NFL combine predictors: Defense

Courtney Upshaw could solidify his ranking as the top outside linebacker with a strong combine. Marvin Gentry/US Presswire

What can NFL combine data tell us about where players will be drafted? And more specifically, are there certain combine tests that generally impact where a player is drafted? In its simplest form, the NFL draft is a measure of how NFL management evaluates college talent. In a perfectly efficient market, it would also be a measure of how college talent translates into professional production. Unfortunately, it's not perfectly efficient -- just ask Cincinnati Bengals fans about the Akili Smith experiment.

The combine consists of six primary tests: bench press, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, shuttle run and three-cone drill. In fact, it's a lot like the combine at numberFire, except our tests are less about running and jumping and more about matrix algebra.

We're meeting the jocks halfway, applying our math to the muscle to determine which specific workouts best predict draft position for skill players.

Last week, we focused on offensive skill players. This week, we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.


Cornerbacks need speed, agility and jumping ability to keep up with the elite wide receivers in the NFL. This makes the combine the ideal place to scout cornerbacks. Like wide receivers and running backs, the biggest determining factor in a cornerback's draft position is the 40 time. In fact, 40 time correlates at 0.49 to round drafted, higher than any of the offensive skill position tests.