The Combine Chronicles: Running Back

This is the fifth in a series of articles about the NFL Combine. It should be noted that fullbacks are not included in this running back analysis and they are excluded from the Combine Chronicles entirely due to the limited number invited to the Combine and subsequently drafted. DRAFTMETRICS won’t repeat all the introductory information from prior articles, but some degree of repetition is unavoidable. All information in this article is based on the 1999-2012 Combines.

The DRAFTMETRICS analysis includes the results of the following drills:

Combine Events

This article reviews the Combine results from three perspectives:
• Provide a context for Combine results by reporting historical performance
• Consider whether results of any Combine drills are meaningful predictors of future success
• Consider whether results of any Combine drills portend a low probability of success

DRAFTMETRICS summarized its information by four overlapping groups of players. Any individual play
can be included in only group or a many as all four. The groups are:
• All Combine participants from 1999 through 2012
• Combine participants who were drafted from 1999 through 2012
• Combine participants who started at least one season (starters start at least 8 games in a season)
• Combine participants who started at least three seasons

While not part of this analysis, DRAFTMETRICS noticed that, among the positions studied so far, a lower percentage of running backs who participated in the Combine became 3-year starters than any other offensive position (haven’t compiled all the numbers on defense yet). This speaks, of course, to the shorter careers of running backs. It was also noted that a lower percentage of running backs were drafted from among the Combine participants than any offensive position besides QB. The following table displays the number of participants and average for each of the player groups. This is a good starting point in evaluating 2013 Combine results.

The next table shows the range of results for all players who started for at least one season.

DRAFTMETRICS offers the following observations based on its review of Running Backs and their Combine results:
• Speed is the leading indicator of future performance
-The 40 and flying 20 show the largest differences between all Combine participants and starters
-Presumably the correlation with success and the flying 20 shows the importance of acceleration in the secondary
-The following table shows the percentage of players in each group that achieve the stated 40 yard dash timings

-This table shows similar information for the Flying 20

-DRAFTMETRICS expected to see a closer correlation between the 10-yard split and future performance because it thought the initial “burst” would be more important
-There was somewhat of a correlation but not to the extent of the 40 and the flying 20
• Starters performed only slightly better than all Combine participants in the bench press
• Explosion drills (vertical jump and broad jump) showed modest correlation
-70% of 1-year starters had a broad jump of 117 inches or better versus 55% of all Combine participants
-75% of 3-year starters had a vertical jump of 116 inches or greater compared to 60% of all Combine participants
• Agility drills had no correlation with success
-20-yard shuttle results for starters were consistently worst than the results from all Combine participants
-The 3-Cone drill results were about equal for starters and all Combine participants
• Several “red flags” were noted
-None of the 30 Combine participants who ran a 20 yard split (not the flying 20) of 2.74 or slower became starters
-None of the 29 Combine participants who ran the 40 slower than 4.71 became starters
-Only one of the 64 Combine participants who ran the 40 slower than 4.66 became a 3-year starter
-Only one of the 27 Combine participants who had a broad jump of less than 111 inches became a starter
-None of the 40 Combine participants who had a broad jump of less than 112 inches became a 3-year starter


Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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