The most important part of this week's NFL Scouting Combine will not be televised. In fact, you'll probably never hear about it. It can't be measured in seconds or repetitions; it isn't covered by the NFL Network's scrolling stat bar; and NFL insiders rarely have any clue how well each prospect does leading to many draft day surprises.
The interview process actually resembles a round of speed dating. Teams schedule up to 60 interviews with prospects (typically prior to their testing drills) at the Crowne Plaza in Downtown Indianapolis. At about 7pm each evening, a horn sounds signifying the start of the interview process. Teams then have 15 minutes to ask questions and learn as much about the prospect as they can.
Another horn sounds at 13 minutes, a two minute warning...just like a real game. At the conclusion of the 15 minutes a final horn sounds and prospects shift to the next room and a new team.
The types of questions asked in these interviews are not really known. ("Is your mother a prostitute?" was one thought to be asked in a pre-draft interview 2010.) GMs and coaches say they're important because it gives them an opportunity to get to know the young man and assess their football acumen. But what can you really get to know about someone in 15 minutes? The thought here is you can, at least, find out how committed a prospect is to the game.
In each interview typically the GM, head coach, position coach and/or coordinator, and team scout(s) are present. Each of them trying to determine if the young man in front of them is 100% committed to the game and to getting better. If the consensus in the room is yes, that player is likely vaulted up the draft boards. Why? It's simple; EVERY coach is egotistical enough to think they can fix what might be mechanically wrong with a player's technique. Why do you think a guy like Tim Tebow is still around...for now?
The other important aspects not covered due to either confidentiality or lack of public interest are the medical/drug tests and the intelligence tests.
Medical tests give teams the opportunity to see what's inside a prospects body. X-rays and previous surgeries are main topics of discussions.
Last season it was reported that six players tested positive for banned substances. Three names were leaked and two of them were drafted (Mike Adams, 2nd round to Pittsburgh and Jayron Hosely, 3rd round to New York Giants). The other was undrafted, Vontaze Burfict who ended up in Cincinnati. Typically players who fail drug tests go unknown to the public but each team is made aware. Whether or not it affects draft stock is probably determined in subsequent pre-draft interviews.
Intelligence tests, like the Wonderlic, are also administered at the Combine and while sometimes made a mockery of - like Cowboys CB Mo Claiborne scoring a 4 or former NFL QB Vince Young scoring a 6 on his first take and then a 14 on a re-take - they can often go a long way in helping teams decide who to draft. If a team runs a complicated system they'll be more likely to take a player scoring well on the Wonderlic. it should be noted there have been plenty of good players who scored low on the Wonderlic. Our own Frank Gore scored a 6. Check out Sports Illustrated's Memorable Wonderlic Scores.
The Wonderlic by the way is an aptitude test consisting of 50 questions and a 12 minute time limit. Take a sample Wonderlic test by Nicholas Creative and tell us how well you did below. You'll have 3 minutes and 36 seconds to answer 15 questions.
This year, the NFL will be issuing a second aptitude test meant to ‘complement' the Wonderlic. Here is what the NFL had to say about the new test in a recent memo to teams:
“The assessment tool being introduced at the Combine is not intended to displace anything currently in use or substitute for other tests that are given either at the Combine or by the clubs themselves. Rather, this new test measures a wide range of competencies, including learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, responding to pressure or unexpected stimuli, and core intellect…. By giving clubs new and more relevant information, it offers additional information to supplement your decision-making in the draft.”