Big numbers in Indianapolis don’t equate to NFL dominance

Every year, player stock rises with a strong NFL Scouting Combine performance, but does running a fast 40 time or wowing in the bench press translate to success at the next level?

There has been a lot of debate as to whether there is a direct connection between posting amazing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine and NFL success. To some, 40-yard dash times and bench press numbers go a long way to determining draft stock. To others, they’re just flash that have no bearing on NFL success.

Frank Cooney of NFLDraftScout.com took a look at the top 25 Combine performances in the 40-yard dash and the bench press over the 18 Combines since the turn of the century, pointing out that some of the best 40 times ever were reported this year in Indianapolis.

While the numbers speak for themselves, one thing that does appear to be a common theme is that a fast 40 time is typically a better precursor of NFL success than doing a ton of reps with 225 pounds. Posting chart-topping numbers are often enough to get a player’s stock vaulting, as is the case of Washington wide receiver John Ross (video of him above) this year, but do those players end up having big NFL careers?

Of the top-25 times in the 40 posted since 2000, a case can be made that the star power is there more often than the “country strong” types who can bang the plates 30 times or more, even though neither has proved to be a true barometer of success, including a few players that have been in and out the doors of the Minnesota Vikings. Here are the top 25 40 times dating back to 2000:

  • 4.22 – John Ross, WR, Washington, 2017
  • 4.24 – Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina, 2008
  • 4.26 – Dri Archer, WR, Kent State, 2014
  • 4.27 – Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas, 2013
  • 4.28 – Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson, 2010
  • 4.28 – J.J. Nelson, WR, Alabama-Birmingham, 2015
  • 4.28 – Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota, 2017
  • 4.30 – Triandos Luke, WR, Alabama, 2004
  • 4.30 – Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland 2009
  • 4.31 – Carlos Francis, WR, Texas Tech, 2004
  • 4.31 – Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State, 2017
  • 4.31 – Tyvon Branch, CB, U-Conn, 2008
  • 4.31 – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State, 2015
  • 4.31 – Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia, 2016
  • 4.31 – Justin King, CB, Penn State, 2008
  • 4.32 – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame, 2016
  • 4.32 – Jerome Mathis, WR, Hampton, 2005
  • 4.32 – Orlando Scandrick, CB, Boise State, 2008
  • 4.32 – Johnathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina, 2006
  • 4.33 – Jerious Norwood, RB, Mississippi State, 2006
  • 4.33 – Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Tennessee State, 2008
  • 4.33 – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State, 2014
  • 4.33 – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami, 2015
  • 4.33 – Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas, 2008
  • 4.33 – Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss, 2009

The initial takeaway from the 40 times is that three of the top 11 times were posted this year. But does a fast 40 time mean on-field success? Not necessarily. A case can be made that Johnson, Scandrick, Joseph, Rogers-Cromartie, Cooks and Wallace are the only stars to emerge with big NFL numbers to back up their pure speed, although the jury is still out because there hasn’t been a big enough sample size to determine the career path for guys like Nelson, Waynes, Fuller and Dorsett, who are still very early in their careers.

But, even adding all of them together, the miss rate on speed guys is much more pronounced than the hit rate and landing game-changing players.

So how about the big boys with the weight room strength? Here are those top performers in terms of reps of 225 pounds since 2000:

  • 49 – Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State, 2011
  • 45 – Mike Kudla, DE, Ohio State, 2006
  • 45 – Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas, 2010
  • 45 – Leif Larson, DT, UTEP, 2000
  • 44 – Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis, 2012
  • 44 – Jeff Owens, DT, Georgia, 2010
  • 44 – Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State, 2006
  • 43 – Scott Young, G, BYU
  • 42 – Tank Tyler, DT, North Carolina State, 2007
  • 42 – Russell Bodine, G, North Carolina, 2014
  • 42 – Isaac Sopoaga, DT, Hawaii, 2004
  • 41 – Terna Nande, OLB, Miami (Ohio), 2006
  • 41 – Igor Olshansky, DT, Oregon, 2004
  • 41 – David Molk, C, Michigan, 2012
  • 40 – Manny Ramirez, G, Baylor, 2007
  • 40 – Justin Blalock, G, Texas, 2007
  • 39 – Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina, 2010
  • 39 – Louis Vasquez, G, Texas Tech, 2009
  • 38 – Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina, 2011
  • 38 – Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern, 2013
  • 38 – Margus Hunt, DE, SMU, 2013
  • 38 – Tony Pashos, OT, Illinois, 2003
  • 38 – Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, 2010
  • 37 – Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon, 2006
  • 37 – Terrance Taylor, DT, Michigan

Once again, being the best at a skill point at the Combine doesn’t always equate to top-end NFL success. Of the bench-press record-setters, only a few have panned out to be elite NFL players – Poe, Joseph, Williams, Okung and Ngata.

This year will likely be no different than past seasons when it comes to players posting impressive numbers at the Combine or their pro days that will vault them up draft boards. But, when one takes a closer look, those numbers are far from accurate indicators of future success and shouldn’t become the be-all and end-all of who gets drafted high, because, more times than not, putting up the big numbers in Indianapolis doesn’t translate to being a Pro Bowl player in the NFL.


Viking Update Top Stories