NFL Scouting Combine means big money for draft prospects

College players regularly rise or sink on NFL Draft boards based on how they perform

For top draft prospects competing this week the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, a strong showing in the slate of tests and drills can mean a difference of millions of dollars in their first professional contract.

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Standout college stars such as University of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert are among the participants in this year’s annual showcase event. Players submit to a variety of medical tests, measurements, interviews and drills, giving representatives from the NFL’s 32 teams the clearest indication to date of their fitness heading into the 2020 NFL Draft in April.

Prospects regularly rise or sink on NFL Draft boards based on how they perform during team interviews and key drills such as the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run. Since NFL rookie compensation is directly tied to which round players are selected, the scouting combine has clear financial implications.

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Players drafted in the first round of the 2019 Draft signed four-year contracts ranging in value from $35 million for the first overall pick to $10 million for the 32nd overall pick. By comparison, players drafted in the third round or later all signed deals worth less than $5 million.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Ali Marpet provided one of the clearest examples to date of the combine’s potential value to a prospect looking to catch the attention of pro scouts. He was a little-known player from Hobart College in New York, but Marpet wowed scouts at the 2015 combine by finishing in the top-five at his position in several drills, including the bench press test and the 40-yard dash.

Marpet went on to become the highest-drafted player in the history of NCAA Division III football when the Buccaneers selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

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NFL combine performances aren’t the only consideration when teams are deciding who to draft. General managers and coaches consider a player’s entire resume, including their performance in college, the pedigree of their past coaches, performance at separate “pro day” workouts, their health, attitude and other factors.

While player measurements and interviews began on Feb. 23, the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine will conduct on-field drills during a four-day period beginning Thursday afternoon and running through Sunday.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Quarterbacks, tight ends and wide receivers will participate in the first day of workouts Offensive lineman, running backs, placekickers and special teams players are slated to perform on day two, followed by defensive lineman and linebackers on day three and defensive backs on day four.

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While the combine is a key showcase for middling prospects or players with something to prove to pro scouts, some attendees have already secured a top spot in the NFL Draft.

Star LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who won a Heisman Trophy in 2019 and led the Tigers to a national championship, is not expected to work out or throw in Indianapolis. Despite that, he is considered a virtual lock to be the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in April.

On-field drills for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine will air starting at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday on NFL Network.

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