This April will mark the first time since the 2010 NFL draft that the Bears will not have a first- round pick. Moreover, they also currently do not have a pick in the second round, another first dating back to 2010. With the scouting combine beginning next week, how might the Bears look to get the most out of the annual pre-draft event?
Actually, knowing going into the combine that they don’t have those two premium selections makes the scheduling of their time much easier.
The players' workouts get most of the publicity at any combine, but it is the medical that is the most important part of the event each year. The combine is a very cost-effective way of giving about 335 players a comprehensive physical exam.
Though a club might not share their opinion of each player's medical, the results of every test, X-Ray and MRI administered to a player are shared among all 32 clubs. The difference is how each club interprets the results of the tests.
After the medical, each player is weighed and measured, interviewed and undergoes psychological and intelligence testing and, of course, the physical testing. There are several different types of psychological tests that are given at each combine, but a team only gets the results of the tests to which it subscribes.
All the physical, medical and psychological testing goes on during the day, with the interviews happening each night. This is the area — interviewing — in which the Bears might actually have an advantage over other clubs because Chicago doesn't have those first two picks.
At the combine, each club is allowed to interview a maximum of 60 players during the course of the event. The names of the players a club wants to interview are submitted a few weeks before the event to combine management, which handles all the scheduling. The 15-minute interviews begin at 6:00 PM and go until 10:00 every night, except Night 1.
The reason there are no interviews that opening night is that when each group of players comes to Indianapolis, it goes through some pre-medical testing, orientation and, in some cases, players needing certain X-Rays or MRIs begin having those done. So it is on Night 2 that players begin the 15-minute interviews with the different clubs.
Because underclassmen are not allowed to play in any of the All-Star Games (unless they have already graduated), they are involved in a high percentage of the interviews in Indy. Thus, most clubs use the various All-Star games to interview many of the seniors in the draft class, allowing them to use the majority of their 60 combine interviews on underclassmen.
Many clubs want to interview the high-rated players in whom they are most interested, giving those prospects the most attention. It is the down-the-line guys who often don’t have as many interviews scheduled in Indy.
These are the players the Bears will concentrate on.
Arriving at the combine without a first- and second-rounder, they won’t bother interviewing players they feel have no chance to select at the end of the third round. Just about all the players the Bears interview will be third-to-seventh-round-caliber prospects. Because they will be one of the few teams to utilize interviews on these players, the Bears receive a slight advantage in getting to know guys they wouldn't nomally have the chance to a bit better. That gives the Bears a minor Day-3 edge.
There can be something in a 15 minute interview with these lesser-known players that Bears coaches and decision makers will jump on. Even though it might be something small, it can lead to more research on the player before the Bears potentially select him in April.
While teams utilize most of the combine to prepare for the upcoming draft, it is also the unofficial beginning of free agency. No offers will be made, and contract specifics aren't broached with the agents of potential free agents, but it can help determine the market on certain players.
Usually, the time in Indy is used to talk to agents of the high-end, first-wave free agents. With the Bears lacking the salary-cap space to go in that direction this year, they could try and find out what the market will be for some lower-tier free agents. Again, it's an opportunity to learn about players who the Bears normally wouldn’t have time in Indy to discuss.
The whole offseason market for the Bears — be it the draft or veteran free agency — will be different this year. But if they utilize their time in Indianapolis correctly, the Bears can get way ahead of other years when attacking that market. It’s all about prioritizing how their time in Indianapolis will be spent.