After yesterday’s playoff games there now 21 NFL teams whose seasons are over and are moving on to offseason business. One of the first big dates on any offseason calendar is the annual NFL Scouting Combine, but ongoing and rising issues of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 have put the Combine in jeopardy of being significantly modified or even cancelled completely.
Last year’s Combine was accomplished in late February and early March as the pandemic was still in its infancy and issues such as travel and group gatherings were not being regulated or discouraged like we have now. But we’re in a far different reality this year and COVID-19 will almost certainly still be going strong for the next several months.
The NFL’s Scouting Combine, a gateway to the league’s off-season and a tradition in Indianapolis since 1987, has been downgraded to questionable for next month with a decision on its future coming this week.https://t.co/vJWk1WoJbZ
In his report, Adam Schefter notes a variety of alternatives to the typical Combine process. Smaller, regional versions could be held or the event may just be pushed back.
We could see a ripple effect to a delay with other annual events such as the mid-March start to free agency and the late-April NFL Draft being postposed as well.
Schefter also notes that the Combine simply being cancelled is also on the table. This would be a big blow to some 2021 draft prospects; we’ve seen many examples of how a strong showing in Indianapolis has helped players soar up the draft board.
Then again, having no Combine would put a premium on the way players performed on the field for their college teams. And for those that perceive the Combine as the “Underwear Olympics” and hold that data in lower esteem, this might just add to the intrigue of the 2021 NFL Draft.
After managing to get through its entire regular season in the face of the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine the NFL not finding some way to hold these pre-draft evaluations. Unless the health crisis explodes over the next month or so I would expect the Scouting Combine to still happen in some adjusted format.
But as with most things in this COVID-19 reality, only time will tell.