By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
The NFL Scouting Combine developed as a central location for evaluators to convene and, well, evaluate future NFL talent. There are multiple drills, tests, medical checks and grueling interviews designed to analyze everything about a prospect and whether or not he’s worth the million dollar investment.
Ask those in the know and they’ll tell you the medical checks are the most crucial. Just take how Cyrus Kouandjio’s stock has taken such a bit hit after several team doctors failed his medical check (complications from a knee surgery). That being said most of us aren’t doctors and most of us would rather watch prospects run and jump as its much more entertaining. Unless of course you’re a House junkie I guess.
But how exactly do we judge a prospect’s potential based on the information we gather at the combine? To be honest a lot of what’s televised and reported is for show. I mean does an offensive lineman ever run 40 yards in a straight line? However, it does give you a picture of his overall athleticism, movement skills and coordination. In fact the combine is built to do just that: gauge athleticism. There is a clear distinction between athleticism and skill. Skill refers to the acquired or learned abilities you can actively practice, improve and eventually master. An example of a football skill would be for a running back to carry the ball high and tight, an offensive lineman to execute a proper cut block or for a quarterback to master a seven step drop. All those skills are vital to being successful at the NFL level, but to be elite it requires talent.
Talent is the inherent raw ability to jump higher and run faster than the competition. Although yes its possible to “learn” to run faster through technique and practice, but everyone is limited by their genes. And you certainly can’t learn to be taller. So, let’s focus on the main aspect the combine helps to evaluate. Talent. Every position needs a different type of athleticism. Height is great, especially for receivers who need to attack the ball at its highest point, but interior offensive linemen lose leverage at anything over 6’5 or so.
The following is my attempt at being creative. I took the most athletic prospects at each position and used the intensity of the color green to map each prospects level of talent at each attribute or measurement. The darker the green the better or more elite a prospect is in terms of that particular trait. Height and weight are listed first and then what I consider to be the most important trait next. Notice how the 40 is one of the last indicator for the offensive line.
The casual fan could watch an entire NFL game on Sunday and have no idea the offensive tackle position even exists. While not sexy, the tackle has become a premium position as teams seek to protect their quarterback. When it comes to the tackle position the ideal size is in the 6’5-6’6 range and a well built 315-330 lb.
What is maybe more important though is arm length to control leverage and restrict defenders movement, and to a lesser degree hand size. Next I’d say the 3 cone because it emphasizes quick feet, agility and flexibility. All are important traits in attempting to mirror and block the elite edge rushers in the game. Having an effective kick step and backpedal are absolutely essential to be a tackle. The 20 yard shuttle tests change of direction ability and lower body explosion, which are again key to pass blocking but also to drive opponents back in the run game.
The 10 yard split is more important than the 40 because long speed is all but useless for a lineman. How quickly he can get going will help predict whether or not he can pull and reach the second level effectively. Finally the 40 is more a test of overall athleticism and fitness while the broad and vertical jumps are pure lower body explosiveness.
|Player||Ht||Wt||Arm Lngth||Hand Size||3 Cone||20 YSH||10 yrd Split||Broad J||40 Time||Vert|
|Taylor Lewan||6’71||309||33 7/8||9 ¼||7.39||4.49||1.64||9’9||4.87||30.5|
|Ja’Wuan James||6’6||311||35||9 7/8||7.42||4.56||1.82||8.6||5.34||29|
|Cyrus Kouandjio||6’6 6||322||35 5/8||10 ¼||7.71||4.84||1.79||8’0||5.59||27.5|
|Seantrel Henderson||6’71||331||34 5/8||10 ½||8.15||4.77||1.71||7’9||5.04||24|
|Morgan Moses||6’6||314||35 3/8||9 7/8||7.93||4.95||1.94||8’10||5.35||21.5|
Much like the tackle spot interior linemen need to have long arms, big hands and weigh over 300 lbs in order to anchor the line and manhandled defensive tackles. Their ideal height, however is a bit lower as leverage and their center of gravity is the name of the game.
|Player||Ht||Wt||AL||HS||20 YSH||10 Split||3 Cone||Broad J||Vert||40|
|Joel Botonio||6’41||302||33 7/8||9 5/8||4.44||1.68||7.37||9’6||32||4.97|
|John Urschel||6’3||313||33||10 3/8||4.47||1.75||7.55||8’5||29||5.31|
|Brandon Thomas||6’32||317||34 ¾||10 ½||4.83||1.78||8.13||8’2||29||5.09|
|Gabe Ikard||6’35||304||33 1/8||9 5/8||4.37||1.78||7.3||8’6||26||5.13|
|Trai Turner||6’25||310||34||9 ½||DNP||1.72||DNP||DNP||27.5||4.93|
|Jonotthan Harrison||6’34||304||33 3/8||9 7/8||4.86||1.78||7.97||9’5||27||5.15|
|Matt Armstrong||6’21||302||33||10 5/8||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||5.36|
Most people realize that Tavon Austin at 5’9 174 and Brandon Marshall at 6’4 230 play vastly different roles. While Austin uses quickness and speed to get open downfield out of the slot, Marshall relies on his size, short area explosion and leaping ability to exploit mismatches outside. This group is more of than latter, the bigger, stronger types who are almost exclusively split outside where their size causes problems isolated against smaller cover corners.
Height, weight (but more so strength), arm length and hand size are what allows them to utilize a massive catch radius to snatch the ball away from defenders. The 10 yard split more so than the full 40 helps gauge the receiver’s ability to explode out of a stationary position. Sound familiar? One of the biggest differences in the analysis of speedy slot receivers and X receivers is that the latter is asked to be red zone targets and grab the ball at its highest point. The vertical measures just that, as well as overall explosiveness. For slot receivers it’s useful but split ends have a much more practical application of that ability: abusing smaller defenders in the corner of the end zone.
|Player||Ht||Wt||AL||HS||10 Split||Vert||40||3 Cone||Broad J||20 YSH|
|Martavis Bryant||6’36||211||32 5/8||9 ½||1.53||39||4.42||7.18||10’4||4.15|
|Donte Moncrief||6’23||221||32 3/8||9 1/8||1.5||39.5||4.4||7.02||11||4.3|
|Mike Evans||6’46||231||35 1/8||9 5/8||1.57||37||4.53||7.08||DNP||4.26|
|Jeff Janis||6’27||219||32 ½||9||1.47||37.5||4.42||6.64||10’3||3.98|
|Jordan Matthews||6’31||212||33 ¼||10 3/8||N/A||35.5||4.46||6.95||10||4.18|