The NFL Scouting Combine usually takes place every year in February in Indianapolis, but the start of the 2021 version has been shrouded with uncertainty. On Monday, January 18th, the NFL provided some definitive news about the 2021 NFL Combine. This update from the NFL largely confirmed the news that Tony Pauline reported on the January 7th edition of PFN’s Draft Insiders.
What is the latest news on the start of the 2021 NFL Combine?
On January 18th, the NFL released the latest news regarding the 2021 NFL Combine. They announced that there will be no in-person workouts. Instead, any workouts will take place on college campuses on individual pro days.
The NFL is still finalizing the plans surrounding medicals. In the recent update, the NFL indicated it will likely involve virtual interviews by the medical staff of teams and testing being performed at facilities near the invited prospect’s residence. However, for a certain number of prospects, there will be regional sites. Each club is permitted to send one physician and one athletic trainer to conduct the medical examinations.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, prospects will be scheduled for media interviews with NFL and club media, and NFL-affiliated broadcast partners. Additionally, the NFL will be asking colleges to conduct virtual media availability with Combine invitees.
Teams have also been asked to ensure that head coaches and/or general managers are made available to the media, as they would have been at the combine.
Tony Pauline reported this uncertainty around the NFL Combine back at the beginning of January
In 2020, the NFL Combine took place between February 23rd and March 2nd. The final week of February is usually the date the NFL Combine starts — just not 2021. However, Pauline reported on some of the alternatives being discussed around the event.
“I’m hearing it could be pushed back a week until the March 8th timeframe. I’m told that it is a situation where they could, if necessary, just send the players there to do medicals only. There’s rumors circulating that Dr. Allen Sills, who is the Chief Medical Officer for the NFL, is recommending that the combine be canceled altogether.”
Note: You can view Pauline talking about the NFL Combine in the video above. Don’t forget to visit and subscribe to the PFN YouTube Channel for more.
What is the usual process for the NFL Combine?
During the show, Pauline outlined the usual process leading up to the NFL Combine.
“It’s interesting because, at this point in time, most of the invitations have gone out to the seniors. Or the first wave of invitations have gone out to the seniors. Then they wait for the underclassmen list to come out, and then they invite the underclassmen. And then if there’s any spots left, they will invite the second tier of seniors to the combine.”
How many players are typically invited to the combine?
In a normal year, around 330 prospects are invited to the NFL Combine. These players are selected by the combine’s Player Selection Committee. The committee is made up of scouting service directors and members of various NFL player personnel departments. Invites are decided by the committee members voting on the players. “The goal of the committee is to invite every player that will be drafted in the ensuing NFL Draft.”
Why is it strange that no invites were sent?
Usually, around 250 invitations are sent, before bowl games, to those who have completed their final season of eligibility. Then, following the underclassmen declaration deadline, further invites are extended to around 50 underclassmen who have declared. However, this number is fluid based on the number of underclassmen who actually declare in a given year. The number is then made up with the next wave of seniors, as referenced by Pauline on the show.
Arrangements for the 2021 NFL Combine have been further complicated by the change in NCAA rules. In 2020, the NCAA granted every player an extra year of eligibility. Therefore, even players who are traditionally finished at school have the option to return. Essentially, that has made every player into an underclassman, requiring them to officially declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
What were some of the options being considered for the 2021 NFL Combine?
With so much unknown around the coming months, the NFL is approaching the 2021 Combine in a similar way to how they have approached things previously. When it came to training camp last summer, the NFL waited and made final decisions as late as possible, utilizing their knowledge of the situation at that point.
The NFL does not officially run the NFL Combine, as it is operated by National Football Scouting. However, the two sides work closely together. This may explain why the arranging of the combine is taking a similar approach to previous NFL decisions. Let’s take a look at some of the options being discussed for the 2021 NFL Combine.
Pauline discussed what he was hearing around the combine back in January
Pauline discussed two of the sets of rumors he had been hearing about the combine on the Draft Insiders show.
“There’s talk that they may push it back even further and then expand the number of players that they invite, so they can cut back on the pro day workouts. There are some people saying that they may just have pro day workouts, that may be easier.”
In 2020, we saw the NFL Combine take place, but many pro days were canceled. Other pro days were held virtually, but the results were often disputed. By bringing more prospects into the combine, the NFL can avoid having to send scouts all over the country to watch pro days. However, increasing the number of people in Indianapolis increases the risk of the event being disrupted.
At the NFL Combine, the medicals are the key aspect for teams
The alternative of canceling the NFL Combine and just having pro days will also raise concerns, as Pauline discussed on the show.
“I think that is going to be kind of tough, because everybody talks about the 40 times, and the vertical jumps, and everything else at the combine, but the most important aspect of it, are the medicals. The medicals, basically the teams get, if not their entire medical staff there, most of their medical staff there to do the physicals. You are not going to be able to do that at pro day workouts.”
While there have been provisions put in place surrounding medicals, concerns could still remain. Teams have a “one medical professional and one athletic trainer” limit. Therefore, medicals may prove to be less rigorous than they may have been in the past.
For all the latest news and rumors surrounding the 2021 NFL Combine be sure to check out the Draft Insiders live show every Wednesday.