Some Ammo for all the Kuechly FanBoys...maybe

The NFL Combine, or "underwear olympics" in Mayock terminology, is a useful tool to compare prospects side by side. Everyone knows that scouts just use the combine to confirm what they have already seen from these players on tape. How a player measures out in tights, good or bad, does not necessarily translate to on field performance and there are several examples that illustrate that fact...see Bruce Campbell & Vernon Gholston or Joe Haden & Calais Campbell. All that being said, these numbers are compiled and crunched over time so that eventually, with a large enough sample size, you might have a statistical baseline that can translate to performance with minimal outliers. In compiling combine and pro-day data from 2000-2011 for Linebackers, I think I may have done just that.



I compiled data for height, weight, arm length, 40 time, 10 yard split, 20 yard split, bench press reps, vertical jump, broad jump, 20 yard shuttle, and 3 cone drill for every Linebacker invited to the combine since 2000, including their pro-day results when applicable. After sorting the data by category, I noticed that not a single LB measured in at a historically elite level (top 20) in every measurement, but realistically, that is simply setting the bar too high. To create rational expectations I expanded the limitations from historically elite to objectively just above average, and that resulted in the following LB standard:

Height: 6014....Weight: 235 lbs....Arm Length: 32"....Bench Press: 21 reps

40: 4.65 sec....10 yd split: 1.60 sec....20 yd split: 2.64 sec

Vertical: 34"....Broad Jump: 117"....3 Cone: 7.05....20 yd Shuttle: 4.25

These measurements are good, but by no means are they individually elite. A 4.65 40 yard dash is not exactly blazing and a 6'1.5" 235 lb linebacker is not quite a giant; however, when combining all these numbers you get a very solid all around LB prospect that separates from the hisorical pack. Since 2000, only 7 Linebackers have met or exceeded the standard in every category. They are as follows:

2000 - Brian Urlacher

2006 - Manny Lawson

2008 - Stanford Keglar

2009 - Brian Cushing

2009 - Clay Matthews

2010 - Sean Lee

2011 - Von Miller

Aside from Stanford Keglar, not exactly a bad list. You could argue that Manny Lawson would've been more effective in his career had he started in a different scheme, but a decent player nonetheless who just happens to be an free agent at the moment. (PFF rating of +10.2 in his 1st year converting from a 3-4 rush linebacker to an OLB in a 4-3) There are several players that failed to qualify for this list after falling short in only 1 category. Notable among them: Patrick Willis, Thomas Howard, James Anderson, David Thornton, AJ Hawk, Quincy Black, Martez Wilson, Jason Worilds, and yes...Jamar Chaney to name a few.



Luke Kuechly is everyone's top rated LB in 2012 (not sure he's mine, but I'll save that for another day) If not for Kuechly's 31" arms, 1" short of the standard, he would be the 8th member of this list. We can argue about the merits of arm length for linebackers, London Fletcher has done okay with his 31" arms, but there aren't a whole lot of elite examples. To be clear, though, I am not saying Kuechly will be a bust because of arms that are an inch short of a fictional standard...nonetheless, it is a game of inches...or so I heard.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about Dan Connor, he fell just short in two categories: 231 lbs (4 lbs short) and a 2.66 sec 20 yd split (.02 sec short)...for what that's worth.

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