What to look for at the Combine—Offense

Fryingpan Sports

What to look for at the Combine—Offense

By Bill Smith

The NFL Combine is now covered by the NFL network more than ever before. There are certain things that NFL scouts look for at the combine. Today we will look at the major items on offense. Tomorrow, we will look at the defense.


Unfortunately most top QB prospects don’t throw at the combine. They wait for pro days at their schools. That is a mistake. Joe Flacco from Delaware really helped himself at the 08 combine. He went from a high 3rd round choice to the top half of the first round to Baltimore to a rookie of the year candidate.

3-5-7 step drop passing drill Too many of the QB prospects come from the spread offense. They worked in college from the shotgun and didn’t have to worry about footwork.

Check out how quickly the QB sets up after the drop and finds his target.

Second, watch the quickness of the release. As the QB takes the last step of the drop the ball should be coming out of his hand.

Check out the arm strength and accuracy. The key test is the 15 yard out to the opposite sideline. If he can complete that throw with a rope pass, he has an NFL arm.

Last, check out the touch on the ball. Can he loft the ball to a back on a circle route out of the backfield.

Running backs

The key to the backs is the ability to change direction without losing speed.

Watch the backs in the 5 cone drill. Great speed doesn’t help if the back can’t change direction quickly.

Watch for ball skills specifically the ability to catch the ball with the hands away from the body.

Watch for the ability to run crisp routes. Does he make sharp cuts or round them off?

Receivers (WR&TE)

The ball skills and route running are the critical tests of the receivers. These players must be able to catch the ball away from their bodies and adjust to passes in the air. Another critical test of their route running ability is the fluidity of the hips. The 5 cone drill shows their ability to change direction at full speed. The catching ability is best shown running a test called the gantlet where passes are thrown at the receiver from both sides. This shows his ability to quickly change from one side to the other and find the ball.

Watch for the ability to run crisp routes with this group as well. Does he make sharp cuts or round them off? Rounded off routes are easily covered. In the NFL a back can’t get open unless he runs crisp routes.

Speed is probably more important to WR than any other O position. However, the ability to catch is more important that speed or jumping ability. When I coached, I didn’t care how fast a receiver was if he couldn’t catch. Getting out and open doesn’t help the O if the guy can’t catch the pass.

Offensive line

The best test of the O line happens in the practices for the Senior Bowl in the 1:1 O & D drills. Since there are no pads on for the combine, the closest that the O line comes to a test is the shadow drill. In that drill, a player tries to run around the O lineman within a 1.5 yard wide space. This drill shows the footwork of the O line. They shuffle back and forth within the space available to prevent the attacker from getting beyond them to the bag that represents the QB.

Enjoy the combine coverage but remember, the best way to evaluate players is the game tapes. The combine used properly is only a tool to rank players that may grade out approximately equally on the field. Also check out my recent posting at NFLDRAFTDOG.COM titled BEWARE OF THE COMBINE WARRIOR.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

My email is [email protected]

Technorati Tags: NFL Draft, football, NFL Combine, Offense, Defense, NFL Network
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