Dynasty Hot Routes: Combine Harvesting

The mission of this article is to make our in-house experts sizzle and bristle over the hot button issues that face dynasty owners. Our experts make the entire route tree HOT as they address topics from the world of IDP, Devy, Start/Sit, PPR, Non-PPR (standard scoring), and everything in between. Try not to get burned by all the fiery YAC below! This is Dynasty Hot Routes!

In the past, has your perception of a player been drastically altered by their combine performance?

Joshua Johnson @DFF_ Cog – A good friend of mine had gotten me all excited about Chris Conley before the 2015 combine. He was even putting him on Odell Beckham’s level. I wasn’t convinced. Then, Conley absolutely torched the combine. His 139-inch broad jump and 45 inches on the vertical scored in the 99th percentile. His 4.35 40-time and 33 ¾ arm length landed him 92nd percentile. Suddenly I was smitten like a puppy at treat time. However, I eventually learned some very valuable lessons that year. First lesson; Workout Warriors are a real epidemic. Second lesson; the three-cone is the decider. You can run a 4.2 flat in the 40 but if you run a 7.10 three-cone you might be in trouble when it comes to beating press-man or gaining separation. Conley ran a 7.06 three-cone which wasn’t awful, but it scored in the 28th percentile. Third lesson; Conley got drafted by Kansas City… the Alex Smith led Chiefs… Landing spot matters so much.

Kyle Francis @FranchiseKF – Yep. I generally have a pretty good idea of how most guys are going to test, but every year there are surprises. Some players are great athletes and may not test like it, while others aren’t great athletes on tape but test well. It’s something that I factor in as a piece of the puzzle, but I care more about what a player has proven on the field than how they test. Elijah Holyfield went from a player I felt potentially excited about to a player that would now be one of the bigger outliers in many years if he found any fantasy success.

Scott Osterloh @FF_EvilEmpire – I’ve gotten burned twice with undersized WRs killing the combine and tricking me into projecting them to be the next Wes Welker or Marvin Harrison. Who are these WRs you ask?? Tavon Austin and John Ross… Doh!

John DiBari @dibari22 – The combine is just one of many things I use when evaluating rookies and creating my rookie rankings. In the past, I’ve had players take massive swings, both up and down, based on their combine performance. If someone is significantly faster or slower, or more or less athletic than I anticipated, I readily move them up and down my board. I’m a big proponent of landing spot over talent, so the draft usually has a buffered impact than the combine.

Tom Burroughs @DFF_Tom – I do my best to not overreact from combine performances, reminding myself they are just one part of a bigger picture. I have definitely fallen victim to some performances and the narratives that came after. I recall Dalvin Cook’s performance and the narrative that he was not agile enough following his underwhelming 3-cone and shuttle drills. I loved the player coming out, and I’m not sure my reaction was drastic, but this influenced my opinion and I lowered him a few spots on my rookie board. Watching him light up the NFL and look like a dominant 3-down back before being injured his rookie year was a reminder not to let a couple of drills disqualify my overall evaluation.

Matt Walker @DFF_Walk – The NFL Combine is just another piece of the puzzle when evaluating these rookies. It’s difficult to maintain perspective when DK Metcalf shows up looking like King Leonidas from 300 then runs a 4.33 Forty.

Full disclosure: I did allow Dalvin Cook’s combine performance to ding him a bit when his tape was fantastic.

AJ Schulte @AJDraftScout – I don’t really use the Combine as a mover of players up and down my boards, I use it as a confirmation tool or as a tool to find a new player. If a guy tests better/worse than I expect, then it is back to the tape to confirm the evaluation, but I don’t change a guy’s rankings just because he tested well.

What combine event translates the most to on-the-field/with pads in play?

Joshua Johnson @DFF_ Cog – Like I said above the three-cone is the decider. It is not the only thing that matters but paired with some quality athletic scores it can make a big the difference. I believe the three-cone really matters for those ”burner” types. With DBs it helps calculate how sticky they can be in coverage and how well they navigate through traffic while throttling downhill. With WRs it helps measure how quickly they can get in and out of breaks as well as if they can be deceptive enough to gain separation. With QBs in can really shed some light on elusiveness. It is kind of the same with RBs (as it is with QBs) but it can also speak to their vision, it is sort of like seeing and feeling things with your feet. With pass rushers, it can tell how well they are able to adjust on the fly to their secondary moves. If a TE can a sub-7 seven-second three-cone (especially one that is north on 240 pounds) I will drill about it for a long while.

Kyle Francis @FranchiseKF – I’m gonna kinda pivot from the asked question. I recently read a study conducted by a student at Cal-Berkeley. He examined QB, RB, and WR from 2000-2010 to determine whether the combine really mattered. In a gross simplification, he found that excelling in certain exercises led to both a higher likelihood of both being drafted at all and being drafted higher. For RBs, it seemed to be 40 times, 3-cone, and weight. If you’re big, agile, and fast then you’re gonna get paid – surprise! Good athletes get a chance in the league while bad ones rarely do. There isn’t a particular exercise that I personally value over others, but I do pay close attention to how much running backs weigh.

Scott Osterloh @FF_EvilEmpire – Josh and Franchise have the right idea… the three-cone and the shuttle drill are good indicators for agility, which usually translates to the NFL. One interesting measurement that has become in vogue to track for QBs is hand size, which has proven to correlate slightly to success (unless you’re Daunte Culpepper).

John DiBari @dibari22 – I look at different things for each position, but for receivers, tight ends & receiving backs there’s only one drill I focus on. I know some people hate it, but I love the gauntlet. I like to see how a player catches the ball at full speed and adjusts to bad throws on the fly. It’s a controlled environment, but if your slapping at the ball or catching it against your body, that starts waving red flags for me. On the other hand, players who are very fluid in their movements & catch the ball with their hands mid-stride get my attention.

Tom Burroughs @DFF_Tom – There is not much to add to what has been said above. I tend to use the 3-cone and shuttle for RBs as the best indicator of agility and elusiveness and do my best to ignore the 40-time unless it is disqualifying (*cough* Elijah Holyfield). The gauntlet is also a helpful gauge for looking at fluidity and hands, even if it is not something I put great stock into. The receiver needs to stay on track and catching the ball away from his body. Lastly, I examine the RB receiving drills closely. College production in receiving is rarely an accurate gauge on an RBs ability, and even a casual observer can watch these drills and judge how comfortable an RB feels catching the ball.

Matt Walker @DFF_Walk – I’m not going to say that anyone event translates to NFL success because there have been countless outliers. The events that make me go back and watch more tape on a player are the explosion (broad and vertical jumps) and three-cone drills. I’m not that concerned with how fast you can run in a straight line and the bench is mostly a glamor event (happy to see you’re hitting the gym but that’s part of your job description).

AJ Schulte @AJDraftScout – I think each answer would depend on each position you evaluate, but the drills for each event are where the money is made for me. If a guy tests great but his drills are poor, I start to question the player. If I had to pick one, I mostly pay attention to 3-cone but again only for certain positions.

Despite a solid combine performance in 2019, who is one player you would caution Dynasty owners about?

Joshua Johnson @DFF_ Cog – Alex Barnes is everyone’s new golden child. I kind of get it but nobody was on him pre-combine. Sure, he led the Big 12 rushing, but nobody was talking about him as a legitimate draftable player. His mockdraftable.com player comps include two wows (Nick Chubb & David Johnson), two crooked smiles (Rashad Jennings & Zach Zenner) and one who the hell was that guy (Morgan Kane Wake Forest circa the year 2000). Are we not putting too much stock in combine numbers if suddenly Barnes is a fringe rookie draft first rounder? I try to use the combine to confirm and affirm my thoughts on players that I have already liked for a while.

Sidenote: If you are still pooping your pants over DK Metcalf’s 4.3 40-time you should be equally as constipated by his 7.38 three-cone time.

Kyle Francis @FranchiseKF – Parris Campbell tested like an elite athlete at the combine. That means he’s going to get drafted higher than I believe he should be. I don’t dislike him, but I know I’m not gonna like him as much as the NFL team that drafts him. He would be a player I would have loved to have drafted the day before the combine and sell him today for significantly more than I paid. For perspective, I recently saw him mock drafted at 3.08 in two separate sharp groups. Following the combine, his ADP improved AT LEAST one full round, probably a round and a half. Buy low, sell high, become king.

Scott Osterloh @FF_EvilEmpire – I’ll go the other way here since my colleagues covered a lot of options to be skeptical about. Despite a poor combine performance, I still like David Montgomery to be a solid dynasty option in the right pro system. Montgomery’s tape shows him to be a strong runner with good instincts and vision, elements which are the name of the game in the trenches at critical moments in NFL games.

John DiBari @dibari22 – This is going to be wildly unpopular, but D.K. Metcalf. I fear he’s another in a long line of genetic freak workout warriors who crush the combine only to never meet the lofty goals others place on them in the NFL. Could he be the best player from this entire class? Sure. Could he be the biggest bust from this entire class? Sure. He’s a tremendous athlete with an incredible physique, but I’m not sure that he’s a good football player. I’m working on an article going into greater detail, but if I’m looking to mitigate risk early in my rookie drafts, I’m avoiding him entirely.

Tom Burroughs @DFF_Tom – Franchise covered mine above with Parris Campbell (Ohio State). We expected he would light up the 40 (and he didn’t disappoint with a 4.31), but I feel there are still question marks on his route running and ball tracking. I will widen my response to caution people to be wary of receivers with blistering 40 times that may not have proven production and a receiver skill set. Scouts, NFL teams, and dynasty players fall in love with these speedsters every year. They are valued at the NFL level and are drafted in early rounds, only to disappoint because they do not have the skills to succeed. Outside of the early first round, I prioritize receivers who have a history of sound route running and production. Players like Calvin Ridley and Cooper Kupp come to mind from recent years.

Matt Walker @DFF_Walk – I’m going to go the other way here and double down on Elijah Holyfield. I was skeptical of him coming out of Georgia but that was largely based on his lack (cough) of receiving production. I weigh this heavily in my RB evaluation. Holyfield caught 7 passes DURING HIS THREE YEARS AT GEORGIA!! I know that they aren’t a prolific passing attack, but red flags were already flying for me. He then goes and runs a sloth-like 4.78 40-yard dash, proceeds to re-enact the stone hands role from Unnecessary Roughness and he’s now as dynasty undraftable as he likely is NFL undraftable for me.

NOTE: I’m surprised no one mentioned Justice Hill here. I like the player but he’s currently outside my top 10 at the position and absolutely torched the combine to the tune of:

40-yard dash – 4.40 sec

Bench Press – 21 reps

Vertical – 40 in

Broad – 130 in

AJ Schulte @AJDraftScout – I could go with any of the RBs who tested well, and Franchise already took Parris Campbell, so I’m going to go with a player often mentioned as the 1.01: WR N’keal Harry. His testing was good, but not good enough for me to move the needle on him any. He’s still who he is as a player, and one that I have more concerns about than I would like to have.


I am searching for the meaning of every bump on the pigskin. From leather helmets to a league with no point after attempts, I am researching with a wide shovel. -married/father/music fan/Raider Nation baby/deli meat enthusiast/three-cone extremist

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