2012 Combine Tale Of The Tape For Guards And Centers: Making Sense Of The Numbers

The NFL Combine kicked off for real yesterday, with the offensive linemen taking to the field to run their drills. And it stands to reason that there would be tons of reports out there today summarizing yesterday's activities and providing lists of risers and fallers or winners and losers. Here are a few summaries:

What I find baffling is that for an event that is all about measurements, there really hasn't been a lot of focus on the actual numbers and what they could mean. So that's exactly what we'll look at after the break

The first step in looking at the numbers for guards and centers is to understand what NFL teams are looking for. Gil Brandt last year published a set of target test results for Combine measurements. Here are the numbers for the interior linemen.

Drill Significance Guards/Centers
40-yard dash Speed over distance 5.3
10-yard split (40) Initial quickness 1.85
225-pound bench press reps Upper body strength 26
Vertical jump Explosiveness, leg strength 30
Broad jump Explosiveness, leg strength 8-6
20-yard shuttle Flexibility, burst, balance 4.55
3-cone drill Agility, change of direction 7.85

The first step in any assessment of Combine performances is to try to figure out whether the players you're looking at meet these requirements. This is a very basic tick-the-box exercise. You'll usually only have a handful of prospects who meet every single target, and teams vary in the importance they place on each measurable, but the less of these targets a prospects hits, the less attractive he becomes to NFL teams.

The next table shows all the basic measurements for the top-rated guards and centers. The list is sorted by where the prospects are ranked on the CBSsports big board. The 'Targets Met' column at the very right provides a tally of how many of the seven target measurements a prospect was able to meet. For your convenience, the table is sortable.

Interior Linemen, 2012 Combine measurables (click column header to sort)

Rank Player POS HT WT Arms Hands 40 Time 10 Time 225 Reps Vert Jump 20 Yd S Cone Targets met
9 Decastro, David OG 6047 316 32 3/4 10 5.43 1.82 34 29.5 8'2 4.56 7.3 3
22 Konz, Peter OC 6050 314 33 9 1/4 DNP DNP 18 DNP DNP DNP DNP 0
23 Glenn, Cordy OG 6056 345 35 3/4 10 1/8 5.15 1.76 31 23.5 7'9 5 8.13 3
40 Washington, Brandon OG 6027 320 33 9 3/4 5.25 1.77 28 25 8'5 4.87 8.22 3
44 Osemele, Kelechi OG 6054 333 35 7/8 10 1/4 5.36 n.a. 32 26.5 8'8 4.87 7.91 2
56 Zeitler, Kevin OG 6037 314 32 3/4 10 1/4 5.39 1.75 32 29 8'5 4.61 7.77 3
65 Jones, Ben OC 6025 303 32 1/2 9 5/8 5.44 1.83 29 27.5 7'11 5.12 8.03 2
70 Silatolu, Amini OG 6035 311 32 10 1/8 5.43 1.89 28 31.5 8'11 4.87 7.95 1
78 Kelemete, Senio OG 6035 307 33 1/2 9 5/8 5.52 1.95 21 25 8'5 4.58 7.77 3
105 Brewster, Michael OC 6041 312 31 1/2 9 1/2 5.35 1.76 29 25 8'0 4.6 7.73 3
125 Blake, Philip OC 6026 311 33 9 7/8 5.25 1.76 22 29.5 8'9 4.65 7.86 5
144 Saulsberry, Quentin OC 6023 304 33 3/4 9 7/8 5.38 1.89 26 22 7'6 4.99 8.19 1
156 Nix, Luke OG 6052 317 33 1/2 9 3/4 5.43 1.82 DNP 29.5 8'6 4.9 7.81 4
171 Molk, David OC 6010 298 32 8 7/8 DNP DNP 41 DNP DNP DNP DNP 0
173 Johnson, Rishaw OG 6033 313 35 1/4 10 1/4 5.24 1.7 22 31.5 9'0 4.53 7.87 5
173 Wynn, Desmond OG 6054 303 34 10 1/4 5.05 1.76 28 32.5 DNP DNP DNP 2
192 Miller, Ryan OG 6072 321 33 1/8 9 1/2 5.27 n.a. 32 28 8'4 4.78 7.72 3
205 Leribeus, Josh OG 6032 312 32 1/2 9 3/8 5.37 n.a. 29 26 8'0 4.65 7.64 2
238 Gerhart, Garth OC 6012 305 33 3/8 9 5/8 5.42 1.81 25 30.5 8'0 4.65 7.63 3

Not a lot of prototypical guards in this class, if you look at how many fit or exceed the target profile in the seven categories. Based simply on these measurements, OC Philip Blake, and guards Rishaw Johnson and Luke Nix should see their draft stock rise a little. But the road to success in life in general is littered by people who thought that simply ticking the right boxes will get you somewhere. So let's look at a couple of different numbers for these guys.

1. The Explosion Number: [BENCH PRESS REPS + VERTICAL JUMP + BROAD JUMP = EXPLOSION NUMBER]

This is a simple addition that adds up the number of bench press reps with the broad and vertical jump values. Technically, this isn't even mathematically correct, because you can't just add reps, inches and feet into one aggregate number, but so be it (Heck, this is the NFL. People have been struggling with the passer rating for 40 years, so math must be bad, right?).

What this number gives you is an idea of the explosive strength of a lineman. An explosion number over 70 is considered a very good result. We'll make an allowance for this draft class and assume that anything above 65 is still good.

2. Lateral Agility: [40-YARD DASH TIME - 20-YARD SHUTTLE = LATERAL AGILITY]

This number uses the differential between the 40-yard dash time and the 20-yard shuttle to get a better feel for the lateral agility of a player, as the differential provides information beyond simple long speed and short-area quickness. Generally speaking, a player who notches a .50 or better is considered to have outstanding lateral agility, a quality highly sought after in interior linemen who usually operate in very tight spaces.

3. Short Shuttle & Three-Cone Drill

Research by ourlads.com on physical attributes that result in NFL success shows that centers who are better than 4.69 in the short shuttle have significantly better odds of starting in the NFL than centers who miss the mark. The same effect was observed for guards who beat 7.84 in the Three-Cone Drill

The table below summarizes the three sets of figures above for the 2012 interior linemen. The figures in bold show where a prospect exceeded the figures outlined above.

Interior Linemen, 2012 Combine additional metrics (click column header to sort)

Rank Player POS HT WT Explosion Lateral Aglity 20 Yd S Cone
9 Decastro, David OG 6047 316 71.7 0.87 4.56 7.30
23 Glenn, Cordy OG 6056 345 62.4 0.15 5.00 8.13
40 Washington, Brandon OG 6027 320 61.5 0.38 4.87 8.22
44 Osemele, Kelechi OG 6054 333 67.3 0.49 4.87 7.91
56 Zeitler, Kevin OG 6037 314 69.5 0.78 4.61 7.77
65 Jones, Ben OC 6025 303 64.5 0.32 5.12 8.03
70 Silatolu, Amini OG 6035 311 68.5 0.56 4.87 7.95
78 Kelemete, Senio OG 6035 307 54.5 0.94 4.58 7.77
105 Brewster, Michael OC 6041 312 62.0 0.75 4.60 7.73
125 Blake, Philip OC 6026 311 60.4 0.60 4.65 7.86
144 Saulsberry, Quentin OC 6023 304 55.6 0.39 4.99 8.19
156 Nix, Luke OG 6052 317 - - 0.53 4.90 7.81
173 Johnson, Rishaw OG 6054 303 62.5 0.71 4.53 7.87
192 Miller, Ryan OG 6072 321 68.4 0.49 4.78 7.72
205 Leribeus, Josh OG 6032 312 63.0 0.72 4.65 7.64
238 Gerhart, Garth OC 6012 305 63.5 0.77 4.65 7.63

I realize of course that these numbers are not everybody's cup of tea. And these numbers are by no means a definitive assessment of how good a given prospect is. They are just one of the many pieces of information that teams put together to assess and grade a prospect.

But there are a couple of interesting observations here that may occasionally go against the prevailing narratives:

  • David DeCastro and Kevin Zeitler are the only players to beat all three metrics. If I had to put money on who I thought would have the smoothest transition into an NFL starting spot, I'd put it on these two guys. Zeitler could also play center in the NFL, and both Zeitler and DeCastro also beat the 20-yard shuttle time for centers.
  • Despite the glowing reports you'll read on Cordy Glenn elsewhere, you may want to strike him from your Dallas Cowboys draft board. Glenn was awfully fast running a straight line, especially for his bulk. But in terms of explosion and agility that is not a player you want to pull and run screens on the Cowboys' O-line.
  • Reports of interior O-line depth in the second round may have been exaggerated. If the CBSsports rankings are anything to go by, these metrics suggest that you're likely to get similar performance from some third rounders as you would from most second rounders.
  • Two interesting under-the-radar prospects: Amini Silatolu out of Midwestern State and Ryan Miller out of Colorado. Both were a hair's breadth away from beating all three metrics.
  • OC Peter Konz disappointed with only 18 bench press reps and didn't participate in any other drills. The bench test of course doesn't mean all that much by itself, but it is a good indicator of which guys love the weight room. OC Ben Jones was utterly unremarkable in the metrics above. Overall, I came away fairly unimpressed with the center class. I'd rather take Kevin Zeitler and move him to center than risk a pick on any of the centers here.
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