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2023 NFL Combine Preview: What to Watch For?

With the NFL combine starting March 2nd, @SteveBradshawFF previews its importance for these top prospects.

With the NFL combine fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what we should look for. The NFL combine plays a big part in draft capital, so it’s crucial to understand what events will impact a player’s draft stock. 

These drills, such as the 40-yard dash, three-cone, and player-specific workouts, will play a massive role in where a player is drafted.

Players will have a chance to prove themselves in front of NFL scouts. Below is a list of some of the top player’s main concerns and how their combine performance will affect them

Size & Speed

– Sean Tucker

– Devon Achane

The combination of size and speed is one of the most essential things in determining a running back’s success at the NFL level. When scouting players, there’s a direct correlation between fantasy production and BMI. The BMI we’re looking for is 29.5 to 30.5. This is because smaller running backs aren’t workhorse backs and don’t have the red zone role.

The speed aspect is important to find success at the NFL level. Two of the top players, Sean Tucker and Devon Achane, are looking to check these boxes at the combine. In college, Tucker was a fantastic player but has issues with his vision and speed. Tucker has an unofficial BMI of 29.4, just next to the cutoff. 

If Tucker weighs in with a BMI above 29.5 and runs a 40 around the 4.4 range, he will shoot up draft boards. Achane is a small back who looks incredibly fast on film. While we know he’s likely going to be under the 29.5 mark by how much will impact his role. Since he’s so small, he’s going to need to run a 4.2-4.3 40 to impress scouts and get good draft capital. 


– Jahmyr Gibbs

– Josh Downs

– Zay Flowers

– Bryce Young

Size is a huge question mark for some of those top prospects. This list is scattered with two receivers, a running back, and a quarterback. Starting with Gibbs, his BMI is extremely important. If he’s going to be a top player in your rookie draft, he’s going to have to hit the BMI threshold. 

If not, he’s going to turn into a James Cook, who is a good player but won’t get the volume to be a top player due to his size. Downs and Flowers are two wide receivers looking to hit the 26-27 BMI threshold for wide receivers. 

Downs is currently listed with a BMI of 25, and it would improve his draft capital and fantasy ceiling if he hit the 26 benchmark. Flowers is even smaller, with a current BMI of 24.7. While these players will likely primarily play in the slot, checking these boxes would help their value a ton. 


– C.J. Stroud

– Zach Charbonnet

– Tyjae Spears

– Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Speed is one of the most important things to look for regarding NFL draft capital. At the next level, teams want players who are fast and explosive. Even though speed is most crucial at the running back position, there are questions about one of the top quarterback and wide receiver prospects in this class as well.

Starting with Stroud, even though speed isn’t essential at the quarterback position, he looks like a much better athlete than his stats suggest. Stroud hasn’t posted impressive running numbers in college, but he looks like a good athlete. If he goes out and has a good 40 time, there will be a reason to believe Stroud will have more rushing upside in the NFL.

Smith-Njigba is my WR1 in the class; however, his draft capital will be swayed by his 40 time. Smith-Njigba is a fantastic player, but if he runs over a 4.6, that will drop his draft capital. Of course, Smith-Njigba is still a great player, but the lack of speed could limit him exclusively to the slot.

Charbonnet is a powerful back who has the size to be a three-down player. Nevertheless, we haven’t seen his speed, and if he runs well, he could be pushed up both NFL and rookie draft boards. Lastly, one of the biggest risers, Spears, checked the size box at the Senior Bowl, but we’re looking to see if drills can confirm his burst speed. 

In drills such as the three-cone, it’s going to be crucial to see if these numbers match up to what we see on tape. If he demonstrates excellent burst, he’s going to fly up draft boards. 

Route Running/ Route Tree

– Jalin Hyatt

With Hyatt, we know he’s a field stretcher who will run well, but his route tree is in question. Of Hyatt’s production last year, a majority of it came on deep balls. 

There’s some question if Hyatt can translate to an NFL-style route tree. If Hyatt has a good showing on these short and medium routes, he will be a first-rounder in the NFL draft, increasing his dynasty value. 

Size, Route Running, Hands, Polished Skillset

– Quentin Johnston

Johnston is one of the rawest prospects in this draft, so his performance in various route running and catching drills will be crucial in determining his value. Johnston is also listed as 6″ 4 215, so seeing his official size numbers will be interesting as well. 

Overall, Johnston has a ton to prove to NFL scouts during these wide receiver-specific drills. If Johnston checks in close to his projected height and weight, on top of having a good combine, his value will skyrocket. 

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