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NFL Scouting Combine reportedly will look very different in 2021

The league is still figuring things out, but new Falcons GM Terry Fontenot and his front office will be stepping into a new world of Combining.

NFL: Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Traditionally, the NFL Scouting Combine is a place where players have been able to impact their draft stock with impressive interviews and standout drills in front of every NFL team. That will still be the case in 2021, but it won’t be because hundreds of people gathered in Indianapolis.

Per Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated, Indy won’t be the central location and the event will likely be all but unrecognizable. A rough sketch of what’s being discussed, per Breer:

  • “Regionalized medical checks” where a small number of team medical staff can go and get the information they need to ensure that they know whether a player has, say, an underlying medical condition or a slow-healing injury that might impact their draft stock. It sounds like some data gathering could happen via telehealth appointments.
  • NFL staff or teams running more pro day-style events at schools, possibly with the same regionalized approach because otherwise that sounds like a nightmare.
  • Virtual interviews instead of in-person ones. This may make it even more awkward when team officials invariably ask something cringe-inducing or completely inappropriate, but it’s safer than in person and I very much doubt teams are going to miss out on anything by, say, not getting a sense of a prospect’s handshake firmness.

None of this is final just yet, but it sounds like a modified plan will be coming soon given the logistics of pulling off a huge number of remote and local activities. Breer notes there has been discussion of moving the Combine back to April, but the league is loathe to move the draft, so it sounds like that proposal is dead in the water.

The Senior Bowl kicks off soon, albeit on a smaller scale, but it’ll be interesting to see how this impacts draft preparation for teams. That’s especially true for a team like the Falcons that will have a brand new general manager and coaching staff evaluating players and trying to figure out difference makers for Atlanta, especially with the #4 pick on the table in April.