NFL: Do’s and Don’ts of the NFL Combine

The NFL Combine this weekend is important for the young prospects to say the least. Each player should aim to test well in a number of drills in hopes of raising their stock in lieu of the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.

There are some prospects who come in who don’t have much to gain from this event as the tape speaks volumes for them. Others need this day to be perfect to help their NFL dreams come to fruition. Remaining is a large collection of players caught in between the two groups.

All of that is fine and dandy, but the Combine should not hold more or less value than anything else used to grade tomorrow’s NFL players.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to navigate through the NFL Combine:

Do: Pay Attention to the Average Joe’s

It’s very easy to overlook a prospect who isn’t larger than life and performing a little better than his peers. However, the average sized (6’2” to 6’4″), above average testing quarterbacks typically turn into quality starters.

Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Andy Dalton, and Dak Prescott might range in success, but they weren’t exactly lighting it up at the Combine. They each came in at average size, weighed around 220 pounds, and ran a 4.7 on average.

Those guys weren’t creating a buzz because of their performance in the Combine. Nevertheless, their average physique and steady performance has them making trips to the Pro Bowl.

Other players like Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, and Mitchell Trubisky fit the bill here as well. This class of passers isn’t the most exciting. Yet, if history repeats itself, one of those average Joe’s could morph into a Pro Bowler in due time. One that didn’t exactly light it up in measurements or test results.

Don’t: Over-Evaluate the Backs

Since 2003, Dri Archer, Keith Marshall, Darren McFadden, and Onterio McCalebb made scouts double check their clocks with insane 40’s. Christine Michael and Ameer Abdullah nearly jumped out the stadium with unreal verticals. Finally, Graig Cooper and Roy Helu Jr. sped through the 3-cone drill.

None of them made a single Pro Bowl.

The Combine doesn’t do running backs much justice. Unless a prospect has a 40 that is significantly better or worse than what was anticipated, they remain stagnant on big boards. The eye test and tape is all scouts need with future NFL backs.

Do: Focus on the Shuttle

In the last few seasons, Odell Beckham Jr., Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson, and Michael Thomas have performed well in the Short Shuttle drill. It’s not the most exciting drill for the young pass catchers. But it is a difference maker on Sundays.

It’s about speed in 5 to 10-yard increments. It really reveals itself in the receivers’ ability to run routes.

The aforementioned guys set some of the fastest times in this drill, ranging from 3.94 to 4.13 seconds. That explosiveness translates to their on-field play on Sundays and is a big reason why they always seem to be open. Oh, and they’re all Pro Bowlers.

The taller and advanced 40-yard runners will get all the Twitter hype this weekend. However, the receivers lighting it up in the Short Shuttle shouldn’t be overlooked.

Don’t: Ignore the XL Average Joe’s

The big hogs in the trenches, on offense and defense, usually go unnoticed unless someone has a medical red flag that emerges from the Combine (Jonathan Allen in 2017) or if someone is blazing in the 40-yard dash (Terron Armstead in 2013).

Pay real close attention to the offensive and defensive linemen that are 6’4”. In addition, they meet the standard in weight at their position (308 pounds for OL, 274 for DEs, 302 for DTs). Finally, they just blend in with everyone in their position groups, test-wise.

This means they aren’t wowing anyone with their 40 or shuttle time and might not have the most bench reps. Like the quarterbacks mentioned earlier, they become solid starters and eventually make a Pro Bowl.

Pro Bowlers by Position:

Offensive Linemen

  • Travis Frederick (C)
  • Joel Bitonio (G)
  • David Bakhtiari (T)
  • Trent Williams (T)

Defensive Linemen

  • Joey Bosa (DE))
  • J.J. Watt (DE)
  • DeForest Buckner (DT)
  • Leonard Williams (DT)

Not bad for the bigger average Joe’s.

Do: Watch the Corners with Caution

Like running backs, cornerbacks that nearly break stop watches in the 40 hardly make an impact in the NFL. It’s not about straight-line speed as rather getting in and out of cuts is key. That’s why Justin King, Kevin Garrett, and Michael Waddell (all posting some of the best 40’s since 2003) struggled in the NFL after.

Corners are hard to evaluate and project to begin with because these is so much turnover yearly at the position.

A few years back, Aqib Talib and Patrick Peterson were arguably the best corners. In 2017, it was Jalen Ramsey. This season it was a toss up as Ramsey played well, Stephon Gilmore became an All-Pro, and Darius Slay maintained form. (See below tweet).

All of the guys just mentioned are today’s prototypical corner as they have size, speed, and explosion. When they were at the Combine, they checked in at 6’0” or taller, ran really well in the 40 and 3-cone drill, and nearly touched the ceiling in the vertical.

Ignore the speed merchants. Instead, remember the all-around gifted corners at the Combine.

Final Verdict

The Combine is the NFL’s version of nationwide exams in grade school. Seeing where a guy measures and tests among other prospects is nice to know, but it shouldn’t be overvalued. With game footage, background checks, upcoming Pro Days, and this event, players should be looked at for their complete body of work.

There will be some impressive headlines that emerge from the Combine. It’s inevitable. Just keep in mind that football is played in shoulder pads and a helmet, not shorts.

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