There are 125 teams at the highest level of NCAA football. Sprinkle in a couple late-bloomers who play ball at smaller schools, and there are dozens more NFL Draft prospects from places like Hofstra (Marques Colston, 7th round draft pick, 2006) or Bloomsburg (Jahri Evans, 4th round, 2006) who, once refined, turn into all-stars.
The NFL Scouting Combine was created in 1982 to give all these athletes a level playing field. The idea was for scouts to gather raw numbers on all of those players, performing under similar conditions, in a single location. Consequently, Combine training was born as well, as players used to performing on the field suddenly had to run 40 yards, pump out bench press reps (at 225 pounds), jump as high and as far as they could, and shuffle through cones – all under the watchful eyes of NFL talent evaluators. But the poking and prodding doesn’t end there. At least a month of group (“Pro Days” on college campuses) and individual workouts (at NFL facilities) follow, as players had a second chance to confirm their numbers or improve upon them.
While these drills don’t perfectly predict a player’s aptitude for pro football, preparing for and performing them well is a huge part of the entry cost if they want to get a shot at playing on Sundays. Here’s how five NFL prospects got ready for the draft on the field and in the weight room.
Odell Beckham, Wide Receiver, LSU
Beckham has the perfect bloodlines for a receiver: his father was a running back at LSU in the early 1990s and his mother was a track star, part of a multi-time national championship team. While their son's Tigers team came up short in the championship game that capped the 2011 season, he turned heads as one of the most productive receivers in college football in 2013.
Beckham snagged eight touchdown and accumulated over 1,150 yards on just 59 receptions for an impressive 19.5-yard average. He runs 40 yards in close to 4.40 seconds and makes up for standing just 5' 11" with a 38.5-inch vertical jump.
While all these add up to a sure-fire first-round draft pick (ESPN expert Mel Kiper has Beckham going 15th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers), Beckham enlisted the help of trainers at EXOS in Arizona to refine his sprinting technique, eventually dropping his time by almost 0.10 seconds in later clocking.
While he believes "a 40 is not necessarily the best measurement of how fast you are," and would rather the NFL add 20-yards to the drill, Beckham suggests focusing on two things to improve your speed: "Aggressive arms and driving your hips through when you explode out of your stance."
The best way to do this is by using resistance bands or weighted sleds over distances from 10 to 20 yards. "Anything with resistance is going to give you that speed, around your ankles, around your waist," he says.
Odell Beckham's Speed Routine
Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images
- Two days per week, speed drills
- 4 x 20-yard sprints on grass or field turf using a sled with 30-40 percent of the runner's body weight as resistance.
- Alternate with 10-20-yard unweighted sprints.
- Finish hard leg workouts by alternating hot and cold tubs for 5 mins apiece.