Before NFL prospects’ dreams can come true on draft night, they need a strong showing at the annual ritual known as the NFL Scouting Combine.
The combine is an incredibly thorough physical examination, mixed with a high-stakes audition for the big league, against a backdrop of millions of dollars hanging in the balance. All 32 NFL teams send representatives to weigh, measure, poke, prod, test, and try to get inside the minds of the players in order to find the next superstars. A good performance can send an average player to the top of the draft, while a bad one can make a surefire first-round plummet into the later rounds.
While players participate in position-specific drills, it’s the universal drills — like the 40-yard dash and the bench press — that get the most attention. At the combine, the players’ previous performance is out the window and one more rep or a split-second faster run can put money in their pockets.