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2024 NFL Combine Preview – What Time Is The NFL Combine?

Caleb Williams preps for NFL Combine

NFL Combine Preview – Date, Times, Info

NFL content contributor Ron Marmalefsky offers his NFL Combine preview including dates and times with action set to start on Thursday, February 29th at 3pm ET! What time do combine events start? What should you look for from potential NFL draftees? Read below!

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2024 NFL Combine Overview

I hear this debate all the time: Does the combine really matter? Should we really care about kids throwing footballs in a scripted practice with no pass rush?

Does it really matter how fast RB’s run the 40? Why watch WR’s and TE’s catch passes in shorts? What drills, if any are really important for LB’s and DB’s? And behind the scenes, do we care about how high a player can jump, how much he can bench press, or can he push a blocking pad?

This is the 44th draft that I will be covering. Writing about the draft, both publicly as well as privately has been an efficient way to prepare and finalize my player ratings. I use the draft to fill in the final pieces to what I think each team’s profile will look like prior to the season.

The draft isn’t supposed to be a huge tool in determining whether or not to make a future play on a team’s chances of winning the Division or a team’s season win total, but it is helpful to me as I project RB rotations, TE usage, etc. Getting an edge on the market value of some players can work when making player proposition bets.

In 2022, my top three drafts were (in order) the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants. My bottom feeder drafts included the Raiders, Rams and Patriots.

In 2023, my top two draft grades were given out to Pittsburgh and Seattle. In addition, we now know that the LA Rams and Houston Texans clearly beat market expectations last year, thanks in a very big way to their 2023 draft class.

My bottom feeder grades (all D+ or worse) in 2023 were Buffalo, Denver, Carolina, and Jacksonville. So maybe there is more of a correlation that first thought?

There’s also the draft itself, and an ever-increasing number of draft bets you can make on when a player will be chosen, what player a team will choose, how many players at a certain position will be chosen, etc.

While this article does not specifically discuss draft wagering, the combine itself will certainly assist in forming opinions that will carry over to finding value in player projections.

I understand the shortfalls of the combine. Some players take it more seriously than most. Occasionally, bad performances are overvalued, such as with Orlando Brown a few years back.

More often, strong performances are given too much weight, especially by certain teams (the Al Davis Oakland Raiders come to mind).

TV coverage is abysmal, concentrating too much on the glamour position of QB, giving the viewers less of an opportunity to view performances at other positions. Worse than that, telling meaningless stories while the players are working out makes it hard to watch. Still, I carry on.

How to Scout the 2024 NFL Combine?

So, here’s what I do. I tape most of the combine, only watching the part with QB’s live. I watch whatever drills I can with RB’s, WR’s and TE’s, speeding past the commentary part.

After the combine, I get all of the numbers, including 40 times, bench press, shuttle scores, etc. by positional grouping and compare the numbers. Of course, not all players will participate in the combine.

Some miss due to injury, while some choose to use their Pro Day workouts instead. I’m not a big believer in the accuracy of Pro Day numbers, so my preference is always the combine. But I generally do not hold it against players who skip the combine.

Here are some ground rules. If someone I know little about excels, I go back to game tape and box scores to see how they performed ON the field. I do the same when someone I know and expected more of performs poorly.

I’m looking for outliers. I go back to the tape when I see RB’s run in the top 5-10% or the bottom 5-10%. I do the same for all positions, whether it be timed speed, strong hands for the catch, or lateral movement. My opinions are never based solely on combine performance.

Each position is different. The remainder of this article will focus in on what I look for, position by position.

2024 NFL Combine by Position

Quarterbacks (March 2nd, 1PM ET)

Do they have a command presence?  It’s hard to decipher at the combine, but you do get a feel for what’s going on.  Most of the QB drills have no meaning for me. 

I look at two drills, the sideline pass and the out and up deep throw.  Are they leading the WR?  Are they throwing an easy to catch ball? 

I learn something by how daring and how wild they are when throwing that sideline pass.  If they miss too often on the deep throw, I go back to game tape to see if the QB has had success in that area, or maybe if the QB doesn’t attempt many deep passes.  The windows are tighter in the NFL.

Running Backs (March 2nd, 1PM ET)

Timed speed does matter. If you’re small, you better be fast. If you’re large, it may not matter as much, but if you are too much over 4:50 in the forty-yard dash, that can be a red flag.

Not all RB’s are used in the collegiate pass game. I take a look at their pass catch drills as well. I’m looking for the soft hands for the catch and how they make their cuts.

Wide Receivers (March 2nd 1PM ET), Tight Ends (March 1st 3PM ET)

While timed speed matters, you can get fooled by eliminating someone without speed. Jarvis Landry is one example. He ran awfully slow at his combine, yet I still gave him a 1st round grade.

Why? Because he had superior hands for the catch, made solid cuts, and his game translated to 3rd down success, ideally paired with a stretch the field WR on the other side.

I found John Brown and Cooper Kupp as draft nuggets. Brown was effortless in his deep speed, and dominated a drill that I like more than others, the “gauntlet”. Kupp had some of the best hands for the catch I’d seen.

Again, the shorter you are, the faster you might need to be (Brandin Cooks), but that alone is not good enough. Cooks had a stop on a dime turning radius, loose hips and lateral movement skill (drills, plus shuttle), which can give the viewer some valuable insight.

The gauntlet is where a WR has to go across the field, catching 5-6 balls in stride without veering from the yard line.

There was talk about eliminating the drill, but I find it useful, noting how a player catches the ball (hands, body) and how they adjust to poor throws.

Offensive Linemen (March 3rd, 1PM ET)

I get nothing out of watching OL drills. I look at outliers in relation to speed, and read about their lateral movement skill.

An OL who doesn’t move well laterally can still function quite well in the NFL as long as they are in the right blocking scheme. One red flag for me is a low bench press score.

Combine invitees have had two months to prepare for this, and the other drills. Performing poorly makes me question if they can push defenders away from the QB, and be helpful in power run attacks.

Defensive Linemen (February 29th, 3PM ET)

While the ten-yard split is becoming increasingly used, I still check the forty-yard split just as carefully. QB’s are more mobile these days, and the chase is longer.

Speed, coupled with some upper body strength is coveted. I use the combine information in conjunction with player sacks, tackles, and tackles for loss stats. Low production in college is a red flag.

The combine #’s are good guidelines but do not tell the entire story. Brute strength (press press) is helpful for push the pile DT’s, whose stats are not as important if their main role is to occupy blockers so that other defenders have open space to make the tackle.

Inside speed is becoming more important as teams tend to draft run-oriented DT’s later than in the past.

Linebackers (February 29th, 3PM ET)

Edge rushers are treated the same as DE’s. The outside LB has to seal off the edge in addition to (possibly) possessing pass rush skill.

Lateral quickness is important in my evaluation, but I barely watch ANY LB drills since the television broadcast is especially lax in showing this in real time.

Instead, I turn to the shuttle times, skipping the viewing part. For more traditional LB’s, I also find it difficult to get any meaningful data out of the combine.

I’ll note height and weight outliers, plus highs and lows with timed speed, but this evaluation is after, not during the combine, and used along with game tape and game notes.

Cornerbacks (March 1st, 3PM ET)

I treat “cover” CB’s and off-ball CB’s differently, but one drill stands out. Timed speed carries a baseline; too slow and you can’t succeed in the NFL. CB is the position where 40 times matter the most to me.

Of equal importance is how CB’s turn and run. Straight-line speed is not enough. I carefully watch the drill where the CB has to show off his fluid hip movement and run with the opposing WR.

Losing a step going in and out of breaks matter. The shuttle drills provide information on which players have “tight” hips, lacking fluidity in their stride.

Finally, some CB’s show off their lack of hands to make the interception. Not wanting to just trust the combine, I make notes on each player and go back and check the stat sheet and the tape.

Safeties (March 1st, 3PM ET)

It’s not breaking news that free safeties cover just as much as CB’s in certain schemes, and strong safeties also match up vs. RB’s and TE’s.

Safeties are getting faster, by necessity. I treat the evaluation of deep ball safeties the same as CB’s. Unfortunately, I can’t judge the closer to the line of scrimmage safeties by watching the combine.

For these players, I will check indicators of strength (bench press), and game tape, looking at how they sift through traffic to get to the ball carrier.

2024 NFL Combine Preview – Conclusion

Keep in mind that the combine is exactly the type of environment that invitees with a limited sample size, and even more importantly, small college players need in order to showcase their skill sets.

Player’s dreams are impacted by the combine, right or wrong. Remember, fall camps are shorter, and with less hitting.

The number of preseason games has been reduced. Pay attention to what you see from players that fall into these two groupings.

I hope this pre-combine article has been helpful to you. I’ll be sharing more thoughts as the draft approaches, and of course, will be commenting on the draft during, and after it happens.

Follow me on twitter @ronacesports to be alerted of future podcasts, as well as any additional handicapping articles that may appear from time to time.

Here’s the latest podcast, discussing team needs, QB’s, and coaches.

Post Super Bowl football chat with Dan Rivera – YouTube

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