Following the college season players who impressed are invited to participate in post-season bowl games, the most notable being the Senior Bowl. During the Senior Bowl, players going through a week of practice coached by NFL teams and at the end of the week play a game. This is an opportunity for NFL teams to see the top seniors playing against the best and see how they respond to NFL coaching. Players are given an opportunity to improve their draft stock though dominating practices and making plays in the game. Following the Senior Bowl, the next step in the evaluation is the NFL Combine.
At the NFL combine player have an opportunity to prove their athleticism and understanding of the game. This is both a mental and physical test for players as they have several long days in which they interview with teams in the morning and evenings in between on-field testing. The difference between the combine and Senior Bowl is that the teams do not get to see the players in actual pads on the field. This provides both a benefit and a danger, the benefit is that they can get to see the actual speed, strength, and athleticism of the player against other top prospects. The danger of this is that some players will perform at an exceptional level, but their testing doesn’t actually translate to the field. A player may be incredibly fast, but not able to keep the speed when on the field. A great example of a player who had a misleading NFL combine is the prospect Vernon Gholston, who dominated the activities, but never translated to even a good NFL player.
Pro Days provide an opportunity for players who underperformed at the combine to get an opportunity to redeem themselves. If a player does not run as fast as expected it also provides an opportunity for teams to see if they just had a bad day or if they are truly slower than they appear on film. One thing to remember during this phase of the player evaluation is that the game is actually played on the field and thus it is most important to know how players perform on the field. Devin Hester ran a disappointing 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, especially for a player who relied on speed and quickness to be successful as he ran a 4.41s – 40. However he took the opportunity for a second chance at his Pro Day and ran a blistering 4.27 – 40.