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The Importance of the NFL Scouting Combine to Joe Douglas and the Jets

NFL: Scouting Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Today the NFL Scouting Combine moves into high gear as the first position groups take the field for athletic testing. The significance of these drills varies by team. Each team has its own value system and judges the Combine accordingly.

At this point we don’t have a complete view for the way Joe Douglas operates, but a picture is beginning to form. Based on the two Drafts he has run as general manager, it seems fair to say the Jets do take athletic testing into account when they make their picks.

The website MockDraftable has a historical database of Combine (and pro day) performances in athletic drills. The database also ranks performances relative to other players at their positions.

Of the nineteen players Joe Douglas has drafted in his Jets tenure, ten of them reached the 80 percentile at their position in at least two athletic testing areas at either their Combine or pro day.

This doesn’t tell the full story, however. For various reasons some players don’t participate in athletic drills at the Combine. Some might be top picks and not want to risk a bad score. Others might be recovering from an injury. In addition, the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 upended the pro day schedule, giving players who sat out the Combine tests no opportunity to perform for teams later. All told, four Jets draftees since 2020 didn't participate in drills for various reasons.

One was Zach Wilson, who by practically any definition clearly has tremendous physical ability. Another was Ashtyn Davis, who has a track and field background. Mekhi Becton only did the 40 yard dash at his Combine (and finished in the 81st percentile for offensive linemen). So even for players the Jets pick who test minimally or not at all, there are indications of great physical tools.

That leaves us with fifteen players who took part in tests at the Combine or pro day, and ten of them hit the multiple 80 percentile threshold. Even this perhaps is underselling things. Two of the five who did not hit the mark were Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen. These players were safeties who immediately were converted to linebacker, a position where players tend to be less athletic.

The Jets have drafted players who didn’t test well during Douglas’ tenure, but they tend to be in the minority.

For context, I checked Mike Maccagnan’s Draft history. In his five classes, only five players hit the double 80 percentile criteria. So Douglas has picked double the number of players with these great tools in less than half as much time.

As you follow the Combine, this is something to keep in mind. The Jets clearly value raw athletic tools in their Draft picks, and the Combine is one way they judge these tools.