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To Run or Not to Run?

Peter Zana

The Value of the 40-Yard Dash for NFL Prospects

The unofficial start of NFL Draft season has arrived via the NFL Scouting Combine. Like almost every other year, the talk is all about the 40-yard dash as the NFL world descends on Indianapolis. However, Combine talk in 2016 is centered on whether the iconic measurement for straight-line speed actually provides projectable value when assessing a player’s in-game ability.

Prior to the Combine this week, National Football Scouting, Inc., which runs the Indianapolis-based Combine, stated it is establishing a committee to review the process and activities the athletes will complete at the NFL Combine. The committee will review if each test the athletes test out in are the proper ones, including the 40-yard dash. Then anything that comes from this will need to get passed over to Zybek Sports – the guys who run the electronics that measure all these skills drills. The review of these workouts makes sense, and it is our belief at isplack that constant review of your process helps to refine and leads to improvements in the long run.

The committee ultimately deciding on the 40-yard dash’s relevancy won’t be making the decision in time to change things this week. Because of that, let’s look at some pros the 40-yard dash can have, as well as a few suggestions for improvement.

Pros:

Straight Line Speed Matters

On the surface it might be hard to see why straight line speed actually makes a difference. While the majority of plays in football do not require the ability to run 40 yards in a straight line, the plays that do leak out into this type of space can change a game. Picture a wide receiver that out runs a defensive back, or a defensive back that chases down a skill player. Think about a linebacker or defensive end taking an angle to chase down a running back on the edge. The difference between who out runs who in these situations can often lead to points being scored, or prevented, for that player’s team. Game-changing plays often happen because of speed, therefore measuring if a player has the ability to make these plays is still very important.   

The Splits

In addition to measuring the full 40-yard dash of each player, each 10-yard split within the 40-yards is measured as well. While 40-yard straight line plays might not be plentiful, 10-yard plays occur nearly every series. If a player runs an average 40-yard dash, but has an above average 10-yard split for the first 10 yards, it can reveal quite a bit about a player’s explosiveness. Knowing a player’s burst can determine if he has the ability to take aggressive angles or get around the corner. Measuring the splits of a 40-yard dash is arguably more useful than the measurement of the full 40 yards.  

Suggestions:

Put the Pads On

This one is pretty obvious. These guys play every single snap of their lives in pads and helmets. Let’s go ahead and measure them with the pads on for the Combine activities to see how much the full gear will actually restrict them. If a guy can stand out with pads on then he is probably destined for the next level. Pads significantly slowing a guy down could lead to red flags.

No More Track Starts

Football players don’t have the luxury to get off the line in a perfect track-stance while on the field. Let’s leave the track starts to the Olympic athletes and test the football player out the actual football stance that is relevant to their position. Wide receivers don’t put their hands in the ground when split wide, so let’s not have them run their future-deciding 40-yard dash with a hand on the ground either.

Ultimately, we here at isplack feel there is a place for the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but some changes might help make the application to the sport more realistic. Either way, we are excited to see these incredible athletes run and jump this week. These young men have worked incredibly hard to make their dream come true, and we hope they all go out to Indy and show that each of them should be given a shot. Good luck guys!

Get Your Colors On! 

Peter Zana, VP Sales