Bad economy puts more emphasis on combine

Economic challenges are being felt everywhere, and NFL scouting is no exception.

Teams are looking to reduce costs wherever possible. And one area that involves the greatest amount of expense is travel, which also happens to be the primary means by which clubs assess college prospects.

For that reason, the NFL Scouting Combine has become a more vital tool in the talent-evaluation process because it provides a central location for more than 300 players who comprise the talent pool for the draft. Representatives of more than a few teams have told me they are looking to make the most of the next several days at Indianapolis in order to avoid the additional cost resulting from trips to individual workouts at college campuses.

Of course, that often depends on which of the top-rated players choose to take part in combine workouts and which decide to wait to do so during individual sessions when they feel better prepared to give their best performance. One notable player who won’t be working out at all this week is Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree because of a right ankle sprain he suffered in last month’s Cotton Bowl. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, who could be the top overall pick of the draft, does not plan to throw during the Combine but is expected to take part in other drills.

Still, in recent years, more players have chosen to work out at the combine, partly because they want to take advantage of the television exposure from NFL Network’s coverage and partly because agents have invested heavily in having their clients train specifically for combine drills. Team executives are looking forward to having the bulk of workout evaluation completed while their scouts and coaches are in Indianapolis so that they don’t have to spend too heavily on travel to on-campus workouts held between the combine and the draft.

Vic Carucci will be reporting for NFL.com from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Ind.

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