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Know Your NFL Combine: An MHR 2008 Draft Resource

Welcome to the first of a planned extensive line of Resources for the Denver Broncos fan, courtesy of the many minds here at MHR. This initial foray is intended to garner some feedback from the MHR community, and to kick start the finetuning process so that the greatest Draft Resource for Broncos fans on the web will be as good as we can make it!

I would like to start with the Combine, which is right around the corner, starting February 20th and continuing until the 26th. We have many new fans who frequent this site, and not all of them may understand just what the Combine is, or where it fits in the grand scheme of the NFL universe. Fear not! Mile High Report is here for you!

National Invitational Camp

The National Invitational Camp, commonly called 'the Combine' is a giant 6 day, trackmeet-like event, held every year in the hospitable confines of the RCA dome in Indianapolis. 32 NFL teams send upwards of 40 individuals each, all involved in different capacities with the team such as scouts, coaches and managers, who are there to meet and evaluate almost 350 top seniors and underclassmen. These players are run through a gauntlet of mental and physical tests, and the effect is to clearly delineate the yearly draft class and to provide warrant for their placement on the 'big boards' around the league. Though around 80% of combine invites are eventually drafted, Denver is one of the leading teams at signing college free agents who had excellent combine results. Andre hall is one such example, signed in 2007 after posting the 20th best Combine performance in the last eight years, behind players like Adrian Peterson and Tatum Bell.

NFS (National Football Scouting) is the service that puts the event together and formally provides the invitations to the prospects, and it is their responsibility to provide security, regulate the uniformity of the testing methods and to organize the event. The NIC is not the only 'combine' as many more occur throughout the country, usually involving smaller geographic areas, but the NIC is by far the most prominent and features the greatest amount of NFL destined talent.

Don't be shy...

Any bashful players need to check their blush at the door. The measurement process is like a scene out of Anthem or 1984. As the prospects are poked and prodded seven ways to Sunday with only a meager pair of shorts for modesty, the exaggerations of the gameday rosters come to light. Of all these measurements, the 'triad' or 'triangle' measurements are considered the basics: Height, weight and 40yd dash time. But their feet and hands are measured as well as the length of their legs and arms. From fingertips to the base of the palm, scouts are looking for hand measurements in excess of 9" and taking note of any arm measurements shorter than 32". These are not necessary exclusionary measurements, but they do red-flag the prospect. Scouts would go from that 'red-flag' to an evaluation of how that particular player overcomes that particular variety of handicap. Our own Elvis Dumervil barely registered 32" (32 3/4") but when combined with his wide chest his wingspan was significantly longer than expected, and though he did drop in the draft because of size issues, Denver had no problem selecting him for his drive and consistency in overcoming a "measurement" obstacle through the years.

The Trials: What to aim for

The following table is compiled by averaging the times and reps of the top 100 prospects from the past 8 combines (the most reliable data can be had for this time frame), and weighting the results toward the top performances all time. While not exact, this table is a pretty fair representation of what sort of benchmark the top prospects will be held to in order to maintain or gain position in the draft.

Note that DT, QB, and OL are not required to run the 60 yd shuttle, nor are QBs and WRs expected to lift, though they are free to do so.

MHR Combine Trial Targets
Trial QB WR RB TE FB OL Quality Evaluated
40 yd dash 4.90 4.55 4.60 4.85 4.85 5.3 Speed over distance
10yd split-40 1.70 1.7 1.6 1.7 1.7 1.8 Initial Burst
20 yd split-40 2.85 2.70 2.65 2.80 2.80 3.05 Burst stamina
225lb bench press N/A N/A 22 22 22 25 Upper body strength
Vertical Jump 30 36 32 32 30 28 Leg strength; explosiveness
Broad Jump 9'0" 10'0" 9'6" 9'6" 9'3" 8'4" Leg strength; explosiveness
20yd shuttle 4.30 4.20 4.25 4.30 4.30 4.70 Burst, flexibility, balance
60yd shuttle N/A 11.5 11.6 11.8 11.8 N/A Endurance, flexibility, balance
3-cone drill 7.25 7.10 7.20 7.30 7.35 7.85 Agility, hips, change of direction
Trial DT DE ILB OLB CB S Quality Evaluated
40 yd dash 5.15 4.85 4.80 4.75 4.50 4.60 Speed over distance
10yd split-40 1.80 1.70 1.70 1.65 1.60 1.65 Initial Burst
20 yd split-40 2.95 2.80 2.80 2.75 2.65 2.70 Burst stamina
225lb bench press 27 24 24 23 14 17 Upper body strength
Vertical Jump 30 33 33 36 36 36 Leg strength; explosiveness
Broad Jump 8'6" 9'6" 9'6" 9'9" 10'0" 10'0" Leg strength; explosiveness
20yd shuttle 4.60 4.35 4.30 4.20 4.10 4.15 Burst, flexibility, balance
60yd shuttle N/A 11.8 11.8 11.6 11.3 11.4 Endurance, flexibility, balance
3-cone drill 7.75 7.40 7.30 7.20 7.00 7.10 Agility, hips, change of direction
Like the table? Think it would be useful as a printable PDF that you could reference at any time? So did we! Get yours here! And please let us know what you think of this PDF as it is a core part of what we are looking to provide with the MHR Draft Resources, and we would love to improve on it.

What Are the Trials All About?

The names of the tests really do speak for themselves. The 40 yard dash is "The Trial" of the Combine, though many scouts and front offices claim that it does not weigh heavily in their final evaluation. Bull. When a player runs a forty EVERYONE stops what they are doing and watches. As our own Hoosierteacher has noted repeatedly in these pages, "You can't coach speed." And speed translates DIRECTLY to more money and more opportunities to play in the NFL. So yeah, they're watching. So much so in fact, they usually have TWO sets of eyes on the player, one set watching for the first 10 yards (10yd split) and another set of eyes watching the first twenty yards. Beyond this it isn't odd to have another set of eyes watching from the finish line who is responsible for seeing the run in its entirety. Ideally the players want to minimize drag by getting low early (translates well to football, with blockers needing to win the battle of "low man wins."). As well they are looking to have a great burst off of the line, and get into their "form" as early as possible. I was a sprinter in high school, and it seems to me that many players would benefit greatly from getting to "form" running sooner than they do, but the NFL seems to place a priority on keeping low. In my opinion, many players stay low for far too long. No one asked me though. :)

The bench press is looked at for Linemen most specifically, though for Denver, it is not as important as agility. But still, most players require good upper body strength to excel in the NFL, from WRs getting separation to LBs fighting off blocks. The jumps measure lower body strength in a player, and while knowing the potential of a defensiveback or WR to be a high-jumping ballhawker, it is more important to get a feel for the players burst, or explosiveness, whether for delivering the possession ending hit or getting off the line and into a block in a dominant fashion.

The shuttle runs are vital to teams like Denver that place a premium on athleticism from their linemen on both sides of the ball. In a shuttle the player starts at a yard line, runs 5 yards in one direction, then 10 yds in the other direction, than 5 yds back to their starting position. They are required to touch the ground at each stop except the last. In the 60 yd shuttle, the player runs 5 yds, 10 yds and then 15 yds touching the ground at every stop except the last. Personally I think they could upgrade this trial to end with an odd-shaped tackling dummy and give the players an opportunity to tackle the dummy any way they choose. It would look cool, but would probably be considered an injury risk. (Lame!) In its current incarnation the test is expected to measure agility, change of direction and lateral burst speed. My version of course would add "Finishing it all off." to that list, but once again, no one is asking me.

The three cone drill starts with a unique formation. The cones are arranged in the shape of a "lambda": basically an upside down 'V.' They are placed five yards apart, and players must first run back and forth between the first two cones, usually done laterally in a shuffle-step style of movement to accomodate the quick change of direction required to weave around the second cone, weave inside the third cone and around the outside of the two other cones on the way back to the starting line. Sound complicated? It is, and it is a sight to behold when it is executed fluidly.

Not the Most Important Thing in the World; Even Though the NFL network Will Make You Think So

A great combine doesn't directly correlate to the greatness of the player. Some players with significant ability are never invited. Some great players perform poorly but go on to have great careers. Denver has created their own near-omniscient legacy of finding RBs at every level of the draft.

Many times it is a single quality such as a vertical jump, or shuttle time that will separate players locked at a position in the later rounds. At the heart of the combine is the fluid nature of the NFL draft: for one player to move up, another must move down. Sometimes the only difference to be found is the athleticism shown at the combine.