Category Archives: Football

Offensive tackles – Combine numbers vs Pro Production

Unlike with defensive linemen where production can be fairly accurately gauged by sack totals, offensive linemen are a little trickier to figure out.  Instead of using statistics to value which offensive linemen have been good, I noted which offensive tackles have made All Pro status and Pro Bowl status.  This in itself is also tricky as left tackles seem to get the nod for those positions more often than right tackles.  Still, I think everyone will agree that the vast majority of the names I’m about to list have been excellent offensive tackles in the NFL.

Here’s the complete list of All Pros from the 2007-2016 NFL seasons.  The first number next to their name is the number of times they were All Pro during these 9 seasons, the second number is the number of Pro Bowl nominations.  It is odd that some players made All Pro but not Pro Bowl, as All Pro tends to be the more respected nomination, so take that into account.

  1. D. Bakhthiari (1/0)
  2. J. Conklin (1/0)
  3. M. Cannon (1/0)
  4. M. Schwartz (1/0)
  5. Tyron Smith (4/2)
  6. J. Thomas (8/9)
  7. A. Whitworth (2/2)
  8. Trent Williams (1/5)
  9. Jason Peters (6/9)
  10. J. Staley (3/3)
  11. D. Brown (2/3)
  12. R. Clady (3/4)
  13. J. Long (2/4)
  14. S. Vollmer (1/0)
  15. M. Roos (2/1)
  16. D. Stewart (1/0)
  17. J. Gross (1/3)
  18. W. Jones (2/2)
  19. D. Diehl (1/1)
  20. M. Light (1/2)

The rest of these players have made Pro Bowls only but not All Pro.

  1. D. Penn (1)
  2. T. Lewan (1)
  3. B. Albert (2)
  4. K. Long (1)
  5. M. Kalil (1)
  6. J. Bushrod (2)
  7. R. Okung (1)
  8. D. Ferguson (3)
  9. T. Clabo (1)
  10. C. Clifton (2)
  11. B. McKinnie (1)
  12. J. Stinchcomb (1)
  13. F. Adams (2)
  14. Jamaal Brown (1)
  15. C. Samuels (2)
  16. J. Ogden (1)
  17. M. McNeill (1)

Now, here are the average test results for offensive tackles at the NFL Scouting combine for all participants.

  • Height: 77 inches (6’5)
  • Weight: 315
  • Arm Length: 33.5 inches
  • Hand Size: 9 and 7/8 inches
  • 40 time: 5.32
  • Bench reps: 25.3
  • Vertical Jump: 27 inches
  • Broad Jump: 102 inches
  • Short Shuttle: 4.8 seconds
  • 3 cone: 7.8 seconds

So how did our All Pros and Pro Bowlers stack up to these average results?  Which drills or measurements were the most important in predicting future pro production?

The most important measurement was actually height.  Only 3 players measured under the average height of 6’5… those players being D. Bakhthiari, Duane Brown and Donald Penn, who each measured in at 6’4.  Not a single player that is 6’3 or shorter has made All Pro or Pro Bowl status as an offensive tackle since at least 2007.  Only slightly less important for measurements was arm length.  I could only find arm length data on 11 of the players, but of those 11 only Kyle Long has below average arm length, and it’s worth noting he has played both guard and tackle.  Hand size seemed much less important, as 3 out of 8 players measured had below average hand size.  Weight was all over the board, as it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be above or below the average weight depending on what the coach wants of their players.

As for the drills themselves, the most important was the 40 yard dash.  Out of our All Pros and Pro bowlers, 30 of them had combine data available in the 40 yard dash.  Of those 30 players, only 2 of them ran a below average 40 time (Tyson Clabo and Mitchell Schwartz).

The second most important drill was vertical jump.  3 out of 25 measured players had a below average vertical jump (B. Albert, M. Schwartz & D. Bakhthiari)

Third was broad jump.  6 out of 24 measured players had a below average broad jump (Bakhthiari, Schwartz, Roos, Diehl, Clabo, McNeill).

Fourth was short shuttle.  7 out of 26 measured players had a below average short shuttle.  (Schwartz, Cannon, J. Thomas, Whitworth, Diehl, Ferguson, McNeill)

Fifth was 3-cone.  10 out of 25 measured players had a below average 3 cone time.

Last, was bench press.  11 out of 26 players had a below average bench press.  Surprising for offensive linemen!

Full results in spreadsheet form are found here

 

 

Defensive tackles – Combine numbers vs Pro Production

Let’s look at which combine drills seem to be the most important in determining when a defensive tackle will be an effective pass rusher.  This is only to analyze those players who got high sack totals, it is not meant to analyze their ability to stop the run, etc.

For the study I examined the 2005-2016 seasons and found every defensive tackle who had 6 sacks or more in a season and examined their combine results.  Some of the players had no combine info available and some had partial info available.   Here is the list in no particular order…

  1. Rod Coleman (x2 seasons)
  2. Rocky Bernard
  3. Bryant Young (x2) (no combine info available)
  4. Warren Sapp (no combine)
  5. Cory Redding (only bench press)
  6. Vonnie Holliday (no combine)
  7. Corey Williams (x2)
  8. Cullen Jenkins (no combine)
  9. Darwin Walker (no combine)
  10. Darnell Dockett (no 3c, SS)
  11. Tommie Harris (only bench press)
  12. Shaun Rogers (no combine)
  13. Laroi Glover (no combine)
  14. Jovan Haye
  15. Albert Haynesworth (x2) (no combine)
  16. Kevin Williams (x2)
  17. Jay Ratliff (x3)
  18. Jonathan Babineaux
  19. Ndamukong Suh (x4)
  20. Tommy Kelly (x2)
  21. B.J. Raji
  22. Shaun Ellis (no combine)
  23. Fred Robbins
  24. Geno Atkins (x5)
  25. Karl Klug (only bench press)
  26. Henry Melton (x2) (no 3C, SS)
  27. Richard Seymour (no combine)
  28. Dwan Edwards
  29. Jason Hatcher
  30. Jurrell Casey
  31. Kyle Williams (no VJ, BJ)
  32. Gerald McCoy (x4)
  33. Marcel Dareus (x2)
  34. Nick Fairley (x2)
  35. Chris Jones
  36. Aaron Donald (x3)
  37. Sen’Derrick Marks (only 40 time & VJ)
  38. Jonathan Hankins
  39. Tom Johnson (no combine)
  40. Dontari Poe
  41. Kawaan Short (x3) (only 40 time)
  42. Leonard Williams
  43. Fletcher Cox (x2)
  44. Malik Jackson

I compared their combine data with the average defensive tackle combine participants’ combine data.

The average DT combine participants’ data was the following…

  • Height: 6’3
  • Weight: 298
  • 40 time: 5.12
  • Bench Press: 27.5
  • Vertical Jump: 28.06
  • Broad Jump: 105.53 inches
  • 3 cone: 7.59
  • Short Shuttle: 4.70

So which combine drill proved to be the most important?

Answer: The Short Shuttle (AKA 20 yard shuttle)

Out of the participants who had available combine data, only 3 players players ever had a 6 sack season who also had below average short shuttle times.  Those players were Kevin Williams, Fred Robbins and Jurrell Casey.

Robbins only obtained 6 sacks once in his career and that was exactly 6 sacks.  Casey has done it twice with a 10.5 sack season and a 7 sack season.  Kevin Williams is the true anomaly, as he started his career with 10.5 and 11.5 sacks before hitting a rough 3 year patch and then producing 8.5 and 6 sack seasons, then finished his career with 6 straight seasons where he did not obtain 6 or more sacks.

The short shuttle was easily the most important drill.  26 of the 6+ sack players participated in the short shuttle at the combine and only 3 of them had below average times.  So is it possible to have 6+ sacks with a below average short shuttle?  Obviously, but the odds are not in your favor.

If you narrowed the list down to only those players who have had multiple 6+ sack seasons (between ’05-’16), and combined their average short shuttle times, you’d get an impressive 4.52, nearly 2 tenths of a second faster than the average.  Narrow the list further to only those players who have had 3 or more 6+ sack seasons (Jay Ratliff, Ndamukong Suh, Geno Atkins, Gerald McCoy and Aaron Donald) and the average time drops even further to 4.39 seconds.

The second most important drill, believe it or not, was the 40 yard dash.

34 of our 6-sack players participated in the 40 yard dash and only 5 of them had below average 40 times.  Those players: Corey Williams, Shaun Rogers, Kyle Williams, Chris Jones and Jonathan Hankins.  Of those players, only Corey Williams managed to have more than one 6 sack season (he had 2).  So it’s clear that if you’re going to be a defensive tackle that consistently produces high sack totals, your 40 time needs to be under 5.12 seconds.

Here’s the list of drills in order of importance:

  1. Short Shuttle (26 above average, 3 below average)
  2. 40 yard dash (27 above average, 5 below average, 2 on the money)
  3. Vertical Jump (19 above average, 8 below average)
  4. 3 Cone (14 above average, 9 below average, 3 on the money)
  5. Broad Jump (13 above average, 11 below average)
  6. Height (21 above average, 12 below average, 10 on the money)
  7. Weight (23 under average weight, 19 above average weight, 2 on the money)
  8. Bench Press (14 under average reps, 12 above average reps)

Of the players who had 3 or more seasons of 6+ sacks, only Kevin Williams was below average in more than 1 drill.  And if Ndamukong Suh’s broad jump was half an inch longer, you could say that all of those guys with 3+ seasons were above average in every drill except Kevin Williams.  Guess the combine DOES matter.

The full combine results of the aforementioned players can be found here.

 

 

Edge Rushers – Combine Numbers vs Pro Production

This article will explain which combine tests are the best indicators of future pro production for edge rushers.  Let’s dig in.

From mockdraftable.com I found the following average numbers of combine participants… (I could not find enough data on the 20 yard split to make a trustworthy average)

  • Height: 6’3
  • Weight: 267
  • 10 yard split: 1.65
  • 40 yard dash: 4.83
  • Bench: 23 reps
  • Vertical: 33 inches
  • Broad: 114 inches
  • 3 cone: 7.24
  • 20 yard shuttle: 4.42

So to determine which of these tests is the best indicator of future pro production, I dug up the combine numbers of every edge rusher who ever had 8 or more sacks in a season since 2005 and compared them with the averages.

I understand that sacks are not the end-all be-all of production, and that many things can factor into sack totals such as supporting cast, hustle, quality of opponents and just plain luck, but for purposes of this study it’ll have to do.  It’s also not to say that some of the players who tested poorly couldn’t move inside to defensive tackle and be productive there, or stay at defensive end and be solid against the run, but this study focuses solely on edge rushers’ potential to get high sack totals.

75 edge rushers have registered at least one 8 sack season since 2005.  I noted which of those 75 players had below average combine results.  (A few folks like Terrell Suggs had incomplete data and were left out of the study)

Of the 75 players, only 12 of them had a below average vertical jump.  This appeared to be the most important test.  Here are the full results:

  • Below average vertical jump: 12
  • Below average broad jump: 15
  • Below average 3-cone: 17
  • Below average 40 yard dash: 17
  • Below average shuttle: 19
  • Below average height: 19
  • Below average bench press: 28
  • Below average 10 yard split: 32
  • Below average weight: 46

Obviously weight is somewhat linked to the player’s height but the majority of the 8 sack players weighed less than the average of 267, so for purposes of this study I graded weights HEAVIER than 267 to be negative.

As far as the 10 yard split goes, my feeling is that the 10 yard split measurements are such an inexact science that it’s hard to even take the measurements as being truly indicative of a player’s burst.  We all know full well that a quick first step is extremely important so I’m chalking that one up to inexact measuring.

So given that the vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone and the 40 yard dash are the most important pre-indicators of sack production, I took a look at the players who scored below average in at least 3 out of 4 of those “big 4” categories to try to see just how important the combine tests proved to be.

Of the 75 players who had at least one 8-sack season, only 5 of them had below average test results for 3 out of 4 of the “big 4” tests.

Those 5 players are are listed in the chart below (sub-par times in red).

5 elite sub par

Let’s go over them.  First up is Hali.  Hali has had an extremely productive career.  Not only was Hali sub-par in the big 4 tests, but he was also sub-par in the bench press.  His 10 yard split was not available.  How did he defy the odds?  My guess is that it’s because his times were actually recorded at a pro day, not the actual combine.  Perhaps he tested on a slow track and field, perhaps he was being timed by hand instead of the electronic timing of the combine, or perhaps he just wasn’t feeling it that day or was battling a nagging injury or something.

How about Bryce Fisher?  Well, Fisher did technically have two seasons of 8+ sacks, but that’s all he had, and he never topped more than 9 sacks in a season.  Outside of those 2 seasons, the most sacks he ever had was 4.  He only played 7 seasons in the league and bounced around to 4 different teams.  So while he did break the 8 sack mark, one can hardly consider his career productive as a whole.

Paul Kruger’s story is similar to that of Fisher.  He’s played 7 seasons so far and has broken the 8 sack mark twice, with his best season totaling 11 sacks.  Outside of those 2 seasons, his best was 5.5 sacks.

Michael Bennett of the Seahawks has broken the 8 sack threshold in 3 different seasons, with his best season totaling 10 sacks.  It’s worth noting that Bennett has had the luxury of playing with the best secondary in the league for the past 3 seasons and has had plenty of help on the defensive line to give him favorable 1-on-1 matchups.

Robert Ayers just barely made the list because he did have one season of 8+ sacks which was last year when he finally tallied 9.5 sacks in his 7th season as a pro.  Prior to that, 5.5 sacks was the most he had tallied in a season.  You have to wonder if he didn’t just kind of “fall into” some of the sacks he had last year, because it was an anomaly compared to the rest of his career.

So of the 5 players listed, only Tamba Hali has had a truly elite career of multiple 10+ sack seasons, and again I think this can be chalked up to pro day times that were likely slower than Hali’s true athleticism.  I have a feeling that if he had been healthy and had tested at the combine he would have performed much better than he did at his pro day, but that’s just my educated guess.

So as you can see only 1 player has tested below average in 3 out of 4 of the big 4 tests and has still gone on to have an elite career.  The jury’s still out on Michael Bennett I suppose, but however you slice it, it’s very rare for someone to have consistently high sack totals if they test poorly in the big 4 tests.

Which brings us to the rookie class of 2016.  The following players tested below average in all 4 of the big 4.  (K. Dodd and R. Thompson did not participate in all of the big 4 tests so they were left out of the study)

worstrookies

Statistically and historically speaking, the above players have a very, very small chance of ever getting 8 or more sacks in a season.  Ronald Blair reportedly was injured during his combine tests so you might put an asterisk next to his name, but the outlook doesn’t look good for these guys who tested poorly in all 4 of the big 4.

The following players tested poorly in 3 out of the big 4 tests.

badrookies

These guys also have a huge uphill battle.

How about the players who tested well?  I’ll list them too, although it goes without saying that good test results even in the big 4 do not guarantee future production, it shows that they are at least athletically capable of being productive pass rushers.

The following players tested average or above average in all 4 of the big 4 tests.

bestrookies

The following players tested average or above average in 3 of the big 4 tests. (Tapper may have scored well in all 4 but did not participate in the 3-cone)

goodrookies

So there you have it.  It will be interesting to see which of these rookies goes on to have successful careers as pass rushers, but I wouldn’t put my money on the guys who didn’t test well in the big 4 tests.  History shows that the odds are just not in their favor.

Update: Let’s take a look at the 2017 combine.

Here are some of the top ranked edge rushers and their results…

2017edge

Overall it was a pretty good combine for most of the top ranked edge guys… Barnett was below average in Vertical and 40 which is a concern, although his 3-cone drill was excellent.  McKinley’s 40 time was elite, but his vertical jump was average, and his 3-cone and short shuttle were dreadful.  Myles Garrett and Rivers were the only two guys listed that were above average in every drill.