The NFL Combine receives so much fanfare now that you might think an athlete's Combine performance has a disproportionate influence on his NFL Draft standing. Football analysts like Mel Kiper might believe this; however, Combine performance does not affect Draft results as much as you might expect.
A recent study published in the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that performance in the eight physical Combine tests actually had a minimal correlation to Draft outcomes. The study also revealed that of the eight tests, those given the most weight in teams' selection decisions were the 40-Yard Dash and Vertical Jump.
It turns out that greatness cannot be quantified on a stat sheet. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns CB, and Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB, turned in lackluster Combine performances, yet both were drafted high (seventh and 17th, respectively). Now they are rising stars in their respective positions, showing that ability to play the game and competitive character are not measured by the current Combine.
For more accurate assessments of athletes, the study suggests, the Combine should be revised to better reflect physical characteristics specific to football players, and to include testing of non-physical skills, such as mental focus.
Under Armour has pioneered a combine program called Combine360, which offers an more comprehensive approach to measuring athletic performance. Three different aspects are tested—athleticism, sport-specific movement and character (which includes nutrition and mental toughness). The program helps athletes discover their weaknesses so they can improve; however, it could also serve as a model for how the NFL could change the Combine to give teams more information and fuller athlete profiles.
The following videos will give you an exclusive look at the Under Armour Combine360:
Source: Robbins, DW. The NFL Combine: does normalized data better predict performance in the NFL draft? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(11): 2888-2899, 2010.
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