Four things to watch for at 2022 NFL Scouting Combine

I love the NFL Scouting Combine, and not just because it's seemingly all about data -- to be honest, the data matters but it's only a small part of the whole process. I love the combine because of the awesome strategies and team building philosophies I learn by visiting with coaches and front office executives in attendance. I can get pretty poetic about this, but there's a balance between art and science when it comes to data collection, interpretation and application. So, the combine is where I get to see the gears turning in some extremely smart minds. The supply of this year's wave of soon-to-be NFL players can alter the demand for, and away from, certain positions, ultimately shaping the product we see on the field for years to come.

My pre-draft model starts by taking 21 seasons of NFL performance data and defining levels of success by position. I determine the blend of attributes at each position in order to group players into one of the following categories: elite, above average, average, below average or well below average. I also use advanced math, Next Gen Stats, Computer Vision and machine learning to help uncover patterns that can be statistically validated. Then I review my model's results with coaches and execs to make sure each player is categorized correctly. I compare the résumés of current NFL players to those of the draft-eligible prospects to identify similarities and high-probability trajectories.

Each draft prospect's college résumé -- along with his combine results -- are compared with the historical database to give context to his potential for success (and shows where there are holes or points of uncertainty).

With all that said, here are four things to look out for at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine:

1) Results in context

One emerging pattern is that players who perform at above average and elite levels in the NFL tend to have had combine results that fall within pretty specific ranges. Not every test matters for each position, but for each position, there are certain combine metrics that have more predictive merit based on historical data.

Failing to fall within these key ranges certainly doesn't mean a prospect won't have success at the next level. Rather, it's just another factor in the overall evaluation process. For example, teams use this historical information to help determine if a player has been overlooked or how he might best be used on the field.

Quarterback:

  • Throws: velocity over 53 mph as a minimum threshold (elite is over 59)
  • Balance of velocity on left and right throws is also a plus indicator.

Running Back (less emphasis on pass catching):

  • Height: 5-foot-10.875 to 6-1.125
  • Weight: 210 to 219 pounds
  • 40-yard dash: 4.44 to 4.67 seconds
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.52 to 1.67 seconds
  • Vertical jump: 35 to 40.25 inches
  • Broad jump: 10 feet or more (or more than 1.7 times their height)

Running Back (pass catching):

  • Heights and weights tend to be in the shorter and lighter ends of the range listed above, and vertical jumps skew to the higher range.
  • Short shuttle: Less than 4.4 seconds
  • Three-cone: Less than 7.0

Wide Receiver (over 6 feet):

  • Height: 6-0.25 to 6-2.75
  • Weight: 207 to 222
  • 40-yard dash: 4.42 to 4.57
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.53 to 1.67
  • Vertical: 35.5 to 38.5

Wide receiver (under 6 feet):

  • Height: 5-9.75 to 5.10.875
  • Weight: 188 to 200
  • 40-yard dash: 4.46 to 4.62
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.55 to 1.69
  • Vertical: 32.5 to 36.5

Tight end:

  • Height: 6-3.75 to 6-5.875
  • Weight: 250 to 266
  • 40-yard dash: 4.69 to 4.88
  • Three-cone: 7.05 to 7.22

Offensive Tackles:

  • Height: 6-4.375 to 6-6
  • Weight: 307 to 325
  • Arm: 33.5 to 35.5
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.8 to 1.92
  • Three-cone: 7.72 to 7.93

Offensive Interior:

  • Height: 6-2.75 to 6-4.375 (centers tend to be a bit shorter, guards a bit bigger)
  • Weight: 297 to 314
  • Arm: 32.25 to 34.375
  • Three-cone: 7.44 to 7.71
  • Short shuttle: 4.50 to 4.88

Defensive Interior:

The first 10-yard split of the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump and short shuttle are the four tests to watch here. Most of the league's elite defensive tackles had a short shuttle time that was at least 0.35 seconds faster than their 40 time.

  • Height: 6-1.25 to 6-3.675
  • Weight: 291 to 311
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.69 to 1.83 (final 40 time 5.14 seconds or less)
  • Vertical: 33.0 to 34.5 (interior pass rushers)
  • Vertical: 28.5 to 30 (3-technique)
  • Broad: at least 8-5
  • Short shuttle: 4.46 to 4.62

Edge:

  • Height: 6-2 to 6-4.5
  • Weight: 259 to 286
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.65 to 1.81
  • Vertical: 30 to 34.5
  • Broad: at least 9-2
  • Pro agility (short shuttle): 4.29 to 4.45

Outside linebacker

  • Height: 6-01.75 to 6-3.5
  • Weight: 236 to 250
  • 40-yard dash: 4.61 to 4.82
  • Three-cone: 7.08 to 7.24
  • Vertical: 33.875 to 36.5
  • Short shuttle: 4.19 to 4.3

Inside linebacker

  • Height: 5-11.875 to 6-2.5
  • Weight: 233 to 255
  • 40-yard dash: 4.62 to 4.81
  • Three-cone: 7.06 to 7.22
  • Vertical: 33.5 to 36
  • Broad: at least 9-4
  • Short shuttle: 4.6 to 4.76

Cornerback

  • Height: 5-10.5 to 6-0.875
  • Weight: 189 to 199
  • 40-yard dash: 4.45 to 4.6
  • Three-cone: 6.83 to 6.99
  • Vertical: 35.75 to 37.625
  • Broad: at least 10 feet
  • Short shuttle: 4.25 to 4.4

Safety

  • Height: 5-11.875 to 6-1.125
  • Weight: 200 to 211
  • First 10-yard split of 40: 1.57 to 1.63
  • Three-cone: 6.86 to 7.02
  • Vertical: 35.5 to 38
  • Short shuttle: 4.15 to 4.25

2. Wideouts by type

My models currently rate Garrett Wilson as the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in this class. Last season at Ohio State, Wilson had a 141. 7 passer rating when targeted (No. 2 in the Big Ten) and had the best body control-earning yards-after-catch rating per Computer Vision. Alabama's Jameson Williams took a huge step forward in 2021, earning 9.3 yards after the catch per reception (No. 4 in Power Five), while USC's Drake London had an FBS-best 19 contested catches, per Pro Football Focus. All three project to have different impacts in different systems, so the combine will go a long way in sorting out how teams see/plan to use each guy.

3. There's a lot of value at tight end (especially in later rounds)

Trey McBride, who had 17 contested catches (tied for most in the Group of Five), which helped drive 61 first downs earned (fourth in Group of Five), is my highest-rated tight end and he's not likely to make it out of the second round. But this year's class has a ton of depth, with guys like Charlie Kolar and Jelani Woods being potential sleepers who could end up being game-changers in the NFL.

4. Interior O-line: Hips don't lie

Getting the center position right is a big deal. Just look at the impact Creed Humphrey had on the Chiefs last year (he even got a vote for OROY!). This season, Tyler Linderbaum and Zion Johnson could be instant difference-makers for a team in need of interior O-line help. When watching them in Indy, keep an eye on their hip levels. Are they able to stay low (keeping their hips within 3.25 inches of their starting point) while moving quickly and maintaining balance? Johnson allowed just six pressure last season at Boston College, and Linderbaum, well he has better résumé indicators than Humphrey did based on their respective college tape.

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter.

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