The Numbers Inside the Numbers at Combines
What does it all mean?
As more coaches, scouts and recruiters use Standardized Athletic Test (SAT) results to help identify and compare athletes, we receive more and more questions about what the numbers mean – or to be more specific, what do these tests really measure?
First off, let’s revisit the core of SAT. These are the same exact tests run at the NFL Combine.
The 40-yd Dash (with splits at the 10-yd line and 20-yd line)
The Short Shuttle (5-10-5)
The L-Drill (3-Cone)
Standing Broad Jump
Yes, I understand why the questions come up… an offensive lineman may never have to run 40 yards (unless it’s for a buffet); and rarely will a running back ever have to leap over a defender (unless your name is Ezekiel Elliot); so do these test really reflect how good of a football player someone is?
The answer is, “NO!”
These tests demonstrate two highly important traits however, and over the years these qualities have proven very consistent at predicting the best players.
- Athleticism – Explosive power, agility, ability to change direction, acceleration, top end speed, edge quickness, balance, footwork… these are all measures of pure athleticism in an athlete -and all these qualities can be seen in one drill or another at a combine. Every athlete should take the time to know what drills you should focus on in your position and what results you are looking for from each test to stand out from others across the country. This is not to say you should ignore any of these tests that you don’t think apply to you, as doing extremely bad in a test can overshadow the strengths you have in other tests. My advice after seeing thousands of athletes is to work all of them and focus on 2-3 aspects of these drills that are highly important for your position.
For example, an Offensive Lineman should not ignore the 40-yd dash, instead he should focus on the first ten yards to demonstrate his explosive power and ability to drive off the line. And while he might never run below four seconds in the 5-10-5, running it in 4.5 – 4.75 seconds puts him up there with the lineman at the NFL Combine.
- Work Ethic – The most overlooked aspect of the combine tests for parents and athletes is the work ethic aspect of these drills. Coaches, scouts and recruiters want to know if you put the work in to train these events and if you have the desire to be the best you can be. Think about it, if you didn’t put in the time to learn the technique to properly do your turns in the 3-Cone drill, are you going to put in the time to learn another technique a coach is trying to teach you at practice?
Yes. These tests are technical and require more than just being a raw athlete. The reality is that great athletes can never train these drills and get above average results at a combine; and good athletes can learn the technique and get above average results at a combine as well…
So how do you stand out?
When looking through these results, people want to know who the great athlete is that put the work in to be the best, and he got an elite time as a result – this is the kind of athlete that gets recruited. Remember, impressive results show as much about character as your athleticism.
What does it all mean?
I am not saying that running a 4.22 in the 40 shows that you have the hands to catch a pass, or the intelligence to study a playbook – your combine results are just a piece of the puzzle – but they are a larger piece than most people understand.
Rarely, will a person in the top ten in sacks in the NFL run slower than 7.3 seconds in the 3-Cone – and it doesn’t matter if he is a 310-lb defensive tackle. On the flip side, being a defensive end and running a 6.9 at the combine in the 3-Cone does not guarantee you are going to be an All Pro. These are predictors of success only – as for the rest as an athlete – it’s on you.