2012 NFL Combine: Making Sense Of The Numbers For Defensive Linemen

Feb 25, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; An overall view of the inside of Lucas Oil Stadium taken during the NFL Combine. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

By all accounts, the front seven players had a very good day at the Combine yesterday. Some of the standout performances by the likes of Nick Perry, Bruce Irvin and Dontari Poe had us collectively oohing and aahing and generally staring slack-jawed at some of the performances in Indianapolis.

And with those performances come lots of numbers to pore over. On Sunday, we tried to make sense of the Combine numbers for guards and centers. In this post, we're going to do the same for the defensive linemen.

After the break, we'll look at their measurables and then look at some metrics like the Explosion number, Speed Scores, Lateral Agility and more.

For this post, we'll follow the same structure we had for the guards and centers post, and start by looking at the target numbers for defensive linemen, as outlined by Gil Brandt last year. Here's what NFL teams are looking for:

Drill Significance Tackles Ends
40-yard dash Speed over distance 5.15 4.85
225-pound bench press reps Upper body strength 26 24
Vertical jump Explosiveness, leg strength 30 33
Broad jump Explosiveness, leg strength 8-9 9-9
20-yard shuttle Flexibility, burst, balance 4.55 4.30
3-cone drill Agility, change of direction 7.75 7.35

However, these measurements are targets for positions in a 4-3 defense, and wouldn't necessarily do 3-4 players justice. The 4-3 ends for example are comparable to 3-4 OLBs, while the 3-4 DE's are better compared to defensive tackles in a 4-3. We will use the targets for DTs to assess the linemen.

The next table shows all the basic measurements for the top-rated defensive linemen. The list is limited to those players ranked within the top 200 on the CBSsports big board and sorted accordingly. The Position designation is the position a player will most likely play in a 3-4 scheme. There are some borderline cases here, but overall the designations should be about right. 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.

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

Rank Player 3-4 POS College HGT WGT Arms 40 Time 225 Reps Vert Jump 20 YD S Cone Targets Met
8 Brockers, Michael DE Louisiana St 6050 322 35 5.36 DNP 26.5 8'9 4.81 7.46 2
10 Still, Devon DE Penn St 6047 303 33 1/4 5.08 26 29.5 DNP DNP DNP 2
20 Coples, Quinton DE North Carolina 6056 284 33 1/4 4.78 25 31.5 9'1 4.78 7.57 4
21 Cox, Fletcher DE Mississippi St 6040 298 34 1/2 4.79 30 26 8'7 4.53 7.07 4
24 Worthy, Jerel DE Michigan St 6023 308 33 5.08 DNP 28.5 8'11 4.56 7.6 3
27 Poe, Dontari NT Memphis 6034 346 32 4.98 44 29.5 8'9 4.56 7.9 3
32 Thompson, Brandon DE Clemson 6020 314 33 1/2 DNP 35 31 8'4 4.71 7.97 2
41 Reyes, Kendall DE Connecticut 6041 299 33 1/4 4.95 36 34.5 9'5 4.53 7.43 6
52 Crick, Jared DE Nebraska 6042 279 32 4.99 DNP 31 8'8 4.40 7.47 4
66 Winn, Billy DE Boise St 6036 294 32 1/2 5.00 24 27 8'11 4.44 7.37 4
79 Forston, Marcus DE Miami-Fl 6012 301 33 5.17 35 28 8'9 4.79 7.64 3
96 Martin, Mike DE Michigan 6013 306 32 1/4 4.88 36 33.5 9'5 4.25 7.19 6
101 Guyton, Trevor DE California 6025 285 33 5.07 DNP 31 8'9 4.53 7.45 5
104 Ta'Amu, Alameda NT Washington 6030 348 32 5.37 35 26 8'7 DNP DNP 2
114 Crawford, Tyrone DE Boise St 6042 275 33 3/4 4.89 28 33 9'5 4.44 7.09 6
116 Randall, Kheeston DE Texas 6050 293 33 3/4 5.00 28 34 9'3 4.84 7.49 5
134 Roy, Brett DE Nevada 6027 275 32 3/4 5.07 32 30.5 9'0 4.62 7.31 5
142 Hicks, Akiem NT Regina 6045 318 35 1/8 5.23 26 31.5 9'0 4.86 7.75 3
199 Wolfe, Derek DE Cincinnati 6051 295 32 1/2 5.01 33 33.5 9'0 4.44 7.26 6

Over half of the prospects meet at least four of the six targets, making them prototypical defensive linemen.And if you're looking for guys that might be flying under the radar right now, check out Derek Wolfe, Tyrone Crawford and Mike Martin.

To get a better feel for what all of these numbers mean, we'll look at some a handful of other metrics to assess our prospects.

1. Production ratio: [(SACKS + TACKLES FOR LOSS) / NUMBER OF COLLEGE GAMES PLAYED = PRODUCTION RATIO]

This number measures the playmaking potential of front seven players coming out of college. What you want in a Production Ratio is a score of 1.0 or better. Effectively, a score of 1.0 says that a player recorded one splash play in the defensive backfield per game.The higher the number, the better.

2. Speed Score: [(WEIGHT * 200) / (40-TIME ^ 4) = SPEED SCORE]

Not all players are created equal, and it doesn't make a lot of sense comparing 40-times of players who may have a weight difference of 60 pounds. The Speed Score takes into account both a player's time in the 40-yard dash as well as his weight.

The ratio was initially developed for running backs, but works just as well for defensive linemen: It multiplies a player's weight by 200, and then divides that number by his 40 time, taken to the fourth power. This may sound weird, but is actually quite simple. The multiplications give each measurement roughly equal weight and ensure that an average score comes out at about 100. The higher the resulting number, the better the combination of size and speed in a player.

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

Rank Player 3-4 POS HGt WGT Production Ratio Speed Score Explosion Lateral Agility
8 Brockers, Michael DE 6050 322 0.48 78 - -
0.55
10 Still, Devon DE 6047 303 1.08 91 - - - -
20 Coples, Quinton DE 6056 284 1.29 109 65.6 0.0
21 Cox, Fletcher DE 6040 298 0.86 113 64.7 0.26
24 Worthy, Jerel DE 6023 308 0.99 95 - - 0.52
27 Poe, Dontari NT 6034 346 0.76 113 82.4 0.42
32 Thompson, Brandon DE 6020 314 0.48 - - 74.4 - -
41 Reyes, Kendall DE 6041 299 0.90 100 80.0 0.42
52 Crick, Jared DE 6042 279 1.31 90 - - 0.59
66 Winn, Billy DE 6036 294 1.00 94 60.0 0.56
79 Forston, Marcus DE 6012 301 0.79 84 71.9 0.38
96 Martin, Mike DE 6013 306 0.71 108 79.0 0.63
101 Guyton, Trevor DE 6025 285 0.9 86 - - 0.54
104 Ta'Amu, Alameda NT 6030 348 0.48 84 69.7 - -
114 Crawford, Tyrone DE 6042 275 1.62 96 70.5 0.45
116 Randall, Kheeston DE 6050 293 0.58 94 71.3 0.16
134 Roy, Brett DE 6027 275 1.06 83 71.5 0.45
142 Hicks, Akiem NT 6045 318 1.23 85 66.5 - -
199 Wolfe, Derek DE 6051 295 1.26 94 75.5 - -

With NFL fans caught up in the excitement of the Combine, sometimes it's easy to forget that a one-day workout session cannot trump four or more years of game film. Particularly in cases where freakish athleticism does not match on-field production, teams will take a closer look at why that is the case. It's not necessarily a red flag, but it warrantsd a closer look. Similarly, one bad day of working out will not discount consistent production at a high level in college.

Couple of observations about the numbers:

  • Dontari Poe is an athletic freak. No two ways about it. His speed score is comparable to some of the best running backs out there. He's an explosive guy who has sufficient agility to wreak havoc in tight spaces. He did have some trouble with his footwork, but really the only question here is his college pedigree.
  • Only one guy hit on all three Combine metrics: Mike Martin out of Michigan. I know nothing about this guy, but I'm scrambling to read up on him.
  • Quinton Coples turned in the exact same time on his 40 as he did in the short shuttle. That's odd. I didn't see him run, so there might be an explanation there, but that's something he'll want to improve on during his Pro day. That short shuttle time throws a damper on what would have been a very good day otherwise.
  • Michael Brockers is a questionmark. He didn't lift, doesn't appear to be very fast and had a lackluster production ratio. How exactly does that get you into the top ten?

In the next and final installment in this mini-series, we'll look at how the linebackers scored against these metrics.

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