The Science Behind the NFL Combine for College Players in the Draft

Estimated read time 4 min read

With March here, many people have moved on from football and are looking at March Madness betting odds to see where they should put their money. However, college players looking to cash in on an NFL contract are hard at work during the NFL combine in March. These players will be showcasing their abilities to NFL scouts and coaches, hoping that they will get drafted by an NFL team come April.

While the NFL combine might be something that sporting fans really don’t pay much attention to, it is something that is closely watched by NFL teams as they study players that they might potentially draft in the following month. The NFL combine helps college players showcase their talents, whether it be how fast they can run, how far they can throw a football, or how many reps they can do lifting weights; there are many different skills tests for all these players to take part in before the NFL draft. So what is the science behind these combines that NFL teams look at before draft day?

The 40-Yard Dash: The Science of Finding the Fastest Player

Speed is something that NFL teams look for in positions like a wide receiver, running back, and cornerback. Speed from players in any one of those positions can be valuable. Speed from a wide receiver can help them run past defenders on a deep route, the speed with a running back can help them outrun defenders that are chasing him down, and speed with a cornerback can help them keep from getting burnt by the opposing team’s player.

The 40-yard dash helps NFL teams measure how fast a player can run 40-yards from a standstill. The record holder for the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine since 2017 is wide receiver John Ross, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds in 2017. His record might be in jeopardy as Tyquan Thornton had an unofficial time of 4.21 seconds in his 2022 NFL Combine 40-yard dash.

The Bench Press: The Science of Finding the Strongest Linemen

Strength is one of the main requirements of offensive and defensive linemen. As the offensive linemen are required to push the defensive players on running plays and hold them back on passing plays, finding out how strong they are can help judge if a player in that position would be a good fit for the team. Defensive players need to use their strength to push past any offensive player that would get in the way of the player that has the ball.

The bench press skills test shows NFL teams how many reps a player can do at 225 lbs. While all positions are part of this skills test, the main focus is on linemen on both offense and defense, as the more reps the players can do, the more likely they can push through or hold back anyone in their way.

The Vertical Jump: The Science of Finding Players that Can Catch Overthrown Passes

Another skills test that is mainly seen as crucial for receivers and defensive backs is the vertical jump. The vertical jump helps NFL teams see the highest point that a player can touch from a standing jump, which is a crucial element for receivers who need to catch an overthrown pass or defenders looking to intercept that same overthrown pass. While most NFL teams focus on safeties, cornerbacks, and receivers in this skills test, it can also be important for linebackers and defensive linemen who can use their jumping abilities to bat down a pass near the line of scrimmage.

How the NFL Combine Can Affect the NFL Draft

While most players that are the number one pick in the NFL Draft are usually locked in before the NFL combine, the combine can help, or even hurt, some college players’ draft day prospects. Players that might not have been on anyone’s draft board might get added if they have impressive numbers during all the skills tests at the NFL Combine. If a player can post the numbers that NFL teams are looking for in their draft candidate, they just might have an NFL contract waiting for them by the end of draft day.

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