NFL hoping Combine workouts will be a big draw

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

When free agency rolls around for players, and they say “It’s not all about the money,” you know with reasonable certainty that most of them are lying.

So it’s refreshing to hear the NFL be so up-front about the reason they’re changing the long-standing Scouting Combine format, to turn it into a prime time television event.

Point-blank, it’s about the eyeballs,” Charlie Yook, the NFL Network vice president of production told Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America. “We should get a larger consumption of the combine in all platforms. This is no different than moving the first round of the draft to Thursday primetime, and moving a weekly game to Thursday night during the season. Thursday night is a football night.”

Or so they’ve conditioned us to believe.

It will be interesting to see if there’s an appetite for football in prime time beyond, you know, actual games of football.

Combine workouts, which run the spectrum from wonky (“Hey Martha, look at that man’s three-cone drill”) to pretty but mostly meaningless (quarterbacks throwing to receivers they’ve never met) are now going to be held at night. The 40-yard dashes will likely become a centerpiece, as there’s probably only so much interest in watching large men bench press 225 pounds many times.

In the past, the workouts started around 9 a.m., allowing teams to use the evening hours for player interviews. (And then the post-evening hours for what amounts to a league-wide fraternity party.)

That schedule’s been flipped this year, and the league’s challenge is turning an inside-football broadcast into a mass-market consumable.

“It’s a big change,” Yook said. “We have a big responsibility to explain the drills and why they’re meaningful, and why they should care about these players they don’t really know yet. We know our core viewer is very smart, but we understand there will be new viewers as well. We’re confident this group will have a ton of star power.”

Having a star quarterback such as LSU’s Joe Burrow around will help, as the Heisman Trophy winner’s coming off a record-breaking season for the national champions. Time will tell if there’s enough interest to make the workouts appointment viewing.

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