In addition to the workout drills that will take place at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, there are position-specific drills where NFL personnel can evaluate prospects. Now, there are no pads or tackling, so what do teams look for? NFL Network's Mike Mayock does a thorough job of explaining what teams want to see from the Combine participants.
On Saturday, the drills kick off with the specialists, offensive linemen and tight ends competing to improve their draft stock.
The big uglies will do what's called the kick-slide drill. Don't be surprised if while watching NFL Network's coverage you happen to see offensive line coach Juan Castillo assisting with the drill as he's done in the past. The lineman will get in a two-point stance (no hands on the ground) and in a three-point stance (one hand down on the ground) with a cone or tackling dummy stationed 12 yards behind him. A defender will line up across from him and at the snap take a direct route towards the cone. The lineman opens up into his stance at a 45-degree angle and shuffles his feet to block the oncoming rusher.
"It's the basic pass-protection maneuver for every tackle in the National Football League," Mayock said. "You kick slide just like you would with a defender across from you to protect your quarterback. What it shows is the ability for an offensive tackle to get out of his stance on a 45 degree angle, (while) keeping great balance. If you can do that, you can make an awful lot of money in the National Football League."
Mayock further explained it's not just good footwork teams want to see, but also how they bend their knees.
"You don't want to see heavy-legged waist-benders and you don't want to see guys standing up high. You want to see natural benders. Guys that can drop their hips, bend their knees while their sliding to protect their quarterback," Mayock said.
"They're punching the defender. They're staying underneath him. And then when that defender gets even, you turn with your inside arm, you grab and push him by your quarterback. You run him right by that dummy at 12 yards."
The tight ends, like the wide receivers, will run the gauntlet. The tight end stands on one sideline and catches a ball thrown to him. He jumps 180 degrees and catches another ball and then darts off across the field straight down a yard line, say the 20-yard line for example.
Five quarterbacks are set to throw the ball to him, three on one side and two on another. The tight end has to catch the ball from the first quarterback and get rid of it quickly because another quarterback on the opposite side will deliver the ball immediately after he catches the first one. This continues with the three other quarterbacks until the tight end reaches the opposite sideline.
"The whole key to this drill is number one - vision. You've got to get your eyes to that next quarterback immediately. Number two - (catch the ball) out in front of you, don't let it into your chest. If it gets into your chest, you'll never catch it, control it and get rid of it in time to be ready for the next quarterback. He might take your head off," Mayock said. "Finally, it's all about hand-eye coordination, running the straight line."
Mayock's exquisite insight sheds light on how there's a divide between scouts and coaches in regards to this drill.
"Coaches hate it. Why? What do coaches preach? Ball security. There's just something inherently wrong in a coach's mind to catch a football and throw it away. It simulates a fumble. Coaches don't coach fumbles," Mayock said. "I do think there's something good about it - the hand-eye coordination, the concentration, the ability to run in a straight line. If you see a guy pluck it five times in a row with no problem, you know he's got natural hands."
Now you know what to watch for on Saturday during NFL Network's extensive coverage. We'll preview the quarterback and running back drills tomorrow. Later today, Bo Wulf will tell you some of the offensive linemen and tight ends who might be worth keeping an eye on.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 12:15 p.m., February 26