The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, like all of those that preceded it, will first and foremost be about evaluating draft prospects through medical testing, interviews and on-field workouts.
This year, however, the combine will also be a test of how well teams can adjust to change.
After years of following more or less the same routine at the combine, NFL talent evaluators, coaches and draft prospects will spend next week in Indianapolis getting used to a new TV-friendly format.
In order to get the televised on-field player workouts into a better TV time slot, players will now work out at Lucas Oil Stadium in the afternoons and evenings from Thursday through Sunday, with some days not scheduled to end until 10:30 p.m. eastern time.
In past years, players have started the day with measurements and on-field work, then ended them with interviews with teams. Now those interviews, which previously took place at night in rooms at the nearby Crowne Plaza hotel, will happen in the morning in suites at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The change in schedule also means teams will be limited to 45 formal interviews—scouts and coaches also meet with players throughout the week in more informal settings—down from 60 formals in past years.
"A lot of it, we're going to figure it out once we get there, what the flow is going to be like during the day," Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer said. "Everything's flipped. Meetings will be in the morning, workouts at nighttime, so once we get into it, we'll really figure out the logistics."
While football people can be creatures of habit, the Seahawks scouting department and coaching staff feel like they'll handle any changes well.
"I think our staff is really good at being flexible, kind of adjusting on the run," Fitterer said. "That's just part of the business. When it gets down to it, we're focused and we know what we need to have, information wise, what we need to help John (Schneider) out with his decision-making progress, and we'll get that information. It's just different."
To make up for fewer formal interviews, the Seahawks and other teams will likely try to find more opportunities to talk to players in informal settings at the combine, and they'll also have to make up some of that time at pro days this spring, Fitterer said.
And teams won't just be trying to adjust to the changes on their end, they'll also be curious to see if those changes affect performances on the field.
"That's going to be an interesting part, how the athletes perform in the evening," Fitterer said. "They get up early in the morning, they're in testing and interviews throughout the day. In the morning you're fresh, you're working out at 10 or 11 a.m. Now some of these guys will be a little worn out after being on their feet all day, so we'll see what it looks like at 7:30, 8 o'clock at night. How that factors in, we might not know this year, but we'll look back in a year or two and see what the difference is."
Combine days are long and often stressful for draft prospects, so seeing how players respond to capping a long day with on-field work could be telling for the Seahawks, who have two scouts, Aaron Hineline and Tyler Ramsey, who will again serve as group leaders, giving them extra time around prospects to gain a little extra insight.
"It can help get a feel for guys," Fitterer said. "At the end of the day, are they complaining, are they moody? Those little things you try to pick up on. We have scouts who are group leaders, so we'll get a little feel for that."
Change, and how teams adjust to it, will be a big theme of this year's combine, but at the end of the day, the end goal of getting a better evaluation of draft prospects remains the same.
"We'll get it done," Fitterer said. "It's just figuring out what we're going to do differently."
Photos from inside the Seattle Seahawks' suite overlooking the Lucas Oil Stadium turf during Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, the first day of on-field workouts featuring some of college football's top professional prospects.