Watching the NFL Combine like a Boss


When we watch the combine, wouldn’t it be great to see it as a coach and GM sees it? Thankfully, Pat Kirwin wrote the best article on understanding the NFL Combine back in March 2005 and since reading that article, the NFL Combine has made so much more sense to me. Since Black and Teal readers are the most intelligent fans in Jacksonville, we offer this so you can continue to follow the draft process with high awareness.

There are two elements the NFL Combine is trying to look for, speed and power. We will cover the power in this article and speed in another. First a disclaimer; combine numbers are intoxication but they are not a direct translation to NFL success. They are an indicator of some raw athletic ability but not football playing ability. So don’t think we can project success with combine numbers.

EXPLOSIVENESS – Who can bring the wood?
There are two components to having explosiveness in your play, your leg power and your upper body strength. In the combine, leg power is measured by the broad jump and the vertical jump. The upper body strength is measured by the bench press reps.

Pat Kirwin said that simply adding these three up delivered an overall explosiveness rating. Guys with the biggest numbers had the most raw talent to plow through the other guy and enforce their will on the play.

The explosiveness rating is great for guys in the trenches, especially offensive guards and defensive linemen. It is also good for safeties and linebackers, but speed and change of direction becomes more important for those guys.

Overall though, it is impressive and desirable to have explosiveness.

Past Explosiveness Ratings: O-Line
On the offensive line, technique and understanding the blocking schemes become important. Guys can bulk up and improve their ability, but having explosiveness is a nice feature to have especially as a guard. Here are some O-Line measurements from last year:

Name                            BP     V       BJ   Total    Comments
Russell Bodine            42     29     10      81       Starting center for Cincinnati
Greg Robinson            32     28     11      71       Horrible year for St. Louis at LT
Taylor Lewan               29    30     11       70      Starting LT for Tennessee
Gabe Jackson               30    29    10       69      Top 10 pass blocking LG in Oakland
Zack Martin                  29    28    10       67      Anchored the Dallas O-Line at RG
Brandon Linder           30    26      9       65      Top Jaguar O-Line RG
Joel Bitonio                  22    32    11       65       Pro Bowl LG season with Cleveland
Jake Matthews           24    30     10      64       Horrible year for Atlanta at LT
James JaWuan            22    29    11       62       Rough first year in Miami as R/ L Tackle
Cyril Richardson         25    25      9       59       Rough first year with Buffalo as LG

When it comes to O-Line Guards, we are looking for guys who are considered good draft prospects first and then something in the mid-60’s and higher for explosiveness. If you see a guy with off the chart numbers, then we will pay attention, line the Bengals did with Russell Bodine in the middle rounds. Tackles are a more specialized position and a good rating doesn’t hurt, but being a good football player is primary. Luke Joeckel put up number similar to Jake Matthews.

Past Explosiveness Ratings: D-Line

When it comes to the Defensive Line, technique is also important, but explosiveness is a key factor. Look at Jadaveon Clowney’s leg strength. That is what he is known for, straight ahead drive and quickness. Aaron Donald had an amazing year for St. Louis. I think we will see more from Chris Smith in the coming season. He had the quickness coming off the line and decent top side strength. If he stays quick and bulks up, he will be a force.

Name                            BP   V   BJ     Total     Comments
Aaron Donald              35   32   11       78        Top NFL DT for St. Louis
Ra’Shede Hageman   32    35   11      78       Didn’t play at lot for Atlanta
Chris Smith                  28    37   12       77       Didn’t play a lot for the Jags
Jadeveon Clowney      21    37   12      70       Tore his knee up at Houston
Timmy Jernigan           27    29   10      66       Top 15 DE for Baltimore
Michael Sam                17    25    11      53       Hasn’t found a team

I included Michael Sam not because he is gay but to show how far below he was in overall explosiveness compared to the top drafted guys. He was a familiar name to show contrast.

Other Defensive Linemen you might want to know about:

Ndamukong Suh      32         35       10    78
J.J. Watt                      34         37        10    81
Tyson Alualu             21         35        11    66

You can see when it comes to the D-Line, the explosiveness rating jumps up a level. Where it is rare to see an offensive lineman in the 70’s, it is much more common on the D-Line.

Just as a side note, one of the reasons I got excited about Dwayne Gratz and think he should play Safety was his combine explosiveness. He had a total of 72 as a cornerback with a 22 reps on the bench press, a 38 inch vertical and a 12 foot broad jump. Dwayne Gratz can bring the wood. Dwayne Gratz should be a Safety.

We will continue to watch this year’s NFL Combine and see who is standing out.

Thanks for reading!