Today, for the first time ever, we took our deepest dive ever into the individual results of everyone who ran the 40 and did drills at last week’s NFL Combine. We broke out all 324 participants by school and position, agency and training destination, as we’ve done for weeks now, but also much more.
We also broke out (all behind the pay wall, sorry):
- Combine participants by 40 time
- Combine participants by Relative Athletic Score
- Combine training facilities by their clients
Obviously, what it all told us was that this was a really, really fast combine. One trainer, Brent Callaway of EXOS’ Frisco training facility, said he had six sub-4.4 times in his first 15 years in the business, then had six more (Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum, South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong, Iowa State’s Breece Hall, Memphis’ Calvin Austin III, SMU’s Danny Gray and Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt) this year alone. How could this be?
Sure, speed training is getting better at colleges these days; several trainers I spoke to pointed that out. Athletes are better, too. There’s no mistaking that nutrition, time on task (many athletes start training to run the 40 early in high school) and pure raw ability are all better than ever before. If all that were true, we’d see a gradual increase, but not a sudden explosion of sub-4.3 times and nine tackles running a sub-5.0 40.
There were a lot of good observations made by the trainers we spoke to this week, and we pass along their thoughts today in our Friday Wrap, that comes out this evening (you can register for it here). However, there was one theme I heard from trainers that had nothing to do with track backgrounds, new surfaces, skipping the bench press or other factors. Instead, it had to do with the value the league places on the entertainment that comes from today’s combine. The NFL was planning on a lot of would-be draft gurus glued to their televisions, and they sought to give them a show.
“It’s made for TV now,” said one elite speed specialist. “(The league needs) you to run. If you don’t run, they will have to start paying (the players) to run, which they don’t want to do. If they start putting up bad times, it shuts down their TV show.
“(Agents, trainers and combine invitees) were about to shut down their TV show because of the Covid rule, so (the league) changed that in 12 hours. If they run slow on that official time, kids will stop running. It will ruin their show.”
It’s a valid point. The NFL — much to the chagrin of everyone I know, from agent to scout to trainer — moved all the workouts to primetime. That was done for one reason: ratings. There are a lot of good reasons that times were better this year, which we’ll discuss in today’s Wrap, but it’s impossible to discount the league’s desire to juice its show with splashy times as one factor.
This year’s speed times are something many have celebrated but few have questioned, at least as far as I’ve seen. There’s more to come tonight. I hope you check out the Wrap.