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New Combine Test, More Accurate Evaluation?

Posted Feb 26, 2013

A look at the NFL Scouting Combine's Player Assessment Test, designed to delve deeper into prospects' psyches.

INDIANAPOLIS -- If the medical, mental and physical examination process of the NFL Scouting Combine were perfect, draft busts would be as rare as tie games.

But it isn't. It doesn't reveal all -- and perhaps never will, at least not in the lifetime of anyone who was at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend. But the process is in constant evolution, and the Player Assessment Test (PAT) was the latest step.

"To be able to know what kind of people we’re getting, that’s the thing that I brought up," said Broncos Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway, who was consulted for the development of the PAT. "No. 1 for me is competitiveness in these guys -- how competitive are they? How do you ask those questions in this test that can draw that attitude that they have about that out?"

Unlike the Wonderlic, a basic intelligence examination of 50 questions over 12 minutes that has been a staple of the NFL and myriad employers for decades, the PAT was designed to incorporate psychological elements, included over 100 questions and took some players upwards of an hour to complete. And unlike the Wonderlic, it was impossible to prepare adequately for it.

For many Combine participants, practice tests for the Wonderlic are as much a part of preparation as hours spent running the short shuttle and three-cone drills repeatedly.

"Any time you go through the process and agents are involved, you try to be the best they can, and I don't blame them. (The PAT) helps us stay ahead of that curve," Elway said.

Added San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar: "I wasn't as prepared for that one as I was for the Wonderlic."

Although Elway was involved with the development of the examination, he didn't come up with the questions; psychologists did.

"They're the ones that ask me what I want to see, and I said, 'OK, you figure out how to get it out of them,'" said Elway. "I don't have that answer. I don't know. And I don't know that you can do it in a test."

On the surface, the questions seem to have nothing to do with football -- or competitiveness, or love of the game, all of which the examination seeks to reveal.

"One was, 'Which of a cat or a dog would you rather be?' That was pretty weird to me," Georgia DT Kwame Geathers said. "I said I'd like to be a cat. They land on their feet all the time; they're quick; they climb up trees."

Other questions asked the players to prioritize and compare.

"There were a lot of questions like number 1 to 4, 1 being most important, and asking describe yourself as most competitive, etc.," Colorado tight end Nick Kasa said.

Added Escobar: "They kind of tell you, 'If so-and-so is similar to so-and-so, it's heavier and more dangerous.' There's a whole list of those. Then they ask you at the bottom, 'How is so-and-so related to so-and-so?' It's pretty tricky."

There will be tweaks to come, but the test is here to stay. Like it or not, players will have to accept it as the latest tweak in the ever-evolving process.

"You have to do what they tell you to do here, but I'm willing to take anything they give me," Louisiana Tech offensive tackle Jordan Mills added.

"I really don't think a test is going to tell you who a person is; I think a person tells you who they really are and also what they do off the field when nobody's watching -- because that's what counts the most."