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Top combine performances that should catch NY Jets’ eye

Joe Alt
Joe Alt

Which potential New York Jets draft targets starred in combine drills that have strong predictive value?

Before the NFL Combine, we broke down the most important drills for each offensive position based on how effectively they have predicted future NFL success.

Now that most of the major events are in the books, let’s take a look at which offensive prospects shined in drills that tend to be good indicators of future production. With the New York Jets poised for an offense-heavy draft class, all of these prospects should have drawn the attention of Joe Douglas in Indy.

Running backs

Via Kevin Cole, Unexpected Points
  • Most important drill for future NFL performance: 3-cone

As shown in Kevin Cole’s study of combine performances from 2006-2019, the 3-cone drill is the only drill that had a significant positive correlation with future NFL production across a player’s first four seasons (based on the NFL Plus/Minus metric). For that reason, the 3-cone drill is the only one we should place stock into at the running back position.

For running backs, the magic number to put yourself in the elite ranks of the 3-cone is 6.85 seconds. This mark would rank at the 82nd percentile all-time among running back prospects. In Cole’s article, he listed the top 10 running back prospects since 2006 according to their predicted future NFL value based on their testing profile, and all of them had a three-cone time of 6.85 seconds or less.

NFL.com only lists six running backs as having completed the 3-cone drill. Three of them finished under the 6.85 mark:

  • Tyrone Tracy Jr., Purdue (6.81) – Ranked 139th overall on NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board
  • Blake Corum, Michigan (6.82) – 71st
  • Dylan Laube, New Hampshire (6.84) – 153rd

Corum is viewed as a possible Day 2 selection. That’s likely too early for the Jets to take a running back, but Tracy and Laube could fall into an ideal range for the Jets to take a running back. They are both considered early Day 3 prospects, and the Jets currently own two early fourth-round picks.

Wide receivers

Via Kevin Cole, Unexpected Points
  • Most important drill for future NFL performance: 40-yard dash

As Cole points out in his article, NFL teams are drastically overvaluing the 40-yard dash for wide receiver prospects. Its correlation with draft position is enormously higher than its correlation with future NFL success. With that being said, it is still the most significant drill for predicting future NFL success, even if it is not to the degree that NFL teams seem to think.

We’ll identify the prospects who placed themselves firmly in the top 20% all-time. According to Mockdraftable, 4.41 seconds is good enough for the 82nd percentile all-time among wide receivers. Here are the wide receivers who ran a 4.41 or better:

  • Xavier Worthy, Texas (4.21) – Ranked 42nd overall on NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board
  • Brian Thomas Jr., LSU (4.33) – 21st
  • Adonai Mitchell, Texas (4.34) – 34th
  • Devontez Walker, North Carolina (4.36) – 65th
  • Jacob Cowing, Arizona (4.38) – 141st
  • Roman Wilson, Michigan (4.39) – 54th
  • Ladd McConkey, Georgia (4.39) – 39th
  • Anthony Gould, Oregon State (4.39) – 259th
  • Xavier Legette, South Carolina (4.39) – 56th
  • Troy Franklin, Oregon (4.41) – 31st
  • Ricky Pearsall, Florida (4.41) – 77th

This wide receiver class has received plenty of hype over the past couple of months and the combine backed it up. There were 11 prospects who ran the 40 in 4.41 seconds or less, and nine of them are viewed as top 80 overall prospects. This sample doesn’t even include the three blue-chip wide receivers who will probably be drafted in the top 10: Marvin Harrison Jr. (did not run), Malik Nabers (did not run), and Rome Odunze (4.45).

Tight ends

Via Kevin Cole, Unexpected Points
  • Most important drill for future NFL performance: Weight

Interestingly enough, it’s not a drill that has been the most predictive metric for tight ends – it’s a measurement. Weight is what seems to matter most when predicting a tight end prospect’s future success.

Bigger tight ends have generally had a greater impact in the league due to their success as blockers. As Cole explained in his article, a tight end’s future receiving output is difficult to predict, but there is a strong tendency for bigger tight ends to fare better as blockers, and that explains why weight came out as the most predictive metric by a wide margin.

The average weight of an NFL tight end in 2023 was about 249 pounds. So, here are the tight end prospects who weighed in at 250 pounds or more:

  • Tip Reiman, Illinois (271) – Ranked 235th overall on NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board
  • Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota (260) – 176th
  • Theo Johnson, Penn State (259) – 123rd
  • Erick All, Iowa (252) – 208th
  • AJ Barner, Michigan (251) – 199th
  • Ben Sinnott, Kansas State (250) – 137th

All of these tight ends are projected to be taken on the third day of the draft, placing them well within range for a Jets team that is projected to have six Day 3 picks (which includes three projected seventh-round compensatory picks).

As we discussed in our recent breakdown of the Jets’ run game, New York needs another blocking tight end. It’s a role where they can substantially improve after dealing with putrid blocking from C.J. Uzomah in 2023. Their currently projected TE2, Jeremy Ruckert, has been too inconsistent to be handed a heavy blocking workload without being challenged, so the Jets should add a skilled blocker to push Ruckert in camp. Grabbing one of these big-bodied prospects on Day 3 would be a great way to do it.

Offensive tackle

Via Kevin Cole, Unexpected Points
  • Most important drill for future NFL performance: 40-yard dash

As comical as it seems to make 300-pound men run 40 yards in a straight line despite the fact they will never do that in a game, the 40-yard dash actually is the most predictive metric for future offensive tackle success. It speaks to the importance of athleticism at the position. Even if the 40-yard dash itself does not translate directly to the position’s responsibilities, it is an effective tool for revealing general athletic ability.

To rank above the 80th percentile all-time in the 40-yard dash among offensive tackle prospects, you need to run better than a 5.1. Here are the prospects who surpassed that mark:

  • Roger Rosengarten, Washington (4.92) – Ranked 143rd overall on NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board
  • Frank Crum, Wyoming (4.94) – Unranked
  • Tylan Grable, UCF (4.95) – 299th
  • Troy Fautanu, Washington (5.01) – 26th
  • Christian Jones, Texas (5.04) – 115th
  • Kingsley Saumataia, BYU (5.04) – Unranked
  • Jordan Morgan, Arizona (5.04) – 37th
  • Joe Alt, Notre Dame (5.05) – 9th
  • Amarius Mims, Georgia (5.07) – 23rd

The offensive tackle class has received a similar amount of hype to the wide receiver class, and the 40-yard dash again backed it up. Some of the top tackles in the class aren’t even on this list, whereas a handful of previously unheralded prospects put themselves on the map with elite times.

Possible Jets targets Olu Fashanu (5.11) and Taliese Fuaga (5.13) narrowly missed the cut. JC Latham did not run.

If you need a wide receiver or an offensive tackle, both classes are very deep this year, and there might not be a team in the league that needs help at those two positions more than the Jets. So, while New York might be hamstrung with limited draft capital this year, they will have an opportunity to find good value at every part of the draft for their top positions of need. Douglas and the scouting staff must take advantage and locate some steals with their post-first-round picks.

Interior offensive line

Via Kevin Cole, Unexpected Points
  • Most important drill for future NFL performance: 20-yard shuttle

Not only is the 20-yard shuttle the most predictive metric of future success for interior offensive linemen, but it’s the single most predictive metric of future success for any position among the five analyzed in Cole’s article. Whereas most of the other identifiers we’ve discussed so far can only provide us with mild predictive value, the 20-yard shuttle is extremely telling for interior offensive linemen. If you place stock into only one metric from this article, make sure it’s this one.

The top-20% benchmark for interior offensive linemen is 4.55 seconds, which puts you at the 83rd percentile all-time in the position group. Here are the IOL prospects who met or cleared that mark:

  • Tanor Bortolini, Wisconsin (4.28) – Ranked 135th overall on NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board
  • Dylan McMahon, NC State (4.33) – 236th
  • Dominick Puni, Kansas (4.40) – 88th
  • Mason McCormick, South Dakota State (4.45) – 172nd
  • Jarrett Kingston, USC (4.47) – 305th
  • Brady Latham, Arkansas (4.47) – Unranked
  • Drake Nugent, Michigan (4.50) – 180th
  • Christian Mahogany, Boston College (4.53) – 89th

While the Jets will probably not select an interior offensive lineman in the first round, there is a great chance they could target the position on Day 3. You can never have enough depth and developmental youth along the offensive line, and the Jets don’t have much of either (especially on the interior), so I would not be shocked at all if the Jets selected an interior lineman on Day 3.

Many of the prospects listed above should be on the board when Day 3 arrives, and history indicates they all should have relatively strong odds of succeeding in the NFL. Douglas has established himself as a general manager who appears to value athletic testing quite highly. I think there is a reasonable chance he ends up adding one of these players.

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