OFD Strength: The Combine Primer Pt. 1

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

OFD’s Resident Strength Coach, Jason Chrapek provides insights on the drills and tests that each potential NFL’er participates in at the NFL Scouting Combine


NFL Scouting Combine 2014.

February 22-25, 2014

Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, Indiana

Where to watch it: NFL Network will have full coverage

The NFL Combine is the annual cattle-call in which NFL coaches, Executives, and General Managers get to see the players first hand in a standardized test of athletic ability. To 90% of fans, this entire process is epically boring other than the results. I however, can’t get enough of it. I am still trying to find a way to weasel my way in to watch a bit of it. But, because it is football, people will tune in to the NFL Network to watch 335 NFL hopefuls give their best shot at physically impressing the men who will hopefully call their name at the NFL Draft in early May.

Combine workout schedule:

Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams

Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers

Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers

Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs

In addition to the 7 drills I will soon explain, each prospect will be subjected to a few other tests. They are as follows:

· Anthropometrics (Body Measurements): Height, Weight, arm length, and hand length. All athletes are tested for body fat percentage using a bod pod.

· Urinalysis drug screen: Urine screening for illegal substances such as marijuana and cocaine, and testing for performance enhancing substances.

· Medical examination: Each prospect will go through X-rays and physicals to determine their current injuries and their injury histories. Injured prospects coming into the combine will get serious looks. In rare cases, an injury, condition, or disease will be identified that the athlete did not know they had. This of course, could seriously impact their draft status. In 2013, Utah Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei was rated as top-3 overall prospect regardless of position by ESPN Scouts. Inc. An echocardiogram, a standard part of the NFL Scouting Combine Medical Exam, revealed that Lotulelei’s left ventricle was pumping at only about 44% efficiency, which is below the normal range of 50-70%. Lotulelei returned to Utah for further testing without completing any of the physical drills. Luckily, further testing determined that it was simply the result of a viral infection and eventually disappeared and he performed well at his Pro-day. He was selected in the first round by the Carolina Panthers with the 14th pick.

· Cybex Test: The Cybex Test is not the most important test prospects must go through. Although, injured and previously injured prospect’s results in the Cybex Test will get serious looks from coaches. The Cybex Test tests the flexibility and joint movement of each prospect. Each prospect will be hooked to a machine which will determine their results. The test is named after the brand of the machine that is used for the test.

· Psychological/Intelligence-type test: Since the 1970s, the Wonderlic has been given to combine attendees. In 2013, an additional new 60 minutes long test was added to the testing program. This new and expanded player assessment tool is designed to offer a much more robust and comprehensive assessment of a player’s non-physical capabilities, aptitudes, and strengths. The test measures a wide range of competencies, including learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, responding to pressure or unexpected stimuli, and core intellect. The results of the new test, like the Wonderlic test (which will still be administered), remain confidential.

· Position Specific Skills Test: Each prospect will go through a few position–specific football drills, including pass catching for WRs and certain step patterns for OL. These tests are often overlooked due to the qualitative nature of these measurements but they are very important for assessing sport-specific performance in a testing environment.

· Interviews: Each NFL team is allowed 60 interviews, 15 minutes in duration. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those rooms. These interviews are pretty no-holds-barred when it comes to questions about the players’ past, knowledge of the game, family life, etc. Depending on the position, some teams will ask a player to diagnose a play, or to outline formations and responsibilities. This can be quite the grill-session. In some cases, teams will pull up a negative play from the players’ College career and ask them what they screwed up.

Alright, now it’s time for the physical performance tests. Each one of the following tests is designed to reliably test physical strength, power (Speed-strength), and muscle endurance. In today’s Part 1 we will take a look into the strength/power tests!



Test #1: Bench Press

The Bench Press Rep test is a test of both upper body strength and endurance. This is one of the most popular and most scrutinized tests. I will speak on the validity and reliability of these tests later. For now, let’s bench, brah!

The bench press is a test of strength--225 pounds, as many reps as the athlete can get. What the NFL scouts are also looking for is endurance. Anybody can do a max one time, but what the bench press tells the pro scouts is how often the athlete frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years. (From the NFL Scouting combine website)

The interesting part of this test is that it is looking at two very different characteristics of athletic performance; Both Strength and Endurance. In a future episode I will dive into the physiology of muscle fibers.

The short version goes like this: Type II Fast Twitch muscle fibers are the most important when it comes to a very anaerobic, high-force-output sport like football.

There are two subtypes of Type II fast twitch muscle fibers. Type II’s are separated into FF (Fast, Fatigable) and FR (Fast, Fatigue-Resistant). Depending on the training or de-training of these muscles they can easily convert either way. A Type II dominant person that does not continuously and progressively train (the couch potato) will have very fatigable fast twitch muscle fibers. This type of person will be strong, but lose peak power output very quickly. On the flip side, an athlete who activates those muscle fibers often (The gym-rat) will build strength-endurance. (The ability to repeatedly produce a significant amount of force without rapid drop-off).

This is a more valid measurement than a "max-bench" because form/technique plays such a bigger role. I can assess and retrain an athlete’s form and add 5% or more onto their max within the same day.

Combine Record: Stephen Paea from the 2011 Combine completing a record 49 reps. Drafted in the second round by DA BEARS!

(via pora paea)

Test #2: Vertical Jump

Another very popular and scrutinized measurement among fans, the vertical jump is an assessment of lower body explosiveness (Power = Strength AND Speed). This test is just as important for lineman as it is for WRs and DBs. Of course, you can only compare results within a position. The athlete stands flat-footed and they measure his reach. It is important to accurately measure the reach, because the differential between the reach and the flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement.

Combine Record: Gerald Sensabaugh (2005) with a vertical leap of 46 in. Drafted in the 5th round by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Here is a video of Jameson Konz (Gym Rat, real blue-collar guy) at his Pro Day at Kent State for a comparison. Camera guy sucks.

Jameson Konz 46 inch vertical jump (via fballfanatic1)

Test #3: Broad Jump

The Broad Jump is very similar to the Vertical Jump as far as what physically it is testing for; Lower Body Explosiveness. The athlete starts out with a balanced stance with toes of the cleats on the line. The athlete loads up and explodes forward. It is basically the long jump without the run up. Another big indicator that is more of a qualitative measurement is how the athlete controls their body throughout the takeoff-flight-landing phases of the test. The athlete must land and maintain foot position for it to count as a valid test.

Combine record: Jamie Collins of Iowa (2013). I bet that guy was a champ at the lava game when he was a kid. Drafted in the 2nd Round by New England.

2013 NFL combine Jamie Collins 11'7" broad jump

In Part 2, we will take a look at the speed tests of the 40 yard dash, 20 yard shuttle (5-10-5 drill), the 3-cone drill, and the 60 yard shuttle. We will take a look at the nine Notre Dame players would earned an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine (SPOILER: Thomas "The Train Engine that Could Tried Really Hard" Rees did not receive an invite), and discuss the validity and reliability of these tests and what these results translate to when it comes to the overall evaluation of a football player.

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