For most of us the final play of the Super Bowl marks the end of the NFL season – at least until the August pre-season schedule. Not true if you work in any of the 32 NFL football operations. Your work never ends and in fact picks up considerably from the last play of the Super Bowl until the first pick in the NFL draft in April.
“Our busy time of the year is now,” said Seahawks college scouting coordinator Kirk Parrish. “The regular season is busy with guys going to schools, looking at players, there’s that weekly grind but for the most part the longest stretch of intense work is January through the draft.”
Parrish will be part of a large contingency of Seahawks personnel heading to Indianapolis for the NFL combine February 18-24. The athletic testing part of the combine will take place at the brand new Lucas Oil Stadium with interviews and other aspects of the event at nearby hotels.
Run by a national scouting organization, the NFL Combine brings together 332 pro football prospects from colleges and universities around the country.
In order to be eligible for the NFL Draft in April (and get an invitation to the combine) a player must be three years removed from high school.
Led by Seahawks president and general manager Tim Ruskell, vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster and head coach Jim Mora, the Seahawks will send a full roster of experts to Indianapolis. Joining Ruskell, Webster and Mora will be the entire coaching staff, team physicians, trainers, regional scouting directors and five area scouts.
The pro executives who usually focus on free agents will also work the combine cross checking players by position. No stone will be left unturned.
“We’re really going to have to know every guy out there this year,” said Parrish. “In past years with a lower pick you might not need to spend a lot of time on certain guys that you know will be gone by the time you choose. This year, we’ve got to know everyone.”
No matter how much video or information a team has on a player heading into the combine, there will be plenty of opportunities to collect more data once there.
There are four work-out days at the combine beginning Saturday, February 21. The workouts will be done by position. Players will be tested on the 40-yard-dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 60-yard-shuttle, bench press, etc.
In addition to the athletic testing, each player will undergo a physical exam from teams interested in that individual.
Teams will have the opportunity to interview 60 players. The league strictly enforces a 15-minute limit on each interview. Ruskell, Webster, Mora and the position coach will be in the room for each player interview.
Teams do have another opportunity to talk casually with players the next night at a remodeled train station across the street from the Crowne Plaza.
After the Combine
Once the combine is over teams get another opportunity to see prospects at various “pro days” set up by a certain player’s college or university. There is also an opportunity to bring in players from your team’s geographical area for workouts after the combine. In addition, teams may bring in 30 players from anywhere in the country for a visit and a physical but no workout.
This year the Seahawks have the No. 4 overall selection in the draft. The team will also have No. 36 and No. 68 in the first three rounds. Last year, the Seahawks used their first-round pick (No. 28 overall) to select defensive end Lawrence Jackson from Southern California.
There isn’t a General Manager in the NFL who’s going to tip his hand on a position or a player he’d like to pick in the draft. That is what makes these next couple of months so interesting. One thing is for sure, the Seahawks will go to Indianapolis well prepared to get every bit of information on every player they are interested in. In past years Ruskell and his Seahawks group had to wait through hours of picks by other teams before getting on the clock. This year they’ll hit the ground running with No. 4 overall.
The work they accomplish at the combine in Indianapolis may well determine how successful they are on draft day in April.