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Thursday Thought: Combine measurements don’t always predict success

Although the NFL Scouting Combine does provide scouts with a lot of important information about players, it can also be very misleading.



With the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine underway this week, I thought it would be appropriate to address what I believe is always a hot topic around this time of the year: the tests and measurements that players are expected to complete. Players from this year’s draft class will be compared to each other as well as players from last year’s draft class with respect to how well they perform. Either way, these numbers change draft stocks and how the football world thinks about these players as NFL prospects.

However, I feel that it’s important to remind everyone that information gathered from these tests and numbers at the combine doesn’t always indicate how successful a player will be as a professional. While some guys who test very well at the combine seem to not make it in the league, while others test not so well but go on have very good careers. This week’s Thursday Thought: Combine measurements don’t always predict success.

NFL Combine - Day 3
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

To prove this point, let’s look back at some examples where this is true. One player who got a lot of attention based on his combine scores was D.K. Metcalf. Metcalf ran an excellent 40-yard dash, with a time of 4.33 seconds, which is impressive considering he measured in at 6’3” and weighed 228 lbs. The controversy around Metcalf was his three-cone drill time, a drill created to measure quickness and change of direction. Metcalf’s time for this drill was 7.38 seconds, which was worse than Tom Brady’s three-cone time.

The result of Metcalf’s three-cone drill time was a lot of second-guessing of him as a prospect and led to Metcalf falling to the end of the second round. This outcome is one that the Seattle Seahawks are probably grateful for. Metcalf had a great rookie season as his rare combination of size and speed is a huge mismatch for opposing DB’s.

Image result for nfl combine devin singletary
Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Another player who didn’t test great at the combine was Devin Singletary. Many scouts and fans were hung up on his 40-yard dash time, which was a 4.66, despite his insane production in college. Singletary fell to the third round and other than Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders, one could argue that Singletary was one of the best rookie running backs last season. His 40-yard dash time didn’t reflect the player that Singletary is and will likely become, similar to Metcalf.     

There are also players that experience the opposite effect, a Combine test result leads to them being picked very high, but yet they didn’t live up the hype. The most recent example of this was John Ross in 2017. Ross made headlines by breaking the record for the fastest 40-yard dash in Combine history, a record held by Chris Johnson for a decade, as Ross ran a blazing 4.22 second 40-yard dash time. This led to the Cincinnati Bengals selecting the speedster from Washington with the ninth overall pick.

Image result for john ross nfl combine
Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

However, Ross has been very disappointing thus far. After only having one single touch, on a jet sweep which he fumbled on during his rookie season, Ross has been mediocre at best the past two seasons. He’s combined for 49 receptions for 716 yards and 10 touchdowns. More importantly, Ross has appeared in only 24 of a possible 48 games in his career. In hindsight, the Bengals probably wish they had gone in a different direction with this pick. 

The Combine will draw the attention of scouts, draft nerds, and NFL fans throughout the week. People will be eager to see how certain prospects perform and if any records will be broken. The players who put up impressive numbers will get a ton of attention, while those who don’t impress as much will be criticized. However, it’s important to remember that these scores don’t always reflect how successful a player will be in the NFL.