Three decades ago, when the NFL combine was still a relatively low-key affair, Atlanta Falcons coach Jerry Glanville made a big show of telling everyone he had no intention of showing up in Indianapolis.
“I don’t believe you pick your team in underwear,” Glanville said. “I look at players playing football. I’ve found that the vertical jump, the quad jump, and all these Junior Olympic tests are usually the first guys we cut. What’s more important to me is, ‘What does a person do when his headgear’s on?’ So, I’ve been an anti-underwear-workout guy for a lot of years.”
But, apparently, not everyone is an “anti-underwear-workout guy,” because the people who offer sports wagers to the American public have made this event a betting affair. The NFL combine’s series of drills, which amount to tryouts for college players, are widely available for wagering at most of the online sports betting apps around the nation.
Is it absurd to bet on how well someone in a pair of short shorts can do a three-cone drill? Probably. Is it the most absurd thing people have ever bet on? Not even close. In some ways, it’s less absurd than betting on something like, say, league MVP, which is highly subjective and typically voted on by a small handful of people. In the case of the combine, at least, it’s hard to argue with a stopwatch.
Which team on this list is the most surprising? pic.twitter.com/d9M7Ef3Xmn
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) March 1, 2022
In line with the NFL Draft, the combine has become a media spectacle over the years. This year, it will be televised daily on NFL Network starting Thursday. So, let’s take a look at how some of the action could break down over the next few days at Lucas Oil Stadium (odds courtesy of DraftKings):
Anyone to break 40-yard-dash record?
John Ross has provided a pretty good argument for what Glanville was talking about. When he blazed 40 yards in 4.22 seconds in 2017, it was the fastest anyone had ever covered that distance at the combine and elevated him on a lot of teams’ draft boards, including the Cincinnati Bengals’. They took him ninth overall that year.
In his five seasons in the NFL, Ross has caught a total of 62 passes and scored 11 touchdowns.
There’s a lot more to being a good NFL receiver than just running faster than everybody else in a straight line.
But for the purposes of this bet offered on whether someone will break the record, no one cares what happens beyond Sunday. Since Ross ran that explosive time, many have tried to beat his record. Henry Ruggs III was supposed to give it a test, but he ran 4.27.
There are some really, really fast guys coming out of college football this year, giving Ross’ record a decent chance of being eclipsed and paying a handsome +500. If you bet on “no,” you have to lay -1000.
Guys like SMU wide receiver Danny Gray, a Texas high school sprint champ, and Kalon Barnes, a Baylor cornerback who once ran a 10.22 100-meter dash, stand a decent chance of beating Ross’ best. Others, like Calvin Austin III of Memphis and Isaac Taylor-Stuart of USC, could sniff it, too. Might as well take the “yes” and hope for combine history. (Either that or just leave it alone.)
Most bench press reps
This one is pretty straightforward. How many times can the player lift 225 pounds? The number for most reps during the combine is set at 39.5, which seems a tad low considering 18 guys have done it over the years and the record (set by Stephen Pea 11 years ago) is 49.
Over (-130) seems like the right play with monsters like UConn DT Travis Jones (6-foot-4, 328 pounds), Minnesota OT Daniel Faalele (6-foot-8, 380), Georgia DT Jordan Davis (6-foot-3, 340), and OT Bernhard Raimann (6-foot-7, 305) throwing plates around.
Athletes seem to get bigger, stronger, and faster every year, and the combine generally reflects that.
Highest vertical jump
The bookmakers set the line for highest jump at 43.5 inches and view this one as a 50-50 proposition judging by the fact that over and under both carry a -115 vig.
Unlike the previous category, though, they set this total fairly high (Gerald Sensabaugh holds the record at 46 inches). There are a handful of guys who will take a serious run at it. Among them, look for Michigan S Daxton Hill, UTSA CB Tariq Woolen, USC WR Drake London, and LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. to soar.
Longest broad jump
Considering there are no moats to jump over on most football fields, why exactly do they measure this? The answer, presumably, is they’re trying to find the most explosive athletes and, apparently, those who can jump a long way tend to be able to do other things well, like smash into other people at a high rate of speed or run away from people chasing them.
Anyway, if you think somebody will jump more than 11 feet, 5 inches, feel free to bet some money on it. Like the vertical, it’s -115 either way. There isn’t a lot to go on, so maybe just look at the overall athleticism of the class and ask yourself whether you think one of these athletic freaks can break the old mark.
Hey, people bet on coin flips.
Will someone complete the drill in 6.27 seconds or better? If you think there’s a player who will, you’ll get +190. If you think nobody will, you’ll have to lay $280 to win $100.
Wow, are we really talking about putting money down on this stuff?