NFL Combine Records: Fastest 40 Times, Best Bench Press, More Heading into 2014
The NFL is an ever-evolving league in which incoming players continue to show up bigger, stronger and faster than their predecessors, and it's always fascinating to see if new records will be broken at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Many players make a boatload of money based on how they perform at the combine. Scouts like to say the tape doesn't lie, but every year we see players shoot up draft boards after proving superior to their peers in shorts.
Every competitor who shows up to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis hopes to make his mark, but broken records don't happen every year. It takes a truly special athlete to set a new benchmark to which others will aspire in the years to come.
Keep reading for a look at the current record-holders in every combine event.
Note: Though none of these upcoming records are official, unofficial records were not kept until 1999.
Since 1999, Chris Johnson and Rondel Melendez have held the top mark of 4.24 seconds (unofficial).
Neither of these players could hold a candle to the display of raw speed Auburn's Bo Jackson showed, however, at the 1986 NFL Scouting Combine at the Louisiana Superdome.
Frank Cooney of NFL Draft Scout via USA Today has the details: "First, there is no single 'official' 40 time at the combine. That said, Bo Jackson has the best verifiable time at a combine with his 4.12-second clocking at the Louisiana Superdome in 1986."
Bo knows speed—among many other things.
Heading into the 2014 combine, all eyes are on wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Widely regarded as the top wide receiver of his class, Watkins will dominate the 40-yard dash drill to cement his status as the clear-cut No. 1 receiver among his peers. Watkins currently draws comparisons to highly touted athletes such as Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who impressed mightily when he participated at the combine in 2011.
Josh Kendall of The State provided a statement from Watkins discussing the 40-yard dash drill:
I am 10 times faster than I was in college. My body was so messed up that I can get 10 times faster. I was using 60 percent of my body, and I have 40 percent more I need to get out....
...I don’t want to say a specific time (in the 40). That is kind of hidden right now, but I will definitely have the fastest time or one of the two or three fastest at the combine.
With all eyes on Watkins and the receiver himself even hyping anticipation, expect the skilled playmaker to impress viewers. Watkins will be a spectacle fans should not miss at this year's scouting combine.
Many of us would be pleased to be able to lift 225 pounds a couple of times on the bench press, but the NFL's top heavyweights have put up jaw-dropping numbers in this event.
The top mark was set by Justin Ernest of Eastern Kentucky, who put up 51 reps back in 1999, according to NFL Draft Scout. Showing just how useless this test can be for real scouting evaluation, Ernest ended up going undrafted that year and never made a name for himself in the NFL.
Current Chicago Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea out of Oregon State nearly broke that record in 2011, putting up 225 pounds on the bench a whopping 49 times. Even better, Paea possesses NFL-level football abilities, and he's developed into an integral player for Chicago over the past three seasons.
The vertical jump is a good test to see how explosive athletes are from a standing start, and it's especially helpful when evaluating receivers and defensive backs, who actually need to be able to jump high on game days.
Gerald Sensabaugh, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, has the current record of 46 inches, set back in 2005. He recently retired from the game of football but was a productive player during his career.
Interestingly enough, in an event dominated by receivers and defensive backs, the second-best mark was posted by an outside linebacker. Cameron Wake out of Penn State leaped 45.5 inches back in 2005.
Once again, most eyes will be on wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Though he is widely considered to be among the most physically gifted athletes, many will want to see just how high Watkins can leap off the ground.
Cementing his draft status at the combine has become a focal point for Watkins, as he said to Kendall:
My draft goal has always been the same, be a top 10 player, go out there and dominate the combine and make sure those guys see my potential and go out there and ace the interviews...
...Coming here, I am thinking, "I might get faster, I might not." In two weeks, I can tell I am 10 times more flexible. I am working on muscles we didn’t work on (in college), different stretches, different workouts.
Receivers such as Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green and Andre Johnson and have set a high standard for No. 1 receivers as their quarterbacks routinely lean on them to complete and win jump balls against their defender. If Watkins wants to solidify himself as a clear-cut No. 1 receiver heading into the NFL, he'll need to impress in this drill to prove he has the flat-footed leaping ability to beat defenders.
Spoiler alert: He does.
The broad jump demonstrates lower-body strength and raw explosive power, and it's a useful tool for evaluating many different positions.
Current New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins blew the hinges off of this event last year when he jumped 11'7" to smash the old record by two inches.
Collins' ability to leap across a nearly 12-foot span has translated well to the pro game. He's using his explosive athleticism to develop into a dangerous pass-rusher for the Patriots, and he was the team's best defender during the 2014 playoffs.
Agility, quickness and the ability to change direction in a hurry are the key elements tested in the three-cone drill, so it's not surprising that the top performers in this event are usually slot receivers and man-to-man cover corners.
Unheralded Jeff Maehl out of Oregon holds the current record of 6.42 seconds, which he set in 2011, as noted by Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. He broke the old record, set by cornerback Sedrick Curry out of Texas A&M (2000), by just 0.03 seconds.
At the time, NFL Network analyst Sterling Sharpe liked what he saw from the diminutive receiver.
“I like his game,” commentator Sterling Sharpe said, via Fentress. “He’s going to out slow some people but I like his game. He catches the football with his hands. He’s very fluid at route running. He’s a smart route runner. He doesn’t run into traffic or headaches. I like what I’ve seen from him in college.”
While Maehl did go undrafted, he made it onto the Philadelphia Eagles' active roster last season, catching four passes for 67 yards and one touchdown.
Prospects must be quicker than greased lightning to beat the current record in the 20-yard shuttle.
Kevin Kasper out of Iowa set the bar high back in 2001 with a blazing time of 3.73 seconds, and nobody's been able to match it since.
As is often the case, however, earning a top mark at the combine doesn't necessarily guarantee success in the NFL.
ESPN.com's Mike Sando detailed this back in 2008, noting Kasper's excellent marks while pointing out he's struggled to find a home in the league: "Kasper...ranks first in the 20-yard shuttle (3.73), fifth in vertical jump (43 1/2 inches) and seventh in the three-cone agility drill (6.56). He has started nine NFL games but has struggled to hold down a roster spot."
He finished his career having made a minor impact as a return specialist, but he never caught on as a receiver, catching just 24 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns.
The 60-yard shuttle is an agility drill, but it's also a drill that requires a certain amount of stamina.
Current Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jamell Fleming had a time of 10.75 seconds in 2012. That tied Buster Skrine's 2011 mark, which beat the old record by 0.12 seconds.
Fleming, like many of the other top performers in this list, hasn't been a star in the NFL. After logging 22 tackles and starting three games in his rookie season with the Arizona Cardinals, Fleming has been relegated to special-teams roles the past two seasons.
Skrine, though, was a regular starter in the Cleveland Browns secondary this past season.