We saw the “pretty” offensive players on Thursday, but we get the players who get their hands dirty on the second day of the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
Today we get the offensive linemen and running backs — and the specialists too, but we’re going to concentrate on the linemen and runners.
The New York Giants are obviously interested in the 2022 NFL Draft’s offensive line class, and they might need to draft several of them as they go about rebuilding their offense. The Giants might also have to pay attention to the running back class as well. The team has already released Devontae Booker and the Giants seem to be open to moving Saquon Barkley. They could find themselves in need of a running back as well as a tight end and a couple offensive linemen.
TV: NFL Network
Streaming: NFL.com, NFL mobile app, Sling, Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV, YouTube TV
Time: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m
How to watch the Combine
This is the position group almost every Giants fan is eager to see. Do the top guys measure up to their draft buzz, will they truly work their way out of the Giants’ grasp? Will any hidden gems who could help the Giants from the mid-rounds reveal themselves?
Perhaps the most notable bit of news so far is that Alabama OT Evan Neal won’t be taking part in on-field drills, instead waiting for Alabama’s pro day.
Everyone is going to pay attention to the 40-yard dash, but that’s just eye candy for me. Unless something goes very, very wrong, you probably aren’t going to care how quickly your offensive linemen can cover 40 yards.
Instead I have four numbers I really care about:
- Bench press
- 3-Cone drill
- Vertical leap
- Broad jump
The bench press can reveal just how committed a lineman is to the weight room and his upper body strength to control defenders.
The 3-cone drill can show how well a lineman is able to move and change directions. Quick feet and agility can make the difference in pass protection and run block.
The two jumps can show how well a lineman is able to generate power with his lower body. The broad jump also shows just how flexible a lineman’s ankles are. Sticking the landing at 300-plus pounds is tough, and flexible ankles are a must.
Position specific drills
This is the good stuff for the offensive line position. I typically don’t rely heavily on athletic testing for my offensive line evaluations. The ability to actually execute on the field and move that big body in football-specific ways are more important, and you can see much of that on tape.
The OL position drills help take away some of the noise and make it easier to see which prospects excel at the finer points of playing the position, and which have some limitations.
The 45-degree drill
This is a pass protection drill, and one that can serve to separate the interior linemen from the tackles.
One lineman lines up in a 3-point stance while another lines up across from him to simulate an edge rusher. The lineman actually doing the drill needs to take a 45-degree pass set and force the “pass rusher” around the pocket. I’m looking to see how quick and smooth the lineman’s feet are, how well he kick-slides, and how long he is able to keep his hips parallel to the “line of scrimmage”. Players who do this well, are quick, smooth, balanced, and able to wait until the last possible instant to turn their hips perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.
Players who excel in this drill will almost certainly be tackles in the NFL, while the ones who struggle will likely have to play on the interior.
“Wave” and “Rabbit” drills
These look nothing like actual football.
In the “Wave” drill, a lineman starts by laying down on the field. He gets up at the whistle then moves around the field at the direction of a coach. This drill can not only help to show just how good a prospect’s feet are, as well as his stamina and how well he is able to move in space.
The “Rabbit” drill simulates mirroring in pass protection.
This drill sees two linemen lining up across from each other. The one doing the drill needs to mirror the other lineman, with the objective to stay sitting into his stance the whole time. This drill shows which players have good short-area quickness and agility, as well as quick, fluid feet. This test is also an absolute gut-check for linemen. Sitting in a pass set, shuffling back and forth (randomly) for as long as a coach asks makes the quads, hamstrings, and glutes burn — especially for the bigger linemen.
Running backs are the other position that I try to concentrate on to start my draft prep. I’ve found that measured athleticism doesn’t really have much of an impact on the traits that really matter for runners in the NFL.
I’ve come to value things like vision and contact balance more than raw speed. Given that even a great runner in a great running game can average around 6 yards per carry, there aren’t many opportunities to run 40 yards. But every running back needs to navigate the line of scrimmage, find holes, and keep his feet through contact.
When it comes to the numbers, these are more fun to watch than particularly impactful on my evaluations. That said, there are a few numbers that are important.
- 10-yard split
- 3-cone drill
- Broad Jump
- Vertical Leap
As I mentioned above, the 3-cone shows which prospects have the best quickness, agility, lower-body fluidity, and general change of direction skills. The jumps show which players are best able to generate power with their lower body.
The first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash show off which runners have great burst and are able to accelerate quickly. As mentioned above, runners don’t get many chances to run 40 yards in a straight line, but they get plenty of opportunities to accelerate in a short area.
Position specific drills
I’ve got two drills I absolutely love to watch.
The first is the Off-Tackle Reaction drill, and the other is the Cone Weave.
The Off-Tackle Reaction drill, fairly obviously, simulates an off-tackle run. However, it has the added bonus of forcing the runner to step over obstacles on the ground — simulating the trash around the line of scrimmage — before making a sharp cut at the coach’s direction.
Runners with good balance, quick feet, and the ability to cut sharply are the ones who excel in this drill. They also need to process information very quickly to react correctly to the coach’s direction and make the simulated defender “miss”.
The Cone Weave Drill forces the runners to make increasingly sharp cuts around a series of cones on the ground. They first get the ball then weave their way around the cones that get closer and closer together. This drill shows which prospects are able to sink their hips to make sharp cuts at speed, and which players have great fluidity in their lower body to carry speed through the course — and which players have some stiffness.
Receiving ability is absolutely essential for modern running backs. All running backs need to at least be able to catch screen passes or quick check-down passes. But the most useful players will be natural catchers of the ball with smooth hands and good route running. The receiving drills will show which runners can run good routes, who can locate and adjust to the ball, and which players have good mechanics catching the ball.