Understanding the Scouting Combine: What Coaches and Scouts Look for in Players

Understanding the Scouting Combine: What Coaches and Scouts Look for in Players

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the scouting combine and what coaches and scouts seek in potential players. The scouting combine serves as a crucial event in the evaluation process for NFL teams, where college football players showcase their physical abilities and skills. In this article, we will delve into the key aspects that coaches and scouts focus on during the scouting combine, providing you with valuable insights into the evaluation criteria used to identify top prospects. Whether you are a football enthusiast or aspiring player, this article will equip you with a thorough understanding of the scouting combine and its significance in the player selection process.

Physical Attributes

When it comes to evaluating players at the Scouting Combine, coaches and scouts closely scrutinize various physical attributes that can greatly impact a player’s performance on the field. These attributes include height, weight, body composition, hand size, and arm length. Let’s delve into each of these factors to understand their significance in the scouting process.

Height and Weight

Height and weight are two essential physical attributes that coaches and scouts pay close attention to during the Scouting Combine. Different positions on the field require different body types, and understanding how a player’s height and weight align with the demands of their position is crucial.

For instance, a taller player might be more suitable for certain positions like quarterback or wide receiver, where their height can provide an advantage in terms of visibility and reach. On the other hand, positions like running back or defensive back may prioritize agility and speed, where a slightly shorter stature can be advantageous.

Similarly, weight plays a vital role in evaluating players. Depending on the position, coaches and scouts assess whether a player’s weight is proportionate to their height and if it aligns with the physical demands of the position. For example, linemen typically need more bulk and strength to hold their ground against opponents, while speed positions require players to maintain a leaner physique for agility and quickness.

Body Composition

Apart from height and weight, body composition is another crucial aspect examined by coaches and scouts. Body composition refers to the distribution of an individual’s weight in terms of muscle mass and body fat percentage. Players with a higher muscle mass and lower body fat percentage often exhibit greater strength, power, and endurance, making them more desirable prospects.

During the Scouting Combine, players undergo various tests, including body fat measurements, to assess their body composition accurately. These measurements provide insights into the players’ overall physical fitness and their potential to perform at a high level throughout a challenging football season.

Hand Size and Arm Length

Hand size and arm length are two often overlooked but significant physical attributes that coaches and scouts consider during player evaluations. These measurements can impact a player’s ability to catch, hold, throw, or tackle effectively.

For instance, quarterbacks with larger hands can have better ball control, allowing them to grip and release the football with greater accuracy. Wide receivers with longer arms can reach for passes that may be out of the average player’s range. Defensive players with longer arms can excel at disrupting passes or tackling opponents with extended reach.

Considering hand size and arm length helps coaches and scouts identify players who possess unique physical traits that can give them a competitive edge in specific on-field situations.

In conclusion, physical attributes play a significant role in the evaluation process at the Scouting Combine. Height, weight, body composition, hand size, and arm length provide valuable insights into a player’s potential performance and suitability for different positions. Coaches and scouts carefully analyze these attributes to identify prospects who possess the physical qualities necessary to excel in the demanding world of professional football.

Athleticism and Speed

When it comes to evaluating players in the scouting combine, coaches and scouts pay close attention to the athletes’ athleticism and speed. These physical attributes play a crucial role in determining an athlete’s potential and suitability for various positions in football.

40-Yard Dash

One of the fundamental tests conducted during the scouting combine is the 40-yard dash. This test measures an athlete’s straight-line speed and acceleration. It is considered an essential metric for evaluating the explosiveness and quickness of players.

During the 40-yard dash, players start from a stationary position and sprint as fast as they can for 40 yards. The time taken to complete the distance is recorded and serves as a benchmark to compare the speed of different athletes. Coaches and scouts look for players who can cover this distance in the shortest time possible, as it indicates their ability to outrun opponents and make game-changing plays.

Vertical Jump

The vertical jump is another crucial test that assesses an athlete’s explosive power and lower body strength. It measures the height an athlete can jump from a standing position, providing insight into their ability to generate force and explode off the ground.

By evaluating the vertical jump, coaches and scouts gain an understanding of an athlete’s leaping ability. This is particularly important for positions like wide receivers and defensive backs who need to compete for high passes or defend against them. A higher vertical jump indicates an athlete’s potential to out-jump opponents and make acrobatic catches or disruptive defensive plays.

Broad Jump

The broad jump is designed to evaluate an athlete’s lower body strength, explosiveness, and balance. It measures the distance an athlete can jump horizontally from a standing position, showcasing their ability to generate power and control their body in mid-air.

Coaches and scouts value the broad jump as it provides an indication of an athlete’s overall lower body strength and explosiveness. This attribute is crucial for positions like running backs and linebackers, who need to generate power and transfer it into forward momentum. A longer broad jump distance suggests an athlete’s ability to break tackles, elude defenders, and explode off the line of scrimmage.

In conclusion, athleticism and speed are key factors that coaches and scouts consider when evaluating players in the scouting combine. The 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump are tests that provide valuable insights into an athlete’s explosiveness, speed, and power. These physical attributes play a vital role in determining an athlete’s potential and fit for different positions in football.

Strength and Power

Bench Press

One of the key components that coaches and scouts look for in players during the Scouting Combine is their strength and power. The bench press test is a crucial evaluation tool used to assess a player’s upper body strength.

During the bench press test, players are required to lift a barbell loaded with weights while lying on a bench. The weight lifted is usually a percentage of the player’s body weight, and the number of repetitions completed successfully is recorded.

Coaches and scouts pay close attention to the results of the bench press test as it provides insights into a player’s ability to generate power from their chest, shoulders, and arms. It also indicates their level of dedication to strength training and overall physical conditioning.

A high number of repetitions in the bench press test demonstrates that a player possesses exceptional upper body strength and the ability to overpower opponents on the field. This strength is particularly advantageous for offensive and defensive linemen, as they often engage in physically demanding battles at the line of scrimmage.

Explosive Movements

In addition to evaluating a player’s strength, coaches and scouts at the Scouting Combine also assess their explosive movements. Explosiveness is a critical attribute that can significantly impact a player’s performance in various positions on the field.

Explosive movements include actions such as vertical jumps, broad jumps, and agility drills like the 3-cone drill and shuttle run. These exercises require players to rapidly generate force and power through their lower body, showcasing their ability to quickly change direction, accelerate, and decelerate.

When observing these explosive movements, coaches and scouts look for players who can generate impressive vertical and broad jumps. These jumps indicate the player’s lower body strength, explosiveness, and overall athleticism. A higher vertical jump suggests that the player has the ability to outleap opponents, reach for catches, or defend against tall receivers.

Likewise, a longer broad jump demonstrates a player’s ability to cover more ground with a single explosive movement, which can be advantageous for positions like running backs, wide receivers, and defensive backs.

In conclusion, strength and power are vital attributes that coaches and scouts consider when evaluating players during the Scouting Combine. The bench press test provides insights into a player’s upper body strength, while explosive movements showcase their lower body power and athleticism. Players who excel in these areas often have a competitive advantage on the field, making them highly sought after by teams in the NFL draft.

Football Skills and Technique

In the highly competitive world of football, possessing exceptional skills and technique is crucial for players aspiring to make it to the professional level. Coaches and scouts closely observe the performance of athletes at the Scouting Combine to evaluate their abilities in various areas. Let’s delve into some key aspects that are closely scrutinized during this event.

Position-Specific Drills

When evaluating players, coaches and scouts pay particular attention to how well they perform in position-specific drills. These drills are designed to assess the players’ technical proficiency and their ability to execute the required skills for their respective positions.

For example, quarterbacks are expected to display accuracy, arm strength, and decision-making skills during throwing drills. Wide receivers must showcase their ability to run precise routes, catch the ball cleanly, and display agility and speed. Defensive linemen need to demonstrate their explosiveness off the line, hand technique, and ability to shed blocks effectively.

Route Running

Route running is a critical skill that coaches and scouts focus on when assessing wide receivers and tight ends at the Scouting Combine. The ability to run precise routes not only improves a player’s chances of getting open but also ensures that they can effectively contribute to their team’s offensive game plan.

During the combine, players are tested on their route-running skills through various drills. These drills assess their ability to make sharp cuts, maintain balance and body control, and quickly change direction while running routes. Coaches and scouts keenly observe their footwork, route timing, and overall route-running technique.


Blocking is a fundamental skill that is evaluated not only for offensive linemen but also for other positions such as tight ends and running backs. The ability to effectively block opponents is essential for creating running lanes, protecting the quarterback, and executing successful offensive plays.

At the Scouting Combine, coaches and scouts evaluate players’ blocking technique, strength, and body control. Offensive linemen are assessed on their ability to engage and sustain blocks, their footwork, and their understanding of blocking schemes. Tight ends and running backs are observed for their ability to execute both pass and run blocking techniques while maintaining proper leverage and positioning.

In conclusion, the Scouting Combine offers coaches and scouts a valuable opportunity to assess the football skills and technique of aspiring players. Position-specific drills, route running, and blocking abilities are just a few key areas that are meticulously analyzed. Players who excel in these areas greatly enhance their chances of catching the attention of professional teams and securing their dream of playing at the highest level of the sport.

Intelligence and Mental Abilities

Wonderlic Test

One crucial aspect that coaches and scouts evaluate during the Scouting Combine is a player’s intelligence and mental abilities. To assess this, players are often required to take the Wonderlic Test.

The Wonderlic Test is a cognitive ability test consisting of 50 multiple-choice questions that must be answered within a 12-minute time limit. This test aims to measure a player’s problem-solving skills, critical thinking, decision-making abilities, and overall intelligence. The questions range from logical reasoning and math problems to vocabulary and general knowledge.

The Wonderlic Test is significant because it provides coaches and scouts with insights into how well a player can process information, make quick decisions, and solve problems under pressure. It gives them an idea of a player’s mental agility and capacity to learn and adapt to complex game situations.

Football IQ

Apart from the Wonderlic Test, coaches and scouts also assess a player’s football IQ. Football IQ refers to a player’s understanding of the game, including their knowledge of various offensive and defensive strategies, playbooks, and situational awareness on the field.

Having a high football IQ is crucial for players as it showcases their ability to read the game, anticipate plays, and make split-second decisions. It demonstrates their mental acuity and understanding of the intricacies of the sport.

During the Scouting Combine, coaches and scouts evaluate a player’s football IQ through interviews, film analysis, and on-field drills. They observe how well a player grasps complex concepts, understands different defensive coverages, identifies potential weaknesses in opponents, and adapts their gameplay accordingly.

Ability to Learn and Adapt

In addition to intelligence and football IQ, coaches and scouts look for players who can quickly learn and adapt to new systems and coaching styles. The ability to learn and adapt is crucial as it determines a player’s potential for growth and improvement throughout their career.

During the Scouting Combine, coaches and scouts assess a player’s ability to learn and adapt by evaluating their coachability, willingness to take feedback, and how well they absorb and implement new techniques and strategies. This evaluation occurs through interviews, practice sessions, and game simulations.

Players who demonstrate a strong ability to learn and adapt are highly sought after as they can seamlessly integrate into new teams, adjust to different offensive or defensive schemes, and continually improve their skills to stay competitive at the professional level.

In conclusion, a player’s intelligence and mental abilities play a significant role in the evaluation process during the Scouting Combine. The Wonderlic Test, football IQ, and ability to learn and adapt are all aspects that coaches and scouts carefully consider when assessing a player’s potential impact on the field.

Character and Personality


During the scouting combine, coaches and scouts pay close attention to the interviews conducted with potential players. These interviews provide valuable insights into the character and personality of the athletes. Coaches look for players who exhibit confidence, intelligence, and a strong work ethic. They want individuals who are not only physically talented but also possess the mental toughness and discipline required to excel at the professional level.

Interviews allow scouts to gauge how players handle pressure, communicate effectively, and respond to challenging questions. They assess the players’ ability to think on their feet, as well as their level of self-awareness and maturity. Coaches and scouts want to identify athletes who possess the right mindset to handle the demands of the game and be a positive influence on their teammates.

Background Checks

In addition to interviews, thorough background checks are conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the players’ character. Coaches and scouts want to ensure that potential draft picks have a clean record and a history of making responsible choices. Background checks involve looking into a player’s educational background, criminal record, and any past incidents that may indicate undesirable behavior.

By conducting extensive background checks, coaches and scouts aim to avoid selecting players who may bring negative attention or distractions to the team. They want individuals who will represent the organization well both on and off the field. A player’s character and reputation can significantly impact team dynamics, so it is crucial for coaches and scouts to gather as much information as possible before making their decisions.

Leadership Qualities

Leadership qualities are highly valued by coaches and scouts during the scouting combine. They look for players who can not only perform well individually but also inspire and motivate their teammates. Leadership goes beyond just being vocal on the field; it encompasses qualities such as resilience, accountability, and the ability to make critical decisions under pressure.

Coaches and scouts observe how players interact with their peers during various combine activities and team-building exercises. They look for players who display a natural ability to take charge, communicate effectively, and lead by example. A strong leader can elevate the performance of an entire team and contribute to a positive team culture, making it an essential aspect of player evaluation during the scouting combine.

In conclusion, character and personality play a significant role in the scouting process during the combine. Interviews and background checks help coaches and scouts assess a player’s character, while leadership qualities indicate their potential to positively impact the team. By evaluating these aspects, coaches and scouts aim to build a team of talented individuals who not only possess physical abilities but also the right mindset and character to excel in the highly competitive world of professional football.

In conclusion, the Scouting Combine serves as a critical evaluation tool for coaches and scouts in their quest to identify top talent for their teams. Through a series of physical and mental tests, they are able to assess players’ athleticism, skills, and potential. The information gathered during this event plays a significant role in shaping teams’ draft strategies and player selections. As the game of football continues to evolve, the Scouting Combine remains an essential process in the pursuit of building successful teams.