Dissertation

Predicting Success Using the NFL Scouting Combine

Professional sports organizations have been utilizing data-based approaches when selecting potential athletes increasingly over the past couple of decades, as depicted in Moneyball. the National Football League (NFL) conducts a yearly Scouting Combine in an attempt to examine top prospects’ physical characteristics and attributes that are typically sought after in the game of football. the current study focuses on whether an athlete’s performance at the Combine can predict future success at the professional level. the study examined 917 athletes that participated in the Combine from 2004 to 2009. These athletes were categorized into eight different position groups across the National Football League. Measures for the study included six physical ability tests from the Combine, height, weight, and three unique success variables. Correlations and multiple regressions were conducted to examine the impact of Combine performance on future success. Only four of the eight position groups had statistically significant predictions in the study. However, the primary finding of whether a player’s performance at the Combine was able to predict future success in the NFL based on their position is deemed questionable at best. Thus, the study suggests that NFL executives and personnel influence a statistical approach, in combination with professional judgment to account for intangibles and unquantifiable measurements, in order to select an athlete that has the most potential to be a successful player in the National Football League.

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