The CFL's annual combine always provides an intriguing look into how draft prospects stack up in a variety of metrics, and this year's was no exception. The first day of testing Saturday saw some notable surprises, with a pair of players from Quebec universities perhaps being the most prominent ones. Bishop's defensive lineman Elie Ngoyi put up 40 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press, the second-highest total in CFL combine history, while Concordia defensive back Kristopher Robertson (who was only invited to the national combine after a great showing at the Quebec regional combine, further proving the value of those events) blew away the field in both the vertical jump and the broad jump, posting combine-best marks of 43 inches and 10 feet, five and a half inches respectively. That doesn't necessarily mean either Ngoyi or Robertson will be a top draft pick; neither impressed enough in CIS play to crack the top-15 list of prospects in December, although Ngoyi was ranked #12 in September, and game performance can matter just as much (if not more) than raw athletic numbers posted at the combine. It does mean that both will carry a lot more buzz heading into the draft than they would have without a strong combine showing, though.
What do these combine numbers have to do with anything that actually happens on the field? Well, there's more correlation than you might think. Yes, recording 40 reps on the bench press doesn't necessarily give you the skill to bowl through an offensive lineman, and a defensive back's ability to leap high and far doesn't mean anything if he isn't in a good coverage position to start with, which is why situations like the one that happened after the NFL combine are stupid. Sure, some Twitter user might be able to bench more than a NFL hopeful, but that doesn't make him a high-level football prospect in any shape or form. Moreover, certain physical attributes can be beneficial in drills like this but a negative on the field; Winnipeg linebacker Henoc Muamba discussed the advantages of shorter arms for lifters here, but they're usually detrimental in blocking. Over the years, we've seen plenty of people put up combine records but get passed up by the CFL, including bench press record holder DL Michael Knill (47 reps in 2011) and Mike Montoya, who's tied with Ngoyi for second thanks to his 40 reps in 2010. Still, Ngoyi proved he has plenty of strength and power, while Robertson showed off tremendous explosiveness and a great leaping ability. That may or may not lead to CFL careers for them, but it could certainly help.
The crucial part of the combine tests is not necessarily who wins each one, but how each prospect affects their stock. For players like Ngoyi and Robertson who weren't necessarily hot commodities before this event, what they managed to pull off will at least get CFL executives talking about them and might help them get picked up as later-round selections or undrafted free agents. For players like Calgary defensive linemen Linden Gaydosh who were already sought-after prospects (he was ranked second in September, third in December), a strong showing (Gaydosh benched 25 pounds 36 times, second only to Ngoyi, and also posted decent marks in the broad jump and vertical jump of 8 feet seven inches and 33.5 inches respectively) can help solidify their draft stock.
For highly-ranked players like McMaster offensive lineman Matt Sewell (second in the December rankings), though, a poor combine showing (Sewell only benched 225 pounds 17 times, sixth amongst his position group) might negatively impact how they're seen by CFL executives. Where a player goes in the CFL draft is always thanks to a eclectic mixture of factors, including their game performance, NFL interest in them and the drafting team's needs, so the combine results shouldn't receive too much emphasis as an entity of their own. However, they should be kept in perspective as something that can boost or drop an individual prospect's stock. For Ngoyi, Robertson and Gaydosh, the effects of their performances in Saturday's testing at the combine will likely be positive. That may not be the case for others like Sewell. It's not all bad for him, as he may still be drafted well before this year's combine stars, but Saturday was a far better day for Ngoyi and Robertson.