With the 2017 NFL Combine just now in the rear-view mirror, it seems as good a time as any to take a look back at last year’s “Underwear Olympics” and see how the top performers experienced their rookie season in the pros; at least, according to Madden NFL 17.
For the sake of this article, we’re again working with the previous work done with the 2016 NFL Draft class here at Video Game Numbers; the primary comparison being the OVR ratings of players at the launch of the game/beginning of the season and that same rating at the end of the season.
Did success at the 2016 NFL Combine in Indianapolis translate into rookie stardom? Let’s take a look at the numbers…
40 Yard Dash
Even though there are few occasions for NFL players to sprint 40 yards untouched, it nevertheless is the premier event of every NFL Combine. Here’s a look at last season’s top 10 results:
For as much excitement as there is with the 40 Yard Dash–and as much as virtual GMs draft based on speed in Madden NFL 17–it didn’t translate to teams taking the fastest players at the top of the Draft. Three of the top 10 times were drafted in Round 1, but three were also drafted in Round 6, with an additional pick in Round 7 and the third fastest player going undrafted!
Looking at the OVR ratings is pretty all over the place too; T.J. Green of the Colts dropped 4 points over the season, but Anthony Brown in Dallas improved by 11 points (giving him the highest OVR of the 40 Yard Dash heroes). However, less than half of the top 10 here finished the season with an OVR higher than 70.
As a bonus, let’s look at the relationship between 40 Yard Dash time and SPD rating:
It’s interesting to note that it isn’t a 1:1 correlation between time and SPD; Keith Marshall ran the faster 40 Yard Dash but is beaten out in SPD by three other players in the top 10. The calculation of SPD must take into account more than just the measurable data point of this result.
Another tentpole event at the NFL Combine is the Bench Press, where athletes are tasked with bench pressing 225 pounds for as many repetitions as they can manage. This measurable is incredibly valuable for players in the trenches to see how well they’ll be able to hold up at the professional level. Here’s a look at the Top 10 Bench Press results from 2016:
There’s even less of a correlation here between combine success and draft-ability; only Joshua Garnett was picked in Round 1 (at the tail end), and the second-ranked performer went undrafted and subsequently was waived/injured by the Falcons in the middle of August from a preseason game. Only Spencer Drango finished the season with an OVR above 70.
Here’s a look at how Bench Press repetitions influence STR ratings:
Again, there isn’t a pure 1:1 relationship between the performance at the Bench Press and the measure of the STR rating in Madden NFL 17; Christian Westerman’s narrow victory in the event didn’t translate to a top STR rating since Andrew Billings tops the group with a 91 in that category. Again, we’re unfortunately without data points for Chris Mayes because he was injured and out of the game before the video game release date.
The Vertical Jump is always quite the visual spectacle at the NFL Combine, displaying the incredible lower body strength of these athletes as they explode up towards the measuring guides. When it comes to positions where players have to go up and compete for the ball, this is one chance for teams to add another measurable to their books. Here’s the Top 10 from the 2016 NFL Combine:
While no one is going to confuse Daniel Lasco of the Saints (HB, 66 OVR at end of season) with Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars (CB, 85 OVR at end of season), there was nothing to separate them in terms of Vertical Jump. Despite Ramsey going in Round 1 in the top 5 picks and Lasco going off the board 232 picks later, they’ll be mentioned in the same breath here.
Four of the top 10 Vertical Jump players went in Round 1, but Lasco’s pick in Round 7 and a pair of Round 6 picks join an undrafted player. Just over half of the top 10 in this event ended the season with an OVR rating above 70.
So how does the measurement of these Vertical Jumps compare to the JMP rating?
Interestingly, there’s a pattern visible here across the group; every three or four players go from lower JMP rating to higher, despite representing a downturn in recorded Vertical Jump value. Part of this is likely attributable to physical measurements and positions since the lower JMP ratings correspond to Lasco (an HB), Nicolas (a LOLB), and Feeney (also a LOLB). Only Floyd, a ROLB, bucks the trend with a higher JMP rating than his defensive counterparts in the group.
Not unlike the Vertical Jump, the Broad Jump provides another measurable for leg muscles and the class of incoming NFL hopefuls; the difference here is lateral explosiveness since instead of jumping straight up, players must jump forward from a standing start, plus stick a landing!
Here’s what the Top 10 looked like at the 2016 Combine:
Despite the presence of Daniel Lasco and Jalen Ramsey at the top again, I promise that this is not a repeated chart! Once again, the Round 7 HB and Round 1 CB were inseparable at the top of the draft class in this event. Half of the group in the Top 10 here ended up being Round 1 picks, and the same half ended the season above 70 OVR.
There are rumors that Broad Jump results affect both JMP and STR ratings in Madden NFL 17, so our next chart will look at both of those ratings against the results:
In this combination chart, we can see that for starters, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in length at the top; note also that the feet and inches have been converted to decimal for readability here.
Despite rumors of STR being impacted by the Broad Jump as a measurable, it doesn’t appear to be the case in this small sample size. Interestingly, however, the strong rating performance of Falcons SS Keanu Neal would seem to bear out with his Super Bowl LI performance.
3 Cone Drill
As a fan of the New England Patriots, I’m familiar with the 3 Cone Drill all too well; it’s constantly cited as reasoning for the Patriots making their draft picks. And this is an interesting drill since it’s testing not only speed but also the ability to change direction at speed. It’s easy to see why talent evaluators might keep a closer eye on this than the 40 Yard Dash.
In the 2016 NFL Combine, the Top 10 looked like this:
With this drill, we’re seeing a lot more undrafted rookies in the Top 10 than in the other events, and lower OVR ratings across the board (though this may just as well be a function of where they started based on draft position). Unsurprisingly, we see two Patriots players in this group; more surprisingly, one of the Top 10 performers was Josh Woodrum, a QB who has already been on the practice squad or offseason roster of the Giants, Colts, Bears, and Bills.
Since the nature of the 3 Cone Drill suggests impacts to not just SPD but also ACC and AGI, that’s what we’re using as measurables for the combination graph this time:
Although there isn’t a defined correlation between the 3 Cone Drill time and these three rating measurables in Madden NFL 17, it’s clear that these Top 10 athletes are certainly not shortchanged on these physical ratings. The overall impact would be even higher if not for Bengals ROLB Nick Vigil, who sits as an outlier here due to his position played more than anything else. With his 83 SPD/86 ACC/78 AGI removed from the equation, no player here scores under 85 in these ratings. This is helpful since few players of the group ended the season over 70 in OVR rating.
20 Yard Shuttle Run
Another cone drill, the 20 Yard Shuttle Run helps to measure short-term explosiveness and agility while also measuring the lateral quickness of each athlete. Since you’ve made it this far in the article, let’s not belabor the point and get on to the Top 10 here:
Some familiar names from the 3 Cone Drill show up here, including Justin Simmons, Sean Davis, and Nick Vigil. Only Vernon Hargreaves III was picked in the first round, and the rest of the Top 10 got spread out over the draft including two picks in round 7 and an undrafted rookie. Impressively, Ravens CB Tavon Young ended the season at 80 OVR; a 13 point improvement over launch.
Let’s take another look at the combination graph to measure 20 Yard Shuttle performance against SPD, ACC, and AGI:
Despite having a decent lead over the pack in time, Simmons doesn’t separate from the pack in terms of his measurables. Meanwhile, Alex McCalister and Nick Vigil take the knock of being slower defensive positions as RE and ROLB respectively, bringing down the overall rating average for the group.
Combine Final Thoughts
If we’ve come to any conclusions from the work in this article, it’s probably that solely using the NFL Combine results as a firm guide to make a draft pick or predict a player’s suitability for the NFL is unwise. These measurables are certainly helpful towards getting a better understanding of each player, but if we consider the ratings that have been analyzed with these Combine events here, it’s easy to understand why the correlation isn’t great at predicting rookie success. We’ve been primarily discussing:
- SPD (Speed)
- STR (Strength)
- JMP (Jumping)
- ACC (Acceleration)
- AGI (Agility)
If we consider this chart released by EA SPORTS showing the percentages that each rating affects the OVR for a player in Madden NFL 17, here are the positions most affected by each:
- SPD (14% for CB, 13% for HB, 12% for WR, 11% for FS)
- STR (17% for DT, 13% for LT, 12% for LG/C/RG/RT)
- JMP (5% for FS, 4% for WR/CB)
- ACC (14% for CB, 11% for LE/RE, 8% for HB/WR)
- AGI (8% for HB, 5% for WR/LE/RE/FS)
While all of these categories have importance, they do not solely dictate the quality of a player coming from college into the NFL. This isn’t to say that transcendent performers like Myles Garrett, DE from Texas A&M, should be ignored; but the Combine should be weighed appropriately against the full scope of a collegiate career.
Consider this: when we look at the top rookies from the 2016 season, only three of the Top 25 (Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars, Keanu Neal of the Falcons, and Sterling Shepard of the Giants) show up in any of these Combine Top 10s by event. All three of these players were picked within the first 40 selections.
Be sure to check back here later in the summer when ratings are released for Madden NFL 18 and we have our first opportunity to do the same analysis against the 2017 NFL Draft class!