Todd McShay’s guide to every combine drill

The drills at the NFL combine boil down to two questions: Do the measurables mesh with the film? And which players triggered red flags with their results? From the 40 to the bench press, here are the numbers to know for each drill.

40-yard dash

Why it matters: For wide receivers and running backs, breakaway speed can be the difference between a modest gain and a game-changing play. A measurable combination that NFL evaluators pay close attention to for cornerbacks is length (height and arms) and 40 speed. Safety is another position to keep an eye on, particularly for players who will be asked to cover a lot of ground in the deep middle of the field. The chart below shows the most desirable times, the average combine times over the past five years and the times that should raise a red flag for evaluators.

Past standout: Saints WR Brandin Cooks. This is a good example of a player who looked fast on tape coming out of Oregon State and showed off his speed in the 40. He ran a 4.33 prior to being drafted in the 2014 first round. That is tied for the fourth-fastest WR time of the past five combines. Cooks' speed has certainly transitioned to the NFL. He tied for the league lead last season with six catches of more than 40 yards.

Impact of WR Mike Williams not running the 40

Mike Williams not running the 40 a 'red flag'

The NFL Insiders questions WR Mike Williams' decision not to run 40-yard dash because it won't alleviate concerns about his top level speed.

Vertical jump

Why it matters: The vertical can be an important indicator for wide receivers, tight ends and cornerbacks, but don't forget about running backs and defensive ends. This drill is a great judge of a player's lower-body explosiveness and ability to create power from the ground up.

Past standout: Cardinals RB David Johnson. It's not an accident that Johnson led the NFL with 2,118 total yards and 20 touchdowns last season. His lower-body power was on full display during the 2015 combine, when he posted a 41.5-inch vert, tied for third best among running backs since 2012.

Player to watch in 2017

20-yard shuttle

Why it matters: It's not a coincidence that most of the positions listed below are on defense. Being an NFL defender is all about reaction: How quickly can you diagnose a play, come to a stop and explode toward the ball? And the 20-yard shuttle showcases a player's body control as he is changing directions.

Past standout: Panthers LB Luke Kuechly. The 4.11-second 20-yard shuttle Kuechly posted in 2012 is just outside the outstanding range above for inside linebackers (4.07 and below). That kind of short-area quickness, in combination with Kuechly's outstanding recognition skills, have helped turn him into a three-time All Pro.

Player to watch in 2017

Broad jump

Why it matters: I like to see how offensive linemen and skill players perform in the broad jump. You need good lower-body explosiveness, power and flexibility to anchor in the trenches. It's also a good way to separate which offensive linemen have the athleticism to play tackle. The top four broad jumpers of the past five years among O-linemen were drafted to play tackle.

Past standout: Eagles OT Lane Johnson. Remember when Johnson blew up at the 2013 combine? His broad jump was 118 inches. That's comparable to an above-average mark from a running back -- and he did it while weighing 303 pounds. Johnson's performance proved to scouts that he had the lower-body power to develop into a good left tackle.

Player to watch in 2017


Why it matters: This drill is all about assessing a player's ability to change directions quickly, bend and accelerate. Defensive backs and pass-rushers are good players to keep an eye on. Of course, a lot goes into being an elite edge rusher, but most of the NFL's best register outstanding times in the three-cone.

Past standout: Broncos OLB Von Miller. The Super Bowl 50 MVP completed the three-cone in 6.70 seconds in 2011, tied for the third-best mark among linebackers over the past six years. And that confirmed what teams saw on tape: a freak athlete who wreaked havoc off the edge.

Player to watch in 2017

Bench press

Why it's important: The bench tests upper-body strength by seeing how many times players can put up 225 pounds. Let's be honest: While it may be the most fun to watch, the bench press is the least important of all these non-football-related drills. But it does provide insight into the upper-body strength of an athlete, which tends to apply most to interior offensive and defensive linemen. There's also some small correlation for cornerbacks (for press-technique purposes).

Past standout: Rams DT Aaron Donald. The Pitt product showed off his raw strength at the 2014 combine, putting up 35 reps on the bench. That is tied for the second highest among all defensive linemen over the past three years.

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