News & Analysis

Most misleading combine performances of the PFF era

As far as NFL careers go, the following is a list you probably don’t want to be on. When selecting players, we tried to focus on prospects who were somewhat hyped pre-draft — we passed on the workout warriors like Moritz Bohringer, who were never real prospects but so freaky that teams were willing to take flyers on them late.

This list ain’t for them. These are the guys who knocked the combine out of the park, were drafted in the first few rounds and never gave us any indication in the league that they were as freaky as their testing numbers suggested.

QB: Marcus Mariota

40 Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle
4.52 36 10-1 6.87 4.11

At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, Mariota came into the league testing like he could transition to wide receiver if the Tennessee Titans wanted him to. But the rushing potential never came to fruition — Mariota never ran for more than 400 yards in a single season and averaged a measly 2.0 yards after contact per attempt throughout his career. 

WR: Chris Conley

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle 60-shuttle
4.35 18 45 11-7 7.06 4.3 11.65

Conley was one of the most explosive testing athletes in combine history. The Kansas City Chiefs thought so much of him that they drafted the former Georgia Bulldog in the middle of the third round. After five years in the NFL, there’s little about his game that screams explosive. Even after a mild breakout year with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Conley has managed only 13.0 yards per reception for his career and broken only 14 tackles on 159 catches. 

RB: Dri Archer

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle
4.26 20 38 10-2 6.86 4.06

There was so much buzz surrounding Archer after his lights-out combine performance in 2014 that Pro Football Talk infamously mocked him 26th overall to the Cleveland Browns in their first-round mock. He would eventually go in the third to the Pittsburgh Steelers and play only 85 offensive snaps in two seasons before bowing out of the league.

TE: Mike Gesicki

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle 60-shuttle
4.54 22 41.5 10-9 6.76 4.1 11.33

Of all the players selected for this list, Gesicki might be the most unfair to include. He went for 51 catches for 540 yards and five scores this past season. But this production only resulted in a 60.5 receiving grade, as fewer than half of Gesicki’s catches went for first downs and he broke ZERO tackles all season. How it’s possible for someone as explosive as Gesicki to not wriggle free from a single defender on 51 catches, I have no idea.   

OT: Jake Fisher

40 Bench Vert 3-Cone 20-shuttle
5.01 25 32.5 7.25 4.33

Fisher’s agility drills both rank among the top-10 all time at the position, and he was talked up as an “upside” prospect throughout the predraft in 2015. He went in the middle of the second to the Cincinnati Bengals even though he’d only earned a 70.2 overall grade in PFF’s first year of grading college players. Fisher never quite realized that “upside” and has played all of 820 snaps in five seasons.

IOL: Bruce Campbell

40 Bench Vert 3-Cone 20-shuttle
4.85 34 32 7.58 4.69

This one is cheating to some degree, as Campbell came into the league as a tackle, but he technically played more career snaps in the NFL at guard (33) than tackle (4), so I’m allowing it. Al Davis selected him in the fourth round after his scintillating combine in 2010 despite the fact that he was never really good at blocking people.

DI: Margus Hunt

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle
4.6 38 34.5 10-1 7.07 4.51

Hunt was always more physical freak than football player coming out of SMU back in 2013. He was a world-class shotputter turned college football player who was 26 before he ever stepped foot on an NFL field. The light switch never quite flipped for Hunt when he was with the Bengals, but he reinvented himself as a run defender with the Indianapolis Colts, earning an 86.1 run defense grade in 2017.

Edge: Vic Beasley

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle
4.53 35 41 10-10 6.91 4.15

Beasley is the cautionary tale for undersized edge defenders. Weighing in at 246 pounds, Beasley collected 16 sacks in his second year in the league tracking down QBs outside the pocket with his speed, but he was never a consistent pocket pusher. He never earned a pass-rushing grade of 80.0 or higher for a single season and has had two seasons with run-defense grades below 50.0. Now a free agent, the Atlanta Falcons have already stated they won’t be re-signing him. 

LB: A.J. Hawk

Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle
40 11-1 6.82 3.96

At no point during Hawk’s NFL career could you have watched him play and guessed he had a 40-inch vertical. That was just never his game. The former top-five pick hung on for a decade in the league, collecting only 23 pass breakups and nine picks. 

CB: Josh Robinson

40 Bench Vert Broad 3-Cone 20-shuttle 60-shuttle
4.33 17 38.5 11-1 6.55 3.97 11.65

Robinson was drafted in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2012 after his combine showed elite numbers across the board. He started for three seasons for the Vikings before they said enough was enough. For his career, Robinson allowed a passer rating against of 110.2 and a completion percentage of 70.5.

S: Obi Melifonwu

40 Bench Vert Broad
4.4 17 44 11-9

Melifonwu was supposed to be Isaiah Simmons before Isaiah Simmons. At 6-foot-4, 224 pounds with jaw-dropping athleticism, Melifonwu bridged the gap between corner, safety and linebacker. In his final season at UConn, Melifonwu earned an 86.9 run defense grade and 80.1 coverage grade. In the NFL, he only played 34 snaps for the Oakland Raiders after being drafted in the second round with another 20 for the New England Patriots

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