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NFL combine drills explained: 3-cone drill

Undersized receivers like Jeff Maehl and Trindon Holliday have displayed quick change of direction in the 3-cone drill.

Joe Robbins

The three-cone drill is not as basic a drill as the vertical jump or bench press, but it's certainly one of the quicker drills as it typically takes a player just 6-8 seconds to finish. Three cones are set in an 'L' shape each five yards apart.

A player runs five yards to the first cone and turns back, then runs around the second cone before weaving around the third cone at the top of the 'L' and comes back to finish at the second cone. The quick drill is a display of a player's ability to quickly change direction and keep momentum going around corners.

To put up a good time in the three-cone drill, a player must have good ankle flexibility and be able to bend around a corner, an important quality for pass rushers. That makes the drill very important for outside linebackers and defensive ends, although it's also very important for running backs and wide receivers that are looking to show shiftiness and the ability to change direction.

The NFL Combine record belongs to a receiver that tried to find his way in the NFL as an undersized, shifty receiver: Jeff Maehl. The Oregon receiver finished the three-cone drill in just 6.42 seconds, but it wasn't enough to get drafted and he was cut by the Houston Texans in September 2012 after spending the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad.

A similarly undersized player, Trindon Holliday, also posted an elite time in the three-cone drill, finishing in just 6.54 seconds, while the rest of the best times in the event are mostly held by defensive backs like Leon Hall of the Cincinnati Bengals and Carlos Rogers of the San Francisco 49ers.

Players to watch

In recent years, the three-cone drill has been dominated by smaller cornerbacks and slot receiver prospects. Among the players that could open eyes in the 2013 NFL Combine are West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin, Texas Longhorns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford and William & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb.