A Few Notes about the NFL Combine

With the NFL Scouting Combine happening this week, happening currently and ending Sunday, I thought I would do a “what to watch”/ “best things about the combine” piece this week. Without further ado here is what to look forward to and what makes the combine fun.

  1. 40 Yard Dash

Yes this is the most publicized, over scrutinized, and creates the biggest reactions of any combine drill. Now what makes it so special? Well three numbers: 4.24, that is the fastest 40 time in the history of the combine, run by Cardinal running back Chris Johnson back in 2008. Every year this event has someone get a hand timed 4.1 or low 4.2 and the NFL twitter-sphere blows up saying that this kid broke the record and is the next big thing. How often does that happen? Lets look at the stats, I will take the top 13 performers since 2006, the latest year that the combine website has stats for, and talk about their careers.

Note: Chris Johnson had 2006 yards in 2009 with 14 TD’s

Name Yr Position Time Position Stat Still in League?
Chris Johnson

2008

RB

4.24

9442 (54 TD) Yes
Dri Archer

2014

RB

4.26

515 KR YD (0 TDs) Rookie
Marquise Goodwin

2013

WR

4.27

349 (3 TD) 468 RY Yes
Jacoby Ford

2010

WR

4.28

848 (3 TD) 1874 (4TD) NO
J.J. Nelson

2015

WR

4.28

299 (2 TD) Rookie
Demarcus Van Dyke

2011

DB

4.28

1 INT 14 TKL NO
Yamon Figurs

2007

WR

4.30

103 (1) 1956 (1) NO
Darrius Heywad-Bey

2009

WR

4.30

2727 (14) Yes
Tye Hill

2006

CB

4.30

5 INT 111 TKL NO
Tyvon Branch

2008

CB

4.31

5 INT 388 TKL Yes
Johnathon Joseph

2006

CB

4.31

26 INT 474 TKL Yes
Justin King

2008

CB

4.31

1 INT 97 TKL NO
Trae Waynes

2015

CB

4.31

1 INT 20 TKL Rookie

Outside of the three rookies, as you can see 5 of the remaining 10 players are not in the league anymore. Three of the other 5 remaining  are offensive players, where speed is very helpful. Another thing to note is that the two remaining corners were players that are at the end of their careers and almost out of the league. So what does this prove? The 40 yard dash, as fun as it is to talk about and watch, is not a determinate of who will be in the league for more than a few seasons.

2. Bench Press

This is another drill that we don’t get to hear about that much but means a lot to the teams at least for the lines and linebackers and sometimes running backs. Outside of those positions it means little to nothing how many reps a player can or cant do. Particularly every year we hear about some random lineman rip off 40 reps and everyone freaks out and they climb the draft boards. Yes it shows that the player has a lot of strength and can have a better chance of moving players. None of that matters if that player doesn’t have that technique or leverage ability to make that strength useful.

3. Receiver Guantlet

This is the drill that you see receivers, backs, tight ends where they are catching balls from throwers while running straight line. This drill includes the receivers making a catch and quickly dropping the ball getting ready for the next one. This is one of the best drills because the receivers have to maintain focus at both catching the ball and adjusting to bad throws. The receivers also have to show mental toughness as they work their way through the gauntlet as quick as possible and catching every ball. This drill in particular shows how good of hands all the pass catchers have and if they were prepared for the combine as well as the NFL.

4. Rest of the position drills

This is the place that the rest of the drills fall into either overall drills (such as the Vertical Jump, 3-cone and shuttle). Or position specific (drills done by certain position types and no one else). The reason I like these is because of how weird they are, particularly the position drills. The overall drills are good and necessary but I don’t really need to cover them. Now position drills are good for these position: offensive line, front seven (linebackers and defensive line), and corners (I will talk about QB in the next section). Obviously I left out the running backs that is because these drills do not do a bunch for showing off the players as they play. Offensive line have a drill where they have to keep the defensive lineman in front, obviously this would be helpful in game. The drill I like in particular is the foot speed drill, where there are bags on the ground they have to keep their footing over and then go and finish a blocking sled. I think this drill is pertinent because lineman often have to drop and block and they need to keep good feet. For the defensive front seven its another drill kind of like the last drill i explained. The difference is that after they do the foot speed bag drill the defenders are to show off their pass rush move (spin or swim move) on a bag. Obviously these guys rush a lot and use those moves so that is a very important part of the drill. Lastly, the corners and linebackers have a special ball drill they do. The drill is that they have to drop into coverage and follow the direction the ball, held by a coach who is pointing a direction, and do that a few times before finishing coming toward the ball and getting a interception. Obviously this drill shows how a defender can cover and react to a ball as well as how fluid they can move from running one way and changing direction.

5. Quarterback Throwing Drills

Usually top quarterbacks do not throw at the combine for fear of having receivers that they have no chemistry with and not throwing well. This year that is not the case as all 18 quarterbacks invited will throw. This is a two parter because the first throwing portion is in the receiver gauntlet and that should not be counted toward or against the quarterbacks because that type of throw is very rare in a game. Now throwing to receivers without a corner or pass rush is way easier than in a game. This drill however shows off the arm talent that a QB has as well as how strong of a arm a player has. If i was a scout I would watch this drill to see how fast and far a QB can throw so I could get a good gauge on what kind of throws he can make. Thats what throwing at the combine can bring, a great opportunity to show of your arm strength and accuracy, I do not know why top QB’s do not do it more often.

So there are my 5 things to watch during the NFL Combine. I know that I will look up these stats and more to compile my mock draft that will come out the week of the draft. Another thing to look at non-drill or workout wise is the measurements of the players, receivers and quarterbacks in particular look for hand size usually that helps show how good a player can be as that helps get a better grip on the ball. For example Odell Beckham Jr. wouldn’t have made hat one handed grab if his hands weren’t humungous. Hopefully this is a good primer to the NFL Combine as any.

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