The NFL scouting combine has been around since 1982, the same year the league began tracking individual players' sacks. For years, it's been viewed as an opportunity for prospects to climb up draft boards with standout performances in a variety of drills measuring their athleticism. However, the event has come under fire multiple times in the past three months, with disdain coming from the league's top executives.
In December, Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, likened the combine to a "slave auction." Then, on Wednesday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said getting rid of the combine and replacing it with regional pro days would be an improvement. The combine typically occurs the last week of February.
"Think about it ... the NCAA and the NFL structure a combine during what should be every football player's what? Last semester in college," Smith said, via ESPN. "Who decided that it was a good idea to take your son and have him exclusively try out for the NFL's exclusive way of getting into the league -- for the most part, unless you're a free-agent player? You have to be invited to the combine."
One of Smith's largest sticking points with the current format is top draft prospects feeling like they need to undergo a full medical evaluation upon arrival.
"As soon as you show up, you have to waive all of your medical rights and you not only have to sit there and endure embarrassing questions," Smith said. "And I think that's horrible, and I don't wanna pooh pooh any of that, but would you want your son to spend hours inside of an MRI [machine] and then be evaluated by 32 separate team doctors who are, by the way, are only doing it for one reason? What's the reason? To decrease your draft value."
"It's gotta start with players and their agents understanding that the combine today has nothing to do with how fast you run, how high you jump, and how much you can lift," Smith continued.
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Thanks to the social media era and at least three years of college film on the top prospects, the NFLPA boss doesn't think the league needs a combine to physically evaluate a player's capabilities.
"We've been tracking all of these players since they were in what? Grade school," Smith said. "If I asked you right now to pull up a high school video of the top draft picks, how long would it take you to do it?"
A response of "30 seconds" was shouted back at him from the media gathered.
"Right. So, we're now in an era where we know eactly how fast these guys can run, how much they can lift, how far they can jump, do all of those things. Why do we insist on them showing up in Indianapolis? It's not for anything physical, right? It's for the teams to be able to engage in intrusive employment actions that don't exist anywhere else."
The NFL scouting combine will take place in Indianapolis from Feb. 28 to March 6 this year. The league has held the combine in Indianapolis every year since 1987 with the exception of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.