It’s dangerous to put too much stock in combine workouts.
The 40-yard dash may measure straight-line speed but it won’t tell you if a running back has great vision or instincts. The bench press might be a good indication of how strong a player is, but people with long arms tend to struggle with the exercise and isn’t having long arms one of the qualities that scouts look for in an offensive tackle prospect?
That said: Forget what I just wrote. The combine numbers mean everything, which makes this post so worth your time. Listen to me, I’m not one of those idiots who sets up an article by telling you how combine numbers mean nothing and then compiles a list of prospects that improved their draft stocks based off their combine numbers. That would just be foolish and counterproductive.
Below are 10 prospects that may have improved their draft stock with their performance at the combine this week. I know there were more than just 10, so feel free to share whom you thought raised their stock in the comments section below (which is way more productive than calling me a flippin’ moron for not listing a player, and then smugly asking, “Did you even watch football last year?” which is one of my all-time favorite comments from readers).
Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M
I’d be shocked if Miller weren’t selected in the top 6 after running a 4.53 forty at the combine. He was unofficially clocked at 4.46 and I don’t see him getting past Cleveland at No. 6. (I actually think he won’t get past Arizona at No. 5, but if the Cardinals take a quarterback I could see the Browns nabbing him at No. 6.) Miller put on nearly 10 pounds since the Senior Bowl and is already drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Ware. He’s the most NFL-ready pass rusher in the draft.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Everybody is loving themselves some Christian Ponder right now. After displaying great accuracy and decent arm strength over the weekend, some believe Ponder may now go in the first round. I think that’s a stretch but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went to the Bengals at the top of the second round. He’s viewed as the best West Coast Offense quarterback in the draft and may have been the signal caller that improved his draft stock the most this week.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
Truth be told, I’m not completely convinced that Paea improved his draft stock this week, even though he set the combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He was a second round prospect going into this week and he’s a second round prospect now. But the reason I have him listed here is because I think the guy will be a second round steal. He’s still recovering from having knee surgery in January, but he racked up 29.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and nine forced fumbles in his final three college seasons. He’s a player.
Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
A.J. Green is still the better overall prospect, but there’s no question Jones outperformed him at the combine. Jones’ forty time was almost 1/10 of a second faster than Green’s, his 38.5-inch vertical leap was four inches better than Green’s and his 11-foot, three-inch broad jump was seven inches better than Green’s. Jones also sold more hotdogs at the concession stand, parked more cars at the valet service and constructed a replica of the Sistine Chapel on the inside of Lucas Oil Stadium’s roof. The only bad news that came out of Indy regarding Jones is that he apparently needs surgery to repair a fracture in his foot. But I doubt that will cause his draft stock to take a hit considering he had the bad wheel before performing all of the combine tests. I doubt he’ll fall out of the top 10.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple
Before the combine, Wilkerson was considered a second round pick but now he’s receiving first-round attention. He’s a versatile tackle in that he can line up as a DT in a 4-3 scheme and an end in a 3-4. If the Patriots don’t trade one of their two first round picks, Wilkerson may have New England written all over him.
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Kaepernick is best known for his speed (he clocked a blazing 4.53 forty), but he made everyone aware of his arm strength this week when he threw the ball 59 miles per hour on the radar gun (which was one MPH faster than Ryan Mallett and three MPH faster than Cam Newton). Of course, the problem remains that he ran Chris Ault’s pistol offense in college and roughly zero teams run that system in the NFL. Still, his numbers were strong and Kaepernick could wind up sneaking into the second round.
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
Well I guess that answers that question, doesn’t it? Pundits were worried that Austin wasn’t staying in shape after sitting out all of last year, but he produced 38 reps on the bench press and continues to impress this offseason. Seeing as how he was considered a top 15 pick before last season, he’ll get some looks in the first round again after proving to scouts that he has put his time off to good use.
Tyron Smith, OT, USC
As I mention in the Honorable Mention section, offensive tackle prospects Anthony Castonzo and Gabe Carimi had good workouts and will go in the first round. But they were already considered first round prospects so mentioning them on this list seems a little unnecessary. Smith is another story though. He went from being a first round pick to potentially being a surefire top 15 selection with a great combine workout. I had him falling past the top 15 in my NFL Draft Mock 2.0, a problem I’ll correct in Mock 3.0.
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
It’s a stretch to say that Amukamara improved his draft stock seeing as how he was considered a top 15 pick heading into the combine. But I think it’s important to note that he clocked an unofficial 4.37 forty, which is big considering some pundits were worried about his speed. There’s nothing to worry about: the Prince can run.
Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
After J.J. Watt’s impressive workout, I might get yelled at for only listing the former Wisconsin end in the Honorable Mention section. But Watt was already considered a surefire first round pick heading into the combine, so his numbers weren’t surprising. Kerrigan, on the other hand, was being viewed as a late first-rounder or an early second. But after his performance this week, how can anyone not view the former Purdue Boilermaker as a first rounder? He registered one of the top 10-yard splits (1.65) at the combine, had an impressive 4.71 forty and did 31 reps on the bench. Given his motor and football I.Q., Kerrigan might go on to have an impressive NFL career.
Honorable Mention: Jake Locker (QB, Washington); Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin); Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College); Ryan Mallett (QB, Arknasas), J.J. Watt (DE, Wisconsin); Virgil Green (TE, Nevada); Patrick Peterson (CB, LSU).
All of the players mentioned above had solid combine workouts and therefore deserved to be mentioned. But just because they had a good workout doesn’t mean they improved their draft stock. Carimi and Castonzo were slated to go anywhere from No. 15 to 32 in the first round before the combine and are slated to go anywhere from No. 15 to 32 in the first round now that the combine is over. Locker was impressive, but unless he can erase film of himself from last year, the same concerns remain about his decision-making. What has changed for Ryan Mallett? Heading into the combine he was the most physically gifted quarterback with a questionable attitude. After rubbing the media the wrong way at his press conference and then putting on a clinic for scouts during the passing drills, Mallett is a physically gifted quarterback with a questionable attitude. Patrick Peterson…ah, you catch my drift.