Tomorrow is the day that the exciting things for Lions fans start happening at the Combine. The kickers, long snappers, and punters are working out today, but I think every Lions fan can agree that the team is solid in all three departments after the drafting of Jimmy Landes to eventually replace the immortal Don Muhlbach.
Offensive Line Drills
If you like to watch 300lb men side shuffle, this is your Christmas. They make linemen run the 40 yard dash, but really only care about the first 10 yards. The rest of the timed drills don’t really matter all that much to most teams, but there has been mounting evidence that the three-cone drill time is something that the Lions may look at as an indicator for offensive linemen. I cannot find the article I was thinking of when I wrote that, and I do not want to claim that theory as my own, so shoot me a message if you know it and I’ll credit the author here, and you’ll get a shout out. Things players want to avoid doing in these drills include crossing their feet when they side step, and going faster than their partner in the mirror drill.
It’s about flow, not speed for the movement drills. The various jumping drills are a reasonable measure of explosion. Even those are not really all that important unless they’re terrible. There is no position where Combine performance is less tied to player success than offensive line. Evaluations of the hogs are all about the tape.
Running Back Drills
All of the drills at the Combine matter for running backs because they measure extremely transferable things to the position. The 40 yard dash goes a long way to determine a players suitability to play this position, but the ten yard split is the real meat of it for Lions fans. Jim Bob Cooter’s offense requires acceleration, change of direction, and the ability to catch. A good ten yard split, three cone drill, and shuttle times are the most important factors for the way the Lions run the ball. The vertical and broad jumps measure explosion, and are also important measurements for a running back
Ameer Abdullah is not fast, he ran a 4.60s 40-yard dash. He was among the elite performers in the three cone, both shuttles, as well as both vertical and broad jumps though. The reason he looks so much better than the rest of the Lions’ running backs is his short area quickness and explosion. Whether a back is 180 lbs or 250 lbs, his three cone and shuttle times are the ones that tell you whether the Lions should draft him. The key is to use these measurements as a guide to watching game film on the players. If he does well at the Combine but it doesn’t transfer to the tape: it’s meaningless.
QB, WR, and TE Bench Press
Quarterbacks show leadership through bench press performance. That is a real thing scouts say. Personally it reminds me of a scene in Moneyball. The one where the scout says a pitcher with an ugly girlfriend must have confidence problems specifically. It is a piece of conventional wisdom. Tom Brady didn’t even perform the bench press. I have heard he is a good leader regardless. Wide receivers with good upper body strength are more able to get off press coverage than those without it. Tight ends need strength to block. These players are shooting for a minimum, they just don’t want to be near the bottom of the position group. This is a dedication test at the combine.
Defensive Line Measurables
Don’t have skinny legs. This has cost a lot of defensive linemen draft slots. Longer arms are better, particularly for an edge rusher. Being tall works for edge players, and against interior players for 4-3 teams. Being too short however is a downgrade for both positions. anyone under about 6’2″ will be said to lack prototypical height, anyone over 6’4″ will be said to likely have trouble maintaining leverage against the run. That’s how specific the NFL’s scouting community has become.
The weight of a defensive lineman is less important than how they carry it. There are a lot of different ways to get to 300 lbs, and the sloppier ones typically fall to late rounds or entirely out of the draft. 4-3 teams tend to value fatter guys less than 3-4 teams, and really tall guys less as well.
Every scheme has a different set of metrics they’re looking for. Six feet is the minimum height for a player not to lose draft stock, and 230lbs is about as light as a linebacker really wants to be at the combine. There are exceptions of course, but they need to be transcendent talents. Over 250 lbs gets a player labelled a two down thumper, and under 230 a nickel linebacker. The former is a worse label than the latter in today’s NFL.
Some Names to Watch at the Combine Tomorrow
Samaje Perine, D’onta Foreman, and James Conner are the big backs that fit what most media and fans want the Lions to grab at RB. If any of those players can put up elite change of direction numbers they would jump in the Lions’ eyes.
Tarik Cohen is a 5’6″ 175 lb running back that is going to put up some incredible numbers. He will warrant consideration on day three as a returner.