How Do Combine Stars Translate to the NFL? Here's a Dive Into History


Beginning Friday, NFL hopefuls will take to the field at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium in an attempt to impress pro scouts, coaches and front office personnel.

Every year, there are the "workout warriors" or "Combine freaks" – those who blow the on-field tests out of the water.

But how do they fare once they make it to the pros? Are "Combine Monsters" monsters in the NFL?

Common perception says that if a player lights it up at the Combine, he will find a way to be good in the NFL simply because of his superior athletic prowess. However, that's not always the case.

For the purposes of this article, the criteria used to define a "productive" player is that they averaged at least 10 games played per season and start in at least half of those games.

Let's take a look at the best overall Combine performers of the last 10 years (regardless of position) in the three biggest events: 40-yard dash, bench press and vertical jump. Since 2008, there have been 169 players that have placed in the top five in at least one of these categories.

Of those 169 players, 57 went on to be (what we've defined as) productive. That's just 34 percent of premier Combine performers.

In the last 10 years, only 25 have been named to a Pro Bowl roster (15 percent). Only 7 percent landed on a first-team All-Pro squad.

Only two of those 169 players went on to be named either an Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Johnson in 2008 and J.J. Watt in 2011. They are literally the 1 percent.

On the flip side, 22 of those prospects (13 percent) have never played in a regular-season game.

Taking all this into account, and considering how schools have similar drills at their respective pro days, maybe we should be asking, "How important is the Combine?"

Last week, Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz was asked whether Baltimore is more likely to draft a player with excellent college production or one who turns everybody's head at the Combine.

"I'm taking the football player," Hortiz said on "The Lounge" podcast. "The testing certainly alerts you to something that's in that body. If a guy blows up the Combine, there's something there.

"But, to me, if you get a guy that makes a ton of plays in college football – and it's not always the case, because some guys peak in college – they're football players. They may not have the ideal measurables, they may be missing this, they may be missing that. But, man, if you turn on the tape and they keep making plays, that's a football player and that's what we need to take."

Different prospects have different questions to answer, including about athleticism/speed, health, size or off-field character.

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