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The Combine Chronicles: Defensive End

National Football Post

This is the sixth in a series of articles about the NFL Combine. The role of a defensive end depends on whether a team is using a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive. The 3-4 defensive end tends to be larger and has less expected of him as a pass rusher. The 4-3 defensive end is expected to be an effective pass rusher and is generally smaller and more mobile because of that.

In order to, at least arbitrarily, recognize this difference in defensive ends, DRAFTMETRICS has split them into two groups based on their size. “Small Defensive Ends”, for purposes of this article, weigh less than 270 pounds and “Large Defensive Ends” weight 270 pounds or more. 

DRAFTMETRICS won’t repeat all the introductory information from prior articles, but some degree of repetition is unavoidable. All information in this article is based on the 1999-2012 Combines. The DRAFTMETRICS analysis includes the results of the following drills:

Combine Events

This article reviews the Combine results from three perspectives:
• Provide a context for Combine results by reporting historical performance
• Consider whether results of any Combine drills are meaningful predictors of future success
• Consider whether results of any Combine drills portend a low probability of success

DRAFTMETRICS summarized its information by four overlapping groups of players. Any individual play can be included in only group or a many as all four. The groups are:
• All Combine participants from 1999 through 2012
• Combine participants who were drafted from 1999 through 2012
• Combine participants who started at least one season (starters start at least 8 games in a season)
• Combine participants who started at least three seasons

The following tables display the number of participants and average for each of the player groups. This is a good starting point in evaluating 2013 Combine results. Although the flying 20 split and 40 yard-dash results are included in these tables, DRAFTMETRICS believes they are of very limited usefulness in assessing the skill set of defensive ends.

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The next table shows the range of results for all players who started for at least one season.

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DRAFTMETRICS offers the following observations based on its review of Small Defensive Ends and their Combine results:
• The 20-yard shuttle has the best correlation with success
   -72% of 1-year starters and 78% of 3-year starters ran the drill in 4.39 seconds or less compared to 51% of all Combine participants
   -Interestingly, though, only three of the players with the top 10 times in the study period became starters
• The vertical jump also seems to have a positive correlation
   -72% of 1-year starters and 76% of 3-year starters jumped 33.5 inches or higher versus 53% of all Combine participants
   -Eight of the players in the top ten results became starters
• Sprints showed mixed results
   -There was very little difference among starters and all Combine participants for the 10-yard split
   -58% of 1-year starters and 57% of 3-year starters ran the 40 in 4.75 or faster compared to 41% of all Combine performers
      -How many times do DEs run 40 yards on a football field? - - this correlation may be more indicative of overall athletic ability than a useful skill
• Broad jump performance had some correlation as did the 3-Cone drill
   -87% of 1-year starters and 88% of 3-year starters jumped 111 inches or more compared to 71% of all Combine participants
   -58% of 1-year starters and 57% of 3-year starters ran the 3-Cone in 7.21 seconds or faster compared to 42% of all Combine participants
• There was little to no difference in the bench press between starters and all participants
• A few “red flags” were noted

   -None of the 33 Combine participants who had vertical jumps of 31 inches or less became 3-year starters and only three become 1-year starters
   -Only two of the 35 Combine participants who ran the 40 in 4.92 or worse became 1-year or 3-year starters
   -None of the 15 Combine participants who ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.59 or slower became starters
   -Only two of the 28 Combine participants who ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.53 or slower became 1-year starters and only 1 became a 3-year starter

DRAFTMETRICS offers the following observations based on its review of Large Defensive Ends and their Combine results:
• Overall, while the starters posted results that were consistently better than all Combine participants, there weren’t any advantages were really significant
• Among the sprint splits, the 10-yard split showed the biggest difference
   -64% of starters ran the split in 1.69 seconds or faster compared to 50% of all Combine participants
      -That is the top correlation between results and subsequent success and it is not all that compelling
   -The 40-yard dash results are close behind with very similar numbers for running 4.90 or faster
• Bench press results were more important at this position than almost any other
   -There is typically no correlation at other playing positions
   -66% of starters had 24 or more reps as compared to 56% for all Combine participants
• The only other somewhat notable results were in the broad jump
   -55% of 1-year starters jumped 112 inches or more compared to 46% of all Combine participants
• There are no significant differences in the vertical jump, 20-yard shuttle or 3-Cone drills
• Consistent with the low level of difference between starters and all participants, only 1 “red flag” was noted

   -Only two of the 12 Combine participants who ran the 10-yard split slower than 1.77 became 1-year starters and only one became a 3-year starter


Tony is the founder of DRAFTMETRICS.COM can be e-mailed at and followed on Twitter @draftmetrics

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