2020 NFL Combine: Most important drills for each position, including target times and distances


Context is absolutely vital when watching the NFL combine. Every time in the 40-yard dash, every inch in the vertical, etc., has a different meaning for different positions. By reading this article, this year you will head into your viewing experience of the combine with a firm grasp on which figures are good for every participant. That’s our goal today.

Recently on Twitter, NFL Draft Godfather and Hall of Famer Gil Brandt sent a picture of this handy chart listing the minimum “requirements” in every drill at the combine for every position. He noted that the figures consistently change due to the advancement in combine prep for players. 

Below you will find those figures listed in the 40-yard dash, three-cone, vertical jump and broad jump for all the positions along with a percentage of participants who’ve eclipsed Brandt’s threshold over the past three years at the combine (the on-field workouts for this year’s combine begin Feb. 27 and run through March 1). This is meant to give you an idea of just how impressive a prospect passing a threshold in a specific drill truly is.*

*Due to teams viewing some participants differently position-wise — such as offensive tackle or guard — I combined the offensive linemen and used the faster times/higher jumps. Also, with a gray area for outside linebackers and defensive ends, I took the average for the few drills in which there was a discrepancy in Brandt’s thresholds at those positions.

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Gil Brandt on Twitter

Quarterbacks 

40-Yard Dash: 4.90 seconds

Over the past three years, 30 of 44 (68.1%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.15 seconds

Over the past three years, 27 of 40 participants (67.5%) in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 108 inches 

Over the past three years, 33 of 44 participants (75%) in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 30 inches

Over the past three years, 25 of 45 (55.5%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

In general, on-field measured drills for quarterbacks are quickly dismissed as unimportant, but with the improvisational aspect of playing the position seemingly becoming more important in today’s game, we all should probably take extra time evaluating what this crop of quarterbacks does in Indianapolis beyond throwing the football.

Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, and Michigan’s Shea Patterson should be the best performers across the board at the quarterback position. Utah State’s Jordan Love, Missouri’s Kelly Bryant, and headliner Joe Burrow from LSU have impressive athleticism on film too. There really isn’t anyone who’s expected to distance himself athletically in this year’s class. 

Should we believe the Dolphins actually prefer Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa? There are a lot of draft questions out there, and Will Brinson is joined by the Pick Sox Podcast Superfriends to break them all down. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.

Running Backs 

40-Yard Dash: 4.55 seconds

Over the past three years, 35 of 75 participants (46.6%) in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.10 seconds

Over the past three years, 23 of 42 participants (54.7%) in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 117 inches 

Over the past three years, 51 of 72 participants (70.8%) in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 36 inches

Over the past three years, 16 of 79 participants (20.2%) in this drill were above the threshold.

From explosiveness (broad jump and vertical) to lateral quickness (three-cone) to downfield speed (40-yard dash), much can be gleaned from a running backs performance in the combine as it pertains to his ability on the field.

Western Michigan’s LeVante Bellmany is burner, as are the two Maryland backs, Anthony McFarland and Javon Leake. Arizona’s J.J. Taylor, Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin, and Washington’s Salvon Ahmed should crush the agility drill testing and finish near the top of group in the jumps. 

As for the premier backs in this class, who all happen to have similar physical profiles — Florida State’s Cam Akers, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift — we’re likely to see some clear-cut separation after they all work out. 

Also, I’ll be watching for another back to enter the prestigious 4.40-40 club, which is running the 40-yard dash in 4.40 or faster and jumping 40-plus inches in the vertical. We’ve had a new member in each of the past two draft classes — Saquon Barkley in 2018 and Justice Hill last year — the first since Cedric Peerman accomplished the feat in 2009. They are the only three backs in the 4.40-40 club over the past 20 years at the combine. 

Wide Receivers 

40-Yard Dash: 4.50 seconds

Over the past three years, 56 of 123 (45.5%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.00 seconds

Over the past three years, 53 of 95 (55.7%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 120 inches

Over the past three years, 66 of 129 (51.1%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 36 inches 

Over the past three years, 43 of 129 (33.3%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Draft analysts like yours truly will occasionally say “the 40-yard dash is overrated.” For some positions that is true. But, for receivers, it really isn’t. Sure, a litany of star wideouts across the history of the NFL ran somewhat slowly in the 40, but if there’s one position that actually runs in a straight line for 40 yards with some regularity, it’s the wideouts. 

Last year, the not nearly as hyped receiver group absolutely scorched the track inside Lucas Oil Stadium with seven times in the 4.30s and 11 more in the 4.40s. 

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs along with TCU’s Jalen Reagor, Penn State’s K.J. Hamler, Boise State’s John Hightower, and Baylor’s Denzel Mims should fly in the 40 and test in the upper echelon in the jumps. 

Hamler and Reagor should be among the best overall testers, and I expect Ohio State’s K.J. Hill and SMU’s James Proche to show off their quicks in the three-cone.

Tight Ends

40-Yard Dash: 4.85 seconds

Over the past three years, 27 of 37 (72.9%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.30 seconds

Over the past three years, 32 of 41 (78%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 114 inches

Over the past three years, 29 of 45 (64.4%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 32 inches 

Over the past three years, 27 of 48 (56.2%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

As the above percentages at this position indicate, the tight end position has gotten collectively much more athletic of late, as teams have placed a much higher priority on receiving ability than blocking prowess. 

This is not a class that is likely to have a first-rounder after two went in Round 1 a year ago, but a small group could go on Day 2, including the prospects I expect to demonstrate high-level athleticism like Dayton’s Adam Trautman, UCLA’s Devin Asiasi, Washington’s Hunter Bryant, Florida Atlantic’s Harrison Bryant, and Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins. 

Offensive Line

40-Yard Dash: 5.20 seconds

Over the past three years, 41 of 115 (35.6%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.85 seconds 

Over the past three years, 57 of 110 (56.2%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 102 inches

Over the past three years, 77 of 119 (64.7%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 30 inches

Over the past three years, 23 of 113 (19.4%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

It’s easy and seemingly logical to completely overlook offensive linemen’s workouts at the combine. While one drill doesn’t necessarily stand out at this position, the workouts as a whole paint a pretty vivid picture of how athletic a blocker is, and just like any other non-QB spot on the field, the best players tend to be the best athletes. 

This is a loaded offensive tackle class, and the interior position isn’t nearly as top-heavy or deep. It will be interesting to see how gargantuan blockers like monsters like Louisville’s Mekhi Becton and Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson compared to some of the “smaller” tackles and if an under-the-radar guard or center jump into the Day 2 conversation with an impressive showing (potentially Charlotte’s Cameron Clark or TCU’s Cordel Iwuagwu).

Edge Rushers 

40-Yard Dash: 4.775

Over the past three years, 40 of 76 (52.6%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.125

Over the past three years, 18 of 58 (31%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 117

Over the past three years, 39 of 73 (53.4%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 34.5

Over the past three years, 24 of 75 (32%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

The three-cone drill is the lifeblood of analytics centered around the edge-rusher spot, and with good reason. The three-cone tests a player’s ability to explode and bend, which translates to defensive ends and outside linebackers tightly turning the corner en route to the quarterback. 

Unless you’re absolutely enormous, you do not want to be anything more than a half-tick above 7.12 seconds in the three-cone. I expect LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson, Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara, and Ohio State’s Chase Young to rock the three-cone and test through the roof altogether.  

Utah’s Bradlee Anae, who doesn’t look especially explosive on film but is a master with his hands, could skyrocket up boards with a big combine. The same is true for Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes. Keep an eye on Boise State’s Curtis Weaver too. 

Defensive Linemen

40-Yard Dash: 5.10 seconds

Over the past three years, 34 of 68 (50%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.75 seconds

Over the past three years, 38 of 54 (70.3%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 105 inches

Over the past three years, 67 of 79 (84.8%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 31 inches

Over the past three years, 37 of 62 (59.6%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Defensive linemen are getting smaller and more explosive, following the defender of most defensive positions in the NFL. The run-stuffer who can’t get after the passer is being phased out while positional versatility and sheer explosiveness up the field are traits teams are looking for now more than ever. 

South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw should dazzle, as should Auburn’s monstrous interior disruptor Derrick Brown. Look for TCU’s Ross Blacklock, Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike, and Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore to test well too. 

Linebackers 

40-Yard Dash: 4.75

Over the past three years, 55 of 75 (73.3%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.15

Over the past three years, 38 of 55 (69%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 115.5 inches

Over the past three years, 67 of 79 (84.8%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 34.5 inches

Over the past three years, 29 of 77 (37.6%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Speed at the linebacker spot has undergone a mammoth shift over the past few years as teams are asking so much from that position in coverage today. Heck, just last year, three linebackers ran sub-4.45 and nine total linebackers ran under 4.60. Change of direction and explosiveness obviously matter this position a great deal too. 

Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray should steal the show in Indy, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Appalachian State’s Akeem Davis-Gaither, LSU’s Patrick Queen, and Mississippi State’s Willie Gay were close behind them. As an experienced, polished-in-coverage prospect, the combine will be huge for Oregon’s Troy Dye, as he doesn’t look as dynamic athletically as some of his linebacker counterparts in this class.

Cornerbacks

40-Yard Dash: 4.50 seconds

Over the past three years, 46 of 99 (46.4%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.00 seconds

Over the past three years, 41 of 54 (75.9%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 120 inches

Over the past three years, 52 of 85 (61.1%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 36 inches

Over the past three years, 35 of 84 (41.6%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

While the cornerbacks weren’t as fast as the receivers at the 2019 combine, the defensive group did have 15 times below 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and 12 prospects with a vertical of at least 38 inches. 

Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, the consensus top corner in this class, should crush his workout. As should TCU’s Jeff Gladney and Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene. Baylor’s Grayland Arnold and Notre Dame’s Troy Pride are two somewhat sleeper prospects who look especially twitchy on loose-hipped on film.

Safeties

40-Yard Dash: 4.60 seconds

Over the past three years, 42 of 60 (70%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Three-Cone: 7.10 seconds

Over the past three years, 30 of 35 (85.7%) participants in this drill timed faster than the threshold.

Broad Jump: 120 inches

Over the past three years, 37 of 67 (46.4%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

Vertical Jump: 36 inches

Over the past three years, 20 of 67 (46.4%) participants in this drill were above the threshold.

In terms of on-field responsibility, no position has been altered more in the past decade than safety. Gone are the days of straight-forward delineations between strong safety and free safety. The modern-day players at that position have to be able to cover the slot, range from the deep middle, and take on a quasi-linebacker role against the run without ever looking out of place. 

As a former cornerback, Utah’s Julian Blackmon should test excellently, and there’s tons of buzz about Kyle Dugger from Lenoir-Rhyne after his impressive week at the Senior Bowl. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney and Cal’s Ashtyn Davis, two of the more widely liked safeties in this class, should cruise through the drills in Indy, as should LSU’s Grant Delpit and Maryland’s Antoine Brooks. 





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