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What You Need to Know About the NFL Combine Drills



Tremaine Edmunds running the 40 yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine. Photo Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Speed and Agility Drills

  • 40 Yard Dash: It’s the most recognizable of the combine drills and is also the most self-explanatory. The drill is all about how quickly a prospect can reach top speed within 40 yards. This is most important for offensive and defensive skill players, as well as linebackers. Teams want to see wide receivers, defensive backs, and running backs running in the 4.2-4.55s range. Linebackers running in the 4.4s speed demonstrate rare and exceptional speed, but teams will accept times into the 4.7s range. For the majority of quarterbacks and defensive and offensive linemen, this is just an opportunity to display above average athleticism. Barring outliers, scouts expect these position groups to run in the 4.7-5.0s range.
  • Three-Cone Drill: The three-cone drill is a test of change of direction speed and agility. Once again, this drill is particularly important for offensive and defensive skill players. Running backs and wide receivers need to change direction at will, and defensive backs and linebackers need to be able to mirror those movements. The top times for these skill groups range between 6.5-6.75s, and anything less than that is extraordinary.
  • Shuttle Run: Another test of agility, however more directed towards lateral quickness and short-area explosion. This drill is as important for skill players as it is for the offensive and defensive lines. The lines need to be able to quickly redirect themselves into plays, thus the more explosive and quick they are, the better. Football is played in tight spaces, hence the rationale behind this drill. Front offices are looking for top skill players to run the 20 yard shuttle below 4.3s. The most explosive linemen tend to run between the 4.3-4.5s range.
Matt Milano participating in the broad jump. Photo credit: Boston Globe.

Strength and Explosiveness Drills

  • Vertical Jump: The vertical jump is probably the least useful test of the NFL combine drills. Few positions require players to explode directly upwards, thus this is more of a lower body strength test. Defensive backs and wide receivers are the clear beneficiaries of this drill, as they are expected to high point passes often. For skill players, any height over 38 inches is impressive.
  • Broad Jump: Once again, the broad jump is a test of lower body explosion, but requires the prospects to jump horizontally. Yet, this drill is equally important for linemen, as it demonstrates the ability to generate push with their base. As for skill players, it provides insight into ability to break tackles, and the ability to make tackles without momentum. The most athletic skill players should be capable of jumping over 10’5″, with jumps over 11′ particularly explosive. Anything over 9′ is expected for linemen, with exceptional jumps approaching 10′.
  • Bench Press: The bench press is pure display of upper body strength, which is important for just about all positions. Use of hands and the upper body is important for both offensive and defensive lines in creating space. The same can be said for wide receivers and defensive backs, as press man coverage forces players to hand fight at the line of scrimmage. Top performing skill players will post between 20-30 225lb reps. NFL executives want linemen have 30+ reps, with anything over 40 reps representing the strongest players at the combine.