The NFL Combine gets underway Tuesday in Indianapolis. It's a chance for NFL hopefuls who have declared for the 2016 Draft to showcase their abilities in front of talent evaluators from all 32 NFL teams.
Northwestern will have two representatives at Lucas Oil Stadium this week: Dan Vitale and Dean Lowry. Vitale, a four-year starter at superback for the Wildcats, is making the relatively smooth transition to fullback at the next level. Lowry is looking to sell himself as a 3-4 defensive end. His versatility — his ability to play in a 4-3 formation as a standard-down end — is also a selling point though.
Vitale is rated as the second-best fullback in the class and projected as a 6th-round pick by CBS Sports. Lowry is rated as the 24th-best defensive end, and is projected as either a 7th-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
The Combine will be huge for both former Wildcats, but especially for Lowry. Two major knocks on Lowry are two key measurables: he has relatively short arms and small hands. The best way to make up for those predisposed disadvantages is to run and lift well at the Combine.
For Vitale, the position-specific drills might be more important. Vitale's physical strength isn't in doubt. But here's an excerpt from the "weaknesses" section of his draft profile on NFL.com:
Not a true thumper as iso blocker. Slows feet at point of contact rather than accelerating through his intended target with force. Lacking desired athleticism outside of his frame to sustain as move blocker.
Vitale will seek to disprove those assessments.
Below are the schedules for Vitale and Lowry. Vitale will go through his on-field workout on Friday, while Lowry will hit the field on Sunday:
Dan Vitale schedule
Vitale, as a fullback, is part of Group 3, the running back group.
DAY 1 ARRIVALS: Group 1 (PK, ST, OL), Group 2 (OL), Group 3 (RB)
Tuesday, February 23 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
Wednesday, February 24 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Interviews
Thursday, February 25 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ PK/ST Workout ~ Bench Press ~ Interviews
Friday, February 26 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis
Dean Lowry schedule
DAY 3 ARRIVALS: Group 7 (DL), Group 8 (DL), Group 9 (LB)
Thursday, February 25 — Travel to Indianapolis* ~ Registration ~ Hospital Pre-Exam & X-rays ~ Orientation ~ Interviews
Friday, February 26 — Measurements ~ Medical Examinations ~ Media ~ Interviews
Saturday, February 27 — NFLPA Meeting ~ Psychological Testing ~ Bench Press ~ Interviews
Sunday, February 28 — On-Field Workout (timing, stations, skill drills) ~ Departure from Indianapolis
Although the Combine begins Tuesday, individual workouts don't begin until Friday, so that's when television coverage begins. The NFL Network's coverage hits the air Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 8 a.m. CT, and wraps up at 3 p.m. CT.
Dates: Friday, Feb 26 - Monday, Feb. 29
TV Channel: NFL Network
Online: 2016 NFL Combine Live
Here's a breakdown of the workout that each player will be put through, via NFL.com:
The 40-yard dash is the marquee event at the combine. It's kind of like the 100-meters at the Olympics: It's all about speed, explosion and watching skilled athletes run great times. These athletes are timed at 10, 20 and 40-yard intervals. What the scouts are looking for is an explosion from a static start.
The bench press is a test of strength -- 225 pounds, as many reps as the athlete can get. What the NFL scouts are also looking for is endurance. Anybody can do a max one time, but what the bench press tells the pro scouts is how often the athlete frequented his college weight room for the last 3-5 years.
The vertical jump is all about lower-body explosion and power. The athlete stands flat-footed and they measure his reach. It is important to accurately measure the reach, because the differential between the reach and the flag the athlete touches is his vertical jump measurement.
The broad jump is like being in gym class back in junior high school. Basically, it is testing an athlete's lower-body explosion and lower-body strength. The athlete starts out with a stance balanced and then he explodes out as far as he can. It tests explosion and balance, because he has to land without moving.
3 CONE DRILL
The 3 cone drill tests an athlete's ability to change directions at a high speed. Three cones in an L-shape. He starts from the starting line, goes 5 yards to the first cone and back. Then, he turns, runs around the second cone, runs a weave around the third cone, which is the high point of the L, changes directions, comes back around that second cone and finishes.
The short shuttle is the first of the cone drills. It is known as the 5-10-5. What it tests is the athlete's lateral quickness and explosion in short areas. The athlete starts in the three-point stance, explodes out 5 yards to his right, touches the line, goes back 10 yards to his left, left hand touches the line, pivot, and he turns 5 more yards and finishes.
If you've got any questions about the Combine, ask them below. We'll have full coverage of Lowry and Vitale over the coming week.