Their on-the-field production is paramount. However, scouts must determine if a prospect’s play against collegiate competition will translate to the NFL playing field. That’s why there is such an intense focus on the 40-yard dash and the various jumps and shuttles at the Scouting Combine and pro days.
Here are the testing numbers from the top 15 inside linebacker prospects, as ranked by the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te Thomas. All numbers are from the Scouting Combine unless noted. In parentheses in the 40-yard dash column are their times in the first 10 yards.
(Note: Only five players ran the 60-yard shuttle at the Combine so that category has been dropped from the chart.
|No. Player||40 (10)||3-Cone||20 S||Arm||Broad||Bench||Vertical|
|1. Eric Kendricks||4.61 (1.57)||7.14*||4.14*||31||10-04||19||38|
|2. Stephone Anthony||4.56 (1.56)||7.07||4.03||32 1/2||10-02||23||37|
|3. Benardrick McKinney||4.66 (1.63)||7.21||4.27||33||10-00||16||40.5|
|4. Paul Dawson||4.93 (1.68)||6.76*||4.49||31 1/2||09-01||21||28|
|5. Denzel Perryman||4.78 (1.67)||7.07**||4.39**||31 7/8||09-03||27||32|
|6. Kwon Alexander||4.55 (1.58)||7.14||4.20||30 1/4||10-01||24||36|
|7. Jordan Hicks||4.68 (1.58)||6.78||4.15||32||10-04||20||38|
|8. Mike Hull||4.68 (1.60)||6.99||4.15||30 1/2||09-02*||31||30.5*|
|9. Ben Heeney||4.59 (1.61)||6.68||4.00||30 3/4||10-00||19||33.5|
|10. Ramik Wilson||4.77 (1.65)||7.39*||4.51||33||09-03||23||35|
|11. Bryce Hager||4.60 (1.60)||7.15||4.36||31 3/8||09-09||26||35|
|12. Jake Ryan||4.65 (1.62)||7.11||4.20||31||10-00||20||34.5|
|13. Taiwan Jones||4.95 (1.72)||7.25||4.33||34||09-07||19||32|
|14. Hayes Pullard||4.78 (1.64)||7.07||4.39||31 1/4||09-02||19||31|
|15. Edmond Robinson||4.61 (1.61)||7.49||4.38||34||10-01||20||37|
Note: Figures marked with an asterisk are from pro days and taken from NFLDraftScout.com. For Perryman, he didn’t do the three-cone or 20 shuttle at the Combine and was injured at pro day, so his figures come from in-season testing and are courtesy of the Thomas.
So, what does that all mean? For that, we checked with Ted Sundquist, the former Denver Broncos general manager who runs TheFootballEducator.com. A couple years ago, Sundquist enlisted Joe Landers to study the value of the Combine numbers.
“Linebackers want to outperform their peer group in six of the seven skill drills at the Combine,” Sundquist said. “That is, they want to exceed the average posted by all the players at that position. Joe looked at the percent of starters over a given time period and saw a certain percent of those starting at that position in the NFL that did just that.”
According to Landers’ findings, 40-yard dash (79 percent of starters outperformed their peers), long shuttle (78 percent), three-cone drill (77 percent) and short shuttle (73 percent) are the top predictors for linebackers. That’s followed by broad jump (70 percent), bench press (67 percent) and vertical jump (64 percent). Arm length is critical, as well, as that is a 240-pound linebacker’s No. 1 line of defense against a 320-pound guard.
The following chart shows where the top 15 inside linebackers ranked in those categories, with one point for first place in a category and 15 points for last place.
(Note No. 1: No points were awarded for the 10-yard times because they so closely corresponded to the 40-yard times. Note No. 2: Again, the long shuttle was not included because times are not available for every prospect.)
|Player||40 (10)||3-Cone||20 S||Arm||Broad||Bench||Vertical||Total|
|Stephone Anthony||2 (1)||5||2||5||3||5||4||26|
|Jordan Hicks||9 (3)||3||4||6||1||8||2||33|
|Eric Kendricks||5 (2)||9||3||11||1||11||2||42|
|Kwon Alexander||1 (3)||9||6||15||4||4||6||45|
|Ben Heeney||3 (7)||1||1||13||6||11||10||45|
|Edmond Robinson||5 (7)||15||11||1||4||8||4||48|
|Benardrick McKinney||8 (10)||12||8||3||6||15||1||53|
|Bryce Hager||4 (5)||11||10||9||9||3||7||54|
|Jake Ryan||7 (9)||8||6||11||6||8||9||55|
|Mike Hull||9 (5)||4||4||14||13||1||14||59|
|Denzel Perryman||12 (13)||5||12||7||11||2||11||60|
|Ramik Wilson||11 (12)||14||15||3||11||5||7||66|
|Taiwan Jones||15 (15)||13||9||1||10||11||11||70|
|Paul Dawson||14 (14)||2||14||8||15||7||15||75|
|Hayes Pullard||12 (11)||5||12||10||13||11||13||76|
Based on Landers’ findings that the 40, three-cone and shuttle times are the most important results from the Scouting Combine (plus direction from NFLDraftScout’s Rob Rang, a former NFC scout and a current NFC scout), the following chart shows where the top 15 inside linebackers ranked in those categories, plus arm length, with one point for first place in a category and 15 points for last place. That total is in the fifth column.
|Player||40 (10)||3-Cone||20 S||Arm||Total||Broad||Bench||Vertical||Total|
|Stephone Anthony||2 (1)||5||2||5||14||3||5||4||26|
|Ben Heeney||3 (7)||1||1||13||18||6||11||10||45|
|Jordan Hicks||9 (3)||3||4||6||22||1||8||2||33|
|Eric Kendricks||5 (2)||9||3||11||28||1||11||2||42|
|Kwon Alexander||1 (3)||9||6||15||31||4||4||6||45|
|Benardrick McKinney||8 (10)||12||8||3||31||6||15||1||53|
|Mike Hull||9 (5)||4||4||14||31||13||1||14||59|
|Edmond Robinson||5 (7)||15||11||1||32||4||8||4||48|
|Jake Ryan||7 (9)||8||6||11||32||6||8||9||55|
|Bryce Hager||4 (5)||11||10||9||34||9||3||7||54|
|Denzel Perryman||12 (13)||5||12||7||36||11||2||11||60|
|Taiwan Jones||15 (15)||13||9||1||38||10||11||11||70|
|Paul Dawson||14 (14)||2||14||8||38||15||7||15||75|
|Hayes Pullard||12 (11)||5||12||10||39||13||11||13||76|
|Ramik Wilson||11 (12)||14||15||3||43||11||5||7||66|
The bottom line? It's no wonder why Clemson's Anthony has moved into first-round consideration — at least that's what one scout said of his team's board. The three-year starter boasts a tremendous combination of size and athleticism. Kansas' Heeney and Texas' Hicks also grade out well athletically. Meanwhile, touted prospects Perryman of Miami and Dawson of TCU rank toward the bottom of our pecking order.
What happens when their on-field performance is taken into account? We'll examine that this week.
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