Right around the time you see offensive linemen running 40 yards downfield for the first and last times of their NFL careers, it's reasonable to wonder whether the NFL scouting combine is really just a big waste of time -- an excuse for NFL teams to spend hours trying to figure out whether a player's bubble (read: posterior) is too big or his hands are too small, or that he doesn't run patterns well against a set of orange cones.
So then, is the combine worthless? Is it safe to throw out all the data and just look at how a player performed on Saturdays against inferior competition? No one has bothered to actually go back and check whether what happens at the combine bears any relationship to NFL performance -- besides Football Outsiders, that is.
The answer is that, well, it depends on the position and the player. One place where a bit of combine data can actually go a long way in predicting a player's viability in the NFL is at running back, where we've come up with a metric known as "speed score."