NEPD Contributor: Evan Brennan
A hot topic that is on a lot of player’s minds is the Regional NFL Combines.
The Regional Combines run from early February into late March. They occur at various locations from Hawaii to New Jersey.
They all culminate with the Super Regional Combine in Indianapolis on April 7th.
This event is made up of those that do well at the various Regional Combines, and like NFL Combine in February, is by invitation only. The Regional Combines are open to those that pay the $225 fee and save their spot in advance before it reaches capacity. The athletes will preform all the drills that will be preformed at the traditional NFL Combine in February, allowing scouts to see their athletic abilities and talents.
Examples of players that went on to earn NFL contracts largely due to their performances in these combines in 2012 includes: Les Brown V, Will Hill, Isaiah Frey, Joe Anderson, and others. All in all, 28 players made teams that were in attendance at these combines, 14 on 53-man rosters, and 14 on practice squads.
While the Combines themselves may not be new in and of themselves, they have only fairly recently come under NFL control. This changes things in terms of who will be in attendance from a scouting prospective and the participation numbers thereby following suite. While most in attendance will be those who are just finishing their college careers, others such as former players that had short NFL careers and are seeking to get back in, or those that never played college football (maybe basketball) may also be in attendance. The talent gap may be somewhat wide as well: from should have been a NFL Combine invitee, to a has-been trying to sneak on a roster.
An interesting feature that not many known is that all regional combines will be videotaped. The videos of the events and the results will be distributed to all 32 NFL teams, regardless of their actual attendance. Even the regional showcases will produce material that could catch the attraction of any given club, whether they have scouts in attendance at the event or not.
So what can be expected at one of these events? NFLRegionalCombines.com reported that scouts from the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals were in attendance with 240 total players working out between the two days in Orange County, CA earlier this month. Agent Jack Bechta, who also attended the Orange County Regional Combine, stated that many former scouts and executives that still have significant sway, were on hand at that event. This, for many players, is better than they will get at any other purposed venue at this point in their careers, and thereby is an excellent opportunity to showcase their skills. For others it is not; it depends on the player.
Some agents or other detractors complain about the Regional Combine’s effectiveness, claiming that they are expensive, in not enough locations, or only benefit those that have incredible measurables (40 time, bench, etc.) rather than great game tape. Some detractors also may claim the Regional Combines are there simply to make money from the NFL or other purpose, instead of looking for talent. If the agent pays, payment for multiple players to attend can get pricy, and that can be a factor for said reluctance. This is especially true if there’s travel involved, and other items such as training and housing already on the agent’s tab for the year for said players. It is likely that if a player is attending a Regional Combine, he is not being represented by a large firm, and therefore funds are not likely to be limitless. In the end, like any other arrangement, this ultimately comes down to the arrangement between the player and his agent, and should be discussed before any representation agreement is reached.
Part of the trepidation may come from less-than-legitimate events such as this or other leagues in which the chances of making a roster for a player are relatively slim. Some may also be hesitant to leave combine training weeks in advance to showcase their talents, especially if they have a later Pro Day. It could be argued that the extra training time forfeited in attendance at one of these events could be better used to augment players’ times for their school’s Pro Day. This, along with the the desire to not show one’s times and measurements until the latest point in time, also may play a role in this hesitancy as well.
Part of that hesitancy may be alleviated through the fact that NFL is now running these events, and that there have been those that have made NFL rosters from their attendance, if but a few. The time away from training would be a few days, given travel to and from, so it is a smaller consideration, but existent nonetheless. The later the Regional Combine attended, the less of a chance that this conflict holds any kind merit.
If there are 13 dates, a hypothetical (yet, educationally-arrived-at) average of 200 attendees for each date (not counting specialists and their specific dates), that equates to over 2600 players that scouts must wade through. To give players an idea, based on these loose figures and the 28 Regional Combine attendees that made a practice or 53-man roster last year, that’s around a little over a 1% chance, based on those numbers (give or take for conjecture). While this calculation is not exact and there are fluctuating variables at play, it does provide some insight as to one’s chances. But not all players are equal that attend these events. There are those that attend that maybe should have been invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and they will do far better than those that are older in age or lower in talent.
It perhaps makes the most sense to players that live nearby to one of the sites, and those players that do possess great speed or agility. Small school players who cannot get into a well-attended Pro Day, but have great measurables are also prime candidates for such an event. Contrasting from this, a player that has a decent all-star game invite, but not an NFL Combine invite, may also chose to focus on his Pro Day. This is because there are likely to be a good number of scouts at his Pro Day that will give him the requisite exposure that may exceed what he could get at a Regional Combine. If a player has great access to a very highly attended Pro Day by scouts, there may also be reason to forsake a Regional Combine for that Pro Day, given the number of scouts that will see him regardless. Since few players considering this have that the 2nd luxury, it is not a common route. The possibility of being overshadowed by players for whom scouts principally are in attendance, is also something that needs to be taken into consideration as well.
All of these are items that needed be consulted with the player’s representation. None of the aforementioned suggestions in this piece are intended to be ironclad and are merely derived from observance and hypothetical thought. These, like other several scenarios, require careful thought and contemplation with informed and contracted parties that could come to different conclusions than those proffered.
In closing, if a player has the requisite talent and the deep desire to make extraordinary sacrifice to prepare himself for the NFL, he could do far worse than attend one of these combines. But like any professional venture, it should be done only after careful guidance from his representation on the matter.