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Steinberg: NFL combine one big show

February 23, 2013|By Leigh Steinberg

The Super Bowl of NFL Draft scouting — the NFL Draft combine that takes place this week — can dramatically alter the draft status of aspiring players.

Several hundred college seniors and juniors who have declared for the draft are invited to Indianapolis for days of testing. Every NFL scout, director of player personnel, assistant and head coach, team executives, and many owners have assembled from across the nation to assess the potential for a potential draftee to help their team.

National print and digital media now covers this process like a mini-Super Bowl. The NFL Network carries non-stop programming.

When I began representing NFL players in 1975, the NFL Draft was held at the end of January. Players would be scouted primarily on their college careers. There were several All-Star games, which were held earlier. At the East-West Shrine Game in Palo Alto and the Senior Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., and the Hula Bowl in Hawaii, scouts had a week to view players at practice and in the game. They could interact with the players outside of practice. They would then compile a "draft board," rating all players numerically, both by positions and overall.

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And then they drafted. The process has changed dramatically. Now the draft is held in late April. The second season of scouting has become almost as determinative of draft status as the player's college play is.

This is because the NFL Draft is a projection of how a player will perform over his next 10years, not a merit badge issued for conspicuous college performance. This "second season" commences with numerous All-Star games, the scouting combine follows it, and players will later be seen again on campus in pro scouting days. Player ratings can rise or fall throughout this process. There are no rules as to what a player is obligated to participate in during scouting. It is the player's choice whether to play in an All-Star game, perform at the combine or participate in pro scouting day on campus. This is where the agent plays a critical part in helping shape the approach.

Until 1997, players prepared themselves for the testing. Most players used their school trainers for conditioning and their college coaches to sharpen their skills. That year I received a call from an athlete's father who said they were very interested in hiring our firm but wanted to know about my training program.

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