The most effective method of training to hire a former coach or front office executive to drill the respective players about off the field issues or holes in their game. It forces players to hear tough truths about themselves and develop coherent answers to tough questions.
The entire training process must be completed in less than two months. The training is intense and extremely repetitive. Repetition is the best way to train for what will transpire in Indianapolis. At times it seems like Groundhog Day, but it’s the only way to perfect it.