2011 NFL Combine: Using The Explosion Number For Denver Broncos O-Line Draft Prospects

When considering a prospect to draft, many factors are involved. Character, build, speed and agility are a few of the elements that factor into the rating of a college football player. Every team has their own blueprint for the type of player to integrate into their philosophy. However, the one thing a Head Coach likes very much is a player's first step. Can this Lineman get off the snap quickly? How fast does that Tight End react going into his break? Because the competition in the Pros is so close, the battle is won in the minor skirmishes in the trenches on each play. A player can learn to be intelligent and can be taught technique, but you can't teach speed. Often times those skirmishes at the line are determined by athletic ability. That's where this element matters and there is a way to determine this specification through something called the Explosion Number.

About 3 weeks ago, I turned you on to the Production Ratio from Pat Kirwan's book, "Take Your Eye Off the Ball."  I also said that I would revisit the subject after the Combine and include the Explosion Number with it.  In this fashion, we can ascertain the best fit for the Broncos in the draft. Keep in mind that this is principle is only useful for Offensive Linemen and the Front 7 Defensive players. In this post we will revue the Offensive Tackles and Tight Ends from the first day of physical testing at the Combine. I limited it to these two position because the Broncos appear to want an upgrade to Ryan Harris and definitely need help at the Tight End spot. Here is Kirwan's equation:



                 Bench Press Reps + Vertical Jump + Broad Jump = The Explosion Number


What we are looking for, is a number of 70 or better in this exercise. First, the Offensive Tackles.

OVR Name Pos. Bench Vertical Broad Expl. No. Arm Length
14 Anthony Castonzo OT 28 29.5" 8'9" 66.2 34 1/2"
15 Tyron Smith OT 29 DNP DNP INC 36 3/8"
19 Nate Solder OT 21 32" 9'2" 62.3 35 1/2"
23 Gabe Carimi OT 29 31.5" 9'1" 69.5 35"
25 Derek Sherrod OT 23 28" 8'1" 58 35 3/8"
52 Marcus Cannon OT 33 30.5" 8'9" 72.2 34"
61 Jason Pinkston OT DNP 26.5" 8'2" INC 34"
66 Orlando Franklin OT 26 28.5" DNP INC 35"
78 DeMarcus Love OT 27 26.5" 8'1" 61.5 35 1/4"
111 Joseph Barksdale OT 29 29" 8'7" 66.5 36"
132 James Brewer OT DNP 26" 8'4" INC 35 1/2"
137 Marcus Gilbert OT 30 DNP DNP INC 33 1/2"
168 Derek Newton OT DNP 25.5" 8'4" INC 33 1/8"
186 Chris Hairston OT 33 29" 8'0" 70 35 1/4"
232 Willie Smith OT DNP 30.5" 8'10" INC 34 1/2"

OVR is the overall draft ranking according to CBSSports Draft site. The other numbers should be self-explanatory. From the way the numbers stack up, Marcus Cannon appears to be more than worthy for a 2nd round pick. I would not be surprised if his day at the Combine didn't push him up the draft boards of many teams. Chris Hairston proved to be a workout warrior as well. His stock will rise too. It would have been interesting to see Tyron Smith work out, but he is recovering from a knee injury and will wait until his March 30 pro day to work out in full. I believe it will be between Smith and Gabe Carimi as to which will be the first Tackle off the board in April's Draft.

Now I know you will be curious as to how the Explosion Number for these prospects stack up against players already in the league. So I give you the four of the top Tackles in last years draft class along with the Broncos linemen numbers.

Player Bench Vertical Broad Expl. No. Arm Length
Bryan Bulaga 26 27.5" 8'2" 61.5 33 1/4"
Bruce Campbell 34 32" 8'5" 74.5 36 1/4"
Anthony Davis 21 33" 8'3" 62.5 34"
Russell Okung 38 32.5" 8'9" 78.9 36"
Zane Beadles 20 DNP DNP INC 33 3/4"
Ryan Clady 24 31" 9'0" 64 36 3/4"
Ryan Harris 22 25.5" 8'4" 55.7 34 1/4"
Chris Kuper 24 31.5" 9'11" 65.3 33 3/8"
Eric Olsen 35 29.5" 7'9" 72.2 32 1/2"
J.D.Walton 24 27" 8'5" 59.7 33 3/8"

From the numbers (and other knowledge), we see that Ryan Clady's superior reach (he has one of the longest in the league) offset an Explosion Number that was lacking. Mike Shanahan probably thought that Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Tuten could increase Ryan's 24 Reps on the Bench Press. It was widely known at the time that Clady needed instruction with his footwork. The opposite could be said of Eric Olsen. Olsen's "T-Rex" arms will keep him on the inside and his Explosion Number would suggest he "pulls" well as a Guard.

Now for the Tight Ends.

I got to observe most of the drills for this group and I was impressed by Rob Housler during the positional drills, but Virgil Green clearly stood out against the competition. Jordan Cameron also had a good Combine. It's really too bad Kyle Rudolph didn't participate, since he is considered to be the top prospect at Tight End. So by that instance, how can we compare this entire group? Is Rudolph that much better than the rest of these kids or is the athletic gap between them small. We will have to wait for Notre Dame's Pro day at the end of next month. Here are the Explosion Numbers along with their 40 Times.

OVR Name Pos. Bench Vertical Broad Expl. No. 40 Time
35 Kyle Rudolph TE DNP DNP DNP INC DNP
51 Luke Stocker TE 27 33 9'7" 69.5 4.79
65 D.J. Williams TE 20 33.5 9'3" 62.7 4.67
95 Lance Kendricks TE 25 34.5 10'2" 69.5 4.75
104 Virgil Green TE 23 42.5 10'10" 76.3 4.64
139 Rob Housler TE 22 37 9'6" 68.6 4.55
192 Jordan Cameron TE 23 37.5 9'9" 70.1 4.59
210 Charlie Gantt TE 27 30.5 9'3" 66.7 4.89
216 Weslye Saunders TE 19 33.5 9'8" 62 DNP
229 Lee Smith TE 25 29 9'0" 63 5.01
234 Cameron Graham TE 23 31 8'7" 62.5 5.11
239 Julius Thomas TE 16 35.5 9'3" 60.7 4.68
256 Schuylar Oordt TE 18 36 9'11" 63.9 4.67

Perhaps Jordan Cameron would be a prospect to consider in the later rounds. Again, for comparison, I have assembled the numbers for some of last year's Tight End class as well as the current Broncos at this position.

Player Bench Vertical Broad Expl. No. 40 Time
Jermaine Gresham 20 35" 9'5" 67.4 4.73
Rob Gronkowski 23 33.5" 9'11" 66.3 4.68
Aaron Hernandez 30 33" 9'3" 72.3 4.64
Tony Moeaki 18 34" 9'5" 61.4 4.69
Daniel Graham DNP 36" 9'10" INC 4.64
Dan Gronkowski 26 33" 10'2" 69.2 4.85
Richard Quinn 24 32.5" 9'11" 66.3 4.88

So you can see, just by the Explosion Number formula, it suggests that the Broncos could use an upgrade at the Tight End spot. The Broncos hold the #2, #36, #46, #67, #184 and #194 overall picks so maybe Chris Hairston and Jordan Cameron will be there at #184 and #194. I hope you enjoyed this perspective and can use it in your own Mocks and evaluations. The Defensive Linemen and Linebackers will be looked at in the next post. Until then...

Go Broncos!

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