Red Zone

A viewer’s guide to understanding each NFL combine drill


The testing portion of the NFL combine begins today with the kickers, offensive linemen and tight ends. So for those of you who plan on watching the NFL Network's coverage — which begins at 8 a.m. — I figured I'd give you a quick breakdown of why each drill is important. I gleaned this from Mike Mayock's excellent video breakdowns, which are located


. Feel free to check those out.

40-yard dash:

Everybody knows what this is, but it really shows explosion and quickness from a static start for skill players. Keep an eye on the ten-yard split for the offensive linemen, which shows how powerful and quick they might be off the ball.

Bench press:

This is a test of endurance because it's not a one-rep max. There are very strict rules, so you better do it the right way or they won't all count. Low rep numbers reveal which players didn't really start prepping for the combine until the last minute. This drill rewards players who have been working hard for the last four or five years. It is important for linemen, obviously.

Vertical jump:

This tests the strength of a player's big muscles in their lower body. Some guys are naturally gifted at this test but it does show how often you squat and do lower body lifts.

It's important for defensive backs and receivers, who often find themselves in jump ball situations

. Broad jump:

A standing long jump that tests the power and explosion of the lower body. It's important for linebackers, receivers and defensive backs, in particular.

Three-cone drill:

Displays how quickly a player can change directions without losing balance, and how well they accelerate while making high-speed turns. This is important for defensive ends, who are repeatedly dipping and accelerating while trying to get past and under the tackle while staying low. Since a player has to do this drill two or three times, scouts and coaches can really see whether they've got the flexibility in their hips and ability to accelerate. This drill is important for corners (especially bigger ones) who have to show they can accelerate and weave, which simulates what you have to do in game situations.

Shuttle run:

This tests a player's lateral quickness, burst and acceleration in a short area, and it’s important for every position. For little guys, it shows quickness and acceleration and change of direction. For bigs, it shows their athleticism and how well they can bend.