Believe it or not, there is a purpose behind the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. Sure, the NFL may be looking to modify the actual drills that are used at the combine, but there is a reason players run the three-cone drill or the 40-yard dash. Well, more than just for TV ratings, at least.
A player's athletic numbers should justify what a scout observed on the field. If a player times much lower or higher than anticipated, a team will go back and double-check their scouting report to make sure they weren't completely off.
But just because a player times well, it shouldn't vault them in the draft. At least, that what happens with the smart teams. There are plenty of dumb ones in the NFL, though. Lest anyone forget, in 2005 Matt Jones was considered by most a mid-round pick before running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds and jumping all the way up to being the 21st overall pick. Or wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey running a 4.25 40 all the way to being the seventh pick in 2009.
This year's combine will feature plenty of superstar athletes, many of whom are well-known as prospects.
The home base for a few of this year's combine athletic marvels is Waco, Texas. These Baylor Bears will have the NFL buzzing following their workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, among a few others.
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
How strong is Billings? So strong that he broke Texas strength records set by Mark Henry, the Olympic power lifter turned WWE superstar turned Rick Ross lookalike. In 2012 Billings had a combined squat, bench and deadlift of 2,010 pounds, breaking a 22-year-old Texas prep record set by Henry. Imagine what he'll do now that he's 20. Oh, was that mentioned yet? Billings is one of the younger players in this year's draft. Teams will be intrigued by the perceived upside because of Billings' age, and the pure strength he'll display in Indianapolis in the bench press. He's not bad on the field, either. Playing two seasons for the Bears, Billings had 26.5 tackles for loss to go along with 77 tackles and 7.5 sacks. The combine record for pushing 225 pounds in the bench press is 51, done by Justin Ernest in 1999. Billings could approach or break that number.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Had Coleman participated in the combine last year, chances are he would have registered the fastest three-cone drill of any receiver participating. Consider that Coleman has run the three-cone in 6.62 seconds and last year's leader was Justin Hardy at 6.63 seconds. Coleman has also recorded a 45-inch vertical leap and an 11'3 broad jump. His game film matches those numbers too. On the field, Coleman is an explosive receiver who can go deep or make defenders miss in open space. He started last season with six consecutive games of 100 yards receiving or more and finished the year with 74 catches for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. Of course, this is assuming that Coleman will do every workout after missing Baylor's bowl game following surgery for a sports hernia.
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
One player scouts will try and see if the athletic numbers match the tape is Oakman. You can knock Oakman's game all you want. He was inconsistent last season, and he knows it (though he still had 14.5 tackles for loss on the season). But the 6'9 specimen was built to steal the combine process. He's the classic basketball player in pads. He should run a sub-4.7 40-yard dash and impress in the bench press for someone with such long arms. But watch out for Oakman's vertical jump. Oakman may carry too much mass to break the vertical record of 47 inches set last year by cornerback Willie Creear at an NFL Regional Combine in Denver last year, but he's going to get up there for a 270-pounder with a reported leap of 38 inches on his record. He also did this 40-inch box jump holding 70 pounds worth of weights.
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
Adidas will once again be handing out money at the combine, this time to any player who can break Chris Johnson's mythical 4.24-second 40-yard dash. If that player is wearing adidas shoes, they'll receive $1 million. The frontrunner to take that home is Listenbee. And judging by his Twitter account that is overrun by adidas, it sure looks like he'll be wearing their gear in Indianapolis. It's a smart move by Listenbee. He's regarded as college football's fastest man and last year ran the 100-meter dash in 10.04 seconds. In the last two seasons, Listenbee has caught 71 passes for 1,350 yards. That's good for 19 yards per catch. At TCU he was overshadowed by teammate Josh Doctson for much of his career, but look for him to come to the forefront during speed drills at the combine.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Remember this from a couple years ago?
Those times coming from Ohio State's athletic department make every Buckeye look like a speed merchant. They're a lot faster than the players timed. For instance, Bradley Roby's 4.26 at Ohio State was a 4.39 at the combine. Jake Stoneburner's 4.4 at Ohio State was a 4.65 and Doran Grant's 4.32 was a 4.44 at Lucas Oil Stadium. But even if you knock Miller's 4.32 down a little, it's still unbelievably fast. More importantly, he's a player on the field who actually lives up to his timed speed.
Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
At last year's combine, Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones broke the world broad jump record by registering a standing leap of 12 feet, three inches. If anyone challenges that number this year, it could be Ramsey. In addition to being one of the draft's premiere players, Ramsey is a star track athlete and has registered a running long jump of 26 feet, 1 3/4 inches.
Connor McGovern, G, Missouri
Billings is getting all of the, ahem, billing for his power numbers but McGovern could make a run at the combine bench press record as well. McGovern cares so much about lifting weights that he partially tore a pectoral muscle trying to bench 515 pounds, which would have been a new Missouri record. Pushing 225 pounds at the combine should be an easy task.
KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame
How much Russell works out is unknown because he suffered a broken tibia in late November. But if this 54-inch box jump is any indication, he could wow some teams in drills:
In addition to an impressive vertical, Russell should have one of the better bench press numbers for a defensive back this year. But again, this is where the NFL can't let testing numbers overrule what took place on the field. For all of Russell's pure athleticism, his career at Notre Dame was inconsistent. In addition to the tibia injury, Russell was suspended for the entire 2014 season because of an honor code violation.