Brunner's Blog: Combine vs. Pro Day

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Area scout Todd Brunner is currently traveling through his Northeast region to visit various college pro days leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft. Brunner recently spoke with 49ers.com about his involvement at the NFL Scouting Combine as well as in upcoming college pro days.**

I used to time the first 20 yards of the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but I moved up to the 40-yard line this year. That immediately made things a lot more interesting for me. I was into it even more, because I got to know what the player's from my area ran. The 300 or so guys at the Combine, I got to time every one of them in the 40. It made things a lot more fun than timing the 20-yard split. The 20s are somewhat of an insignificant number depending on if you value that number or not.

My role at the Combine is unique in the sense that I work for the Combine. During the field drills I'm timing for the whole NFL. I've been timing the 20s for the past nine years or so, and Jeff Foster (who runs the Combine) emailed me and asked if I'd like to time the 40s. He came to me first and I said definitely – I was all over the chance.

We still had other people in place. Area scout Matt Malaspina and Director of College Scouting Dave McCloughan sat at the 40-yard line. Four of our other area scouts, Ethan Waugh and Reggie Cobb sat at the 20-yard line and Justin Chabot and Kent Kahl sat at the 10-yard line.

Other than timing, another big role the scouts have in Indianapolis is being a part of the 60 interviews that we have potential players during the week.

Before we even get out to the Combine, our Director of Player Personnel Trent Baalke and our General Manager Scot McCloughan sent us the list of 60 players who they wanted to interview. As area scouts, we took part in the interviews with the guys who played in our area. We really weren't involved in the interview. We sat with Scot, Trent and Coach Singletary as they talked to the different kids and asked questions.

A positive about sitting in on the interviews is the access it gives you to the juniors from your area. It's the first chance we get as scouts to really hear them talk in private and get some more information on them. I thought that part of the trip went really well because I left with a lot more information on the junior guys from my area.

It's also interesting to see how the kids react to being in the same room with Coach Singletary. You can see they're a little nervous, but for the most part, they're prepared to put their best foot forward in the interviews. They talk 32 times and they'll try to get the same presentation out 32 times.

I think you find out the most when the coaches start talking football and have the player up on the board drawing plays and explaining things. Seeing that gives you an idea of the intellect of the particular player. You figure out who's smarter, who's passionate about the game and who's not as passionate about the game as they say they are.

You're also seeing what kind of learner they are. They maybe a great athlete on the field, but when it comes to X's and O's they might struggle big time. Depending on your system and your coaches, that information is going to warrant a lot. They're either going to say, "I can work with this guy and make him better or he has no chance at all of learning our system."

At the conclusion of the workouts in Indianapolis we met again as a staff and looked at guys we had on our board who didn't work out at the Combine or did not go to the Combine. We have to go to their workouts to get the numbers on them so we can keep them on the draft board. If a guy works out at the Combine we don't have to go see them work out again. But most the time with each school there's one or two guys who didn't go to the Combine, and we need to see them perform to get all the possible information.

Personally, two of the biggest things you get out of the Combine are from the interviews and from the physicals. Our doctors do an extensive exam on the kids and we'll know a lot about them from that information which is always important.

I haven't been to a lot of pro days just yet, but my schedule is picking up. I had to catch numerous connecting flights last week trying to get up to Maine for a pro day and that was a long travel day. I decided I'd rent a car for my next visits – that way I'm dictating my travel arrangements. In the car, I'll be heading down to Delaware and then down in Virginia to see pro days at four different schools.

I shouldn't complain about travel, the one who really has it bad is Dave; he's flying somewhere just about every day this time of the year. He's literally flying everywhere. Hands-down he's the frequent flyer of the group.

People ask me if we put more emphasis on pro day workouts or Combine workouts and my answer is neither.

Both are just pieces to the puzzle. Really it comes down to watching tape and seeing if the kid can play football. You have to evaluate how he plays football. All the other stuff, the workout numbers, the character information, are all pieces of the puzzle that go into our evaluation process. Ultimately, it always comes down to can this kid play football or not?

We're looking for the best football players.

But to me, I think the Combine is more valuable than pro days. Everything is the same about the Combine. Everyone has to run on the same surface in the same atmosphere from year-to-year.

And you can't discredit the fact that 32 teams are there watching.

If a player chooses to work out at his school and not at the Combine, the surface can be different, and there are different variables that can help or hinder the information that come from pro days. I think it's better if all the kids work out at the same facility, being the Combine, that way you can compare them. It makes comparing player's numbers even harder when you factor in one time's from the Combine and the other is from his university. It's not the same place. You may be running in 80 degree weather with a little wind behind you at your pro day. But if you ran that time at the Combine, everyone ran under the same circumstances.

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