Ironman's Guide to Combine Drills and Numbers, Why They are Important.

This is a post that I have been wanting to post for a couple of years, but I was unsure if I could adequately explain my self in written form....I am still not sure if I will but, hey I am going to try. Basically this post is going to seek to "explain" and I use that term loosely, how I feel the Combine and the respective drills performed there relate to specific positions, and how to use them to "judge" a player.

The first step to understanding the numbers is understanding what is good and what is bad, and everything in between. And there is a large "grey area". So let's start off with the Target #'s for the Combine/Proday as provided by Gil Brant/OCC:

Target test results
Drill Significance QB RB FB WR TE OT G/C DT DE ILB OLB CB S
40-yard dash Speed over distance 4.90 4.55 4.85 4.55 4.85 5.30 5.30 5.15 4.85 4.80 4.70 4.55 4.60
10-yard split (40) Initial quickness 1.70 1.60 1.70 1.60 1.70 1.80 1.85 1.80 1.70 1.70 1.65 1.60 1.65
20-yard split (40) Maintain burst 2.85 2.60 2.80 2.65 2.80 3.00 3.05 3.00 2.80 2.75 2.70 2.65 2.60
225-pound bench press reps Upper body strength N/A 20 22 12 22 24 26 26 24 24 23 15 18
Vertical jump Explosiveness, leg strength 30" 36 30 36 32 30 30 30 33 33 36 36 36
Broad jump Explosiveness, leg strength 9'-0" 9-9 9-3 10' 9-6 8-6 8-6 8-9 9-9 9-6 9-9 10' 10'
20-yard shuttle Flexibility, burst, balance 4.30 4.20 4.25 4.15 4.20 4.65 4.55 4.55 4.30 4.20 4.10 4.00 4.05
60-yard shuttle Flexibility, balance, endurance N/A 11.7 11.8 11.4 11.8 N/A N/A N/A 11.8 11.7 11.4 11.2 11.2
3-cone drill Agility, change of direction 7.25 7.25 7.40 7.00 7.30 7.85 7.85 7.75 7.35 7.20 7.10 7.00 7.10

This is a very good table, outside of 2 issues:

1. There are no height /weights included

2. I am not sure what the "baseline" is for performance the numbers indicate.

The reason I consider this important is there is (IMO) a huge difference (let's use WR as an example) in a WR that hits/beats those targets @ 6-2 220lbs vs a guys that hits/beats those targets @ 5-9 190lbs....While the second issue boils down to this question, What do these targets mean? However We can fairly accurately infer the answers to both these question with a little bit of study of the roster, and former/current players. So here is what I think the Height/Weight "templates" are(minus QB and FB)

RB~ 6' 200lbs

WR~ 6'2" 220lbs

TE~6'4" 250lbs

OT~6'6" 310lbs

G/C~6'4" 300lbs

DT~6'4" 290lbs

DE~6'5" 260lbs

LB's~6'2" 240lbs

CB's~5'10" 190lbs

Safeties~6' 200lbs

Now bear in mind these are merely "educated guesses" based primarily on the Dallas roster, so they may not be completely accurate, but for our purposes they will suffice

The second Issue, What do the numbers mean?, is actually solved by the answering the previous question. The simple answer is "average-elite", meaning that these targets indicate a player is "average-elite" for at that particular drill. A more Complex Answer is stuff for another post.

So now that we know what to look for in a player, let's dive into some specifics as they relate to the positions. But before we do that I do what to make something clear. The biggest reason for the Combine and proday drills is not to know what good a player is, but to determine how good they could be, or how much "upside" a player has. When you are looking @ gametape, you are determining how good a player is right now, and to an extent how much they have improved vs earlier years. The Combine and proday drills are used to determine how much better a player could be, all things being equal.

Obviously factors like dedication, coach-ability, "football IQ", all these all play a part in a player reaching his peak. The Combine and proday drills are merely trying to find out what that peak is. This is part of the reason (IMO) why the Cowboys don't alter their scouting grades on players after Film Review...Their board is based on where the player is now....not where they could be in 5 years,though I am sure that is taken into account at some point.

Now lets look at the drills and how they actually relate to "on- the - Field":

The 40: RB, WR, and CB

This is the most overrated "stat" in football. However for those three positions, there is an element of necessity to a "good 40 speed"...You want your RB and WR's to be fast enough to outrun players in the open field, and CB's need it to play Man coverage down the Field....but otherwise I don't pay attention to this...

The 10/20 yard "splits": All positions*.

These are the more useful "speed drills" as 90% of NFL plays occur within 20 yards from where the ball is snapped from.....which is one reason why Barry Church is an effective Safety,because while he has "poor 40 speed" with a posted 4.69 @ the Combine, his 10 and 20 splits, are similar to Kenny Vaccaro (the #1 safety in this past draft)

The Bench press: RB, WR, CB:

While not as overrated as the 40 dash, this drill serves very little in the for "projecting Strength" it is more about endurance than functional strength, so I tend to disregard this number except for the positions listed. For a RB it does offer a small glimpse into pass blocking ability, and for WR's and CB's is an indicator of Press ability, namely the ability to press for CB's and the ability to Beat press for WR's.

The Vertical jump: All positions*.

The vertical jump is one of the most important Drills that a player does, as it measures "explosiveness".

A RB needs it to quickly get to and through the Offensive line, and to help shed would-be tacklers.

For WR's jump balls and beating press coverage.

DB's need it for press/man coverage and jump balls

Now for OL and DL this is a specific measurement (vs RB's, WR's and DB's where this is more "generic"). This is JMO, but I feel that the vertical for "linemen" is a key measurement for run blocking/stopping. If you look at the drill, it closely resembles all linemen "at the snap of the ball" where they "explode" into their assignments, particularly in run blocking/stopping.

The Broad jump: OL, RB's, DB's

The Broad jump is an overlooked stat that IMO is actually very critical to player development. You may notice that this stat is not related to WR's, DL's and, but is related to DB's and RB's. . Basically it measures "standing explosion" to which those positions don't relate to. However it can be used as a "confirmation tool" for those positions(a player with a high vertical but low broad jump, likely isn't actually very explosive, but merely trained extensively in the vertical, leading to an artificially high vertical.

Now for a DB, the Broad jump is an indicator for "zone coverage", where they "sit" in a zone then "explode" for an INT/Pass Breakup

For OL and RB's the Broad jump is an indicator of Pass blocking *ability*. As with the Vertical, the broad jump closely resembles what those players actually do on the field. As such the Broad jump can be used to measure a player's "upside" in pass blocking. By comparing the player's broad jump to his vertical, you can get a sense as to where on the line a Player will have the most success.

The 20 yard Short Shuttle: All positions

This is a stat that is used to measure agility, which is a basic requirement to compete @ an NFL level. to break it down:

DB's and LB's need it to "mirror" WR's, TE's and RB's when they go into their pass routes

WR's, TE's and RB's need it to run Crisp routes, and avoid Tacklers

Linemen need it to maintain and Defeat blocks on rushes. It also can be used for "tweener" DT's/DE's/OLB's to see where they best fit. Generally though, for Linemen this is mainly to judge Run stopping/Blocking ability, similar to the Vertical jump.

The 3-cone drill: DE's, OLB's(3-4 defense only)

The 3 cone drill is primarily used for DE's and 3-4 OLB's. It basically simulates "turning the corner" for those players. While useful as a "confirmation tool" for all other positions, the best use of this stat is to see how well a DE/3-4 OLB "turns the corner". This is a key component of pass rushing,(particularly the "speed rush"), and as such the 3-cone drill can be used to "measure" a player's effectiveness at this.

So how does all this help? That is what I will be exploring in the next post...until then Feel free to comment/Critique. I look forward to answering any questions, and if necessary changing things up. I hope that this has helped you to understand the Combine process a little more and maybe even look at it in a different light....

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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