2012 NFL Combine: What to Watch For

4. Short Shuttle (5-10-5 drill)

The short shuttle is the drill that probably best exhibits explosiveness and the ability to stop and go at high speeds. For skill position players this drill is critical to showcase explosion and cutting ability.

However, this drill is equally as important for lineman. For linemen this drill is more about hip, knee and waist bending than actual speed. No drill is able to separate the linemen who can bend from the linemen who can’t bend naturally than this drill.

Last year the fastest time was 3.88 seconds by Austin Pettis. However, a good time for this according to scouts is anything under 4.2 seconds. For skill position players the close to 4.0 flat and under the better. For a Patriots perspective, Devin McCourty ran a 4.07 in 2010. With the Patriots again looking for DBs this is a time to keep in mind.

5. 40 Yard Dash

I’m not going to sit here and lie. I do love the 40 yard dash and I do watch it closely. However, it doesn’t have an equal importance for all players. I would much rather they made the players run the drill in full pads, because the truth is there are some players who are fast and some players who are fast in pads.

For offensive linemen I almost discount the drill as long as they don’t put up and astronomical time. If an OL is able to break 5.1 then I consider that above average. For skill position players, however, I do weigh the 40 yard dash results, even though it’s not a true indication of a player’s ability on the field. I do use it as a tool to possibly separate one WR from another if I am struggling on who I would rather have.

While I preach that the four years of college film is much more important, a poor showing here can alter an opinion or make me take a second look. This year no player’s 40 yard dash time is more important than that of South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery. For a player like that, the difference between a 4.55 and a 4.65 might mean 20 slots in the draft and millions of dollars.

The goal of every skill position player seems to be running somewhere in the 4.4s. For Patriot fans this is another drill they put a lot of stock in for skill position players. As I wrote in my WR study and Doug Kyed wrote in his DB study the Patriots almost always pick players at those positions who can run sub 4.5 forties.

6. Vertical/Broad Jump

Both of these drills serve the same purpose and that is to showcase lower body explosion. For linemen, jumping 40 inches or broad jumping 10 feet might not seem like it’s that important and it’s not. But what it will be an indication of is a lineman’s ability to fire out of his stance or explosion off the ball.

For skill position players and especially WRs and CBs it’s just another piece of the puzzle. It showcases natural athleticism and can once again turn heads if a player jumps out of the gym. The combine record is 45.0 inches set by Ohio State DB Donald Washington in 2009. Anywhere near 33-36 inches is a tremendous vertical leap depending on the position. For the broad jump 10 feet is usually the measuring stick scouts use to separate elite athletes from the rest of the pack.

7. Bench Press

Out of all the drills at the combine I put the least stock in the bench press for a number of reasons. First, being that there are so many variables that go into a players ability to bench press well. A player who has longer arms is going to have a tougher time repping out than a player who is barrel chested and has short arms.

Also, bench press is just one lift out of hundreds that these athletes do everyday and while it is an important exercise it won’t drastically change my opinion on a player. Secondly, some players just aren’t going to work on it as much as others. Do I care how many times TY Hilton can bench press 225 ? Of course not.

What the bench press is a good indication of is how much time a player spent in the weight room. Spending four years in a college training program and months training for the combine, there is no reason a player should not be able to put up a respectable number. If they aren’t able to perform at the average than it may raise questions about work ethic and how much time they spent in the weight room in college.

The NFL Draft and scouting the NFL draft is all about information gathering and decision making. The combine and each drill is just another piece of information and another piece of the puzzle. It’s definitely not the end all be all. However, the numbers are what they are. When it comes time to draft a player each variable is weighed and a decision is made based on all that information. While a player’s performance at the combine probably won’t get them drafted at the top of the draft (at least not anymore) it can disqualify them from being draft at the top of the draft with a bad performance.

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11 Responses to “2012 NFL Combine: What to Watch For”

  1. TD says:

    I would say watch some of the interior linemen as I think BB is trying to get OL’s that can run block better than Connolly, Waters and Koppen in order to unleash Ridley & Vereen in 2012.

    We also need some better special teamers, mostly kickoff returners.

    I expect some free agent signings to help in the secondary, maybe Tyvon Branch and/or Goldson. It seems as if safties now are not the big thumpers in the past, but more cover guys.

  2. qwerty says:

    excellent article

  3. MJP says:

    Another guy who is overrated but will probably wow people at the combine is Michael Brockers….check him out vs. Miss St, UCLA and Georgia…..he’s barely a factor…not sure how he’s a top-10 pick….top-20 or top-30, that’s a better spot to take a kid who you’re projecting to such a great extent.

  4. MJP says:

    I would say the same thing about Melvin Ingram despite the fact that he’ll probably run in the 4.7’s. He’s less balanced than Upshaw but more athletic, he might be able to play in space and has a better chance of threatening the edge and countering with outside-in moves/spins….there isn’t a whole lot of separation between he and Upshaw though.

    I’m still not sold that Ingram is a legit 3-4 OLB, I can see him struggling to beat NFL OT’s, probably a better fit as a 4-3 DE.

    I want to see a DE who can play with leverage and has a good pad level because he’s fluid, not because he’s 6’1”….a 3-4 OLB should be able to threaten the edge consistently and bend to find the corner or cut back inside with a strong move.

    I think Nick Perry is the better prospect and I would put Vinny Curry up there too, both have that bend, use their length pretty well and play with leverage….there not elite or polished but the upside is definitely there.

  5. MJP says:

    I think Courtney Upshaw might run a 4.8 or 4.85, I’ve been trying to see why he’s so highly rated but it remains a mystery.

    I’ve seen get handled by TE’s and stonewalled by OT’s….I think a lot his hype comes from how solid that Defense is all-around.

    There’s very little that I’ve seen that suggests he’ll be a 3-4 OLB who can rush the passer and play in space. A lot of his sacks were not impressive, only against MSU was able to find an instance where Upshaw beats the LT to the edge cleanly.

    I do think he has a great motor, and he is a balanced kid who can be a load to deal with, he’s strong and thick as a bull…..I just don’t see the top-10 or top-15 pick that everyone seems to be projecting.

  6. Ron says:

    Gerald Sensabaugh has the combine vertical leap record in 2005
    with a jump of 46 inches

    Cameron Wake also beat the player you mentioned as he jumped
    45.5 inches also in 2005

  7. Tom says:

    Hahahahaha Look at that wimpy looking kid! I bet he won’t even get drafted!!

  8. TD says:

    Heard Russ Lunde say on Sirius NFL that the most important thing is the physicals, which is what the combine was first meant for.

    He also said that the drills help substantiate or uncover athletic ability to a point of the small school players and possibly help them get drafted.

    • Jim R says:

      Think you are right. Most times these workout wonders will strike gold if a team gets fooled by 40 times (raiders). Does not take a genius to figure out these guys drop weight to enhance the speed. Game film, Game film, Game film.

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