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NFL combine drills explained: Vertical jump

Miami Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake displayed great explosiveness in the 2005 NFL Draft with a 45.5 inch vertical.

Joe Robbins

Perhaps no combine drill is more misunderstood than the seemingly simple vertical jump. A player's reach is measured before the jump and the prospect then jumps flat-footed to hit as many flags above them as possible. The player is then given a second opportunity to hit more flags and best his previous jump.

While jumping ability is nice and the ability to win jump balls in the end zone can depend on your natural jumping abilities, the true test of the vertical jump is to see how much lower body strength and explosion a draft prospect can generate.

The second-best vertical jump in NFL Combine history came in 2005 when Penn State outside linebacker Derek "Cameron" Wake jumped 45.5 inches. He went undrafted and eventually played two seasons in the Canadian Football League before joining the Miami Dolphins in 2009. He doesn't put his jumping ability on display in the NFL often, but he does show his burst on a weekly basis as he has racked up 43 sacks in his first four seasons.

The record in the drill belongs to Dallas Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who jumped a half-inch higher than Wake in the same year.

Among the players that can benefit most from the drill are defensive lineman and pass rushers like Wake who have the opportunity to show elite explosiveness and burst. It will be especially important for undersized prospects like Barkevious Mingo and Jarvis Jones who will almost certainly have to rely on a strong burst off the line of scrimmage to generate pressure.