The NFL combine is one of the most widely known scouting events in professional sports. Those who compete are under enormous pressure to perform well. After all, it could be the difference between being drafted in the first couple rounds and not being drafted at all.
Some of the scouting techniques used by NFL teams during the combine can look absolutely insane. Last year, the Eagles were apparently looking to measure the circumference of some prospects’ knees. Things like that sound crazy, but when you consider all the careers that can be crushed as a result of a single bad draft class, it becomes more understandable.
For fans, part of the appeal of the NFL as a whole is the fact that its athletes are absolutely insane. It’s to the point where it doesn’t feel like they’re real people. They look like they were designed in a lab by scientists with questionable morals. As a result, the combine draws interest from fans as they get to watch prospects perform events that allow their physically abilities to be measured.
Every now and then there’s a performer or two at the combine that does something much better than everyone else. They’re among peers who already seem barely human due to their freakish athleticism and they still manage to stand out as being significantly more physically impressive than everyone else. That’s absolutely crazy.
Here’s the best of the best, the top 15 most insane combine performances ever.
15. Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin, 6′ 2″ – 223, had one of most impressive combine performances for a quarterback in recent memory. He officially ran a 4.41, an impressive number for a quarterback. In addition, he had a 39 inch vertical leap. The Baylor product has been the most athletic quarterback to come into the NFL in a long time.
Griffin of course went into serious decline after his historically great rookie season. Whether it was defensive coordinators figuring him out, his injury-prone play style, or a combination of the two is hard to say. But the talented quarterback has experienced one of the harder falls from graces in recent memory.
14. Chris Conley
Chris Conley proved to be one of the most athletic receivers in the 2015 draft when he posted his 45 inch vertical leap, 11 foot broad jump, and 4.35 40 time. Going into the draft, the small receiver was seen as a dynamic weapon, especially after his crazy combine. He got selected in the 3rd round by Kansas City.
His first year was disappointing, falling just short of 200 yards on the season, and catching a mere 17 passes. However, the expectation for 3rd round players isn’t high, so the jury is far from out on Conley.
13. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
DRC’s combine was vital for the small-school defensive back. He nailed the all-important 40 yard dash with a time of 4.33. He further demonstrated his athleticism with a 38.5″ vertical jump and a broad jump that was a mere inch shy of 11 feet.
The Tennessee State product bumped his stock up quite a bit and managed to get selected exactly mid way through the first round – 16th overall.
After being selected in the 2nd round by Chicago, Paea has failed to make a noticeable impact in the NFL and has since moved on to the Redskins.
11. Darrius Heyward-Bey
Darrius Heyward-Bey had a 40 time that was so good it leapfrogged him ahead of both Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, two players who have had significantly more successful careers.
Heyward-Bey’s time of 4.30 seconds was pretty close to cracking Chris Johnson’s record. Unfortunately, as this draft proved, 40 time isn’t what makes receivers in the NFL. While he was close to hitting the 1,000 receiving yard mark in 2011, he’s failed to get anything close to that number in any of his other 6 seasons.
10. Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson came in to the combine at 6’5″ – 240 and then blew everyone away when he ran a 4.35. Big people aren’t supposed to be able to run that fast. He showed that he’s a player that can physically overpower defenders or run right by them, depending on whatever he felt like doing.
After being selected second overall in a deep draft class, Johnson went on to dominate the NFL and become one of the leagues most popular receivers before suddenly retiring earlier this year.
9. Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney showed off his crazy athletic ability after running the 40 yard dash in 4.48 seconds. Freeney turned heads as he went from relatively unknown defensive end prospect to elite pass rushing talent. While most fans are skeptical of players making big leaps on draft boards after the combine, Freeney is a case of one of those players paying off in spades. The edge rusher has been one of the NFL’s elite defenders throughout his career.
8. Matt Jones
Not to be confused with the Redskins running back, Matt Jones was a 6 6” – 222 pound receiver taken by the Jaguars in 2005. At the combine he recorded a 4.37 40 yard dash time and a vertical leap of nearly 40 inches. Like many other players on this list, size plus athleticism doesn’t always add up. Unfortunately, Jones dealt with substance-abuse issues and only managed to stay in the NFL for four seasons.
7. Dontari Poe
Many fans are only familiar with the 40 yard dash when it comes to important combine variables. As a result, there are a lot of people who are under the false impression that running anything above five seconds is slow. Getting a group of friends together to try some of the combine events would be an eye opening experience for many.
Dontari Poe, a defensive tackle who weighs over 340 pounds, managed to clock in at less than five seconds – a respectable time for a defensive tackle. He also came a handful of reps shy of breaking the bench press record, managing to knock out 44 reps.
Poe has had a stellar career in the NFL so far. He’s managed to be one of the NFL’s premier defensive linemen since entering the league.
6. Fabian Washington
Fabian Washington was a defensive back out of Nebraska. He was yet another combine warrior that flamed out during the twilight years of the Al Davis era in Oakland. He showed off his crazy athleticism at the combine after running a 4.29 40 yard dash and hitting a 41.5 inch vertical leap.
Unfortunately, the corner never panned out for Oakland. After a very poor three years, he got a shot with Baltimore. Again, he only managed to last three years and failed to make a mark in the NFL during his career.
5. Mario Williams
Mario Williams was a good player for the largely irrelevant 2005 North Carolina State University. After a very good combine performance, the Houston Texans made one of the most surprising selections in recent memory when they selected Mario Williams over both Reggie Bush and Vince Young. Guess what? They were right.
The defensive end ran a 4.73 40, recorded 35 reps for the bench press, and topped it all off with a 40.5 inch vertical leap. He showed that he was one of the most athletic defensive linemen to enter the draft in quite a while.
Mike Mamula came into the combine prepared for the events and it paid off. He benched 225 lbs 28 times, had a 38.5 vertical jump, and had a staggering 4.58 40. This sent him from a projected mid round pick all the way into the top ten.
Mamula is often used as an example of combine stats being taken too seriously by NFL general managers. But he’s not the most fair case of this. He wasn’t a terrible player when he was on the field. But he definitely didn’t warrant a top 10 pick like he did in 1995.
3. Vernon Gholston
Vernon Gholston is a good example for you if you wanted to make a point that NFL teams value combine stats too much. After a 4.67 40 and benching 225 lbs 37 times, Gholston shot up draft boards. Of course, that was pretty much the last time he impressed anyone working in the NFL.
Gholson had a non-existent rookie season. He finished with only thirteen combined tackles the entire year, despite playing 15 games. The rest of his career wasn’t any more impressive. Over his 3 seasons, the defensive end failed to record a single sack.
2. Chris Johnson
In 2008, Chris Johnson broke the 40 yard dash record with a time of 4.24, a record that still stands today.
The speed back went on to have a very up and down career. No one will forget the year he broke the 2,000 rushing yards in a season mark, earning the nickname “CJ2K”. However, ever since he’s never felt like quite the dominate back he once was despite putting up decent numbers. Though he did recently have a bit of a bounce back year with Arizona.
Holding the record for the combine’s most hyped event for so long is an incredibly impressive accomplishment.
1. Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis made a name for himself largely to due to one event: the 40 yard dash (surprise surprise). The Maryland tight end recorded a blazing 4.38. That number was tied for 9th best that year. Most of those who ranked ahead of him were either defensive backs or wide receivers. In addition, he also recorded 33 reps on the bench press and a 42 inch vertical. People who are 6’3″ and 255 lbs are not supposed to be able to put up those kinds of numbers.
Vernon Davis is one of the more popular tight ends in the NFL today, though his glory days are likely behind him. Currently for his career, he has over 5,800 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns; very impressive numbers for a tight end.
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