With the Senior Bowl concluded, the next stage of the pre-draft process has begun for new Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles. That is the scouting combine. Many consider this to be the most important event of the offseason. One where teams can get a large number of top draft prospects in the same building and test their athletic measurables. It is hardly an exact science as history proves, but it can offer strong indications of who will succeed at the NFL level.
This is often where the details become interesting. Not every team evaluates or prioritizes drills the same way as others at the combine. Knowing this, I decided to do a little research to see if I could find any interesting details from Poles’ time with the Kansas City Chiefs whether any correlation could be found between certain drills and certain position groups. Something that he might bring to Chicago.
Here are some interesting tidbits uncovered and why they could prove crucial.
Ryan Poles will not prioritize the same event for each position
Wide receivers: Prefer a vertical jump of 36 inches or higher
The most popular event is always the 40-yard dash going into a combine. It is a measure of how fast a player is. Everybody loves speed. Poles is no different. He even said as much during his opening presser. The Bears are going to prioritize speed moving forward. However, people might be surprised to learn the 40 wasn’t always the most telling number that indicated their interest in wide receivers. That was the vertical jump.
While low 40 times can measure how fast a player is at full speed, the vertical jump measures how explosive they are. How quickly they can reach top speed. Of the 13 receivers the Chiefs drafted since 2009, only four had a mark worse than 36 inches. Prominent names like Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Dexter McCluster, and Chris Conley exceeded that line.
Offensive line: Must bench at least 25 reps
The common saying goes that football isn’t a game for the weak, especially in the trenches. More often than not, it’s power that wins the day. Sure athleticism and technique have crucial roles too, but most reps are often won by the stronger of the two. While the bench press is far from the only way to measure strength in offensive line prospects, it tends to serve as a good barometer of whether a guy can make it at the NFL level.
For the Chiefs, their preferred floor rested around 25 reps of 225 lbs. Only one of the seven linemen who participated in the press they drafted came in under that number. Is this a good way of determining a player’s ceiling? James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Charles Leno Jr., and Chris Williams came in below that mark for an idea. Three of those four can be called decent players but also a step or two below the best in the business.
Cornerback: Desired a 4.20 or lower for the 20-yard shuttle
Like wide receivers, teams often become focused on the 40-yard dash when it comes to defensive backs. Speed matters for that position since it can be so easy to get beat deep. Then again, probably one of the most vital characteristics of top corners is their ability to change direction quickly and move with suddenness in short amounts of time. That is where the 20-yard shuttle can prove so valuable.
Ryan Poles saw the Chiefs emphasize this for years. Of the 13 cornerbacks they drafted who went to the combine, five of them posted a time of 4.20 seconds or lower. Those names included Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson. The Bears can confirm this approach works too. They drafted one of just two corners to post such a time in 2020. His name was Jaylon Johnson.
Pass rusher: Needed a broad jump of 115 inches or higher
Many things go into making a successful pass rusher in the NFL. Strength is one. Length and the ability to bend are others. Hand-fighting technique is also crucial. However, people always tend to overlook the importance of lower-body explosion—the ability to generate burst off the snap. Beating tackles to the arc is often the critical difference between a sack and a getting out of the play entirely.
This would explain why the Chiefs focused on the broad jump for defensive ends and outside linebackers. No event can help determine lower-body explosion better. Of the eight players they drafted between those two positions, only one finished worse than 115 inches. Their two biggest successes, Justin Houston and Dee Ford went for 124 and 125 respectively. When Ryan Poles and his people head to Indianapolis next month, keep those numbers in mind.
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