An NFL Combine Primer

I'm sure lots of us understand the NFL combine and how it works, but with new readers and fans I like to give a brief primer on the main workouts you'll see at Indianapolis this weekend, and how they could predict NFL success. Notice I wrote 'could' there; that's because the combine has become a dog and pony show. Oftentimes the workouts you really want to see players undertake they end up skipping (like the throwing drills for Luck and RGIII), and you see gifted players get disregarded for a bad lift or 40 time.

Essentially what the combine is for fans is a very basic way to distill hundreds of hours of tape into one weekend. For the teams, they already know who they like and who they don't. As long as a player hits basic benchmarks they're fine, and these teams aren't splitting hairs over 10ths of a second the way football fans will. Nevertheless, here's a quick look at the workouts and what they are used to measure.

40 yard dash

Important to: Wide receivers, defensive backs, running backs, pass rushers

The forty yard dash is where the spotlight it leveled for much of the weekend. The event itself is just as it sounds: how fast can you run 40 yards? It's believed to be a measurement for speed, stamina and explosiveness, which is why positions like WR and DB rely on it so heavily. For the former, it's believed a receiver's separation is directly linked to their 40, while the latter it's all about keeping up.

All positions run the 40, but for defensive line players it's far more important to pay attention to their 10 yard split time. For a DE getting off the line and covering those initial 10 yards is far more vital than what he can do between 30-40 yards.

More after the jump

Bench press

Important for: Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends, fullbacks

The bench press is the accepted measurement for blockers, and those looking to get off a block. Players are asked to see how many reps of 225lbs they can do. This is seen more as a measure of their stamina over time, rather than raw strength, and it's believed that players who can post high bench press numbers translate into those who can bang in the trenches down after down.

Vertical jump

Important for: Wide receivers, defensive backs

While the forty yard dash gets all the attention, it's the vertical jump that is criminally overlooked. Players stand flat-footed and see how high they can jump, hitting a measurement.

It's here where vertical separation for receivers can be measured. As we know from seeing Steve Smith it's not always about how tall you are, but how high you can get. If you've ever wondered why Calvin Johnson is such a redzone threat it's because his height, arm length and vertical allow him to catch passes over 11 feet in the air; that's a skill few have.

Broad jump

Important for: Offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers

The broad jump is all about lower body strength and body control. Unlike a long jump there is no running start, so this is purely about the force generated out of a stance, which is obvious why defensive players are graded heavily on this.

Shuttle run

Important for: Linebackers, wide receivers, defensive backs

Also known as the 5-10-5, the player is responsible for running 5 yards to their right, then 10 yards to their left an finally 5 yards back to the middle.

This is one of the most important tests for linebackers as teams evaluate their lateral speed and ability to cover ground sideline to sideline. Like all speed tests the WRs and DBs are judged heavily too, but this is really one for the LBs.

Cone drill

Important for: Wide receivers, defensive backs

I believe the 3 cone drill is one of the only tests at the combine where you can really learn about a WRs ability as a route runner. Essentially players run the shape of an 'L' at high speed with their change of direction and overall time being closely scrutinized.

Unfortunately this is also a test where a lot of the top prospects tend to skip, and I don't think that's a coincidence. No player wants to be labeled as being slow in his route running, so alas we'll probably not see Blackmon or Claiborne run the 3-cone.

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