The first wave have left Indy and are prepping for their pro days. This is by far the most misunderstood set of drills on the field. Yet more measurements, interviews, and bench pressing occurs as well. March 4 will be one of the better days at the combine for viewers.
Quarterback Work Outs
None of the timed drills matter for a quarterback unless they’re being sold as an athlete rather than a passer. Top end quarterbacks often don’t participate in the majority of the drills at the combine, because they just don’t matter. What will matter to the second and third tier quarterbacks is their performance in the on field drills. They need to be coach-able, and do as they’re told. Often they’re going to miss the receiver, because they’ve never worked with them before. Nobody cares about that. They’re watching for spirals and footwork more than anything else.
Wide Receiver Workouts
This is the second most important set of 40-yard dashes at the combine. The tall ones need to run better than 4.65s to maintain their slot, better than 4.6s if they want to go in the first round. The fast ones need to come in under 4.5s or they’re not NFL fast. There will be a few true burners, but they tend to be bad players. Sprinter speed is not an indicator for future success at WR, but a terrible 40 is an almost insurmountable obstacle for anyone under 6’3″. Three cone and short shuttle are slot receiver drills, if a prospect isn’t fast, or big, he needs to be quick. Vertical jumping ability is obviously useful in the red zone, and makes up for a lack of elite height in some minds.
The truly important drills for the receivers though are on the field. Teams will be watching how they track the ball, and how they respond to coaches’ instructions. These receivers are going to see a lot of really awful looking throws and how they adjust to them in the air is key. Do they high point the ball or let it come to them? Can they adjust their speed to make the catch look easy or are they needing to contort their bodies at the end of a route to get hands on a bad ball? When they catch the ball is it with their hands or are they trapping it against their body?
Tight End Workouts
Athletically the vertical and broad jumps are the most important drills for a tight end. They are followed by the three cone and shuttles, and last on the list is the 40-yard dash. Tight ends are usually red zone and third down targets, not deep sideline speedsters. Quicks and hops are the keys for them. Body-catching tight ends fall down the draft board. A lot of these guys will be trapping the ball against their bodies, and that means dropping passes with strong armed NFL quarterbacks.
Defensive Line and Linebacker Bench Press
These players can make some money here. A borderline nickel linebacker who puts up a good number can change the perception of who he is. Smaller edge rushers can show enough strength to set the edge. The defensive tackles are often the best performers here, as a lot of them are stocky short-limbed guys, and that grants a huge advantage. The slender edge rushers don’t usually do very well tomorrow, their longer arms do them no favors in this drill. Most of the linebackers and edge rushers will be shooting for “good enough” in the bench press.
Defensive Back Measurements
Defensive backs are slaves to their measurables. A corner who is under 5’11” is suddenly a slot corner to most of the league. Over 6’2″ and there will be talk that he needs to move to safety. Weight is not as important, but it does determine scheme fits for a lot of teams. The Seahawks for example are unlikely to draft a 175 lb corner because they play an incredibly physical style of coverage. The Lions have historically been more concerned with tape and workouts than height and weight, but logic tells us that a bigger and more physical option across from Darius Slay would be preferable.
A Few Names to Look for at the Combine Tomorrow
Adam Shaheen is a 6’6″ 277lb tight end from Ashland college. He’s coming from a lower level of competition so the Combine is incredibly important for him. If he catches with his hands and runs crisp routes, there is a possibility that three years down the road this is the best all around tight end in the draft.
Michael Roberts is an intriguing player. Only one year of elite production, a wonky stance, and weak patterns, but he’s 6’4″ and 261 lbs, and from the MAC. Roberts is a sixth or seventh round option for the Lions. We know that Bob Quinn is not afraid to go for a small school player.
Corey Davis from Western Michigan could cement himself as the top WR of the class with something as simple as a great 40 time.