The NFL Draft Combine is a place where many young athletes can make or break their football careers. For some players, it’s the first place where many scouts are able to watch them in person and if they have a great combine, it could make a huge difference in their draft stock.
Getting drafted with the 25th pick compared to the 35th pick may not seem like a big deal to fans, but as a player it could be the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Signing bonuses and contracts are all based around draft position, so the sooner one gets drafted, the fatter their wallet becomes. As a result, the NFL Draft Combine can change a scouts opinion and ultimately make that player some extra cash, which they wouldn’t have had before.
The NFL Draft Combine is the most talked about combine in all of sports and although I am not a true believer in the combine, many scouts and teams take the combine extremely serious. Throughout the years, there have been many players who have been freaks during this ‘practice session’ and it has helped their stock tremendously heading into the NFL Draft.
An amazing NFL Draft Combine doesn’t mean that the athlete is going to succeed in the NFL, but it can be a good measurement of their athleticism. With that being said, here are the top 15 combine freaks of all-time
15 Mitch Petrus, Arkansas, Guard (2010)
The 27-year-old from Carlisle, Arkansas is now a Super Bowl Champion, but during his days trying to make it to the NFL, he had a beast-mode performance at the NFL Draft Combine. Petrus threw up 45 reps of 225 pounds during the 2010 combine, which at the time was the second most since 2000. Petrus is still a free agent, after being released by the New England Patriots in late 2012.
14 Jerome Mathis, Hampton University, Wide Receiver (2005)
Jerome Mathis is known for his speed. During his days with Hampton University, Mathis set the NCAA record for career kick return average, with an average of 26.6 yards per return and holds the NCAA record for kick off returns for a touchdown with six. During the 2005 NFL Draft Combine, Mathis displayed his skills running a 4.26 second 40-yard-dash, which is one of the fastest of all-time. Unfortunately, Mathis’ NFL career only lasted three years, with his football career ending with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League.
13 Gerald Sensabaugh, North Carolina, Safety (2005)
Sensabaugh is one of those rare athletes that used the NFL Draft Combine to boost his draft stock drastically. Sensabaugh was scheduled to be a sixth or seventh round draft pick, but ended up being taken in the fifth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars after his great combine. After four years with the Jags, he moved onto the Cowboys where he had four solid seasons as a starter before retiring. Sensabaugh still holds the record for the best vertical jump with a 46.0-inch vertical and had a solid eight-year career in the NFL.
12 Stephen Paea, Oregon, Defensive Tackle (2011)
Stephen Paea, the 2010 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, helped legitimize his draft stock during the 2011 NFL Draft Combine by recording 49 reps of 225 pounds during the Bench Press testing. Paea was drafted 52nd overall during the 2011 NFL Draft and was awarded the Brian Piccolo Award by the Chicago Bears for his outstanding rookie season. He's been with the Bears for the last four years and he finally started a full 16-game season in 2014.
11 Vernon Gholston, Ohio State, Defensive End (2008)
Do not bring Vernon Gholston’s name up whenever you're near a New York Jets fan. Gholston is the definition of a bust, and if only he could have performed half as well as he did during the NFL Draft Combine, his career may have lasted longer than three years. Gholston ran a 4.67 40-yard dash, has 37 reps during the bench press, a 35.5” inch vertical and a 10.5” inch broad jump. Gholston was a great athlete with a great collegiate career, but unfortunately for the Jets, it didn’t translate into the pros.
10 Mike Kudla, Ohio State, Offensive Tackle (2005)
Mike Kudla was an All-Big-Ten athlete during his time at Ohio State and won a championship with the Buckeyes. Kudla continued his great collegiate performance at the 2005 NFL Draft Combine throwing up 45 reps of 225 pounds during the bench press testing. Injuries stalled Kudla’s professional career, as it was over before it really started. Kudla’s football career switched very quickly, as he is now a salesman with State Farm Insurance.
9 Rondel Melendez, Eastern Kentucky, Wide Receiver (1999)
Melendez is the typical player to have an outstanding NFL Draft Combine, but have no impact in the NFL. Melendez ran a remarkable 4.24-second 40-yard-dash and was eventually drafted in the seventh round by the Atlanta Falcons. However, that’s as far as his NFL career went, as the Wide Receiver from Eastern Kentucky never played a down in the NFL.
8 Justin Ernest, Eastern Kentucky, Defensive Tackle (1999)
Something must have been in the water during the late 1990s at Eastern Kentucky because another Colonels player made a name for himself during the 1999 NFL Combine. Justin Ernest was a machine during the combine throwing up 51 reps of 225 pounds during the bench press testing. Much like his teammate Rondel Melendez, Ernest never played a down in the NFL.
7 Chris Johnson, East Carolina, Running Back (2008)
Although Chris Johnson is only 29-years-old now, his best days of football are far behind him. Johnson’s lightning speed was displayed at the 2008 NFL Draft Combine when he ran a 4.24 second 40-yard-dash, which holds as the official 40-yard-dash record (for electronic timing, we'll get to the record holder for hand timing in a second). Johnson’s career has fallen off the tracks recently, but he still holds the NFL record for 2,509 yards from scrimmage during the 2009 season.
6 Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech, Wide Receiver (2007)
Calvin Johnson may not have had the greatest combine overall, but the story behind it is one of the best. Johnson somehow did not pack his running shoes for the combine and had to run the 40-yard-dash in East Carolina’s James Pinkney’s running shoes (though he later said that Pinkney borrowed his shoes and not vice versa). That didn’t affect Johnson at all, as he still ran a 4.32 second 40-yard dash in Pinkney’s shoes. Johnson was drafted second overall by the Detroit Lions, is a five-time Pro Bowler and is the fastest receiver to reach 10,000 receiving yards.
5 J.J. Watt, Wisconsin, Defensive End (2011)
J.J. Watt is currently having a MVP-caliber season and his greatness has been on display ever since the 2011 NFL Draft Combine. The 6”5’, 290 lbs. from Waukesha, Wisconsin was great during the combine running a 4.84 second 40-yard dash, 37” inch vertical, 10” inch broad jump and recorded 34 reps during the bench press testing. Watt was drafted in the round by the Houston Texans that year and is the best defensive player in football. A lot of elite players were taken before him, but you have to imagine that some teams regret passing on this beast.
4 Vernon Davis, Maryland, Tight End (2006)
Vernon Davis is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, although he had a down year in 2014, and proved his worthiness during the 2006 NFL Draft Combine. Davis ran a 4.38 second 40-yard-dash, had a 42” inch vertical, 10’8” inch broad jump and recorded 33 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press. Davis was drafted sixth overall by the San Francisco 49ers during the 2006 NFL Draft and has continued to be one of the deadliest weapons in the NFL.
3 Robert Griffin III, Baylor, Quarterback (2012)
For those of you who don’t remember, Robert Griffin III was actually not injured at one point and was a freak of athleticism. After winning the Heisman Trophy during his final collegiate season, RG3 had nothing to prove during the NFL Draft Combine. Regardless, he put on a clinic and ran the fastest 40-yard dash for a quarterback with a 4.41 second time. He also recorded a 39” inch vertical during the combine. With his career slowly turning sour, maybe he should consider switching to running back, after how successful his combine was.
2 Bo Jackson, Auburn, Running Back (1986)
Arguably the greatest pure athlete to ever grace our planet, Bo Jackson had the fastest time in the history of the NFL Draft Combine. Although it wasn’t official, as electronic timing didn't exist yet, Jackson reportedly ran a blistering 4.12 second 40-yard-dash. If you've ever seen Bo play, than you definitely can believe the accuracy of that number. Jackson continued his rocket speed into the NFL, as he was one of the most electric running backs to ever play.
1 Mike Mamula, Boston College, Linebacker (1995)
In terms of great NFL Draft Combines, Mike Mamula’s remains one of the best. The now 41-year-old from Lackawanna, New York used the combine to bolster his draft stocking, before being drafted seventh overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. During the NFL Draft Combine, Mamula recorded a 4.58 second 40-yard-dash, 28 reps in the Bench Press, a 38.5” inch vertical and a magnificent 49-of-50 on the Wodnerlic Test, which is an intelligence aptitude test. Mamula ended up playing five seasons in the NFL, recording 31.5 sacks in 77 games played.