Sports

Firn ’16: Brown’s pro day — How we stacked up against NFL athletes

By
Sports Columnist
Friday, February 27, 2015

The annual NFL combine wrapped up this week in Indianapolis, and by and large, it was a pretty routine showcase. Like every year, some players put on a dazzling display of superhuman athleticism. Like every year, others failed to impress and saw their draft stocks plummet. And like every year, couch warriors all over the country watched a few 300-pound linemen waddle down the field and brazenly claimed, “Even I’m faster than that guy.”

It’s a bold statement, especially when mumbled through a mouthful of potato chips. But there’s something undeniably dreamy about the notion of outperforming a professional athlete in the athletic arena. Until the combine results can be put into context, that dream persists. We know the running back who posts a 4.3-second 40-yard dash is blazing fast. We know the lumbering lineman who clocks in at 5.4 seconds is painfully slow. But how fast is fast, and how slow is slow?

These burning questions fueled a recent debate amongst a few of my roommates. With only intramural flag football experience, we’d never tried most of the combine drills. And because we were inexplicably not one of the top 335 football prospects invited to participate, we decided to give it a go on our own. Between the three of us — all washed-up former high school athletes — we boast four intramural championships, one club team membership and one case of asthma. We aren’t quite out of shape, but we’re not quite in shape. So, armed with a ruler, some tape and an iPhone, we set out to discover whether the average college student can survive the rigors of the NFL combine.

Here’s how our data stacked up to the best and worst of the 2015 combine.

Wonderlic Test

All-time combine best: 50

Our best: 45

All-time combine worst: 4

Our worst: 36

The Wonderlic is a problem-solving aptitude test used to predict how well and how rapidly football players will be able to process information on the field. Wonderlic scores are supposed to be confidential, but the interesting outliers always get leaked. Only one player in history has recorded a perfect 50, and only a handful has posted above 45. The average combine participant scores only 20. Based on our Wonderlic results alone, we all have bright NFL futures.

Alas, the Wonderlic test has proven at best to be dubiously predictive of NFL performance. Dan Marino famously scored a 16 at his combine before carving out an elite Hall-of-Fame career. Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne blew off the test completely: “I came to the combine for football. I looked at the test, and (there weren’t) any questions about football.”

Height and Weight

Combine largest: 6-foot-8, 355 pounds

Our largest: 6-foot-1, 165 pounds

Combine smallest: 5-foot-7, 156 pounds

Our smallest: 5-foot-9, 165 pounds

Okay, so we can safely rule out nose tackle and center from our list of potential career options. But there are smaller running backs and cornerbacks out there. So far, so good.

40-yard Dash

Combine best time: 4.28 seconds

Our best time: 5.23 seconds

Combine worst time: 5.74 seconds

Our worst time: 5.39 seconds

Okay, so we can safely rule out running back and cornerback from our list of potential career options. But there are slower nose tackles and centers out there. So far, so good.

Broad Jump

Combine best: 12 feet, 3 inches

Our best: seven feet

Combine worst: seven feet

Our worst: six feet, four inches

No comment.

Vertical Leap

Combine best: 45 inches

Our best: 20 inches

Combine worst: 17.5 inches

Our worst: 13 inches

No comment.

So is the dream still alive? Well, our best trumped or tied the worst metric in every event — note that bench press was conspicuously omitted. But of course, there’s a survival bias in the world of professional football — if you’re slow, you’d better be rock strong. If you’re small, you’d better be lightning fast. Sure, we’re not the worst at anything, but relatively speaking, we’re slow, small, weak and unexplosive.

The bulk of the data is also skewed toward the good metrics — because most of the participants are incredible athletes, the average is closer to the best than to the worst. There are plenty of obscenely large men in the NFL who “waddle” much faster than I “sprint.”

We love poking fun at the massive lineman who picks up a fumble and lumbers downfield before veering toward the sideline for an oxygen mask. What you can’t see on TV is that speed is relative. Watching big Vince Wilfork with the ball in his hands may be pure comedy. But watching any old skinny fan run on that same field would likely look even worse.

“Even I’m faster than that guy.” Sorry couch warrior, you’re probably not.


Mike Firn ’16 is declaring himself eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft. Contact his agent at 
michael_firn@brown.edu.

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  • Tom Brady

    You’re definitely faster than me

  • Dispassionate Reader

    The BDH is printing some serious horse apples these days. I

    • Football Fan

      ^what does this even mean… #getagrip

    • ’09

      Horses love apples so I assume you mean that this article was awesome! (which it was) Great work, Mike Firn.

  • Football Fan

    A really entertaining and original response to the Combine! Great read.

  • AJ

    I guess those lumbering linemen ain’t so lumbering! FUn look at the combine, nice work

  • Excited Alum

    Hahaha “slow, small, weak, and unexplosive”. Hang in there, Mr Firn! With articles this enjoyable, you’ve no doubt got a long career ahead of you. Might have to leave the QB dream behind tho

  • Mr Retsim

    Interesting…

  • Hal Sadler

    Mr. Firn,
    Nice idea and a very amusing column.
    Can you provide the same for your upcoming Myrtle Beach trip stats vs. the PGA tour’s?
    Maybe they’d be pretty close!

    Uncle from PA