Updated: Jan 19, 2019
The combine is designed to test a player's athleticism. As players move up in age, combines are used to help collegiate and pro recruiters assess potential recruits.
40 Yard Dash
The 40 Yard (36.6 meters) Dash is the main event of the NFL combine. Everybody wants to know their "40" time. It's where pros make their millions and where recruits get noticed.
Why: This test will primarily show a player's acceleration, but it is also an indicator for speed, agility and quickness.
What and where: Find flat and unobstructed grass, track, or turf surface of at least 60 yards. Measure out a 40 yard area using a measuring tape if the area is unmarked. Set up cones to identify the start and finish lines. A stopwatch or timing gates will be used to time the event. If using a stop watch, have the player set up and hold their position. Start the clock on the player's first movement. Timing gates will pick up on the player using laser sensors on both sides of the player. Some gates will have a countdown sound to indicate when to run, where others will sense first movement. With timing gates, you eliminate the potential for human error. Interestingly, the NFL prefers to use a human hand start based on a player's first movement followed by an electronic timing gate finish.
How: Warm up ! You want to make sure that your player is warmed up enough to SAFELY sprint their fastest. Sprinting when you are cold will lead to injury and slow times. Here is a solid video on dynamic stretching pre-sprint. There are many different ways to warm up but I enjoyed this video's delivery. Once your player is warmed up, they should work in some practice starts and accelerations. Start from a comfortable stationary 3-point stance position, a position that is most familiar to you and that you think will yield the best time. The front foot must be on or behind the starting line. This starting position should be held for 3 seconds prior to starting, you may lean across the starting line, but rocking movements are allowed. Check out these NFL combine 40 yard dash highlights.
Results: Two trials are allowed, and the best time is recorded to the nearest 2 decimal places. The timing starts from the first movement (if using a stopwatch) or when the timing system is triggered, and finishes when the chest crosses the finish line and/or the finishing timing gate is triggered.
40 yard Sprint Scores (general guidelines)
College Footballers 4.6 - 4.9 secs
High School Footballers 4.9 - 5.6 secs
Recreational College athletes (male)~5.0 secs
Recreational College athletes (female)~5.8 secs
Div 1 Collegiate recruiting guideline
Running Back 4.4 secs
Defensive Back 4.5 secs
Quarter Back 4.5 secs
Wide Receiver 4.5 secs
Linebacker 4.6 secs
Tight end 4.7 secs
Defensive Lineman 4.8 secs
Offensive Lineman 5.0 secs
Note - This is only a guideline and many factors far beyond these 40 times are used by recruiters.
Top 5 NFL 40 times since 2013
1. John Ross, WR, Washington. 4.22 secs
2. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina. 4.24 secs
3. Dri Archer, RB, Kent State. 4.26 secs
4. Jerome Mathis, WR, Hampton. 4.26 secs
5. Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas. 4.27 secs
Pro Agility Shuttle (5-10-5 Shuttle)
This test is used in more than just football. Hockey, soccer and baseball leagues (including the NHL and MLS) all use this test as a part of their combine testing protocol.
Why: This drill tests more than just straight line speed. Because of the starts and stops, it is also used to test a player's explosiveness, ability to change direction (agility) and body control.
What and where: Set up requires 3 cones placed in a straight line and 5 yards apart on a non-slip, flat surface. Turf, grass or gym floor are common. If not on a marked football field, use a measuring tape to set the cones. Use a stopwatch or timing gates to measure their time. If using a stopwatch, start the timer on a signal (Go, Hut or whatever you choose). Timing gates will pick up a player's first movement and when they cross the line.
How: The player lines up at the middle marker cone in a 3 point stance and prepares to go left or right. Assuming the player chooses to run to their left, they will follow this sequence. On the signal (Go, Hut or whatever), the player turns and runs five yards to the left side and touches the line with their left hand. They then explode out of their line touch to run 10 yards to their right toward the furthest cone. When they reach the cone they will touch the line with their right hand and explode back toward the left furthest cone. The time will stop when the player crosses the middle cone, but all players should run hard to the furthest cone so that they don't slow down too early. The player must touch the line at each turn or the run won't count.
Results: Record the time in seconds to the nearest 2 decimals. Use the best time of 3 attempts.
NFL record holder since 2006
Jason Allen, CB, 3.81 secs
Top 5 times in 2018 NFL combine
1. Grant Haley, CB, Penn St., 3.94 secs
2. Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma, 3.94 secs
3. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville, 3.98 secs
4. Avonte Maddox, CB, Pittsburg, 4.00 secs
5. Troy Apke, S, Penn St., 4.03 secs
Kneeling Power Ball Chest Launch
The is a test to show upper body strength and power. It uses a weighted ball thrown for maximum distance. This is commonly used in hockey and was added to football testing as a replacement for the bench press.
Why: This test measures upper body strength and power.
What and where: 2 or 3 kg weighted ball (Power ball). The 2 kg ball is used for testing youth and females, where as the 3 kg ball is used for older males. Older players can throw this ball up to 45 feet so make sure to use a clear open areas to test. A tape measure will be used to measure the distance and a foam pad will be used for kneeling.
How: The player starts in a kneeling position on the foam pad (the foam pad will be lined up on the start line) with a straight back and faces the direction they are to throw. Their toes must be pointed backwards. They can't curl their toes, as that will generate additional traction from their lower body. Start with the ball grasped with both hands and held out in front and above the head. From that position, bring the ball down to the chest as lower the hips to the back of the heels. Then in one fluent motion the ball is pushed forward and up. The optimal release is between 30-45 degrees. The player IS allowed to fall forward over the line after letting go of the ball. However, they can't lift their knees off the foam and they can't favour one arm or rotate their spine. A practice attempt is allowed to learn the correct movements. Two live attempts are allowed, with at least 45 seconds recovery between each throw.
Results: The measurement is recorded in feet plus inches and to the nearest inch. Measurement starts from the furthest edge of the start line and ends at the center of the ball where it first hit the ground. The best of two throws is recorded.
Standing Long Jump Test (Broad Jump)
The Standing long jump, also called the Broad Jump, is a common and easy to administer test of explosive leg power. It is one of the fitness tests in the NFL Combine. The standing long jump was also once an event at the Olympic Games, and is also an event in Sports Hall competitions in the UK.
Why: to measure the explosive power of the legs
What and where: tape measure to measure distance jumped, non-slip floor for takeoff, and soft landing area preferred. Commercial Long Jump landing mats are also available. Check and calibrate equipment if needed. Perform a standard warm-up. The take off line should be clearly marked.
How: The athlete stands behind a line marked on the ground with feet slightly apart. A two foot take-off and landing is used, with swinging of the arms and bending of the knees to provide forward drive. The athlete attempts to jump as far as possible, landing on both feet without falling backwards. Three attempts are allowed. See above video for examples.
Results: The measurement is taken from take-off line to the nearest point of contact on the landing (back of the heels). Record the longest distance jumped, the best of three attempts.
3-Cone Shuttle Drill Test
This test is part of the fitness testing battery for the NFL combine replacing the" 4 cone or Box Drill. It is also sometimes called the 'L-Drill'.
Why: This is a test of agility, including speed, quickness, flexibility, change of direction, body control.
What and where: stopwatch, measuring tape or marked football field, marker cones, a flat non-slip surface. Measure and mark out the course. Ensure that the subjects are adequately warmed-up. Three marker cones are placed to form an "L." with cones at the corner and at each end, 5 yards apart (see video above).
How: The player starts by getting down in a three-point stance next to Cone 1. On the command 'Go', he runs to Cone 2, bends down and touches a line with his right hand. Then he turns and runs back to Cone 1, bends down and touches that line with his right hand. Then he runs back to Cone 2 and around the outside of it, weaves inside Cone 3, then around the outside of Cones 3 and 2 before finishing at Cone 1. The player must run forward while altering his running direction, as opposed to strictly stopping and starting in opposite directions. Each time they perform the 3-cone drill for a different side (e.g. first time they curve to the left, second time they curve to the right). See 3 cone video above.
Results: The time to complete the test in seconds is recorded. The score is the best time of two trials.