Matt Williamson is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. He contributed to SNR's coverage of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine and the following are some of his personal perspectives of what he's seen while in Indianapolis.
The NFL Scouting Combine can be a great tool for evaluating players as they prepare to enter the league. That isn't a shocking statement. The medical evaluations are important and the interviews allow teams to further get to know prospects. Obviously the drills and athletic testing are also very useful and can act as one-stop shopping with every player in his respective position group - side-by-side in a very digestible format.
Many fans get caught up in the heights, weights and the outlier testers, whether they be positive or negative. The 40-yard dash is "the highlighter" for many fans and armchair scouts watching at home on TV, as well as for some teams. But one athletic test that I keep an eye on is the 20-yard short shuttle, especially when watching offensive lineman.
Some might think that the short shuttle drill would be most important for smaller athletes that do most of the work in space. But to me, for offensive linemen, these test results very much correlate to what they are asked to do time and time again. Offensive linemen do operate in space, its just not easy for fans to see that while watching the games on television.
The defenders NFL offensive linemen are asked to block are almost always faster, quicker and better athletic specimens and that is truer in today's NFL than in any time in history. These huge human beings have to adjust their path on the fly time and time again. Too often, these giants become "objects in motion that remains in motion" in straight line path while their defensive blocking assignment isn't doing them the courtesy of standing in one place and begging to be blocked. The best offensive linemen have the ability to abruptly redirect to get their man.
For me, the short shuttle demonstrates and quantifies this ability extremely well. You can't do well in this drill without being able to bend at the knees and sink your hips; two important traits needed for high-end offensive line play.
Registering around a 4.4 in the short shuttle is just exceptional by an offensive lineman. A year ago, James Daniels (4.4), Joseph Noteboom (4.44), Kolton Miller (4.49), Austin Corbett (4.50), Brian O'Neil (4.50) and Quentin Nelson (4.62) were all best in class amongst all offensive linemen. All but Noteboom and O'Neil were selected in the first 39 choices overall. O'Neil went to Minnesota at the bottom of the second round. Noteboom went to the Rams with the 89th selection.
In recent years, several later round picks that have excelled in this drill have gone on to impressive careers, including Matt Paradis (4.46), a sixth round pick. Meanwhile, fellow sixth round pick and Pro Bowler Jason Kelce posted an amazing 4.14 20-yard short shuttle at the 2011 Combine.
At this year's Combine, 10 offensive linemen recorded a short shuttle time of under 4.6, which is truly astonishing and I feel could very well be an indicator that prospects are now entering the league at this position with not only more athletic ability than ever, but also with a great understanding of the importance of this test for this position. Andre Dillard (4.40) stole the show and other notables from this group of 10 include Dalton Risner (4.52), Garrett Bradbury (4.52), Chris Lindstrom (4.54) and Kaleb McGary (4.58).