The expression "leap up draft boards" is nowhere more appropriate than when measuring the vertical jump at the NFL combine. Whether it be a defender attacking the line of scrimmage to knock down a throw or a kick or a receiver attempting to high-point the football, leaping ability is becoming more important as the NFL evolves into a more passing-oriented league.
|March 1||40-yard dash|
|March 2||Vertical leap|
|March 3||Broad jump|
|March 5||Short shuttle|
|March 6||Long shuttle|
|March 7||Positional drills|
These combine close-ups are meant to identify some players whose athleticism (or lack of it) demonstrated in a specific drill really will have an impact on where they are selected May 8-10 in the 2014 NFL Draft.
This focus on the vertical jump is one of a nine-part series from NFLDraftScout.com taking a closer look at each combine event, shifting the spotlight to some athletes who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks of coverage from the week in Indianapolis.
Event: Like the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump is an indicator of lower body explosiveness. After a player's reach is measured, he leaps straight up as high as possible. He is reaching to knock tabs out of place, spaced a half-inch apart. The difference between a player's initial reach and the tab he hits is his vertical leap measurement. You may have tried a simplified version as a youth if you dunked (or tried to dunk) a basketball on an adjustable rim and backboard.
Results: They can be sorted by name, position, size, school or event here.
Winners: In the notoriously copycat NFL, expect teams to attempt to mimic the Seattle Seahawks' success with long, athletic cornerbacks. That is music to the ears of Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste, whose 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame is made even longer because of an eye-popping 41.5-inch vertical jump -- the highest of all "skill position" players on either side of the ball tested in Indianapolis. Like Seattle's Richard Sherman, Jean-Baptiste times his leaps well and is faster on the field than he is in workouts (4.61) because of surprising fluidity and his background as a receiver.
With all due respect to Jadaveon Clowney (who posted an impressive 37.5), no big man performed better in the vertical jump than Minnesota's 6-6, 310-pound Ra'Shede Hageman, whose 35.5 would have tied him for 11th among all wide receivers -- the most gifted position group in the 2014 draft class. Better yet, Hageman's vertical translates onto the gridiron; he knocked down eight passes and two kicks in 2013.
While Clowney and Hagemen were impressive, Shepherd's Howard Jones may have opened the most eyes among scouts watching defensive linemen test in this event, recording an eye-catching 40.5-inch vertical during a terrific all-around workout. Characterized as a "poor man's Dee Ford by one scout familiar with Jones' play, the 6-2, 235 pounder wowed throughout his workout. Proving athletic enough to handle a move to linebacker, expect to hear his name more frequently as the draft approaches as scouts from 4-3 and 3-4 teams alike investigate how they could best take advantage of the raw athleticism which helped Jones record 35 career sacks in college.
Losers: Scouts love receivers who have great height but are cautious of those who don't play to their natural advantages. As such, surprisingly poor numbers from big receivers like Florida State's 6-5, 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin (32.5), Rutgers' 6-6, 225 pound Brandon Coleman (32.5) and BYU's 6-4, 223-pound Cody Hoffman (27.5) could have an adverse effect on their stock.
Just as his surprisingly pedestrian 4.58-showing in the 40-yard dash should raise some red-flags with Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, so too should his 33-inch vertical -- only one inch better than the worst among all safeties tested in 2014.
Surprises: Scouts knew Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier was explosive, but few would have predicted that he'd lead the combine with a 42-inch vertical -- especially after measuring in heavier than expected at 6-1, 237 pounds. Shazier's vertical (and all-around stellar workout) is among the reasons why he's overtaken Alabama's C.J. Mosley as the top 4-3 linebacker on some boards.
Leaping ability is a desirable trait for wide receivers, given the number of jump balls that take place in today game. Long, athletic receivers like Baylor's Tevin Reese (41-inch vertical), Fresno State's Davante Adams (39.5), Mississippi's Donte Moncrief (39.5) and Clemson's Martavis Bryant (39) were expected to star in this event but surprising efforts were turned in by slot receivers Damian Copeland (40) and Mike Campanaro (39), who come in at 5-11, 184 pounds and 5-9, 192. The explosive verticals provide quantitative evidence of why each became the most trusted receivers in their collegiate offenses and perhaps stand a better chance than most receivers of their rather pedestrian size to make it in the NFL.