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2024 NFL Combine: The drills and what teams are looking for when evaluating prospects

NFL: Combine
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL already gearing up for the next season, all eyes are on the next rising stars of the league at the 2024 NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week.

This yearly event combines physical and mental assessments to evaluate the upcoming NFL Draft class, capturing the attention of NFL executives, coaches and scouts looking to evaluate players ahead of April’s draft.

But what are the drills we watch on TV, and why do NFL teams think they’re essential to evaluate possible 2024 NFL Draft picks? Here’s a look at each drill, what they are used to evaluate and why they matter.

Related: NFL Combine storylines from Day 1


NFL Combine 40-yard dash
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 40-yard dash is a classic NFL Combine test of speed, requiring players to sprint a distance of 40 yards as fast as they can. The focus is not just on time but also on the initial 10 yards, which reveals an athlete’s ability to accelerate quickly—a crucial trait for positions that demand swift movements to outpace defenders.

20-yard shuttle

NFL Combine 20 yard shuttle

Also referred to as the 5-10-5 drill, this agility challenge tests players’ ability to change directions rapidly over a distance. It indicates lateral movement and acceleration are essential for players like slot receivers, running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers who need to maneuver past opponents on the field. If you’re watching the NFL Combine because your team is in the market for an athletic playmaker, you’ll want to pay attention to this.

3-cone drill

NFL Combine 3-cone drill

This agility drill assesses a player’s skill in navigating turns at high speeds, replicating the quick changes in direction needed during gameplay. This NFL Combine test is revealing when it comes to pass rushers showing how they can maneuver past blockers and disrupt offensive plays effectively.

Related: Top 10 prospects with the most to prove at the NFL Combine

Bench press

Rather than focusing on pure strength at the NFL Combine, the bench press test involves lifting 225 pounds as many times as possible. It indicates a player’s ability to sustain strength throughout a game, especially for linemen.

Vertical jump

NLF Combine vertical jump

This assessment evaluates a player’s leaping ability from a stationary position. It directly measures lower body explosiveness. It is vital for receivers and defensive backs to give insights into their capability to compete for high passes.

Related: Everything you need to know about the 2024 NFL Combine

Broad jump

NFL Combine broad jump
Julio Cortez/AP

Assessing jumping prowess, the broad jump evaluates an athlete’s explosiveness and power from a standing stance. While it is most revealing for linemen to showcase their ability to propel against opponents, an impressive performance can be a sign for players in any position.

These exercises, combined with interviews and behind the scenes assessments create a testing environment for the future NFL stars. Each activity provides insights, into both the physical and mental attributes of athletes offering fans and teams alike a preview of potential upcoming stars.
During the combine make sure to pay attention to these drills as they play a crucial role, in shaping the future careers of NFL players.

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