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Clarification on pro days versus combine times

Greg Gabriel explains the variances. Greg Gabriel

March 05, 2014
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Yesterday, it was reported that linebacker Khalil Mack of the University of Buffalo ran two 40-yard dashes at Buffalo’s pro day. His reported times were 4.52 and 4.55 on the field turf type surface in the Buffalo Bills' field house. Mack’s “official” time at the Scouting Combine last week was 4.65. So how could he improve so much is a week? Let me explain what is happening.
At the Combine, there are three sets of times for the 10, 20 and 40 on each 40 that a prospect runs. Two of those three times are hand-held times by very experienced times. The third time is an electronic time. The “official” time reported to the NFL Network during Combine timing was the fastest time of the two electronic times taken for each prospect. The hand-held times were not used.
When scouts and coaches go to pro days they are timing everything by hand. There are no electronic timing devices available. For scouting directors to be able to compare apples to apples, so to speak, they have to use the hand-held times from the combine. The hand-held times are generally a little faster than an electronic time, but for comparison sake, they are more consistent. Mack’s hand-held times yesterday were only slightly faster than his hand-held times last week. This same process has been going on for years, and it works.
There have been electronic times at the combine for years, but up until a few years ago, the electronic time was hand-started. If the starter missed the actual start, the whole time was off. Yes, they were accurate as to when the runner crossed the 10, 20 and 40 but if the starter missed the exact moment the run started then the entire time was inaccurate. So, in essence, clubs have only gotten true 40-yard electronic times recently.
In scouting, it makes no sense to compare two separate pieces of data when you are preparing for the draft. There are only 335 players invited to the combine, and each year, there are about 35 players selected in the draft who were not at the combine. Over the next several weeks, pro days will be held almost daily. Many of the athletes participating in these pro days will be players who were not at the combine. To compare them favorably and accurately with the players at the combine, a hand held time has to be used.
Where the electronic times come in handy is when going back to compare players from one year to the next. The electronic times are taken in the same building on the same surface on the same piece of turf every year. It then becomes easy to compare a player from the 2012 combine to a player in this year’s combine.

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