Over 300 NFL hopefuls will go through the most important job interviews of their lives this week.
From breaking down plays in meetings with NFL executives to participating in speed-testing drills to showing off positional prowess, prospects will be asked to prove they belong among football's elite talent.
Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Brandon Allen has been through the rigors of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. In fact, the young quarterback was subject to the poking and prodding just one year ago.
Allen ended up being selected with the 201st overall pick in last year's NFL Draft. He made the most of his opportunities at the Combine and was able to earn a spot on an active 53-man roster.
Looking back on the process, Allen's memory is fixated on the mental challenges of the week.
“I remember getting up real every day,” Allen said.
“I think what they don’t tell you about the Combine is it’s a big mental thing. Obviously you know that going into it, but they get you up early, they make you go see 20 different doctors. You go through every sort of test before any of the field work stuff so it’s really a mental grind, getting up and getting all the things done and waiting around and then at night going to meetings. Then having to come out in Day 3 to show what you can do in the field, I think it’s just a big mental thing to go through all of that.”
As a quarterback, Allen plays a position with a need for a strong football acumen. Teams wanted to get to know Allen in interviews, but more importantly, they wanted to test his understanding of the game.
“At the Combine, I didn’t do much film breakdown stuff,” Allen said.
“We had a room where we met with pretty much every team and they’d go through – they kind of want to see what you know – if you know football, if you can retain information and a lot of the stuff I did was the team would show me plays that they run and what they call it and what their reads are. Then we’d talk for about 15 minutes and then they’d want me to recall everything.”
The mental tests weren't just about recalling information. Teams wanted to learn more about Allen's college system.
“They also want to see what you know,” Allen said. “Show them some of your plays and you how read them and your protections. They just kind of want to hear you talk football and if you can retain the information.”
Allen wasn't interviewed by the Jaguars at the Combine. However, he did benefit from playing for the coaching staff at the Reese's Senior Bowl.
There are several Senior Bowl participants taking part in the Combine this week. Allen believes being exposed to NFL coaching in January gives prospects some comfort before heading to Indianapolis.
“I think being around NFL coaches and seeing how they coach and what they look for and hearing different terminology, especially getting to play against the best of the best that were coming out was good for me,” Allen said of the Senior Bowl. “I think it definitely helped. I think being around guys just seeing how they work and seeing how they coach, it was a good learning experience at the Senior Bowl.”
One of the biggest obstacles for players can be the position drills. A quarterback throwing to wide receivers who he's never played with can cause some easy mistakes. Allen said that if you're on top of your game, the completions shouldn't matter as much in position drills.
“It’s tough when you’ve got guys that are faster or coming out their routes better,” Allen said.
“From a QB mindset, as long as you’re throwing the ball where it needs to be located, you’re not way off target with your throws, it may not always be a completion with the receiver but you’re showing you’re obviously trying your best to complete it to him. Obviously, those guys at the Combine are all good receivers and tight ends so they’re pretty decent at knowing their routes and being where they are supposed to be. It’s not too difficult to complete it them but it you don’t have the rapport with your own teammates and stuff like that.”
Allen wishes he had some throws back during his Combine experience. However, he thought he accomplished his overall goal of catching the attention of NFL scouts and coaches.
For quarterbacks taking part in the annual showcase, Allen has some advice: know what you're talking about.
“I think a lot of what the Combine is, is those meetings with the coaches,” Allen said.
“Being sharp in what you do at your college and being really on top of what you need to do so you can talk to the coaches and you can explain your offense, explain what you do and be confident when you do it. They can read easily, guys that aren’t sure what they’re saying and they’ll question you. If you’re stuttering or not on top of your stuff, then I think that stands out. So I would definitely be more prepared for the mental side, because if you’re there, they know you can throw the ball. They know you can spin it on the field. I think the biggest thing that separates people is what you can do in the meetings and the film room and stuff like that.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.