EAGAN, Minn. — It's time for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
Almost all of the NFL will convene in Indianapolis this week to assess draft-eligible prospects who have been invited to participate in on-field timing and testing drills and formal interviews with team representatives. They also are invited to participate in media sessions.
The annual event is a major milestone on the way to each year's NFL Draft, and for years, it's almost been a lather, rinse, repeat. This year, a few tweaks will accompany mainstays (more on that in a moment).
NFL Network will be your go-to source for live coverage of on-field workouts.
The action is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on Thursday when quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends hit the turf at Lucas Oil Field.
Full workout schedule (all times Central):
3 p.m. Thursday: Quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends
3 p.m. Friday: Running backs, offensive linemen and specialists
3 p.m. Saturday: Defensive linemen and linebackers
1 p.m. Sunday: Defensive backs
VEN will have a crew there to bring you daily content. Make sure to follow team reporter Eric Smith (@Eric_L_Smith) on Twitter and check back throughout the week.
View throwback photos of Vikings players from their performances at the NFL Scouting Combine over the years.
Here are five questions ahead of the 2020 Combine:
1. What is new with on-field workouts?
In addition to moving on-field workouts to the afternoon and prime time, there are some other tweaks to on-field drills this year.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has been doing committee work to assess whether the on-field drills have been providing the best opportunities for evaluation.
"I think it's evolving every year, and this year, you're going to see something totally new and different than has been in the past," Spielman recently told VEN. "I serve on a couple of these committees with the combine and [we ask], 'How do we still keep it a football event and get all the work that we need to get done but also create a little bit more of a fan experience, a little bit more excitement about these players and what they're doing at the combine?'
In addition to moving the on-field schedule so more fans can attend (for free with tickets) and watch on television, viewers might notice that some on-field drills are new and that mainstays like "the gauntlet" will have a timing element added to see how fast prospects work their way through passes.
"We went through during our meetings and are adjusting some of the drills on the field," Spielman said. "A lot of those drills have been done since the beginning of the combine, but what relates to today's game? What type of drills do we see when we go out to pro days? These coaches all over the country are working these kids out, and they're doing a lot of different drills that are more comparable to what they're going to be asked to do when they get to the NFL. You'll see a lot of changes coming up, but we still have to keep the integrity of the event as a football event."
Spielman mentioned that quarterbacks will be asked to throw some quick screens for the first time at the combine because of their increased usage in NFL offenses.
"We've never tested that," Spielman said. "So one of the drills we're talking about adding is them getting the ball and seeing how quickly they get it out of their hands and how accurate they are at throwing a quick screen, just little things like that you're seeing. 'Our game has evolved on the field. What are the types of drills that we can use to test these guys to give us a little better feel?' "
Head Coach Mike Zimmer recently told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen that he and Spielman "talked about having our own combine and doing the drills that we wanted to do at some point. I think he was able to get some of those drills into what they're trying to do."
Zimmer told Allen that when he watches defensive backs, he wants to see "the way they open their hips, the way they turn and run, the way they can go from a backpedal to a forward run, all of the different combinations."
"You always look at them catching the ball, but we want guys that can get to the ball before they catch it," Zimmer said.
2. What will we learn from the podiums?
Media members heavily attend the combine because of podium sessions with general managers and head coaches.
Spielman's session is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (CT) Tuesday, and Zimmer's is slated for 12:45 p.m. (CT) Wednesday.
The Vikings have multiple significant decisions to make this offseason because of pending free agents and their position against the salary cap.
Media members will do their best to glean details of how the Vikings are leaning with regard to free agency, which is scheduled to officially open March 18.
In addition to the podium sessions for national outlets, Spielman and Zimmer also are scheduled to meet with members of the media who make the trek from Minnesota.
The talkfest will be expanded by VEN tracking down numerous experts for their takes on the state of the Vikings.
3. What is the purpose and scope of prospect interviews?
The schedule change has reduced the maximum number of 15-minute formal interviews with prospects from 60 to 45.
Spielman said that the Vikings tailor each interview to what the team is trying to learn about the respective prospect.
"Some players, we want to make sure that they have passion for the game, that they're coachable," Spielman said. "Some players, it may be, 'Can they learn our system?' Some players, it may be, 'We want to make sure,' because of some character concerns. 'Do we still have those concerns coming out of that interview?' There's a lot of different interviews. It's not a cookie-cutter question-and-answer [session]."
Zimmer said the 15-minute time limit doesn't allow for much of a deep dive.
"You go through a lot of background stuff for the first five minutes, so now you've got 10 minutes," he said.
"You talk to them a little bit, kind of get a feel for them, get to know them a little bit, their personality, how they answer questions," Zimmer added. "Sometimes we will give them tests before they get there and make them tell us what the answers are, and then you can, our coaches will FaceTime them, give them playbook questions and tests, or we bring them up here on a visit."
4. How have Vikings bloodlines impacted prospects?
This year's draft class features multiple bloodlines with the Vikings.
Thaddeus Moss, an LSU product and son of Randy, will participate in sessions with tight ends.
J.R. Reed, who played at Georgia and is the son of Jake Reed, and Antoine Winfield, Jr., who played for the Golden Gophers, will join other safeties in participating with defensive backs. Former Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, a younger brother of current Vikings receiver Stefon, is also scheduled to participate with DBs.
5. What happens behind the scenes?
For all of the effort to make the combine as front-facing as possible, it is possible that the most important work is done behind closed doors.
Executives from teams will meet with agents representing players that are scheduled to become free agents so that the parties can talk possible financial terms.
Then, there's an original intent of the combine — centralized gathering of medical information on prospects — that will remain paramount for teams, no matter what other changes happen.