NFL Scouting Combine records: 40-yard dash, best vertical jump, bench press, 3-cone drill
The NFL Scouting Combine has come a long way since the early days and the level of fitness is higher than ever this year. But how does it stack up all time?
When the NFL Scouting Combine started back in 1982, it was a handy way to get all of the teams together and do what they were doing individually anyway. Team scouts showed up with clipboards and stopwatches as the draft class were run through a series of drills.
How many times can you bench press 255 pounds? How fast can you run 40 yards? How high can you jump?
Back then, this would have been the first time these young men had tried these skills. While they are good benchmarks, they are not normally part of your daily training routine in college football.
Fast forward forty years and the Combine is an entirely different beast. Apart from the state of the athletes, who are using professional trainers, nutritionists, and medical staff from a very young age to keep them into peak condition, today’s draft class will have practiced and trained at these very skills over and over. When a good combine can boost your draft position, and therefore your money, it just makes sense.
The Wonderlic Test is no longer part of the combine, perhaps as a nod to how modern teams prioritize physicality over intelligence, but the only person to ever answer all 50 questions correctly was Harvard graduate Pat McInally back in 1975.
The 255lb bench press
Of the main events; you know, the running, jumping, lifting; the bench press has a direct correlation to pure strength. Back in 1999, defensive tackle Justin Ernest from Eastern Kentucky lifted the 255 pound bar 51 times, setting a record that has yet to be broken.
The 40 yard dash
Perhaps the event most correlated in the minds of NFL fans with greatness is the 40 yard dash. It is a straight sprint and shows open field running speed in a stark way. While success in the NFL depends much more on the ability to change direction, explosiveness, and durability, the 40 yard dash still gives a good idea of the clay that teams are working with.
All records prior to 1999 are discounted, since it was in that year that the NFL instituted electronic timing. For this reason, you won’t see names like Bo Jackson (4.12 in 1986) and Deion Sanders (4.2 in 1989) on the list.
Measuring how high a player can jump or leap is another decent measure of athleticism. And while its usefulness in the NFL as such is questionable, as a broad measure of leg strength, it is one of the key elements on combine day.
The standing broad jump has not been an Olympic event in over a century so the only place that holds verified events, apart from the NFL combine, is Norway. Every time a new record is set, it is likely to be one of the best in the world.
One of the combine events that most directly relates to what skills players will need to perform well in the NFL is the three cone drill, which is all about agility, scrambling, and explosive bursts.