2014 NFL Combine: Offensive position drills explained

USA TODAY Sports

Each drill the athletes in attendance at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine will participate in and what scouts are looking for when reviewing them.

Quarterback Drills

QB Drop and Throw 3-5-5-7

The quarterbacks will throw five different throws in the basic route tree for their main throwing drill. These will be the slant (2 route), out (5 route), dig (6 route), corner (7 route) and the go (9 route). The most important thing to watch in this drill is the QB footwork.

The slant will require a three step drop. Scouts will look at the QBs drive step and whether his right foot remains under his right hip or if the QB over extends. The next step is the cross over step followed by the plant step. Scouts will look to make sure the QB isn't panting on his heel as that will slow down his forward momentum and will look to make sure they don't take an extra hitch step.

The out and dig routes will require the five step drop without a hitch. In the five step the first three steps give you the depth which should be around seven yards back from the line of scrimmage. Once again scouts will look to make sure the QB's feet are remaining under his body and is not leaning out of control. The fourth step the QB should gather himself, straighten his line and once again the ball comes out after his plant step.

The corner route requires a big 5 step drop or a five step with a hitch. This has most similarities to the regular five step drop but has a hitch or an extra step up at the end. The hitch increases the velocity of the throw but decrease the  speed of the release.

Scouts will also look to make sure the QB carries the ball near his right chest plate (if right handed) during the drop. When the QB goes to throw they will look to make sure they bring their arm up in the "L", transfer their weight from their back foot to the front foot, bring their right should around and follow through naturally. Contrary to what most fans think, completing the pass has little significance on the drill.

The go route requires a seven step drop. The QB has an initial drive step, then  four drop steps to gain depth (crossover, extension, crossover, extension) followed by the gather step that is a cross over where the QB straightens their line and the plant step where they throw. The go route should not need a hitch and doing so will throw off the timing of the play and usually cause an under thrown ball.

Running Back Drills

Off-Tackle Reaction Drill

This drill simulates an off tackle run. The running back will run through cones on an angle as if they were running an off tackle play in the game. They will run over bags and then have to breakdown and run the opposite way the coach points to bag and throw the cones.

Scouts will look for a good initial burst through the starting cones. As the running back goes over the bags it requires them to run with high knees. Scouts want to see a low pad level running over the bags, absolutely no looking down and acceleration through the bags. The final cut and reaction is the most important in this drill. Scouts want to see the QB breakdown, read the bag, switch the ball to the outside hand and burst on the cut. This drill tends to be harder for the bigger backs. When a bigger back does a good job in this drill it shows that back has some running talent.

Change of Direction (COD) Pitch Drill

This is another very important drill for running backs. Rarely is a running back going run forty yards in a straight line and that is where this drill helps the evaluation. The running back will do a pitch motion to get the ball. They will than have cones set up down field that make a counter-clockwise "W", and they have to zig-zag in between before finishing the drill by sprinting 20 yards.

Scouts want to see if the running back can efficiently drop their weight and dip around the corner. They want to see as little steps as possible when making the cut and explosiveness out of it. It is also important that the running back switches the ball to the outside hand during every cut. Once again this is a drill that is harder for the bigger RBs to do so when one does well it gets noticed.

WR/TE Drills

Receivers will run the route trees, where scouts will look to see if the receiver can drop their weight and break down quickly then explode out of the break, as well as the overall footwork of the route. They will also run the sideline catch and over the shoulder catch drills. The most notable drill though is the gauntlet.

This drill takes place down the twenty yard line. The receiver will have to quickly turn around and catch a pass, secure it, throw it away then do another 180 degree turn to catch a second pass. After catching that pass they run down the twenty yard line where they catch five passes alternating sides each time. The final catch has them watch their footwork to remain in bounds. This drill drives coaches crazy because receivers throw away the pass after catching it however it really exposes natural hands. With the speed of the drill it is really hard to catch the passes with the body so it forces every receiver to catch away from their body. Scouts will also time the drill themselves so some receivers who will slow down to secure the pass will be penalized by some scouts. This drill is one of the most fun to watch.

Offensive Line Drills

Short Pull-Drill

Offensive linemen really struggle to stand out in the Combine where contact is at a minimum. The long pull drill is designed to see the long speed of the linemen in relevant game time movements however the most relevant run blocking drill is the short pull drill. In this drill the linemen execute a cross block combo. The lineman on the outside will block down and the inside lineman will pull around him. Both linemen make contact with fellow participants holding bags. In this drill you want to see the linemen come out of this stance quickly. They need to stay as low as possible, throw a strong punch and drive their hips through the block. This drill really exposes those linemen that lack the pop in their hips and those that struggle firing out of their stance. \

TEs will also do a short pull drill to highlight (or expose) their run blocking technique (or lack of technique)

Mirror Drill

In this drill the linemen is opposite a defender. The defender will move laterally and the lineman must mirror their movements to stay in front of them. This is designed to try to represent the mirroring an interior linemen may have to do and it exposes heavy foot linemen who lack lateral quickness. It is important that the linemen stay low in their stance, maintain a good base with a nice knee bend. It is also important for them to pick up their feet quickly and take short choppy steps. Of course how quickly the lineman reacts and moves laterally also factors into the evaluation of this drill.

Pass Protection Drill

In this drill the lineman take on the tackle role. At the snap they will kick back at a 45 degree angle and follow allow the cones till they reach one about twelve yards back. The have another linemen as the defender. When they become parallel with the cone they will then need to take their inside hand and drive to pass rusher out wide. Scouts in this drill look for quick kick slides and natural benders. It is important in this drill that the lineman stays low with 90 degree bend in their legs and a straight back with very little to no lean if possible. They also want to see the lineman keep their hand up by the chest during the entire drill and a good kick-slide where the lineman doesn't over extend and remains balanced.

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