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It's NFL Combine Time

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This Wednesday, the NFL continues the road to the NFL Draft as the meat market that is the NFL Combine begins.  With no games to cover, the NFL Network has taken to broadcasting quite a bit from the NFL Combine.  If you've got some free time or a TiVo you can certainly watch 40 yard dashes, shuttle runs and cone drills to your hearts content.  The Combine has become a prime opportunity for players to raise their draft stock.  Of course there are plenty of players who have hurt their stock thanks to a poor 40-time so that's worth keeping an eye on.  The key is not getting too excited about a solid Combine performance.  I still find it ridiculous how excited teams will get about a great 40 time when it's in shorts and a t-shirt.  Has anybody ever wondered why they don't have them run the 40 in full football gear?

As we gear up for the Combine, nfl.com has put together some information describing the value of the various drills:

40-yard dash: The 40-yard dash is one of the most popular drills at the combine as tenths of a second can greatly affect a player's future. Players are timed in 10, 20, and 40 yard increments to see how quickly they explode off the line and how quickly they reach the top speed.

Bench press: The bench press, quite simply, is a test of strength in which players bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible.

Vertical jump: Players stand flat-footed in front of a pole that has plastic flags sticking out of it. Players jump from a standing position and try to swat as many of those flags as they can.

Broad jump: Like the vertical jump, the broad jump is done from a standing position, but this drill measures how far a player can jump.

3 cone drill: Players start in a 3-point stance in front of three cones that are set up in a triangle or L shape, with each cone five yards apart. They then sprint five yards to one cone, sprint back to the starting cone, and head back to the second cone where they run around it and cut right to the third cone. The players then run a circle around the third cone from the inside to the outside and run around the second cone before returning to the first cone.

20-yard drill: The 20-yard shuttle is designed to test lateral speed and coordination. The player starts in a three-point stance. When the whistle blows, the players run five yards to one side, touching the yard line. They then sprints 10 yards in the other direction and again touch the yard line, at which point they sprint back to the yard line they started from.

60-yard shuttle: The only difference between the 60-yard shuttle and the 20-yard shuttle is that instead of running five yards, 10 yards then five yards, the players run 10 yards to one side, then back 20 yards and then 10 yards to the starting point.

Also, if you are interested, nfl.com has a Scouting Combine widget you can add through Facebook, My Space and a variety of other sites.