Running backs, quarterbacks and wide receivers participated Saturday in timing and testing drills as part of the annual evaluation of more than 300 draft-eligible prospects by scouts and coaches from all 32 NFL teams.
There are drills that use easy to understand metrics like how fast a player can run 40 yards in a straight line or how many times he can bench press 225 pounds, and there are also drills that simulate slightly more no-contact football activity.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said this year's group is the "deepest running back class" he's seen in a while, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer said this week the Vikings don't plan to add a running back via free agency.
Many believe Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Georgia's Todd Gurley (who did not participate in workouts in Indianapolis because his recovery from injury) will be the first two backs selected, but other incoming classmates showed Saturday that they have something for NFL scouts and coaches to consider.
Michigan State's Jeremy Langford clocked the fastest time in the 40-yard dash this year, clocking in at 4.43 seconds, and was followed by Karlos Williams of Florida State with a time of 4.48. The running backs were slower than several receivers, but NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said an extra emphasis will be placed on how backs looked within the first 20 yards.
The day wasn't reserved for running backs from large schools, either. Northern Iowa's David Johnson, South Dakota State's Zach Zenner (a native of Eagan, Minn.) and North Dakota State's John Crockett (a native of Minneapolis) delivered top performances in multiple events.
What do all of the performances mean?
Tony Villiotti processed numbers to determine which measurable drill was most important to each position for nationalfootballpost.com. Villiotti looked at players who have started "one full season" and whether or not they were top performers among their position. He divided running backs into two groups, above or below 215 pounds and found combine performances have a stronger correlation to starting positions for smaller backs.
Villiotti also broke down which drills were most important for each position and determined the 3-cone drill and bench press were more relevant for large running backs (which would include fullbacks), and the 40-yard dash and broad jump had the strongest correlation for starting smaller running backs. Interestingly, the 40-yard dash had the same percentage for both groups.
Jeremy Langford, Michigan State, 4.43 seconds
Karlos Williams, Florida State, 4.48
Trey Williams, Texas A&M, 4.49
David Johnson, Northern Iowa, 4.50
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 4.52
Joey Iosefa, Hawaii, 30 reps
Michael Dyer, Louisville, 26
(tied) Gus Johnson, Stephen F. Austin, 26
Michael Burton, Rutgers, 25
(tied) David Johnson, Northern Iowa, 25
(tied) Zach Zenner, South Dakota State, 25
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 42.5 inches
David Johnson, Northern Iowa, 41.5
Zach Zenner, South Dakota State, 41.0
John Crockett, North Dakota State, 40.0
Jay Ajayi, Boise State, 39.0
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 10 feet, 10 inches
David Johnson, Northern Iowa 10-7
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 10-6
John Crockett, North Dakota State, 10-5
Jay Ajayi, Boise State, 10-1
(tied) Javorius Allen, USC, 10-1
(tied) David Cobb, Minnesota, 10-1
(tied) Duke Johnson, Miami, 10-1
(tied) Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette, 10-1
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 6.79 seconds
David Johnson, Northern Iowa, 6.82
Trey Williams, Texas A&M, 6.84
Malcolm Brown, Texas, 6.86
B.J. Catalon, TCU, 6.90
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 3.95 seconds
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 4.07
Jay Ajayi, Boise State, 4.10
Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette, 4.11
Trey Williams, Texas A&M, 4.12
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 11.00 seconds
Jay Ajayi, Boise State, 11.10
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, 11.18
Malcolm Brown, Texas, 11.32
Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette, 11.40