Ah, the NFL Scouting Combine is upon us. One step closer to the NFL Draft where the legends and bust get weeded out. Most drills have an importance when it comes to a prospect’s draft position. The combine is also team’s first chances to really get to know a prospect and find out if he’s worthy of a pick.
However, one drill that is the most overrated is the 40 yard-dash.
There are many examples of a player’s career in jeopardy because they ran one bad forty time despite that not truly representing the player’s true talent. The most recent player being New England Patriots former undrafted cornerback Malcolm Butler, also known as Super Bowl 49 hero. Despite not even getting an invitation to the combine Butler ran a 4.62 yard-dash at West Alabama Pro Day.
Now after his second season he is a number one cornerback for the Super Bowl 49 Champions.
Another example of a player overrated by his 40 time is current Bills wide out Marquise Goodwin. He ran an official 4.27 seconds. That is amazing and he is almost covering 10 yards a second.
As many of you know, that speed hasn’t necessarily translated to success on the field. The former 3rd round pick has 20 career catches (only snagging 3 in the last two years combined) and has dealt with injuries the last 3 years. Goodwin also seems more focused on track than football which is not a good thing, although it’s pretty awesome he might be in the Olympics again.
In order to get a real picture of a player’s overall athletic ability and speed, you need to look at all of the drills–after all, they’re asked to do them for a reason.
The three-cone drill and short shuttle have shown to have more of a direct correlation to a player’s athletic ability than the 40-yard dash. In a football game, players aren’t running 40 yards in a straight line very often, but they do need to show the ability to quickly change direction in short areas. The three-cone drill tests a player’s ability to turn a corner and change direction with little wasted movement. It’s a huge drill, particularly for pass rushers who need to be able to beat an offensive lineman around the edge, but bend the corner and close on the quarterback.
The table below highlights pass rushers that had some of the quickest three-cone times at the Combine from 2010 through 2014 and their career sacks to date. Notice a trend?
The broad jump and vertical leap gives you a hint to a player’s explosiveness. In a game where you’re asked to move as fast as possible immediately as the ball is snapped, explosiveness is key. The broad jump and vertical leap is especially important for cornerbacks.
To conclude, the 40 yard-dash gives you a pretty good understanding of a player’s straight-line speed, but it’s important to factor in the other drills at the NFL Scouting Combine to provide a more clear picture of a player’s overall athletic ability.
One 40 yard run should not end a career and it should not raise higher expectations on players who are “fast.”