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Is that a good 3 cone time? Your Guide to NFL Combine Drills

The 2015 NFL Combine gets under way this week and many in the fantasy football community are clamoring to see how their favorite players test. However, for as much hype as the NFL Combine drills receive, many seem to struggle to make sense of the data, outside the 40 yard dash. For instance, could you answer any of these questions off the top of your head?

  • What is a good 3 cone time for a tight end?
  • What is a good vertical jump for a receiver?
  • What does the average running back weigh?

Whether you had an answer to those questions or not, this guide will help make your NFL Combine experience even more fun because you’ll have a better understanding of what all the results mean. Also, to help understand how offensive and defensive players match up, I’ve ordered the article with opposing positions close to each other (i.e. pass catchers are listed next to defensive backs). As an overarching theme, if a player is heavier than their position average, it’s okay to relax their expectation a bit. If they’re lighter, hold them to a higher standard. Note that this data is based on Combine performances between 2006-2014.

Same as with the age database, if you end up referencing these numbers in one of your own articles, please link back to this one. Without further adieu, here are the benchmarks for every position, minus kickers & punters, and commentary on some key drills. 

Combine Averages – Quarterbacks and Running Backs

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
QB75.2223.727.84.8219.530.9110.04.357.11
RB70.6213.330.14.5419.334.8118.24.287.07

Quarterbacks – Pay attention to weight. In the interest of full disclosure, my work on passers still has a long way to go, so I’m going outsource this commentary to Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight, who suggested that quarterback weight is tremendously undervalued. After you read the rest of this article, come back up and check out Benjamin’s work.

Running Backs – Pay attention to 3 cone times. I’ll also point out that weight and speed matter too, but you’re probably already familiar with that notion. One factor that seems to matter, but isn’t fully accounted for by NFL teams or fantasy footballers, is agility, as measured by the 3 cone. Guys like LeGarrette Blount, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams are a few examples of big backs with outstanding 3 cone performances. On the other side of the coin, you have top-100 picks like Cedric Benson, Glen Coffee and Lorenzo Booker.

Combine Averages – Linebackers

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
ILB73.6241.931.44.7522.833.3114.44.327.15
OLB74.0242.031.14.6923.334.4116.94.317.11

Linebackers – I haven’t completed my IDP research yet, so I won’t comment on drills to watch. Instead, I’ll simply point out how similar these results are to the RB position, with the exceptions being that linebackers are much bigger and a little slower.

Combine Averages – Pass Catchers

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
TE76.6253.230.44.7420.933.2115.44.417.16
WR72.9201.426.64.5016.535.3120.34.256.92

Tight Ends – Pay attention to 3 cone times. I wrote last year about weight-adjusted agility for tight ends and, although I realize now how my methodology for that article could have been improved, my latest research still shows that agility matters for tight ends. Looking back up at the linebackers, we can again see how similar athletically they are compared to tight ends, with the exception of TEs being notable bigger, hence the matchup problems they cause. Dennis Pitta, Aaron Hernandez and Jimmy Graham are among the tight ends who weigh over 245 pounds with a 3 cone time under 6.9 seconds. In other words, they weigh at least 40 pounds more than the average receiver, but are more agile; no wonder they have enjoyed such outstanding receiving stats. For some top-100 examples with poor agility, look at Martellus Bennett, Leonard Pope and Eric Ebron.

Wide Receivers – Pay attention to vertical jump. After adding draft pick into my projection model, 40 time ends up being non-significant, which implies that 40 time is already being factored into where a player is drafted. Meanwhile, vertical jump remains significant in my model, indicating that it is an undervalued aspect of the wide receiver evaluation. Calvin Johnson, Mike Evans and Dez Bryant are among the top wide receivers in terms of a great combination of size and vertical. On the other end of the spectrum, you have top-100 picks like Tavon Austin, Yamon Figurs and Harry Douglas.

Combine Averages – Defensive Backs

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
CB71.6195.826.84.4915.435.5121.34.186.90
Safety72.6208.727.94.5617.235.4120.24.236.99

Defensive Backs – for as much attention as receivers get, I think cornerbacks are the most fun position to pay attention to, simply because they put up the best raw numbers. Again, no further commentary due to incomplete research.

Combine Averages – Offensive Lineman

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
Tackle77.8315.136.75.2325.127.6102.14.777.79
Guard76.0315.538.45.3026.226.799.84.817.87
Center75.3302.837.65.2327.227.2100.74.677.71

Offensive Lineman – you can see here that tackles tend to be the leanest (lowest BMI) and most athletic of the lineman, which matches the narrative. Meanwhile, guards are the thickest and stronger players, but tend to be less athletic. When you hear “this guy might have to shift inside and become aguard”, I think that’s reflective of their questionable level of athleticism. Centers tend to be the lightest, strongest and most agile of the cohort.

Combine Averages – Defensive Lineman

POSHtWtBMI40BenchVertBroadShuttle3 cone
DT74.9308.438.75.1028.629.1104.94.667.68
DE76.0267.332.64.8123.732.6114.24.477.30

Defensive Lineman – Defensive tackles seem to line up well with interior lineman across the board; they’re shorter, thicker and stronger. Defensive ends look athletically similar to tight ends and outside linebackers, despite being the largest athletes of that cohort. If an intergalactic war broke out and we needed an army to defend mankind, I would start with defensive lineman.


Jon Moore is a contributor at RotoViz and a cohost of Rotoviz Radio – A Fantasy Football Podcast.  Continue this conversation with him on TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook.

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