Every spring, millions of people tune-in to the NFL scouting combine to see the impressive display of athleticism put on by graduating football players. Top athletes from their respective colleges around the United States are invited to showcase their skills and abilities to NFL team executives, scouts and coaches. For many of the athletes, the NFL combine is their “make or break” opportunity to accomplish their childhood dream, which is of course to sign a contract with an NFL team.
Athletes put in months of training to specifically enhance their abilities for the NFL combine tests. The 225 bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 40 yard dash, 3 cone drill, and the shuttle are among the most common tests while other football drills are also used to evaluate potential talent. What remains to be determine however, is the sensitivity of these tests for actually predicting future performance in athletes. Will more reps with 225 relate to a more successful career in the NFL?
In a new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a team of researchers statistically evaluated the predictive value of the NFL combine tests. Publicly accessible data bases containing combine data and player game statistics were used to acquire the data. The researchers focused their analysis on running backs and wide receivers who attended a combine between 2000-2009. NFL performance was evaluated up until 2013. In addition to the performance tests listed above, the researchers also included height and weight into their analysis.
Multiple linear regression analyses were used to determine variance explained when factoring in the multiple predictors of performance. The results showed that 10 yard sprint speed was the single biggest predictor of performance (rushing yards per carry) over a running backs career. For wide receivers, height and vertical jump were the strongest predictors of performance (receiving yards per reception).
The authors note various limitations with their analysis. For example, some running backs may only be used in short yardage situation. Some offensive lines and quarterbacks are better than others, which can affect both running back and wide receiver game statistics. These are variables that cannot be controlled for in this type of assessment. Having said that, based in this analysis, it appears that 10 yard sprinting speed for running backs and height and vertical jump for wide receivers are the strongest predictors of playing performance in the NFL.
Teramoto, M. et al. Predictive Value of NFL Scouting Combine on Future Performance of Running Backs and Wide Receivers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, In press.