Fans love the NFL Scouting Combine even more than the coaches, general managers, and scouts since it has been televised. It gives every fan access to the exact same measurable stats for each player as NFL franchises. Thus, fans begin to get a glimpse into how difficult it is to pick great players in the NFL Draft. The combine is a prime example of how having too much information and too many choices distorts good decision making. It would make sense for teams to use film study and position specific workouts as the basis for drafting players. Instead, players are often harshly criticized and overly scrutinized by bench press, broad jump, 40-time, 3-cone drill, verticle jump, and Wonderlic test scores. None of those measurables can calculate a man’s heart, work ethic, or will to win.
Here is a list of guys who have had underwhelming NFL combine performances to go on and become amongst the NFL elite.
Antonio Brown – 2010
No one would dare questions Antonio Brown’s athleticism now. However, no one was sold on his athleticism until the 6th round. At the combine, he ran a 4.56-second 40, with a 33.5-inch vertical and a 6.98-second 3-cone. His 8-foot, 9-inch broad jump was worst among wide receivers who tested that year. Since then, Brown has proven his name should be mentioned with the greatest wide receivers of this decade.
Calais Campbell – 2008
Campbell looked the part coming out of the University of Miami. He was 6-8, 290lbs of top-10 pick. However, he only managed 16 reps on the bench press (22+ expected for a defensive lineman), ran a 5.04 in the 40, and 7.45 in the 3-cone drill. Ultimately, Campbell was picked 50th by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008. He has gone on to be a 3x All-Pro and PFWA Defensive MVP.
Marcus Peters – 2015
Marcus Peters wanted to put up a good NFL combine performance after being dismissed from the team at the University of Washington. Some of his combine numbers were solid, but his 4.53 time in the 40 stood out as a “red flag” for a cornerback. Peters has gone on to be a 2x All-Pro and amass 22 interceptions in his first four seasons.
Jim Kelly – 1986 Terry Bradshaw – 1970
When quarterbacks score poorly on the test, teams generally question their intelligence and ability to grasp NFL concepts. Jim Kelly and Terry Bradshaw both scored an underwhelming 15 on the Wonderlic Test. Yet, both went on to either have Hall of Fame careers and are amongst the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Anquan Boldin – 2003
Boldin put up big numbers and impressive plays at Florida State. Most experts expected him to be a lock first-round NFL Draft pick. However, he posted a 4.71 40-yard dash time and fell to the #54 pick in the 2003 draft. He ONLY went on to become the fastest player in NFL history to 600 catches (until Antonio Brown). Boldin also made huge plays to help the Ravens win the 2013 Super Bowl. And he finished his career with over 1,000 catches and 13, 000 receiving yards despite not have great NFL scouting combine measurables.
Tom Brady – 2000
Tom Brady failed miserably at two parts of the NFL Combine. Firstly, he had a “dad bod”, and looked more suited to be an accountant than an NFL player. Secondly, Brady ran 5.28 in the 40-yard dash. That time is more suited for a 315 offensive lineman than a skill position player. We all know that Brady has gone on to become arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. But, teams didn’t see the vision as Tom Brady was ultimately selected in the 6th round of the NFL Draft.