NFL Combine 2014 Behind the Scene View

Three Reasons for the NFL Combine


In 1977 at the urging of Tex Schramm, Dallas Cowboy President & General Manager (1960-1989) two national scouting organizations centralized the testing and evaluation of college football players pursuit of a professional football career. Prior to 1977 team General Managers and team Scouts scheduled individual meetings for each recruit they were interested. National Blesto and Quadra Scouting Organization came together and centralizing the evaluation and testing process and in 1982 the first National Invitational Camp was held. Then in 1985 this event was titled as the NFL Combine.

Reduce Team Costs

Centralizing the measurement and testing of college prospects reduced the travel cost as well as the evaluation and measurement expenses. There are 14 measurements or evaluations done at the NFL Combine.

Standardized Testing & Measurement

Prior to 1982 college football draftees were measured separately using tests and measurements chosen by the team interested. This process created opportunity for measurement error and evaluation results that maybe biased.

NFL Combine 2014

Jeff Foster took over as the NFL Combine President and Director in 2006. His remarks during an NFL Network interview highlighted how far this event has come and what the future may hold.  Will football fans be allowed to attend the NFL Combine?

2014 NFL Combine

As I walked to and from the Combine sessions I saw fans waiting patiently for a coach or NFL player to walk by providing opportunity to request an autograph. Outside the Lucas Oil Stadium the mood was very focused on the professional behavior necessary to find the next Pro Bowl player that helps deliver a Super Bowl Victory. In every hotel lobby from the Omni to the Marriott coaches, scouts, and GM’s were catching moments to review and recap strategies and player profiles before an interview session or watching the players go through their exercises.

I met Weston Richburg (OL37) at the Intercontinental to wish him luck and review mindset management as he prepared for his evening interviews. The interview process is so clearly defined and highly weighted by teams that Draftees practice sample questions prior to the interviews.  Weston is a great example of players who are serious about the preparation process and yet not focused on how to package their skills and risk looking staged or insincere. Talking with professional scouts you will find out the intangible factor like interviews are essential and yet not measured like a 40 yd dash.

Richburg at College Press Conference

Richburg at College Press Conference

During the physical exercises I watched Jadeveon Clowney excel with physical performance then field questions from the media about arriving late and questioning his desire to prepare for NFL competition and challenges. How does a GM or Coach know that Clowney’s desire to play is genuine and ready for the NFL.

I spoke with several NFL franchise executives that are aware of the risk they have when they draft a player and they misread the intangibles evaluating player core values. Jeff Foster has added psychological evaluation (Wonderlic) that evaluate tendencies toward behavior type but do not quantify a player’s desire for core values . Simply put discovering “Who is this Player?” and “Why are you here?”.  The NFL Combine has an efficient evaluation process that quickly and effectively processes over 300 applicants for interviews and consideration by 32 potential employers.

 Coaches Perspective

An event as large as the NFL Combine creates a distinct and powerful community well before the athletes and team representatives even get to Indianapolis. The event is as much a family reunion as it is the first employment step for a professional football career. Media and market awareness teams have been in Indy for a week or more prior to the start setting up equipment and technology.

As the coaches arrive they have brief moments to visit with colleagues and in some cases teammates from the days they were in the league before observing Draftee performance .

Joey Porter as CSU coach

Joey Porter as CSU coach

This was not the case for me since I did not play professional football but I did go to dinner with my friend Joey Porter, Pittsburgh Steeler alumni and 4 time Pro Bowler.  The 2014 NFL Combine is the first time Joey is on the Coach’s side of the table. During dinner Joey and I reflected on his time with the CSU Rams and the impact mental conditioning and mindset management had on the team.

As our conversation continued we discussed the differences between college coaching and NFL coaching and the one common process for both and that is building player trust. Building trust is supported by getting to know the player so that you may intuitively anticipate their response and behavior. At this point we both laughed as Joey pointed out that each coach will walk away from the Combine with a slightly different impression of each player’s intangible traits.

Measure Core Values

At the Combine, are there measurements for core values and desires, i.e., motivation, for each Draftee?

Jeff Foster in his interview with NFL Network remarked about the partnership with Microsoft and Under Armour as two great resources for processing player data and standardized equipment for each player. The point being is to support an accurate and fair evaluation. The Under Armour role in fairness is quickly understood and by the way the underwear was very sharp.

The Microsoft role was also easily understood because the updates and transfer of player data to the coaches as well as on the NFL web site was quick and complete. That being said this support has nothing to do with measuring a player’s core values or measuring how they are motivated and by what or who. The NFL Combine currently uses the Wonderlic Tests as a psychometric measurement tool.  All data with the help of the Microsoft partnership is shared with each NFL franchise and added to the scouting reports generated from the previous college football season.

During my dinner with Coach Porter we discussed how coaches and team scouts use all of the data to assess player attributes, traits and skill while not relying on any one or group of measurements to dictate their choice.  This is a very complete process but is not exact or guaranteed to predict future performance and yet it is taken very seriously. Once a Draftee is selected millions of dollars are committed with the hopes of a large economic return. A successful Draftee selection will equate to greater ticket sales, merchandise sales, and concession sold during each game. The reverse consequences not only cost the franchise current dollars but the lost future revenue potentials are multiplied as you wait for this Draftee’s contract to expire or be traded.

The NFL Combine has centralized, standardized, and cost effectively managed the evaluation of human potential, but they are still looking for more accurate tools for measuring human desires and the core values that drive them to exceed expectations. The Wonderlic test identifies a number that measures the potential for success in a given profession or in this case position (QB, Running Back, WR, etc.). The Wonderlic test is a vocational intelligence test and provides a number for evaluating one’s ability to think and process quickly. A scout for an NFL team asked me if there is a test that measures following instructions, listening skills, or being organized and I said yes. The RMP 16 ( numerically measures human core values and desires. So a player like Clowney could be profiled to discover why he is late for important meeting, i.e., what drives him to do that, and that discovery would begin to prescribe training for him.

The best coaches I have met rely on intuition that is flavored with how players execute when challenged by the toughest competition. This data is real and concrete for a coach. That being said the championship coach is always looking for tools and training to stay on top. The NFL Combine provides coaches with great resources and insights. So, congratulations Jeff Foster and the entire NFL Combine team you deliver a great event for discovering NFL excellence.