News & Analysis

Biggest takeaways from the 2019 Scouting combine

Mar 4, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State defensive back Khari Willis (DB61) jumps up to stretch his legs before running the 40 yard dash during the 2019 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 combine has come and gone. With all our measurements measured and drills drilled, let’s take a look at some of my rules of thumb that I have before losing my mind over these freak athletes.

Density and Size Matter

Two hundred pounds is different when it’s coming at you in a guy who is 5′ 7″ like Devin Singletary versus a 5′ 10″ guy like Travis Homer. Trysten Hill ran a faster 40 than Dexter Lawrence (5.04 vs. 5.05), but Lawrence did it weighing 342 pounds while Hill was 308. That’s a massive difference in explosiveness. Adjusting for height and weight is critical when digesting these numbers.

Drills translate differently to each position

It’s important to keep in mind where exactly a certain drill shows up at certain positions. The last 30-yards of a 40-yard dash for a defensive lineman will only be run on a football field when chasing a ball-carrier downfield – an inconsequential part of any evaluation. The 3-cone, on the other hand, almost perfectly mimics a defensive lineman turning the corner on a pass rush. Putting up jaw-dropping numbers in certain drills for certain positions can be meaningless.

Negatives mean more than Positives

Most elite football players are also very good athletes, but that doesn't mean that all very good athletes are elite football players. One of the top performances in combine history was turned in by Chris Conley back in 2015. He ran a 4.35, did 18 reps, had a 45” vertical, and broad jumped 11′ 8″ at 213 pounds. It was a big reason why he was selected in the third round that year. He’s averaged just over 300 yards a season for his career since. The Miles Boykins and Zedrick Woods are nice, but the tape still has to show you something.

However, the other side of the coin is more valuable. Teez Tabor running 4.62 with poor jumps was simply too unathletic to hold up against NFL receivers. Athletic outliers on the negative end of the spectrum are far more unlikely to make it in the NFL. Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield struggling to come out of his blocks, Marshal safety Malik Gant struggling to turn, and Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs looking wholly unexplosive are for more important data points than anything on the positive side. If you’re pushing more guys up a draft board than down after the combine, you’re looking at it wrong.

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