Static throws, scripted routes, antiquated movements — the quarterback workout at the NFL combine is outdated. It doesn’t simulate the modern passer in today’s game. Let’s mix things up and give NFL scouts five new drills with which to evaluate quarterback prospects throwing from multiple platforms — and on the move.
Every quarterback invited to the combine has the tools to throw from the static three-, five- and seven-step platforms. These are rehearsed, old-school throws. What are we really showing here? The game has changed — this isn’t 1990. Let’s turn up the heat a notch or two and simulate pressure with this new drill and get the quarterback moving.
This drill forces the quarterback to identify edge pressure while hitting the eject button to escape. Get out of trouble and keep the eyes up before climbing to throw from an unscripted platform. You see this from Dak Prescott — check out this throw — who has perfected the art of manipulating pressure and throwing on the move. NFL prospects need to be able to do this too.
Give me a throw from an unstable platform, and let the quarterback drive the ball through the target. With this drill, we can grade the movement skills of the quarterbacks while testing their footwork and accuracy when they are asked to create as throwers when they begin to feel heat off the edge. Don’t forget about that target — this throw might look easy, but it’s not. These are the types of unscripted throws that scouts would love to see in Indianapolis.
Let’s test the footwork of quarterbacks when they are forced to navigate the chaos of a collapsing pocket. Slide, climb, bail and extend the play long enough to find an open window or a receiver separating from man coverage. Looking for a pro example?
Turn on the tape of Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. These are two quarterbacks with the movement skills and moxie to wade through the wash and find that slice of daylight to extend the play with the eyes down the field. For receivers, this drill is about running an inside breaking route, then reacting to the quarterback’s movement to settle in open space and creating a target for him to hit.
Put the quarterbacks in a position where they have to use a quick slide, then climb to shake interior pressure from a defensive tackle or blitzing linebacker. Had enough? Nope. Now they must bail outside the pocket before it swallows them up while looking up a target downfield and throwing on the move. Quarterbacks who escape trouble and buy extra seconds to keep the play alive are the architects of the explosive passing game in today’s NFL.
The ability to calmly climb against pressure — instead of retreating or immediately bailing — is a critical tool for quarterbacks. They must be able to diagnose and adapt to near-instant edge pressure at the snap or a defensive tackle like Aaron Donald winning his one-on-one and bursting up the field. And don’t forget about the nickel corner who creates a free run at the QB from the slot. All of these scenarios come into play, and we don’t see it in action at the combine. Let’s change that here, with the quarterbacks climbing in the pocket to throw.
Think of Tom Brady or Drew Brees on Sundays. The future Hall of Famers have mastered the subtle movements that allow them to slip pressure while creating a new throwing platform. And in this drill, we can simulate a pocket climb that puts the quarterback in a position to throw over the second level of the defense to hit the seam or skinny post.
While our first two drills showcased the movement skills synonymous with today’s NFL quarterbacks, this quick climb again tests the quarterback with pressure while taking him off a static platform. And that gives scouts another look at a prospect’s ability to win with footwork as a thrower.
Quarterbacks in today’s NFL must show second-reaction ability as throwers. Whether it’s the result of pressure or the defense taking away a primary read, they must be able to create new throwing lanes.
In this drill, we highlight the quarterback sliding to the edge of the pocket to look up a route that breaks outside the numbers. Here, we are testing the movement skills of the quarterback — along with his ability to throw from an unstable platform — on an out route that breaks at a depth of 15 yards.
How many times have we seen Patrick Mahomes slide laterally to the line of scrimmage, buying time and space, before ripping the ball on an intermediate off-platform throw? (Just watch this one.) The drill simulates the same movements while creating the necessity for right-handed quarterbacks (it can be flipped for lefties) to make a strong and accurate throw that must be kept away from the defender’s leverage. And, as with the throws already discussed, we are taking the quarterback out of his comfort zone to throw on the move. This is a must at the combine.
Coaches preach about the negatives when quarterbacks throw back across the body — especially on middle-of-the-field routes. However, in today’s NFL, where unscripted throws lead to catch-and-run opportunities, quarterbacks must show the ability to deliver the ball from multiple platforms that threaten the defense.
In this drill, we again simulate edge pressure to get the quarterback moving. Punch that eject button and get going. But once he flips his hips and extends outside the pocket, we want him to look up the crossing route that is working away from the thrower.
As we see from an athletic passer like Aaron Rodgers — here’s a legendary example from the future Hall of Famer — this drill highlights the movement ability and accuracy of quarterbacks in today’s game. And it would allow scouts to grade each quarterback’s athleticism and arm talent on an unscripted throw from a moving platform.
Quarterbacks must be able to move — climb, slide, eject, create — and diagnose what’s coming at them. Today’s NFL is unscripted, and the ability to play off schedule at the position generates opportunities in the passing game.
So what are we doing here, NFL? You’ve been running the same quarterback drills at the combine for decades. It’s time for a change. It’s time to showcase the skills of today’s thrower. Let’s move forward and bring the modern quarterback to Indianapolis. And we can start with these five new and improved drills.
Director of Photography: James Wall, Producer: Weston Auburn/Art School Athletics, Video Editor: Winnie Cheung, Set Design: Maxim Jezek/Walter Schupfer Mgmt, Wardrobe Stylist: Deborah Ferguson/No-Name Mgmt, QB coach: Greg Holcomb/Next Level Athletix QB Training