The NFL Combine is an important portion of my pre-draft evaluation process. It's not an over-hyped athletic exhibition.
Context is key over the next week. The heights and weights of prospects have to be considered with all testing, and now with 20 years of combine data, there's plenty of historical examples to which players from this year's draft class can be compared.
Before I begin, 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."
Here's a list of all the combine drills and the prospects who should flourish in each.
This is the event most closely tied to the combine. There's been so much fanfare and hype 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. It's a great measure of a phrase you'll see in my evaluations often "linear explosiveness."
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
Isabella is already a part of Draft Twitter folk lore based on the fact that he went for over 200 yards with two touchdowns against Georgia and beat 2018 top 5 pick Denzel Ward -- who ran 4.32 at last year's combine -- in a track race in high school. Isabella flies.
Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State
Another high school track standout, Sheffield won the 2014 Texas state 5A title in the 110-meter dash ... then repeated as champion in 2015. His speed is evident on the field.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
A star kick returner and big-play specialist on offense, Hardman looks supercharged. He's the type of prospect with the rare combination of elite burst and scary long speed.
20-Yard and 60-Yard Shuttle
The shuttle drills are a fine measuring stick for explosiveness and change-of-direction ability. A good chunk of the athletes decline to participate in the 60-yard drill, and the 20-yard version is probably more translatable to the field of play.
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Murphy is the twitchiest defensive back in the class, and he's bound to weigh in well under 200 pounds. He has the body type to thrive in his event. Anything under 4.00 seconds would be outstanding.
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
Another dynamic athlete with serious acceleration when moving in any direction, expect the Delaware product to shine in either of the shuttle drills. He's bigger than Murphy but shouldn't have a problem showing off his burst, twitch, and explosiveness when changing directions.
Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
I think highly of Isabella as an athlete. So does everyone else. As a smaller, lighter wideout with amazing feet, he should stand out in this drill among the receiver group that features many bigger pass catchers.
This is one of the most overrated, not super-translatable drills at the combine. It undoubtedly measures upper body strength, but it's typically the shorter-armed prospects who thrive in the bench.
Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Lawrence is a gargantuan human listed at 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds during his junior year in 2018. On film, his bull rush is impossibly powerful. That same movement will be used in the bench. I'm expecting somewhere in the 33-37 rep range for Lawrence.
Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma
Samia is as gritty of a battler as you'll find at guard in this class, and he was listed as a top performer in the bench among offensive linemen at Oklahoma ... in 2016.
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Two Clemson defensive linemen here? No wonder the Tigers shut down Alabama in the national title. Wilkins is a compact defensive lineman who many times put his significant strength on display during his illustrious collegiate career in the ACC.
Leaping forward from a stand still, the broad jump is a fine measure of explosiveness. Typically the long, lean athletes with above-average twitchiness stand out in this event.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Metcalf is an athletic marvel, and his legs have to be of superhero strength given how fast he moves his gigantic frame down the field. I bet we're looking at 132-inches plus (11 feet) for Metcalf in this event.
Derrek Thomas, CB, Baylor
A raw but tall and clearly athletic outside corner who transferred from Temple, Thomas has the lanky body type to crush this event.
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
Butler may not have the entire workout Metcalf does, but he should be a few inches taller and might match the ultra-hyped Ole Miss receiver in the jumps.
There aren't many times in a football game when a player needs to jump as high as he can. However, if you catch the football for a living you may need to get off your feet to snag a wayward pass. And, like the broad jump, its combine brother, the vertical does a fantastic job measuring explosiveness.
Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Fant is a lot like former first-round tight end Evan Engram on the field, and don't be stunned when his combine workout aligns with the New York Giants pass catcher. Engram jumped 36 inches in 2017. Fant very well could be closer to 40.
Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
Campbell is a true speedster, and his strength as a runner should translate well to the vertical. Campbell has plus long speed but hits top gear in a hurry.
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Remember last year when Saquon Barkley erupted in Indianapolis? Of course you do. His teammate Mike Gesicki jumped 41.5 inches at just over 6-5 and 247 pounds. Oruwariye looks like another stud athlete from Penn State. He spent years working out with the same strength and conditioning coach at College Station, Dwight Galt.
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 with seemingly no problems changing direction, excel in this drill.
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Another agility drill nod for Murphy. I'll be surprised if he doesn't enter the prestigious "Under 7.00 second (three-cone), Under 4.00 second (short shuttle)" club that features just 40 cornerbacks -- of roughly 700 who've participated in the combine starting in 2000.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Oliver won't have the fastest time in the three-cone at this year's combine. He'll probably set a record for defensive tackles though. There's even some buzz that Oliver could sneak over to the edge on occasion or ... even take some snaps at linebacker in the NFL. Seriously, he's that ridiculous of an athlete.
Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest
Dortch is an ultra-slippery slot wideout with powerful legs that allow him to easily create separation on the field. His goal should be a time under 6.75 seconds.