INDIANAPOLIS -- Using 15 seasons of NFL-level performance data, I have worked with coaches and front office execs to categorize every player into one of five buckets at each position: elite, above-average, average, below-average and well-below average. Using the vetted NFL buckets, I worked backward and created profiles of what was known about each player prior to him entering the NFL. College and NFL Scouting Combine results were analyzed then organized to reveal which attributes correlated most strongly to a player ending up in each of the buckets.
All of that provides a framework to assess incoming prospects based on past results. Each player is compared with the historical framework model. Now, this is not intended to be a substitute for great film study, a coaching staff with a clear vision/development plan and strategic buy-in at every level of the team -- but rather, a way to help organizations streamline their evaluation time by focusing on a narrower subset of players at each position who are most likely to have attributes that reflect the team's on-field strategy.
Let's be honest: A lot of combine workout metrics aren't very predictive of on-field NFL success. And being even more transparent: The most important combine intel is generally gleaned from the medical tests and interviews conducted during the week in Indianapolis. However, the ranges of combine results that correlate to the NFL buckets (SEE: my prototypes piece from last week) do provide a framework for validating what scouts saw on film or flagging a player for further film review.
In addition to getting all the measurable results, I was able to watch some college film with coaches and ask a bunch of questions about how they viewed prospects, to see how my model compared to their evaluations here in Indy. Here are 12 numbers from the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that my model flagged as being important trends and/or predictive for NFL success:
9 1/2 inches
Kyler Murray's hands measured in at 9 1/2 inches, which falls squarely within the most common range (9.375 inches to 10 inches) of quarterbacks who have ended up being at least above-average in my model. I am not suggesting this one number means Murray is destined to be excellent -- or isn't -- but I am saying that, despite being what can be considered undersized (5-foot-10 1/8, 207 pounds) in terms of stature, he does have some measurable physical attributes that are ideal.
D.K. Metcalf's 10-yard split of his 4.33-second 40-yard dash clocked in at 1.45 seconds. This is the fastest 10-split by any combine runner in my database (starting in 2003). For some context, this is faster than Julio Jones' 1.50 10-yard split and 4.42 second 40-yard dash and they are similar heights: Metcalf checked in at 6-3 3/8 and 228 pounds, while Jones was 6-2 3/4 and 220 pounds. I don't mean to suggest they are the same; I am only saying that results like Metcalf's help generate more positive momentum, countering his injury history at Ole Miss.
N.C. State center Garrett Bradbury ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash and put up 34 reps on the bench press. He is one of just four interior offensive linemen since 2003 to run a sub-5.0 40 and log at least 34 bench reps. And Bradbury's 10-yard split is even more predictive for NFL success: At 1.74 seconds, he kept his hips from lifting at an exceptional rate -- never more than 2.75 feet off the ground -- which has a strong correlation to protecting quarterbacks at the next level.
Boston College offensive guard Chris Lindstrom ran a nice 40 (4.91 seconds), but his 10-yard split of just 1.69 seconds is what really stood out. Lindstrom didn't allow his hips to lift more than 2.5 feet off the ground over that span. (If you can't tell, I have done a lot of work on O-line leverage -- and a lineman's ability to keep his hips down in the first 10-yard split of a 40 is strongly correlated to not allowing sacks. Lindstrom and Bradbury both fell into very favorable ranges.)
Iowa Football produced two exceptional tight end performances at the combine, but T.J. Hockenson's 4.18-second short shuttle really got my attention. Hockenson is my highest-projected tight end in this class, and his combine results helped reinforce the strengths displayed on his college film. One of my favorite notes about him: 47 percent of his 760 receiving yards came after the catch.
That's the average time for wide receivers in this year's 40-yard dash. In the data dating back to 2003, there had never before been an average below 4.5 seconds. As for the range for above-average and elite wide receivers (between 4.42 and 4.57 seconds), 20 of the 37 wideouts who ran the 40 checked the box. The thing to know here is that no one drill result is predictive without other related factors, so this doesn't mean that 54 percent of receivers in this class will be at least above-average in the NFL -- it just means that this is a fast WR class overall.
Nick Bosa ran the short shuttle in 4.14 seconds and also had a 1.55 10-yard split on his 40-yard dash -- both of these numbers beat the combine results of his Pro Bowl brother, Joey, who ran the short shuttle in 4.21 seconds and had a 1.69 10-yard split in the 40. These two tests have been more correlated to NFL DE success than the full 40-yard dash. For fun, though, remember when the older Bosa's 40 was considered "slow" at 4.86? Well, Nick got his brother there, too, running a 4.79.
At 6-4 3/8 and 277 pounds, Michigan DE Rashan Gary's 4.58-second 40-yard dash is the fastest for any player weighing at least 275 pounds since 2003. His 10-yard split of 1.63 seconds is even more predictive -- and equally as elite -- to NFL success. Add in his 10-foot broad jump and 38-inch vertical, and it's easy to see why NFL evaluators are quite intrigued by this freakish big man.
Dexter Lawrenceinjured his quad on his first 40-yard dash attempt, but the body measurables we got on him help justify scouting takes that he has the potential to be a rare interior player. Lawrence's 84-inch wingspan is 7.5 inches longer than his height (he's 6-4 1/2 or 76.5 inches tall). With 34 3/4-inch arms and 10 1/2-inch hands, Lawrence's dimensions put him into a category where more elite and above-average players have come from.
At 6-5 3/4 and 260 pounds, Montez Sweat's first 10-yard split on the 40-yard dash was 1.50 seconds. This helped him earn a 4.41-second 40 time, which is the fastest by a defensive lineman since 2003. The average 10-yard split for a Pro Bowl edge rusher since 2003? 1.67 seconds. The Mississippi State product's three-cone result of 7.0 seconds also hit a predictive benchmark (7.0 or lower) that flags for above-average and elite NFL production.
The plethora of difference-making defensive players in this draft class have been hyped for quite some time, including defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Ahead of the combine, though, people were worried the Houston product would weigh in the 270s, which would flag as too light for many pro teams. Not only did he check in at 287 pounds (at 6-1 7/8), but he also had a 36-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot broad jump. Both help contextualize potential for burst, and he's one of just three players since 2003 who weighed 285-plus pounds with at least a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot broad. J.J. Watt and Mario Williams were the other two. And for the record, no, I'm not comparing him to Aaron Donald, but I will note that Donald was 285 pounds with a 32-inch vertical and 9-8 broad jump at his combine.
Linebacker Devin Bush ran his three-cone in 6.93 seconds. This drill is strongly tied to production at the next level, with the average Pro Bowl linebacker having completed the drill in 7.04 seconds. It is especially predictive when combined with other attributes he displayed, like a 40.5-inch vertical leap and a 4.43 40-yard dash. The idea is to select for speed and control, and this Michigan man helped back up his impressive college resume.