NFL Scouting Combine: Workout Warriors Who Never Translated to the NFL
It’s that time of year where highly unproductive college football players make a name for themselves and rise up draft boards. It’s time for the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Oakland Raiders are known for reaching for the “workout warrior” in the NFL Draft. While this seems to be true, they aren’t the only team that reaches for a player who dominates the scouting combine. Every year there are a few players who get drafted a couple rounds too early due to their performance at the scouting combine.
There are, however, some players who exceed expectations and go on to have solid NFL careers.
In 2008, Chris Johnson ran a combine-record 4.24 40-yard dash. Johnson was able to move himself into the first round and was drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the 24th pick. He dominated the NFL scouting combine and has had a productive NFL career to this point.
Now, for every Chris Johnson, there are ten players just like him that don’t translate their combine skills to the NFL.
Some scouts forget about a player’s lack of production in college and focus solely on how these players perform without any pads on.
Let’s take a look at some players who dominated the scouting combine, but never translated to the NFL.
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Matt Jones was a quarterback at the University of Arkansas. His athleticism and measurables made him a better fit as a wide receiver in the NFL. His first extensive play as WR came at the Senior Bowl, where he impressed a number of scouts.
The NFL scouting combine is really where the Matt Jones hype escalated. Jones measured in at 6’6 1/4" and 242 pounds. His height and weight alone made the rest of his combine results that much more impressive.
Jones ran between 4.37 and 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also had a 39.5” vertical jump and a 10’10” broad jump. These scores earned him the nickname “The Freak” from players and coaches in attendance.
The Jacksonville Jaguars decided to pull the trigger on Jones with the 21st pick in the first round of the draft. This surprised a lot of experts because Jones had never played wide receiver before in his career.
In four NFL seasons, Jones had 166 catches, 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns. In 2008, he was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Matt Jones has not played in a regular season NFL game since.
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Bruce Campbell started 17 games in his career at the University of Maryland. He was seen as a very inexperienced prospect who could essentially be a boom or bust guy. In 2010, Campbell was the most impressive player at the scouting combine.
Bruce Campbell measured in at 6’6 3/8”, 314 pounds. When it came to size, Campbell was a prototypical left tackle. Campbell ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of all the offensive linemen, with 4.85 seconds. He was also fifth for offensive linemen in bench press, with 34 reps.
Campbell had everything you look for in an offensive lineman, and more. He was big, strong and fast. Many people predicted that after his workout, the Oakland Raiders would select him in the first round with their eighth pick.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock actually called Campbell “the best looking lineman prospect" he has ever seen.” (h/t Yahoo! Sports)
The Raiders surprised a lot of people by waiting until the fourth round to take the tackle out of Maryland. This still may have been a reach for a player with Campbell's inexperience.
In two years in the NFL, Campbell has appeared in 14 games but started none. He has also been moved to every position on the offensive line to try to find a spot for his athletic ability.
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Adam Archuleta was a walk-on linebacker at Arizona State. Archuleta measured in at just under 6 feet and weighed 211 pounds. He seemed more like a safety so he moved to that position.
Scouts still worried about his size and lack of experience at the safety position. He was able to silence many of his critics with a phenomenal scouting combine performance.
Archuleta bench-pressed 31 reps, ran a 4.42 second 40-yard dash and jumped a 39” vertical. He had one of the more impressive combines ever by a safety.
Adam Archuleta was drafted 20th overall by the St. Louis Rams. He was productive in his first four years in the league with the Rams. In the next three seasons with the Rams, Redskins and Bears, Archuleta saw his production plummet and was exposed in pass coverage. He's been out of the league since 2008.
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Chris Henry was one of those guys who did almost nothing in college, yet had a great combine and was drafted early. At the University of Arizona, Henry was a one-year starter and rushed for 581 yards and seven touchdowns in that year.
Henry left one year early for the NFL draft, and many people questioned why he made that decision after a less-than-stellar year.
Henry was able to impress coaches and scouts at the combine. He tied Adrian Peterson for the best 40-yard dash, running it in 4.4 seconds. He benched the fourth most reps for running backs with 26. He also displayed the best vertical jump, jumping 10’7”.
The Tennessee Titans took Chris Henry in the second round with the 50th overall pick. In his career, Henry has only rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He is currently a free agent.
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Darrius Heyward-Bey was an above-average college athlete. At the University of Maryland, he had 138 catches and 13 touchdowns in three seasons. He was known for his straight-line speed and not much else.
In 2009, Heyward-Bey ran a combine-best 4.3 second 40-yard dash. Scouts knew Hayward-Bey was fast, but seeing it in person must have helped a lot.
In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders surprised everyone by selecting Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick. He was picked earlier than most projections and before Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, who most analysts thought would be picked before Heyward-Bey.
Heyward-Bey only caught nine passes his rookie year and 26 the following season. Many people aren’t ready to label him as a “bust," but a couple more seasons like that and they won’t have a choice.
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Tye Hill was another one of those guys who benefited from running the fastest 40-yard dash in the draft. The cornerback out of Clemson had a productive college career and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
Hill ran a 4.3 second 40-yard dash. It was the fastest 40 time in the combine. His combine performance was enough to put him the first round of the draft, where he was drafted 15th overall in 2006.
His rookie season was highly productive, and he was named Rams Rookie of the Year and was voted to the 2006 All-Rookie honors.
The remainder of his career was filled with injury and disappointment. When healthy, Hill was constantly blowing coverage. He is currently a free agent.
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Yamon Figurs was able to dominate the speed and agility aspects at the 2007 scouting combine. Known for his punt returning ability, Figurs was expected to be taken late in the draft.
After running a combine-best 4.3-second 40-yard dash, there was some speculation that teams would reach on him. That’s exactly what happened come draft day.
The Baltimore Ravens selected Figurs in the third round. This may not seem like much of a stretch, but when you consider Figurs is only a return specialist, it is.
Figurs has only two career return touchdowns and five career catches. Since 2007, he has been with six teams. He is now currently a free agent.
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Vernon Gholston was a physical freak coming out of Ohio State. He had everything scouts looked for physically in a defensive end: size, strength and quickness. It was no surprise he was the talk of the combine.
At 6’3”, 266 pounds, Gholston ran the fourth fastest 40-yard dash time for defensive ends, running it in 4.58 seconds. Gholston also boasted a combine-best 37 reps in bench press. Scouts also salivated at his ability to bench press 455 pounds.
The New York Jets were happy to select Gholston with the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Gholston had trouble finding playing time and was released after three seasons with the team. In his three seasons with the team, Gholston didn’t record a single sack.
Like many other players on this list, Vernon Gholston is currently a free agent.