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Ranking the 10 Best NFL Scouting Combine Performances of All Time

Scott CarasikContributor IIFebruary 21, 2013

Ranking the 10 Best NFL Scouting Combine Performances of All Time

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    The NFL Scouting Combine has produced some spectacular athletic displays in its 32-year history, including impressive contributions from Adrian Peterson, David Pollack and Julio Jones.

    The combine has catapulted players like Mike Mamula and Mike Mitchell from mid-to-low-round grades to the top two rounds. It has also held back top talents like Tom Brady from being selected higher due to poor showings in Indianapolis.

    Going back to the first combine in 1982, there have been quite a few players who have stood out. But the best complete performances include entire workouts from the players and not just piecemeal workouts of just a 40-yard dash or a majority of the events completed outside of the shuttles.

    The top 10 combine performances are ones that include every drill done in a way that shows tremendous athleticism for the player's position and either truly solidified them as a top draft pick or propelled them to one.

     

    Note: All results for past combines were found in NFLDraftScout.com's archived pages for each player.

Honorable Mention: RB Adrian Peterson, 6'1-1/2", 217 Pounds

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    Despite his broken collarbone and weighing close to 220 pounds, Adrian Peterson's performance in 2007 was ridiculously good and displayed just how athletic the next great running back was.

    Peterson's 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash exhibited that he had the top-end speed to dominate opposing defenses. 

    His all-around athleticism was on display in the vertical and broad jumps, as he showed the lower-body explosion to not just gain top speed, but also to bust through opposing defenders. 

    The only real question is just how much he was hampered by his broken collarbone and how much better it could have been.

    Due to Adrian "All Day" Peterson not having a complete workout, he is only an honorable mention and therefore not eligible for the list.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.40 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.58 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.53 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.40 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 7.09 seconds
    Bench Reps 0 reps*
    Vertical Jump  38.5"
    Broad Jump 10'7"

    * Sat out the bench press while recovering from collarbone injury

10. OT Trent Williams, 6'4-5/8", 315 Pounds, 2010

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    In one of the best offensive linemen performances of all time, Trent Williams vaulted his status up from a borderline first-round pick (h/t NFL Draft 101) to a top-five selection.

    The Oklahoma tackle has since made the Pro Bowl and proven to be a worthy selection of the pick.

    However, at the combine, he solidified the idea that he should play in a zone-blocking scheme as the blindside protector. And at 315 pounds, there were questions of his athleticism as compared to draft peer Russell Okung. 

    But those were all answered with his performance in Indy, and he has since earned a captain's role with the Redskins.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.81 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.81 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.70 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.63 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 7.64 seconds
    Bench Reps 23 reps
    Vertical Jump  34.5"
    Broad Jump 9'5"

9. DT Dontari Poe, 6'3-1/2", 346 Pounds, 2012

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    How often does a man over 300 pounds run a 40-yard dash in under five seconds?

    Very rarely. This marked the first time a man over 340 pounds ran under 4.90 in the 40. For reference, that means that Dontari Poe ran 40 yards at 16.7 miles per hour. 

    A man with the size and strength (44 reps in the 225-pound bench press) to move piles, Poe is also fast enough to catch most slower tight ends. 

    Before the combine, Poe was being talked about mostly as a second-round talent. He then vaulted himself to become the 11th overall selection, but showed in his rookie year that he still has a long way to go in the NFL.

    But the raw athleticism he's displayed still leaves plenty of hope in Kansas City.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.89 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.83 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.67 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.56 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 7.90 seconds
    Bench Reps 44 reps
    Vertical Jump  29.5"
    Broad Jump 8'9"

8. DE Mario Williams, 6'7", 295 Pounds, 2006

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    Mario Williams was only a Julius Peppers comparison leading into the 2006 NFL draft. After his combine performance, Williams demonstrated he was as much of an athletic freak as Peppers...if not more so.

    He ran his 40 in the average time for outside linebackers that year, only he was at 295 pounds, while the OLBs averaged 235 pounds. 

    When you are running as fast as people 60 pounds lighter than you, it's going to turn a bunch of heads.

    Prior to competing at the combine, Williams was likely a mid-first-rounder. He pushed his way up the boards with his combine to be the eventual No. 1 overall selection.

    Since then, he's proven his worth in both Houston and Buffalo, as he has been an extremely productive pass-rusher with 64 sacks in his first seven years.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.70 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.77 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.60 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.37 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 7.21 seconds
    Bench Reps 35 reps
    Vertical Jump  40.5"
    Broad Jump 10'2"

7. DE/OLB David Pollack, 6'2-1/8", 265 Pounds, 2005

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    The 40-yard time was the least impressive part of David Pollack's workout. While 4.75 is good for a 265-pound player, the real strength in Pollack's athleticism showed up in the 3-cone drill and the short shuttle.

    He was able to demonstrate his versatility as well as his agility to play outside linebacker in the 4-3. That alone is what brought him into the top 20 from a late first- to early second-round projection.

    Before his combine, Pollack's athleticism was questioned—but he showed us in Indianapolis that the cream will rise to the top and athleticism will reveal itself. We just have to look for it.

    Unfortunately for Pollack, he had to retire early in his career after a vicious neck injury, and he is now a case of "what could have been."

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.75 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.71 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.67 seconds
    Short Shuttle 3.94 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 6.87 seconds
    Bench Reps 25 reps
    Vertical Jump  37"
    Broad Jump 10'0"

6. DE Bruce Irvin, 6'3", 245 Pounds, 2012

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    If Bruce Irvin played wide receiver, teams would have tripped over themselves fighting for him after one of the best speed performances at the position in combine history.

    Irvin plays defensive end, and he's also 45 pounds bigger than your average wide receiver.

    If he would have put up those numbers as a cornerback, he would have gone in the first round based on the athleticism alone.

    But at defensive end, this kind of speed is just insane. When you make small speed players jealous of your 40 time as a D-lineman, it's only going to rocket you up the draft boards.

    And that's exactly what happened to Irvin.

    He was mainly predicted to be a late second- or third-round selection even up to the day of the draft. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll then decided to roll the dice on him at No. 15 and was rewarded with eight sacks in Irvin's rookie season.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.41 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.57 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.55 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.03 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 6.70 seconds
    Bench Reps 23 reps
    Vertical Jump  33.5"
    Broad Jump 10'3"

5. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 6'1-1/4", 184 Pounds, 2008

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    Running under 4.30 in the 40 is ridiculous no matter what size you are and position you play. At 184 pounds, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the smaller corners in his draft year.

    However, he came in with great length at 6'1-1/4" and showed that he could create a catching range that made wide receivers jealous with his leaping ability.

    Add in a great 3-cone time that shows he can cut quick and attack the ball, and it's no wonder the small-school corner out of Tennessee State went 16th overall in the '08 draft.

    Rodgers-Cromartie was a relative unknown before his combine put him on the radar, despite most expecting him to be a first- or second-round pick.

    However, his combine boosted him up to the first round, and he has proved to be a solid corner in the NFL for both the Cardinals and the Eagles.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.29 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.51 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.41 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.17 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 6.71 seconds
    Bench Reps 17 reps
    Vertical Jump  38.5"
    Broad Jump 10'11"

4. TE Vernon Davis, 6'3-1/4", 254 Pounds, 2006

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    Just like it was a big deal for Bruce Irvin to run like a wide receiver at defensive end, it was a huge deal for a tight end like Vernon Davis to outperform wide receivers at 254 pounds.

    When a tight end can run and jump like a wideout but also put up 42 reps in the bench to show that he has the strength to lock out his arms in blocking, it's huge. 

    His play on the field at Maryland may have only warranted a mid-first-round pick, but because of his beastly combine performance and raw athleticism, Davis went No. 6 overall in the 2006 draft.

    Despite disappointing in his first three years in the pros, he has shown he was definitely worth the pick.

    Davis was a key cog in the playoffs this past season during the 49ers' Super Bowl run.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.38 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.59 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.51 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.17 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 7.00 seconds
    Bench Reps 42 reps
    Vertical Jump  42"
    Broad Jump 10'8"

3. DE J.J. Watt, 6'5-3/8", 290 Pounds, 2011

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    J.J. Watt is proof that a combine gamble can sometimes pay off. 

    Despite posting just 4.5 and 7.0 sacks in his two seasons at defensive end in college, he used an excellent combine to move into the top 15 of the 2011 draft.

    His numbers look like that of a solid 240-pound linebacker's performance, only he's 50 pounds heavier than your average linebacker. 

    It's a shame his performance doesn't get more recognition, because for someone 290 pounds to rock out at the combine the way he did was unheard of. 

    Despite being drafted 10 spots lower at 11th overall, his numbers were right up there with the man who he eventually replaced—Mario Williams.

    Before the combine, Watt was widely regarded as a late first-round selection (h/t NE Patriots Draft).

    Houston is thankful Watt did as well as he did in Indy—otherwise, it wouldn't have arguably the best pass-rusher in the NFL on its roster today.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.81 seconds 
    20-yard dash 2.71 seconds 
    10-yard dash 1.64 seconds 
    Short Shuttle 4.21 seconds
    3-cone Drill 6.88 seconds
    Bench Reps 34 reps
    Vertical Jump  37"
    Broad Jump 10'0" 

2. WR Julio Jones, 6'2-3/4", 220 Pounds, 2011

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    When a 6'3", 220-pound wide receiver puts up numbers that verify he's one of the best athletic talents to have come through the draft in years, scouts take notice.

    The raw physical tools and speed were seen on the field. The ridiculous 40 times proved he had it straight ahead. 

    His cone drill is also something that would make teams drool for his quick-cut abilities. And the most amazing part is he did it all with a broken foot that later required surgery. 

    Jones was already considered a top-10 talent as a receiver (h/t NFL Draft Monsters), but with his display in Indy, he made himself the No. 6 pick in 2011.

    Jones has proven his worth for the Falcons, giving them a top all-around talent at receiver with 2,157 yards and 18 touchdowns on 133 catches in his first two seasons.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.34 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.47 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.50 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.25 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 6.66 seconds
    Bench Reps 17 reps
    Vertical Jump  38.5"
    Broad Jump 11'3"

1. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, 6'1-5/8", 210 Pounds, 2009

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    What is in the water in Maryland? This is the second big-time player from the Terrapins who had a ridiculously good combine.

    Finishing the last 20 yards of his 40 in 1.75 seconds means Darrius Heyward-Bey went 23.4 miles per hour on the back end of his 40-yard dash.

    At 210 pounds, posting the second fastest time in combine history despite weighing 13 pounds more than the combine record-holder, Chris Johnson, was extremely impressive.

    Even more impressive is his leaping ability. When a guy is about 6'2" and can jump another 38.5 inches, it gives his quarterback the ability to throw it above almost any defender in the NFL. Outrunning and out-jumping defenders is something that makes front-office types like Al Davis select players like Heyward-Bey at the top.

    Unfortunately, he has shown he wasn't worth a top-10 pick, or even a second-round pick. Heyward-Bey's proven he was more a developmental talent than his combine numbers would indicate.

    Part of that has been an unenviable quarterback situation in Oakland, but it still took him four full years to show he has the potential to be a No. 1 receiver despite being a top-10 selection.

     

    Test  Result 
    40-yard dash  4.25 seconds
    20-yard dash 2.50 seconds
    10-yard dash 1.44 seconds
    Short Shuttle 4.18 seconds 
    3-cone Drill 6.80 seconds
    Bench Reps 16 reps
    Vertical Jump  38.5"
    Broad Jump 10'6"

     

    All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus's Premium StatsESPNCFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld. All recruiting rankings come from 247Sports.com.

    Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL draft website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.

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