The NFL will conduct 10 "regional combines" in 2013, intended to serve as a supplement to the annual national scouting combine held in Indianapolis in February.
The league began the program last year in an effort to provide a platform for lesser-known prospects to work out for NFL scouts. Between 300-350 players typically travel to the invite-only national combine.
At the regional sites, prospects will have an opportunity to tested and evaluated by NFL scouting personnel, including agility tests and positional drills. Those numbers are entered into a database and shared with all 32 NFL teams.
“The NFL Regional Combines program provides players – who may not have had the chance before – the opportunity to work out for NFL personnel executives,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said in a statement. “It allows all 32 clubs a chance to further evaluate future prospects.”
Players eligible for the regional combines include:
- Players eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft but not attending the National Scouting Combine
- Players with college playing experience who want to gauge their pro potential
- Players with some pro playing experience but who have been out of the game for a period of time
Standouts at the regional sites are likely to be offered an invitation to the national combine. A total of 14 players who attened a regional workout last year were on opening week rosters this season, and 14 more made practice squads. At least one player from seven of the eight 2012 regional combines opened the season with an NFL team.
The first regional combine in 2013 will be held Jan. 24-25 at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. The final one will be the "super regional combine" at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas from April 7-8.
The full schedule:
Date / Location / Facility
Jan. 24-25 / Honolulu / University of Hawaii
Feb. 9-10 / Los Angeles / Orange Coast College-Lebard Stadium
Feb. 16 / Houston / Methodist Training Center
Feb. 17 / Cleveland / Cleveland Browns Training Facility
March 2-3 / New York/New Jersey / Atlantic Health Jets Training Facility
March 9 / Tampa Bay / One Buccaneer Place
March 10 / Chicago / Halas Hall
March 16-17 / Atlanta / Atlanta Falcons Training Facility
March 23-24 / Seattle / Virginia Mason Athletic Center
March 23-24 / Baltimore / Baltimore Ravens Training Facility
April 7-8* / Dallas / Cowboys Stadium
*2013 Super Regional Combine (invitation only)
It can be tough for prospects to gain attention from NFL teams if they don't receive an invitation to the National Combine in Indianapolis. However 14 players who worked out at the regional combines prior to the 2012 NFL Draft began this season on NFL rosters. And another 14 earned spots on NFL practice squads.
One of those players is Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, who was drafted by St. Louis in the sixth round despite not earning an invitation to the Combine in Indianapolis and has shined as a rookie. He did, however, participate in the the 2012 Super Regional Combine, which helped him get noticed by pro scouts.
“If it [playing in the NFL] is a big dream of yours, it'd be a good thing," said Zuerlein. "You have to keep trying to pursue your dreams.”
The Jaguars currently have three players on their roster who participated in Regional and Super Regional Combines during the pre-draft process last year. DB Antwon Blake (UTEP), WR Kevin Elliott (Florida A&M) and OLB Julian Stanford (Wagner) went undrafted, but all three were signed by Jacksonville as free agents and are currently on the Jaguars' active 52-man roster.
"I definitely recommend the Regional Combine to aspiring players, especially at smaller schools", said Stanford, who prepped at FCS-level Wagner. "People tend to think that good athletes only play at the Division I-A level, but I always told my teammates and I always believed that if you're an athlete and you belong at the next level then you'll be at the next level regardless. I feel like going to the Combine gives you the opportunity to showcase your talent in front of 32 teams that may have overlooked you before that.”
But these combines, which are restricted to 240 participants each, aren't just for unheralded college prospects. NFL players who have struggled to stick on a roster are also able to work out for teams in an attempt to get back in the league. Last year several non-college prospects participated in the Regional Combines, including RB Keon Lattimore who went undrafted out of Maryland in 2008. The younger half-brother of Ravens MLB Ray Lewis, Lattimore had earned several NFL try-outs, but failed to make the final cut. However he didn't give up on his dream of playing football and saw last year's Regional Combines as an opportunity.
“I just wanted to do something -- keep playing, keep perfecting my craft -- where I wasn't just sitting around, waiting around," said Lattimore. "So when the opportunity finally did come, I would be ready.”