The 2019 NFL Combine officially kicked off this week with over 300 former collegiate athletes along with general managers, coaches, team and player personnel from the league's 32 teams taking residence in downtown Indianapolis.

The Combine serves as the precursor to the start of the new NFL year, which officially begins on March 13. The annual event serves as a sort of convention for the league, where team's view the next crop of talent along with reviewing potential rule changes and possible trades.

For the over 300 athletes participating in the Combine, the event serves as a way for them to solidify their draft stock ahead of the 2019 draft in April. Among those 300 attendees will be five Trojans. Here is what you should know about the 2019 Combine:

Trojans at the Combine

Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin, Chuma Edoga, Marvell Tell III and Iman Marshall will represent USC and will participate in drills specific to their positions throughout the week.
The five wrapped up their USC careers in late November and will look to use the Combine as a way to enhance their draft stock. As it currently stands per NFL.com’s mock simulator, no Trojan is expected to go before the third round of the seven-round affair.

These five Trojans will look to join Sam Darnold, Juju Smith-Schuster and Robert Woods among other USC alums currently in the NFL. Last year, four USC players were drafted to NFL teams including Darnold in the first round, No. 3 overall.

As of January 2019, 47 Trojans are on an NFL team in varying capacities, per USC Athletics

Economic Impact

The Combine is currently scheduled to run through Indianapolis through 2020. 2019’s showcase will be the 33rd consecutive year that downtown Indianapolis will serve as the home for the NFL’s next crop of talent.

According to an article from the Indy Star, the NFL’s existing relationship with Indianapolis University Health has sustained the long term partnership. At the time, it was stated that 400 magnetic resonance imaging exams and 2000 X-rays would be taken during the Combine making the partnership between the two parties a crucial aspect.

The location also works due to the compact nature of downtown Indianapolis. There are several hotels all located within minutes of each other, and Lucas Oil Stadium and the convention center are all within reach. For the multitude of credentialed media, NFL personnel and players, the downtown area provides the perfect place to conduct the near weeklong event.

In 2016, it was reported that the Combine earned the city more than $8 million in economic impact according to Visit Indy. The number has likely grown in the years since.

What really goes on at the Combine

At its core, the NFL Combine is an athletic skill showcase for the nation's premier collegiate athletes.

Every athlete will participate in proprietary measurable drills. The drills include a 40-yard dash, bench press at 225 pounds, vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill and shuttle run. From there, invited prospects will participate in a variety of drills related to their position.

Quarterbacks, for example, will participate in throwing drills while cornerbacks will participate in interception and defensive exercises. Many of these drills including the proprietary ones will be nationally televised.

This chart, courtesy of NFL analyst Gil Brandt, details his target test results for the various drills based on positions.

Athletes will also submit to a variety of medical tests and body measurement tests. They will also take the Wonderlic test, an IQ test that measures cognitive abilities.

Participants will have 12 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice questions in the areas of math, vocabulary and reasoning. Each question becomes progressively harder and candidates receive one point for every correct answer. Twenty correct answers out of 50 is considered average, 21 or greater is deemed above average. A sample test can be found here.

Beyond measuring hands and taking tests, athletes will also participate in dozens of interviews with team and player personnel of the NFL’s 32 teams. These interviews go beyond the x’s and o’s of conventional football and get at the core of the athlete, who they are, what they have done and what they can provide in the future.
For some athletes, it is a chance to defend poor play, previous comments or social media transgressions. For other athletes, it is a chance to showcase their team player and leadership capabilities. These interviews are just as important, if not more, than the 40-yard dash.

Does every athlete shine at the Combine?

The Combine gives athletes a chance to further solidify their draft position, however, not every Combine story has a beautiful ending. Many athletes have had excellent Combine performances and later flopped in the NFL. Other athletes have had terrible showings and are among the NFL's top stars.

Good Combines, NFL Busts:

In 2017, John Ross ran the fastest 40-yard dash time ever recorded at the Combine. Ross ran a 4.22 40 and solidified himself as a must-have wide receiver. One month later, the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the 9th overall pick. Despite the hype, Ross appeared in just three games his first season due to varying injuries and had zero receptions. His second season, 2018, brought some hope, but with only 210 yards across 13 games. Ross never panned into the receiver scouts envisioned during his Combine performance.  Now, two years to the month that he shocked the world with his speed, Ross is rumored to be in trade talks before the start of the new league year.

As a senior at Ohio State, Vernon Gholston notched 14 sacks across 13 games. At the 2008 Combine, Gholston had an impressive showing with his 4.67 40-yard dash, 37 bench press reps and a vertical of 35 ½ inches. The New York Jets utilized their 2008 No. 6 overall pick on Gholston, but he never blossomed into the defensive end that the Jets imagined. Across three seasons, Gholston played in a total of 45 games. His number of sacks? Zero.

Bad Combines, Future Stars:

Central Michigan University's Antonio Brown had a less than stellar Combine in 2010. Brown clocked a 4.57 40-yard dash, 13 bench press reps and mediocre shuttle drills. Draftscout.com, a prospect service, rated him the 37th best receiver in his class. Brown was picked in the sixth round, 195 overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In nine NFL seasons, Brown has amassed over 11,000 receiving yards, 74 touchdowns, seven Pro Bowl selections, four First-Team All-Pro selections and a Madden video game cover to boot.

At the 2000 Combine, a young Tom Brady ran a 5.28 40, posted a 24.5 inch vertical and ran mediocrely through the agility drill. Brady was drafted in the 6th round, 199 overall, that same year by the New England Patriots. Just a few weeks ago, Brady won his sixth Super Bowl.

USC Annenberg Media will be live on-site at the 2019 Combine and will continue to bring you up-to-date coverage of all the latest happenings. Part 2 of this preview will be available Thursday morning.