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Unearthing football's hidden gems.
The idea: Give every deserving player the opportunity to have his talent assessed by pro scouts, while making it easier and more efficient for scouts from all 32 clubs to evaluate that talent.
In the 2014 season, 63 players earned positions on NFL rosters after participating in the regional combines. And 36 of them — 57 percent — were on clubs that made the playoffs or were in playoff contention at the regular season’s end. At the start of the 2016 season, 73 regional combine players were on NFL rosters.
The NFL began the Regional/Super Regional Combine series in 2012 as a supplement to the National Scouting Combine, where scouts assess the top 300 or so college players who are eligible for that year’s draft to see if they have what it takes to play at the sport’s highest level.
The remaining draft-eligible players — roughly 800 of them — may not get an invitation to the national combine, but they’ll still get a chance to pursue their dream by attending one of the five Regional Combines, where they’ll show off their skills for pro scouts and try to catch on to an NFL roster.
To participate in a Regional Combine, players must have played college football in their senior season and have used all of their NCAA college eligibility the fall prior to the upcoming NFL Draft. Players who go undrafted become free agents and can sign with any team.
“We want players to have every opportunity to showcase their talent. The guys at these events will always be able to say, ‘I may not have made it to the pros, but I left everything I’ve got out on the field.’ And those who do make it get to live out their childhood dream. It's a win-win.”
Matt Birk, NFL Football Development Consultant
In previous years, Regional Combines were “open call”; prospective players who were eligible for the NFL draft for the first time worked out alongside players who had been out of school for two, three or four years. Some at these combines even had previous professional experience. That made it difficult for scouts to focus on the players who were eligible for that year’s draft, so for 2015 the NFL made some revisions.
By restricting the participants in the Regional Combines to those eligible for the current draft, the league enabled teams to focus only on the players who could end up on their draft board. It benefited the players by giving them an environment where they get greater attention from scouts in the only year they can be drafted by an NFL team.
“This streamlines the system,” said NFL Football Development Consultant, Matt Birk. “This helps clubs focus on only draft-eligible players. Between the National and the Regional Combines, the NFL will have worked out about 1,000 draft-eligible guys.”
A Regional Combine, Birk emphasized, “is not a fantasy camp. It’s not an open to just anyone who wants to try out.”
Players who are no longer in their draft year that have signed a contract and have recent experience on a NFL team still have a venue to display their talent — the new Pro Personnel Combine. This option is available to players who were on a training camp roster during the previous preseason but were not on a 53-man roster following the 75-man roster reductions or whose contracts expire at the end of the current league year.