2018 NFL Combine: Here's a look at the drills and the prospects who could ace them

I'm a big NFL Combine guy. Love it, actually. 

Being able to compare the measured athleticism for prospects in the same class and those who've come before them is invaluable. And yes, film is most important, but the combine paints a general picture of physical capabilities. 

Now's the appropriate time to present my favorite combine-related quote from analytics enthusiast Zach Whitman: 

"Not all good athletes are good players. Very few poor athletes are good players. Most great players are great athletes."

40-Yard Dash 

The most publicized, followed, and hyped event at the combine. There's been so much fanfare surrounding this event for so long that it's become popular to think it's wildly overrated. While it's not the be all, end all of athletic prowess, it does carry importance, and the 10-yard split is an easily translatable faction of this event.

Donte Jackson, CB, LSU 

Jackson has a reputation as an effortless speedster, and many expect the former Tigers cornerback to run the fastest 40 in Indy.

Tony Brown, CB, Alabama

Another SEC cornerback who absolutely flies down the field. His film isn't spectacular, yet he should excel running in a straight line for 40 yards.

Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State

Hines has a track background at N.C. State. His career-best time on the indoor track in the 60-meter dash is 6.71. So, yeah, he can really move. 

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

Another track star, Oliver ran a 6.94 second 60-meter dash at Colorado in 2016. On film, the cornerback cruises downfield.

20-Yard and 60-Yard Shuttle 

The shuttle drills are a fine measuring stick for explosiveness and change-of-direction ability. Many athletes decide to not participate in the 60-yard drill, and the 20-yard version is probably more translatable to the field of play.

Deontay Burnett, WR, USC

Burnett glides in and out of his breaks while running routes and with the ball in his hands. While he may not have the long strides to sustain speed in the 60-yard shuttle, he should excel in the 20-yard drill. 

Mark Walton, RB, Miami

Walton is another smaller, quick-twitch player who wins with burst and suddenness. If completely healed from his 2017 injury, this is the drill for him.

D.J. Reed, CB, Kansas State

There's a group of smaller-stature, dynamic movers at the cornerback spot in this class. Reed's rapid click-and-close helps him to close on the ball and is exactly the type of movement he needs in this drill. 

Bench Press 

This is one of the most overrated drills at the combine. It undoubtedly measures upper body strength but it's typically the shorter-armed prospects who thrive in the bench. 

Kentavius Street, DT, NC State

For years, Street has been billed as one of the most physically gifted defensive linemen in the country. His strength is very apparent on film.

Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

Hernandez looks like a NFL veteran at almost 6-foot-3 and 340 pounds. On film, his drive blocking and grip in pass protection are devastating to defensive front players. 

Broad Jump 

Leaping forward from a stand still, the broad jump is a fine measure of explosiveness. Typically the long, lean athletes stand out in this event.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

FItzpatrick is a former five-star recruit who's starred all over the field for the Crimson Tide during his illustrious career. At around 6-1 and 200 pounds, he's the exact type of prospect to jump close to (if not more than) 11 feet.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech 

Edmunds is an almost unfathomably long, rangy athlete at the linebacker position, and while he likely won't set a combine record in this event, at 245-ish pounds, he should jump extremely well.

Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

Another tall, cut-up specimen, it'll be surprising if Davenport doesn't have one of the longer broad jumps among edge-defenders in Indy. 

Vertical Jump 

Derwin James, S, Florida State

I don't think a 40-inch vertical is out of the question for James, a defensive back who's been an alpha since his freshman year at Florida State. He's in the mold of former Seminole Jalen Ramsey, who jumped 41.5-inches in 2015. 

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Comparably sized to Edmunds, Vander Esch is a supreme athlete playing the linebacker position at 6-4 and around 250 pounds. Anything above 33 inches for him would indicate crazy lower-leg power from this Boise State star.

Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State

Ballage should put on a tremendous performance in Indianapolis, and he moves unlikely the vast majority of 6-2, 220-plus pound running backs. A vertical in the upper 30-inch range would not be surprising.

Three-Cone Drill 

Despite not airing on NFL Network, to me, the three-cone drill is the most vital drill at the combine. While no drill can tell the future for prospects, the three-cone does the best job testing explosion and twitchiness. The truly special athletes excel in this drill.

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF 

Hughes' short-area athleticism allows him to play aggressively in coverage and when the ball arrives. At (likely) well under 6-foot and 200-pounds, this UCF standout should have a three-cone time well under the coveted 7.00-second mark.

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland 

On the field, Moore is an elusive, make-you-miss pass-catcher. If he's close to 200 pounds, it could be difficult to have one of the better times in this event, but the Maryland wideout should have one of the quickest times in this vital athletic test.

John Kelly, RB, Tennessee

Kelly is a bouncy, hard-nosed runner who wins with balance and jump-cut ability. He's likely to be one of the lightest running backs at the combine, which should aid his time in the three-cone.

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