Yes, the combine matters

Now that the combine is in the rear view mirror, it's time for the annual argument. Should the "underwear olympics" affect whom we draft? One side will trot out the workout warriors who busted in the NFL. The other side will shout about team speed and athleticism and taking the top off the defense. There are people, however, who actually took the time to test the theory.

I'll summarize. Among drafted players, players who do better in the combine do better on average in the NFL. There is a steady increase in the average performance as the average combine score goes up. Not only that, drafted players 2 standard deviations below their position group perform much worse than other drafted players. Neither he nor I are saying that game film is not the primary tool for scouting, but clearly athleticism matters a lot and especially someone who is athletically deficient has a long road ahead.

I like his methodology here because the combine score he uses (SPARQ) adjusts for weight. A 300 lb. player with a 9'6 broad jump is given more credit than a 275 lb. player with the same performance. It also adjusts for position. So each position is just as likely to have a high score.

With that in mind, here are the top SPARQ scores from the 2019 combine. Many of these are estimates and will be updated on his site as the 10-yard split times become more widely available and confirmed.

3 or above = top 0.1% at their position in the NFL (Currently there are only 4 players in the NFL that achieved this score)

2 = top 2%

WR Miles Boykin: 2.9

WR Paris Campbell: 2.8

WR Emmanuel Hall: 2.7

S Juan Thornhill: (2.5 with multiple times still pending)

CB Ken Webster: 2.4

CB Jamel Dean: 2.2

TE Noah Fant: 2.1

WR DK Metcalf: 2.1

WR Darius Slayton: 2.0

CB Isaiah Johnson: 2.0

OT Andre Dillard: 1.9

DE Ben Banogu: 1.9

DE Montez Sweat: 1.9

LB Devin Bush: 1.9

And then some projected top 100 picks with scores less than -1. That means when they get drafted they'll be in the bottom 16% at their position in terms of athleticism.

S Mike Bell: -2.7

DL Terry Beckner: -2.2

RB Elijah Holyfield: -1.7

S Jaquan Johnson: -1.6

TE Kaden Smith: -1.4

LB Terrill Hanks: -1.4

OL David Edwards: -1.1

OL Jonah Williams: -1.0

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