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2011 NFL Combine: What happens?

The 2011 NFL Combine starts today. Fans generally get excited and focus on the "glory" drills as I like to call them. The glory drills are the 40-yard dash and the bench press. But, there's some other important drills that players do at the NFL Combine.

Click the jump to see a run down of the drills.

First and foremost, the players get to play "meat market" and get poked and prodded. There height, weight, wingspan, and hand size will all be measured.

40-yard dash-- Athletes are timed at 10, 20 and 40-yard intervals. What the scouts are looking for is an explosion from a dead stop. The 40-yard dash is most important for running backs, wide receivers, cornerbacks, and safeties. The 10-yard split measures explosion off the line and gives scouts an idea of how fast a guy is in short areas and off the snap of the football. This time is very important to offensive and defensive linemen since both don't usually run more than ten yards on a given play. It's also important for rush linebackers and more mobile quarterbacks, as the 10-yard split really measures acceration. The 20-yard split is measured to see if a player continues to build speed after his first ten yards. This drill is most important for running backs and linebackers, who often start from a stop and must continue to pursue.

Three-cone drill -- The 3-cone drill tests an athlete's ability to change directions at a high speed. This is the most underrated drill of the entire combine, as it mimics actual in-game scenarios. Players don't typically run 40 yards in a straight line. They generally take routes toward the football or toward the end zone that requires them to change direction a multitude of times. The three cone drill is most important for receivers and cornerbacks.  

Shuttle run-- The shuttle run tests is the player's lateral quickness and explosion in short areas. It is most important for running backs, wide receivers, linebackers and cornerbacks. One of the most important traits for skill position players to have is the ability to shake a defender in the open field and this drill helps give scouts an idea of how quick a player's feet are. There are two shuttle runs, the 5-10-5 and the 10-20-10. The latter is important to scouts because it tests conditioning and endurance.

Vertical jump-- The vertical jump measures lower-body explosion and power. Vertical jump is most important for wide receivers and cornerbacks. Scouts want to see if a receiver or cornerback will be able to go up and get the ball at its highest point.

Broad jump-- The broad jump is testing an athlete's lower-body explosion and lower-body strength. It tests explosion and balance, because he has to land without moving. The test is important for running backs, linebackers, and both offensive and defensive linemen. 

Bench press-- The bench press is a test of strength, as many reps of 225 pounds as the player can get. What the NFL scouts are also looking for is endurance. What the bench press tells the pro scouts is how the player went to the weight room during his college career. The bench press is most important for offensive and defensive linemen as it measures their brute strength. The more a player can do the better, as it typically shows their "power endurance" as well. Chances are if a lineman can do a high number of them, his power is less likely to fade late in a football game.

Wonderlic-- The Wonderlic test is a general aptitude test that is meant to measure intelligence. It is a 12 minute test consisting of 50 questions. This test is most important to quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Both positions require a player to be intelligent, and typically these positions average the highest scores. The questions range in difficulty and time is key. There's no time to second guess yourself or spend too much time on one question or it'll hurt your overall score. It's compared to having to make quick decisions during the course of a football game. 

The of course, each position will generally have position specific drills. The quarterbacks will throw the football, wide receivers will go through a "gauntlet" of catching passes, and offensive lineman will have to show their drop step and shadowing ability.

Thursday, Feb. 24:     Offensive Linemen, Kickers, Punters, Long Snappers, Tight Ends

Friday, Feb. 25:           Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers

Saturday, Feb. 26:      Defensive Linemen, Linebackers

Sunday, Feb. 27:        Defensive Backs