What the combine told us - Part II

In the last article we discussed the explosiveness measure of a player. Pat Kirwan from NFL.com published this in March, 2005.  Adding the vertical leap results with the broad jump and the repetitions lifting 225 lbs gives you an index number measuring both the leg power and the upper body power a player has. The “thumper” index, as I called it, tells you who has the body to deliver a power blow. 

It also tells you a bit about stamina. A defensive tackle or offensive lineman without leg or upper body strength will get more tired during a long game. If a defensive tackle runs out of power after 17 reps of 225, the guy who can do 30 repetitions begins to push him around.

Now before you begin lecturing me about workout wonders who can’t play football, I get it. I understand that there are athletes and there are football players. A good athlete doesn’t make a good football player. However, a good football player who is also an elite athlete is poised to reach the top of the NFL.  At the top of the draft, we want to see the defensive players have a thumper index of 70 or very close. In the middle of the draft, we want guys who can develop into better football players with coaching and experience, but who have the physical tools to develop. We want both good football players and good athletes.

In no case do we ever want an elite athlete who is clueless on the field. The best example in this years draft is Donald Butler, linebacker from Washington. Donald Buttler put up a top of the top thumper index of 80. Only three guys in this draft did better.  I would not trust Donald Butler in an Jaguar uniform under any circumstances. He is dumb as a rock when it comes to football.

Jonathan pointed Taylor Mays is in that same category. Someone will draft him based on athletics, Shack Harris used to draft almost exclusively on athletics. In the Shack era, Taylor Mays would be our choice, in the Gene era he wouldn’t get considered. Football players that have elite bodies, not elite bodies and no football sense, that is what we want.

In 2009, the top draft thumpers were Brian Orakpo(81.3), Michael Johnson, a defensive end from Georgia Tech (77), Evander Hood(76), Brian Cushing(75), BJ Raji( 73.6).  It is hard to evaluate the defensive ends in the first year, but Orakpo, Cushing and Raji did well.

In 2008 the top thumpers were Vernon Gholston(82.9), Keith Rivers(76.6), Johnathan Steward(75.2), Dustin Keller, a TE with the Jets(74.9) and Jake Long(73).  I think the verdict is still out on Vernon but he looks like more athlete than player.

OK, so who do we see in this years draft? Sean Weatherspoon(84) will draw first round attention and probably develop into a good linebacker. Russel Okung(78) and Ndamukong Suh(75) have elite bodies. Eric Berry(72) is a solid candidate. We already know that. They are going early. Rolando McClain (68) doesn’t have the vertical leap, but put up 24 reps at 225. He will get there.

Here are some non-top ten candidates that look promising. 

Linval Joseph(77) a DT out of East Carolina, doesn’t have great leaping but 39 reps at 225 says he will be a pounder all 60 minutes.  Lamar Houston, a DT from Texas, also has numbers that should get him a strong look. With a 33 inch vertical, 9 ft broad and 30 reps at 225, he puts up a 72. He can’t get into the air, but he has some power in his legs and a ton of punch.

Defensive ends don’t impress me at all. Jason Pierre-Paul has a thumper index of 58. He can’t jump(30 inch vertical, 9 ft broad) and he is weak(19 reps at 225). I would rather have Austen Lane, a defensive end from Murray St, he did a 34 vertical, 8 ft broad and 20 reps for a 64.  Derrick Harvey had a 69 thumper rating as did Quentin Groves. I don’t get JPP as a candidate.

Kyle Wilson, a CB out of Boise St is also an elite athlete. With a 38 inch vertical, 10 foot broad jump and 25 reps at 225, he has a big CB number of 73.   Compared to Joe Haden, 35 vertical, 10 ft broad and 18 reps for a 63, Joe is betting on his football ability more than his athletic thumping ability. Major Wright, with a 37 vertical, 9 ft broad and 14 reps at 225 says a 60 thumper index makes me wonder if he can be beat out for jump balls and make open field tackles. I think Joe Haden is the best football player but I would like to see stronger numbers in strength. I would pass on Major Wright. I am interested in Kyle. He would get a personal workout. Gene thought so too.

A road grader offensive guard late in the draft might be Mitch Petrus from Arkansas. A thumper index of 83 based on 45 reps at 225 says he has power to spare. He might not have technique, but if he has any ability at all, he might be a jar on the shelf.

Another late draft interesting prospect is Ben Tate, RB out of Auburn. At 220 lbs and a 4.1 20 yard cone drill, he also features a 40 inch vertical, 10 foot broad jump and 26 reps at 225 for a thumper index of 76. This guy catches the ball, picks up blitzes well, and is a great 3rd down back. Another Greg Jones. Do we need him? No. If he is there in the sixth round is he BAP? Probably.

Well, that is all. The combine is one factor, playing is another. If Gene can find both great players and elite athletes, things will be very interesting in the coming years. I hope he succeeds like he did last year.

– Terry O’Brien

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