With the NFL Draft season now well underway, it’s time for the Underwear Olympics!

While not officially called that by the league, the NFL Scouting Combine has been mocked by many writers and talent evaluators as a way to see who looks the best in their underwear; or put in other ways, they simply can’t fathom how players running drills in spandex – without pads and a helmet on – will be an indicator of their potential NFL transition. While you can’t take everything you see at the combine as a direct correlation for draft order, using a combination of the testing numbers, positional drill performance, health examinations, and personal interviews can give you a better understanding of the player you have watched hours of tape on already.

Below I will list the calendar events for the upcoming Indianapolis extravaganza, while I will also deliver some of the potential highlights and a general rundown of what to watch for.

Schedule of Events

Day 1: Tuesday, February 27

  • Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB): Arrival, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exams & X-Rays, Overflow Testing, Orientation, Interviews

Day 2: Wednesday, February 28

  • Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB): Measurements, Medical Examination, Overflow Testing, Interviews
  • Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (TE): Arrival, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exams & X-Rays, Overflow Testing, Orientation, Interviews

Day 3: Thursday, March 1

  • Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB): NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, PK/ST Workout, Media, Bench-Press, Interviews
  • Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (TE): Measurements, Medical Examination, Overflow Testing, Interviews
  • Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB): Arrival, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exams & X-Rays, Overflow Testing, Orientation, Interviews

Day 4: Friday, March 2

  • Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB): On-Field Workout (timing, station, skill drills), Departure
  • Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (TE): NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Media, Bench-Press, Interviews
  • Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB): Measurements, Medical Examination, Overflow Testing, Interviews
  • Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB): Arrival, Registration, Hospital Pre-Exams & X-Rays, Orientation, Interviews

Day 5: Saturday, March 3

  • Group 4 (QB, WR), Group 5 (QB, WR), Group 6 (TE): On-Field Workout (timing, station, skill drills), Departure
  • Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB): NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Media, Bench-Press, Interviews
  • Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB): Measurements, Medical Examination, Media, Interviews

Day 6: Sunday, March 4

  • Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB): On-Field Workout (timing, station, skill drills), Departure
  • Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB): NFLPA Meeting, Psychological Testing, Media, Bench-Press, Interviews

Day 7: Monday, March 5

  • Group 10 (DB), Group 11 (DB): On-Field Workout (timing, station, skill drills), Departure

Drills, Tests, and What to Watch For...

40-Yard Dash

| According to NFL.com |

“The 40-yard dash is the marquee event at the combine. It's kind of like the 100-meters at the Olympics: It's all about speed, explosion and watching skilled athletes run great times. These athletes are timed at 10, 20 and 40-yard intervals. What the scouts are looking for is an explosion from a static start.”

| Who to Watch For |  

The 40-yard dash, while not always the best indicator of who will necessarily be the best NFL player, has always been and always will be the most famous and most intriguing thing about the NFL Combine. This year the 40 has only been further magnified due to the fact that the low-time record was just broken last February. In 2017, now Bengals receiver, John Ross ran a blazing 4.22 in the 40, breaking the 2008 record of 4.24, previously held by running back Chris Johnson. This year, LSU cornerback Donte Jackson has serious intentions of rebreaking the one year record, as he has reportedly been registering times in the low 4.2’s during his offseason training. Dark horse candidates to threaten the 4.3 barrier include N.C. State running back Nyheim Hines and LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark. Other names to keep in mind include...wide receivers Courtland Sutton (SMU) and Auden Tate (Florida State), who at their massive size need to prove that they can still separate from NFL defensive backs; running backs Derrius Guice (LSU), Nick Chubb (Georgia), and Royce Freeman (Oregon), who all coming off of injuries need to prove that they are healthy and capable of breakaway runs; and quarterback Lamar Jackson (Louisville), who will be, by far, the fastest quarterback in the class, as he could post a historic time in the 40, potentially breaking Robert Griffin III’s position record of 4.41.

Bench Press

| According to NFL.com |

“The bench press is a test of strength -- 225 pounds, as many reps as the athlete can get. What the NFL scouts are also looking for is endurance. Anybody can do a max one time, but what the bench press tells the pro scouts is how often the athlete frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years.”

| Who to Watch For |

As NFL.com puts it, the bench press is less of an indicator of strength for all NFL players, but rather it is really checking on who commits themselves in the weight room. That’s not to say that every lineman has to rep over 35 times, but rather it is important to give each position some benchmarks – no pun intended. Linemen on both sides of the ball are typically expected to at least threaten the 30 mark, while tight ends and linebackers want to at least get into the low 20’s. You want to see running backs in the upper teens at least, and really anything above 15 for the other positions is just gravy. For our purposes, that makes only a few guys important to watch in this year’s class, as we will be looking for positive results from guys who are listed as rather undersized for their position. Good numbers from offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn (Georgia) and James Daniels (Iowa), linebackers Roquan Smith (Georgia) and Darius Leonard (South Carolina State), and defensive linemen Maurice Hurst (Michigan), Harold Landry (Boston College), and Harrison Phillips (Stanford) will be critical in proving that despite their less than ideal build that they have enough functional strength and endurance to make it in the NFL.

Vertical Jump & Broad Jump

| According to NFL.com |

“The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion and power. The athlete stands flat-footed and they measure his reach. It is important to accurately measure the reach, because the differential between the reach and the flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement.”

“The broad jump is like being in gym class back in junior high school. Basically, it is testing an athlete's lower-body explosion and lower-body strength. The athlete starts out with a stance balanced and then he explodes out as far as he can. It tests explosion and balance, because he has to land without moving.”

| Who to Watch For |

These jumping drills are usually reserved for us to watch defensive backs and edge rushers go nuts. Now Cowboys safety, Byron Jones set the world broad jump record a few years ago with a leap over 12-feet! Historically, guys like Von Miller, Eric Berry, Vic Beasley, Patrick Peterson, and others of the ilk have shown tremendous ability in these two drills. For this year’s class I will be paying close attention to DB’s Derwin James (Florida State) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), because both appear to be athletic freaks and are likely to put on a show, as too will Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, UTSA edge player Marcus Davenport, LSU edge rusher Arden Key, and the aforementioned Harold Landry of Boston College, in all likelihood. Guys who need to show me something include Josey Jewell (Iowa), Sam Hubbard (Ohio State), Rashaan Gaulden (Tennessee), and Kyzir White (West Virginia).

Three-Cone Drill & Shuttle Run

| According to NFL.com |

“The 3 cone drill tests an athlete's ability to change directions at a high speed. Three cones in an L-shape. He starts from the starting line, goes 5 yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes.”

“The short shuttle is the first of the cone drills. It is known as the 5-10-5. What it tests is the athlete's lateral quickness and explosion in short areas. The athlete starts in the three-point stance, explodes out 5 yards to his right, touches the line, goes back 10 yards to his left, left hand touches the line, pivot, and he turns 5 more yards and finishes.”

| Who to Watch For |

Of all of the drills and tests conducted at the NFL Combine, the three-cone and the shuttle run may be the most important and the most indicative for a true NFL evaluation. This isn’t just for skill position players either, but rather for all positions and all players. Want to know how well a wide receiver can change directions in and out of his routes? Check out his three-cone and shuttle time. Want to know how a left tackle will do against a 1v1, twitched up edge rusher, or how a center will do taking on a linebacker after pulling to the second level? Check out his three-cone and shuttle time. Want to know how well a cornerback can mirror a wide receiver in and out of his breaks? Well, you get the idea…I can keep going on with examples, but instead, just take my word that the main reason these drills work is because they were designed to test how a player will react in space – the most important general skill of an NFL player.

Guys who have to prove their agility the most include all of the running backs coming off of injury that I listed in the 40-time section, and for the same reasons – Derrius Guice, LSU, Nick Chubb, Georgia, and Royce Freeman, Oregon – all of the wide receivers in the 40-time section, and for the same reasons – Courtland Sutton, SMU and Auden Tate, Florida State – Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown, UTEP’s Will Hernandez, Texas’ Connor Williams, Washington’s Vita Vea, and Oklahoma State’s James Washington, amongst several others.

Quarterback Position Drills

| Who to Watch For |

At the combine, quarterbacks are asked to take a snap from under center and throw the football to wide open receivers and then one-on-one receivers. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, for quarterbacks, this is likely the most important and nerve racking part of the entire week-long event. Most of them – due to the simplistic and spread oriented nature of college/high school offenses – have never taken a snap from under center, let alone taken 3-step, 5-step, and 7-step drops, while throwing to the complete NFL route tree. On top of that, they will be throwing to equally inexperienced receivers and ones they likely have never worked with before. What scouts are looking for is how natural the quarterback looks taking a snap, going through the different drop back mechanics, and most importantly how powerful and accurate their arm is capable of being.

We already have gotten word that semi-consensus number one overall pick Sam Darnold (USC) will be abstaining from throwing this weekend, which leaves us with the rest of the talented bunch. The most important ones to watch for are Josh Allen (Wyoming) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville), who both struggled with accuracy issues in college, but are also blessed with cannon arms; they will be the most polarizing talents in the entire draft. If you want to just enjoy poetry in motion, kick back your chair, crack open a beer, and watch Josh Rosen (UCLA) go through the workout… You will never see a more natural looking passer.

Running Back Position Drills

| Who to Watch For |

The important drill for this position group is the Off Tackle Reaction Drill, which tests running backs most important attributes at the position – speed, acceleration, agility, and vision. In a lot of ways it separates the workout warriors from the natural runners because while anyone can train to become great at the 40-yard dash and the three-cone, bringing all of those skills into one drill is what will prove who has the talent at a second nature’s disposal. Guys who I’m excited to see this week include Saquon Barkley (Penn State) – for the obvious reasons of having my jaw drop – Ronald Jones (USC), Sony Michel (Georgia), Rashaad Penny (San Diego State), and Kalen Ballage (Arizona State). The previously mentioned, previously injured, running backs will be most important to watch here of course, but I’ll refrain from beating a dead horse.

Wide Receiver & Tight End Position Drills

| Who to Watch For |

For the pass catchers, The Gauntlet is the most important drill to keep an eye on, as it tests a receiver’s quickness, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, consistency, perseverance, and most importantly – hand catching ability. I’m looking for studs like Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), D.J. Moore (Maryland), James Washington (Oklahoma State), and Anthony Miller (Memphis) to post nearly flawless performances in this drill, however questions still remain on virtually all of the tight ends and some of the other highly rated wideouts… D.J. Chark (LSU), J’Mon Moore (Missouri), Michael Gallup (Colorado State), Courtland Sutton (SMU), Auden Tate (Florida State), Simmie Cobbs (Indiana), Ian Thomas (Indiana), Will Dissly (Washington), and Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin), amongst many others.

Offensive and Defensive Linemen Position Drills

| Who to Watch For |

In the trenches at the combine, offensive linemen will be most importantly tested in the Kick Slide Drill, which tests their ability to react quickly out of a stance and wall off edge pressure, while using proper footwork and technique. Scouts will be looking attentively at defensive linemen for their initial burst off the ball and how well they can combine their pass rushing maneuvers while trying to get to the quarterback. O-Linemen who need to perform well in their most important drill includes, well, everyone, but I would say Orlando Brown out of Oklahoma has the most to prove due to his massive size (6-foot-8, 360 lbs.) and subsequently perceived heavy feet. On the defensive side of the ball, I’m looking for a big performance from N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, and from Boston College’s Harold Landry, however their current standing as the only true first round edge talent could be tested if we see big performances from LSU’s Arden Key and UTSA’s Marcus Davenport.

Linebacker and Defensive Back Position Drills

| Who to Watch For |

I group these two together because surprisingly, mostly what NFL talent evaluators are looking for out of linebackers at the combine are coverage skills. Mainly because in today’s league, being a three-down linebacker is so important, linebackers will most heavily be tested in their ability to backpedal and react to change of directions. Similarly to linebackers, defensive backs will be tested largely in the same way, but further away from the line of scrimmage and further outside the hash marks.

As I said earlier, expect the twitched up guys at both positions to perform stylishly in these types of drills, while the more hard nosed players have more to prove. I’m rooting hard for less athletic guys like Tegray Scales (Indiana), Josey Jewell (Iowa), and Tarvarus McFadden (Florida State) while I’m grabbing my popcorn for Denzel Ward (Ohio State), Donte Jackson (LSU), Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State), Roquan Smith (Georgia), Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech), Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), and Derwin James (Florida State).

To get more information on the position drills, how they are run, and how scouts evaluate them, click here.

NostraDomUs Predicts…

In a general sense, I’m looking to enjoy watching this talented group of potential draftees, as they have at large already put together some impressive game tape to watch, so I would assume that their tests and drills should follow suit.

In a more specific sense, I’m looking for Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage to be one of the biggest risers due to his combine performance, while LSU’s edge rusher Arden Key shouldn’t be far behind him. Ballage is a guy whose tape and college statistics were bogged down by having to split carries his entire career. However, from the limited tape that he has, it’s evident that Ballage is a hulking back, who at 6-foot-3, 230+ lbs. is incredibly fast, agile, and explosive for his size and position. Key also possesses a god-like build, but his slide down the boards is for a different reason. He most importantly needs to interview well so that teams can get a better sense that his off the field issues are behind him. When he blows up the athletic portion of the drills, don’t be surprised in the slightest, because this guy is a freaking beast!

Contrarily, I expect to be disappointed by Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who to me just hasn’t looked the same since injuring his knee a couple of years ago. Fellow Fantasy Alarmer Brett Talley and I have a bit of a wager going in regards to Chubb’s 40-time – over/under 4.55 – I think he’ll be over the number. The other guy I’m worried about is SMU wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who while entering the season was considered a first round lock, may not run a fast enough time at Indy to warrant the selection. He’s got a lot to prove in overall athleticism, and I’m not yet sold on him.

So that pretty much wraps it up, as you should now be completely prepared for the Underwear Olympics!  

To watch the NFL Combine, tune into the NFL Network, or livestream it from your phone, tablet, or computer… Coverage begins and extends through March 2 – March 5, at 9:00am EST.