For NFL hopefuls, the best place to showcase their talent and athleticism is at the annual NFL Scouting Combine. The combine is a series of tests that serve to give NFL coaches an idea of the athlete they're drafting. While the tests that players participate in vary widely and include medical and psychological examinations, the combine focuses on five main events that almost all players will do.
Here are the tests audiences will be watching when the combine starts on March 3:
The Bench Press
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The only test that focuses on arm strength, the bench press has athletes press a 225-pound dumbbell as many times as they can. The player’s hips must stay planted as they press, and the bar must touch their chest for the rep to count. The drill favors offensive and defensive linemen especially, as they have a chance to improve their stock by demonstrating arm strength and endurance. The record for the event was set by defensive tackle Justin Ernest in 1999 with 51 reps.
The shuttle run is useful for players who need to show their speed, especially wide receivers. The drill involves running from side-to-side five yards apart before sprinting for the end line. The attributes needed include agility and lateral speed, which are needed by most positions on the field. The record for the shuttle run is held by Kevin Kasper in 2001 with a time of 3.73 seconds.
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the combine, the 40-yard dash tests players' raw speed as they sprint 40 yards as fast as they can. The dash is a useful metric for all positions, as speed off the line is a highly valued characteristic in NFL hopefuls.
While the drill is more geared towards those that will use speed over distance, like wide receivers and corners, teams often pay attention to the 10-yard split times to assess explosiveness. The record for the dash is held by wide receiver John Ross, who clocked in a speedy 4.22 seconds at the 2017 Combine.
The vertical jump is a simple yet effective way to measure an athlete’s explosiveness. Players stand flat-footed and jump as high as they can, touching elevated flags to measure their height. The jump tests leg strength and initial explosiveness which can indicate how powerfully a player can explode off the scrimmage line. In 2005, defensive back Gerald Sensabaugh managed a lofty 46 inches, a feat that hasn’t been topped since.
The Broad Jump
The broad jump is similar to the vertical jump in that it tests explosiveness and leg power, but the jumping style demands slightly different muscle groups including the hips and ankles. This makes it ideal for judging running backs and their ability to barrel forward into tackles and holes. The drill has players start in the same way as the vertical jump, but leap forward instead, landing balanced and on two feet. The record is held by cornerback Byron Jones, who jumped 12 feet and three inches in 2015.