It happens ever so often, a player who is undoubtedly a top-prospect in the NFL Draft seems to slip farther and farther until they find themselves waiting an extra day for their name to get called. The plummet of these players’ draft stocks are often times a product of their poor NFL Draft combine or pre-draft workouts. Some players who are labeled sure-fire first rounder’s think they have already made it and can just coast to the NFL combine, not preparing for it at all. The combine is where NFL executives can get a good idea of who wants it more. Which players gained weight? Which players got lazy and stopped attending their team’s workouts? Which players don’t seem interested in improving their game?
While the combine has been the downfall for hundreds of players, some have done their best to prove that the combine can be an unfair way to assess a player’s talents and that it shouldn’t necessarily decide whether or not they make it to the next level. Take the five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady for example, after having one of the most underwhelming NFL combines in history, the young quarterback proved to the rest of the league that combine results may not matter as much as they are made out to be. Other variables like game tape and impressive pre-draft workouts can often-time help players gain interest around the league but if their combine was forgettable, they may not be able to further showcase their skills.
Let’s take a look at 15 NFL players who showed up to the combine out of shape and see which of them have thrived or barely survived in the NFL.
15 Vontaze Burfict
The current Cincinnati Bengal was originally considered one of the top linebacker prospects of the 2012 NFL Draft class but after coming out flat at the combine and pre-draft workouts, Burfict’s draft stock was severely impacted.
The linebacker posted a 5.09 second 40-yard dash time, which in his combine, was the slowest time at his position.
According to his draft combine profile, Burfict also gained weight prior to the combine and it affected his athleticism. Along with the leisurely-like 40 time and weight gain, Burfict’s poor on-field discipline was sort-of the nail in the coffin when it came to getting drafted.
It was assumed by many that Burfict would not be selected in the first round but going undrafted in 2012 was certainly not expected. Luckily, the Bengals signed Burfict following the draft and in his rookie season, the young linebacker led his team in tackles.
His off-the-field issues and controversial targeting penalties aside, Burfict has had himself a quite modest career in Cincinnati where he has started in 56 of his 58 games played, posting 568 tackles, nine sacks and five interceptions.
14 Mark Ingram
The two-time Pro Bowler wasn’t necessarily “out of shape” when he participated in the 2011 NFL Draft combine but certainly failed to meet expectations. The former Alabama Crimson Tide running back ran a 4.62 second 40-yard dash and had a vertical leap of 31.5 inches and while those marks weren’t awful, they certainly could have been better. To put these numbers into perspective, in the same combine, Jake Locker, a quarterback out of the University of Washington, posted a 4.51 40-yard dash time and a 35 inch vertical leap, both superior marks than those of the former Heisman winner.
Ingram was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the 28th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft and has thus far, Ingram has had a solid career in NFL and has really seemed to turn it on in recent years. In his seven-year career with the Saints, the running back has accumulated 5,362 rushing yards, 1,428 receiving yards and a total of 48 touchdowns.
13 Damien Mama
The offensive guard was named a High School All-American by USA Today and played his college football at USC. In his defense, offensive guards certainly aren’t meant to be quick and agile athletes, but the former second-team All Pac-12 selection recorded a 2017 combine worst 5.38 second shuttle run and also, a 2017 combine worst, 5.84 second 40-yard dash time.
The 5.84 second 40 time was the third-worst time in the history of the NFL Combine.
On top of being the slowest participant in the 2017 combine; Mama’s draft profile had criticism such as “has too much bad weight around his midsection. Formerly 400 pounds so weight will have to be monitored carefully.” Mama’s poor combine grade and weight issues left him undrafted in 2017 but was eventually signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad but was released just months later. He is currently on the New York Giants active roster and has gotten his weight down to 340 pounds.
12 Joe Haden
The former Florida Gator had a successful college career in which he was selected to the First-team All-SEC, won the Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and was a Unanimous All-American all in 2009. Due to Haden’s success, the Fort Washington, Maryland native elected to forego his senior season at Florida and declare for the 2010 NFL Draft. Prior to being selected by the Cleveland Browns with the seventh overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the cornerback posted a relatively slow 4.57 second 40-yard dash time and a disappointing vertical leap of just 35 inches. It was noted, however that Haden was dealing with a sore back and was still ranked as the top prospect at his position so there wasn’t much doubt that he’d be taken in the first round.
In his eight-year career, Haden has 397 tackles and an impressive 20 interceptions, which have earned him invitations to two Pro Bowls (2013, 2014) and a second-team All-Pro award in 2013.
11 Tom Brady
This may come as a surprise to some, but Tom Brady wasn’t always the best at everything he did. The former Michigan quarterback ran a 5.28 second 40-yard dash and posted a 24 inch vertical leap, which ranked dead last for any quarterback in the combine and was the third-worst entry of any player.
Brady’s draft profile featured criticism such as “poor build, lacks physical stature and strength, lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush, lacks a really strong arm, does not throw a tight spiral”.
And yet, he's now arguably the best quarterback of all time.
While the future Hall-of-Famer struggled to impress NFL franchises at the combine, one team seemed to see his potential.
The New England Patriots used their 199th overall pick to take Brady, the best-value draft pick of all time. More importantly though, Brady has proved to the entire league that some players deserve a shot at the NFL regardless of their poor combine results.
10 Terrell Suggs
It’s safe to say that the former Super Bowl XLVII champion had a very forgettable NFL Draft combine when he recorded a 4.84 second 40-yard dash time and bench-pressed 225 pounds an underwhelming 19 times. Fortunately for Suggs, his game tape and statistics allowed NFL executives to oversee his very displeasing combine results and Suggs later found himself being selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
The Arizona State alumni has since been selected to seven Pro Bowls which have spanned from 2004 until most recently in 2017. Along with his Pro Bowl selections, the Minneapolis, Minnesota native won took home the 2003 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award along with the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Suggs continues to be a force for the Ravens and has accumulated 812 tackles, 34 forced fumbles and seven interceptions in his Hall of Fame-type career.
9 Anquan Boldin
Suggs’ former Baltimore Ravens teammate Anquan Boldin also failed to impress at the 2003 NFL Draft combine. After recording a 4.77 second 40-yard dash time there was much speculation surrounding the former Florida State Seminole.
The Arizona Cardinals were able to look past the receivers unimpressive combine results and ended up selecting Boldin with the 54th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. In just his first career game, the Pahokee, Florida native recorded 217 receiving yards, which broke the record for most yards by a rookie receiver in his first game. On top of that, Boldin ended up recording 1,377 yards and eight receiving touchdowns in his rookie year and was the fastest player to 300 career receptions (47 games). Since then, the receiver went on to play for five NFL franchises, was selected to three Pro Bowls, won the 2003 Offensive Rookie of the Year award and won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2013.
8 Leonard Fournette
While Fournette wasn’t necessarily out of shape at the 2017 combine, he lacked in areas where other running backs usually excelled. The New Orleans native played his college football at LSU where he led the nation in rushing yards per game (162.8) and was an All-American selection in his sophomore season. In his 31 games played at LSU, Fournette recorded 3,830 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns, which were good enough for him to declare for the 2017 NFL draft.
Fournette showed up to his combine weighing 240 pounds (above average for a RB) and recorded a vertical leap of just 28.5 inches, which was the second-worst leap recorded by a running back since 2000.
It was no secret; the running back clearly wasn’t a great leaper but his in the long run, his speed made up for it. Fournette recorded a 4.51 second 40-yard dash time that since 2003, was the best time recorded by any player weighing over 240 pounds. The former LSU Tiger was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and recorded 1,342 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns.
7 Mario Manningham
In college, the six-foot, 185-pound wide receiver relied primarily on his speed and route running but after posting a mediocre 4.59 second 40-yard dash time, Manningham found his draft stock plummet. Out of the 53 receivers in his combine, Manningham posted the ninth-slowest time on the 40-yard dash, which was certainly not a good look for a receiver who lacked in height and relied on speed. Prior to the 2008 NFL Draft, the former Michigan Wolverine also denied testing positive for marijuana but later admitted to the NFL that he lied and he did in fact test positive. It was a rough couple of weeks for the former star receiver and there was some doubt regarding his future in football.
Luckily for Manningham, the New York Giants used their 95th overall pick to select the Warren, Ohio native and he spend the first four years of his career with the franchise. Over his career and in his 67 games played, he recorded 2,849 yards on 211 receptions and found the endzone 19 times.
6 Anthony Davis
The Piscataway, NJ native played his college football at Rutgers and won a handful of awards during his time in college including being selected as a freshman All-American, a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and a second-team All-American. After electing to forego his senior season, the offensive tackle entered the 2010 NFL Combine and disappointed.
Davis posted a 5.3 second 40-yard dash time and was only able to put up 21 reps in the 225-pound bench press, which for his size and position, was well under the combine average.
In fact, of the 20 offensive tackles in his combine, Davis’ 40 time was the fifth-worst. In addition, his 21 bench-press reps were the third-worst for his position and it was beginning to seem that Davis may not be the surefire first-rounder everybody anticipated.
Despite his poor combine results, Davis was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the 11th overall pick and to date, Davis has had a successful NFL career.
5 Kelvin Benjamin
Benjamin entered the combine at 240 pounds, which for a wide receiver, is quite high. Despite the fact that Benjamin entered the combine as the third-tallest WR at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds was 10 pounds heavier than any other entry at his position.
The former Florida State Seminole recorded a 4.61 second 40-yard dash time which, out of the 49 WR participants in the combine, ranked 7th worst.
On top of the poor 40 time, Benjamin also posted a score of 7.33 seconds in the 3-cone drill, which tied Brandon Coleman (Rutgers) for dead last among receivers.
The Carolina Panthers were desperate for a wide receiver and used their 28th overall pick in the 2014 draft on Benjamin. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Panthers before being traded to the Buffalo Bills this past season. To this date, Benjamin has 2,641 yards on 184 receptions and 19 touchdown receptions.
4 Montee Ball
The two-time All-American running back is only the second player on this list who played four seasons in college and for Ball, it was probably a good decision. Ball played his college football at Wisconsin and recorded 5,738 all-purpose yards and 73 total touchdowns. In addition, the McPherson, Kansas native broke numerous NCAA records including most touchdowns in a single season (39), most pointed scored by a non-kicker (236) and most touchdowns in a college career (83).
After declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft, Ball posted mediocre times in multiple events at the combine and his draft stock suffered. Out of the 35 running backs that participated in his combine, Ball placed 9th worst with a 4.66 second 40-yard dash, tied for dead-last with just 15 bench press reps and was 5th worst in the long jump.
Ball was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 58th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft but played just one season with them prior to being released.
3 Jameis Winston
The former Florida State Seminole spent two seasons in college and recorded 7,964 yards passing, 65 passing touchdowns along with another 258 yards and seven touchdowns rushing. Winston won the 2013 Heisman Trophy in his freshman season at Florida State, along with the 2013 AP Player of the Year, 2013 Walter Camp Award and a list of other awards. The young quarterback worked well in-and-out of the pocket and his speed and agility tormented defenses in college. Winston declared for the 2015 NFL Draft and elected to forego his final two years of NCAA eligibility.
In the combine, Winston posted a 4.97 second 40-yard dash time, which out of the 14 QBs in his class, was the 3rd worst.
Following his 40-yard dash, Winston posted a 28.5 inch vertical leap was the second-worst at his position. Although the former Heisman winner was labeled as a “freak athlete”, his combine results seemed to have suggested otherwise.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, were not concerned about Winston’s combine numbers and selected him with the first overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. With the Buccaneers, Winston has improved his completion percentage in each of his first-three seasons and has accumulated 77 total touchdowns (69 passing, 8 rushing).
2 Maurice Clarett
It was very clear that the former Ohio State running back showed up to the combine out of shape but nobody could have predicted that he would post 40-yard dash times of 4.72 and 4.82 seconds. To put these times into perspective, in the same combine that Clarett participated in, 12 quarterbacks ran quicker 40 times which was not a good look for the young running back. Following the discouraging 40 times, NFL analysts gave Clarett the nickname of “Slow Mo” and he later elected to withdraw from the combine. Ohio’s 2001 Mr. Football award winner was on the inside looking out prior to the draft and was thought to go in the later rounds or potentially go undrafted.
With a pick that many analysts and experts declared to be premature, in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected the young running back with the final pick of third round. Clarett failed to impress the Broncos and was released before playing a single snap in the NFL.
1 Avery Gennesey
The 6-foot-5, 318-pounder played his college football at Texas A&M and started in every game from 2015-2017 for head coach, Jimbo Fischer. Gennessey was in good hands at Texas A&M due to the fact that in the first round of the last four NFL drafts, there has been at least one offensive lineman selected out of A&M.
Unfortunately Gennesey, underperformed at the 2017 NFL Combine, posting the overall shortest distance in broad jump (91 in.) and overall shortest vertical leap of 20 inches.
In fact, in his combine, 25 offensive lineman posted broad jumps over 100 inches, making Gennesey’s mark of 91 inches look even worse. On top of that, Gennesey’s 20-inch vertical leap was the worst of all 39 offensive linemen participating in the combine. His poor performance left him with a 5.41 draft grade, the worst of any offensive lineman and one of the worst grades by any player overall.
Gennesey went undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft but was recently signed to future/reseve contract by the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 1, 2018.
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