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.
On Monday, we'll do the same thing for defensive players.
The cold truth is that the combine tests are ill-fitted to properly evaluate quarterbacks, as the primary traits tested are those of raw athleticism -- namely speed and strength. While having these traits doesn't hurt, a QB doesn't need to be overly strong nor overly fast to succeed. A strong arm, accuracy and solid decision-making all go quite a long way.
After looking at the numbers, the best predictor for quarterbacks isn't actually a performance test at all. Height correlates to draft position at minus-0.27, higher than any of the other tests. The negative signifies that the taller the quarterback is, the closer to the beginning of the draft he will be selected. Be wary, though, as a correlation that low doesn't mean much.