2018 NFL Combine Day 1: Just How Fast Is Saquon Barkley?
Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
The 2018 NFL combine drills will take place on March 2-5. Players will have the chance to improve their draft stock, and gamblers will have the chance to profit on various combine-related prop bets. Today we’ll break down some of Friday’s various drills and top storylines in the third of several combine-specific pieces. All odds are updated as of Thursday, Mar. 1.
Combine drills won’t start until Friday, but official body measurements have already turned draft twitter into a frenzy. Interviews and MRI results will potentially have a larger impact on prospects than their drill performances, but luckily we degenerates can leave that business to the professionals. Our mission is simple: Make money.
Who Is Participating?
On Friday we get the on-field workouts for running backs, offensive linemen, kickers, and special-teamers. With all respect to the big uglies up front, most of the eyes will likely be on some of 2017’s most electrifying college backs.
- Saquon Barkley | 6’0″ and 233 Pounds | Junior, Penn State: Player Profile
- Nick Chubb | 5’10″ and 227 Pounds | Senior, Georgia: Player Profile
- Sony Michel | 5’10″ and 214 Pounds | Senior, Georgia: Player Profile
- Royce Freeman | 5’11″ and 229 Pounds | Senior, Oregon: Player Profile
- Derrius Guice | 5’10″ and 224 Pounds | Junior, LSU: Player Profile
- Ronald Jones II | 5’11″ and 205 Pounds | Junior, USC: Player Profile
As discussed in our piece on the top players to watch at the 2018 combine, several of these backs have much to prove at the combine. Chubb was typically viewed as the Bulldogs’ bruiser; Michel, the scat back. Chubb finished second in the nation in SPARQ testing at the Nike Opening in 2013, and a similar performance this weekend could help teams view him as a featured back. Freeman has a chance to help his draft stock with a 40 time under 4.6 seconds. All of this will probably just be background noise to the show Saquon the Great is about to put on.
What Are They Doing?
Friday’s on-field workouts will consist of the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Players will perform the bench press the day before their assigned workout day, so the running backs and linemen will bench on Thursday afternoon.
Additionally, each position will be put through plenty of football-specific drills. This will be repeated for different position groups from Friday to Monday. At some point over the weekend, NFL Network’s Rich Eisen will be running the 40-yard dash.
What Individuals Can I Bet On?
Bovada and BetDSI have currently taken down their combine odds, so we’re working with 16 combine-specific props courtesy of BetOnline. Those notable to Friday include:
- Faster 40 time: Saquon Barkley (-165) vs. Lamar Jackson (+135)
- Saquon Barkley fastest 40 time: Faster (-125) vs. slower (-105) than 4.4 seconds
- Kerryon Johnson fastest 40 time: Faster (-115) vs. slower (-115) than 4.55 seconds
- Nick Chubb fastest 40 time: Faster (-190) vs. slower (+165) than 4.54 seconds
- Rich Eisen fastest 40 time (in a full suit): Faster (-125) vs. slower (-105) than 6.05 seconds
Barkley-Jackson and Barkley 40
Per ESPN’s high school testing results, Jackson clocked a 4.77-second 40-yard dash before enrolling at Louisville. He was then credited with a 4.34-second 40-yard dash last spring during the Cardinals’ spring testing week. Barkley clocked a 4.63-second 40-yard dash in high school before being credited with a hand-timed 4.33-second mark during Penn State’s winter conditioning last offseason. BetDSI originally set Jackson’s over/under at 4.35 seconds, while BetOnline went with 4.45 seconds. It wasn’t surprising his ‘slower’ odds at BetDSI moved to -250 after opening at -150 before ultimately being taken down.
My lean: Barkley BEATS Jackson and SLOWER than 4.4 seconds. Mario Fannin is the only running back to weigh at least 230 pounds and run a 40 in under 4.4 seconds since 2006. It’s hard to imagine any person that large running that fast. I favor Barkley over Jackson primarily because backs have hit the sub-4.4 mark more often than quarterbacks — Reggie McNeal is literally the only passer to meet that threshold over the past 12 years — but I’m personally going to stay away from this prop, since the reported 40 times for both players are close. Based on that information alone, it might make sense to bet on Jackson given his favorable odds.
Johnson and Chubb 40
Johnson has earned numerous Le’Veon Bell comparisons for his patient running style, but he comes in at just 213 pounds while Bell was 230. The former Auburn star has the best odds for a faster 40 to go along with the lowest total among Friday’s backs. Chubb’s aforementioned performance at the Nike Opening in 2013 certainly bodes well for his chances at hitting his under, but he’s since gained 10 pounds and will need to prove he has the same speed after suffering a dislocated knee and three torn ligaments (MCL, LCL, PCL) in 2015.
My lean: Johnson FASTER than 4.55 seconds and Chubb FASTER than 4.54 seconds. Both were two of the most athletic high school backs in the country and have a chance to prove their worth as three-down players. Neither should be viewed as a lock, but two of the SEC’s finest running backs suddenly have chips on their shoulders and plenty to prove.
Eisen has run the 40-yard dash since 2005. His inaugural 6.77-second mark is still his worst to date, while his 5.94-second sprint in 2016 is his current record. Eisen’s overall average of 6.2 seconds is a bit misleading given that he’s somehow kept father time at bay in recent years. Overall, he’s ran the 40 in 6.03 seconds or faster in five of the past six combines. More concerning news for over bettors comes from the Tuesday edition of Eisen Overtime, in which he revealed his pilates-esque training for the event.
My lean: Eisen FASTER than 6.05 seconds. His slower times in the past could have been due to the peculiar choice not to wear running shoes, something Eisen has corrected in recent years. Still, bettors beware: No 48-year-old has ever successfully run the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.
What Weekend-Long Trends Can I Bet On?
Additional bets include whether someone will record a sub-4.29 or -4.22 second 40-yard dash, jump farther than 11 feet, 5 inches in the broad jump, or jump higher than 43 inches in the vertical jump. A few takeaways on the weekend’s notable superlative bets:
- 40-yard dash: Only eight players have clocked a 40 time under 4.3 seconds at the combine, although 2017 was the first year ever to produce two such players.
- Vertical jump: Nine different players have jumped at least 43.5 inches at the combine since 2006.
- Broad jump: There’s a sizable gap between Byron Jones‘ world-record 12’3″ jump and second place, but nine of the event’s 15 best jumps since 2006 have come in the last three years.
The draft’s ever-improving prospects undoubtedly boast the athleticism to challenge the vertical and broad marks, but BetOnline’s nearly even odds for both seem to fit historical trend. As for the combine’s other key drills, nobody has surpassed even 37 reps on the bench press over the past three years, and Shelton Gibson‘s combine-record 10.71-second dash in the 60-yard shuttle made him the only man to break 11 seconds last year.
My lean: 40-yard dash FASTER than 4.29 seconds, but SLOWER than 4.22 seconds: Both Denzel Ward and Donte Jackson boast reported sub-4.3 second 40-yard dashes. Chris Johnson‘s previous record held for nine years, so it may be a bit soon to expect John Ross‘ mark to dissipate.
Be sure to check out our list of combine participants and 2018 NFL draft prospects throughout the weekend for updated measurements and testing information.
Photo Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports