This seems to be the classic question when dealing with the NFL Draft process. How much should a player’s performance in the combine matter to his draft stock? It seems like the Combine as a whole is overrated, and the 40-yard dash is certainly the most overrated drill. How much do all of these drills really matter? You will finally get that burning question answered!
The Combine drills include all of the following: 40 yard dash, Bench Press, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 3-Cone Drill, 20-yard Shuttle, and Position Specific Drills. Now, a lot of these drills are good tests of an NFL players abilities in the gym; the only problem is, the NFL isn’t drafting bodybuilders and sprinters. They’re drafting football players who are mentally and physically capable of the demands of the NFL.
Although these are not real-game scenarios that the players are put in, they do give some transparency on a player’s abilities. The bench press is usually very important for Linemen, while the vertical jump is a great test for wide receivers and defensive backs.
I am a huge fan of the 3-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle, which each primarily test direction change abilities. I am honestly confused as to why fans and the media don’t value those two drills the most. Mostly every player on a football field needs to have good change-of-direction ability. WR’s, DB’s, RB’s, and LB’s all need to show good direction change. These two drills are the ones that I look for when I watch players at the Combine.
2: The Myth of the 40 Yard Dash
This might be the most overrated drill in all of sports. There, I said it! The precious drill that almost every fan uses to judge players shouldn’t even be given half of its current stock in evaluating prospects. When in a real-game situation will any NFL player go down into a sprinter’s pose, run as fast as they can with no control, and use a special running technique?
A way that the 40-yard dash can be used effectively is to look at the 10-yard splits, or in other words, how fast the player ran every ten yards. This is an effective way of looking at a player’s acceleration and where they peak in terms of speed. This actually makes the 40-yard dash applicable to O-linemen and D-linemen, as the full 40 yards would not translate to what a lineman would do in a game.
3: Combine Interviews and Measurements
The combine interviews are almost irrelevant, as players obviously aren’t going to say anything stupid in front of the media. While most prospects don’t have a whole lot of baggage to deal with coming into the NFL, the few that do - like Connor Cook and Robert Nkemdiche - have to really perform well at their interviews. That’s one of the things that I feel like the combine really helps with. It helps scouts and fans alike to get a better idea of who a prospect is and clarify some of the misconceptions about a player.
I actually like the combine, contrary to my first few paragraphs, and one of the main reasons is that it helps fans and scouts get a clear picture of a player’s measurables. For example, WR Corey Coleman out of Baylor, measured at 5’11”, but some had him as short as 5’10” and as tall as 6’2”. Another example is QB Brandon Allen out of Arkansas, whose hands measured in at 8.5”, which sent him down draft boards.
Not all measurements are bad though, like DeForest Buckner having nearly 12” hands and Paxton Lynch continuing to impress everyone with his measurables. Combine measurements really do clear up all of the dust surrounding a prospect’s height/weight/hand size/etc.
4: The Timing of It
Like I said before, the Combine is definitely overrated, regardless of how much it matters or doesn’t matter. The Combine isn’t overrated because of what it is, but it’s more of a matter of when it is.
Every fan is sad when they realize that the NFL season is over in early February. Fans realize that there will not be another meaningful NFL game until mid-September, so they want to relish every bit of football they can. The same thing goes for the media. The media knows that ratings will go down after the NFL Season ends, so they have to hype every little bit of football up to try to keep viewers entertained during the offseason.
An interesting solution to this would be if the Combine was moved to the extra week in between the Conference Championship Game and the Super Bowl. Sure, two coaches would not be able to attend the NFL Combine, but every team send a bunch of scouts there anyways, so what would those two teams really be losing?
Verdict: The Combine is Not Essential to the Draft Process
The Combine may seem like it helps to clarify a player’s traits and measurements but Pro Days literally the same thing. At Pro Days, they do the same drills, same measurements, and scouts get a more in depth look at them.
The Combine help for fans to see a player’s measurables and skills, but Pro Days do the exact same thing, just about a couple weeks later.
Overall, the Combine is a good event for fans to watch, but for scouts, it isn’t essential to the draft process.