NFL Combine Flops with the Most to Prove at Pro Days
NFL Scouting Combine workouts aren't as important as the general fan might think—unless an outlier occurs.
This can swing in either direction. When Mississippi State's Montez Sweat threw down the fastest 40-yard-dash time by a defensive lineman dating back to 2003—4.41 seconds at 6'6" and 260 pounds—it turned some heads.
Naturally, team scouts responsible for helping craft the final draft boards will go back to the film and see if the performance should move Sweat up (hint: it probably will).
But some prospects flopped, which will send scouts back to the tape and shuffling boards. Whether it was one particular workout performance or the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium as a whole, the following prospects came up short in Indianapolis and have to lean hard into their pro days to rehab their draft stock and ease concerns.
Jalen Jelks, DL, Oregon
Jalen Jelks was a mystery going into the combine, and he didn't give scouts much help.
Jelks was undersized at Oregon—in an actual way, not the "Geno Atkins is small" way—yet played inside on the defensive line and recorded 12 sacks over the last three seasons. At the combine, he measured in at 6'5" and 256 pounds.
In other words, he's too small to play the interior and seems a bit heavy for linebacker duty, which is the position he finished at with the Ducks.
It doesn't help that Jelks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and did just 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, raising eyebrows in terms of his speed and his strength.
Jelks could end up being one of those players who proves the numbers don't matter, but his pro day is a chance to show he should come off the board higher than he would right now.
Pro day: TBD
Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Big corners are all the rage thanks to the way they can combat some of the NFL's bigger receivers and tight ends, and there was a semblance of hype surrounding Vanderbilt's Joejuan Williams.
He delivered in at least one way, checking in at 6'4" and 211 pounds.
But teams knew he was big. As The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote beforehand, drills were going to be more important: "Cornerback is a stopwatch position. Big final day for these prospects, especially some of these bigger corners like Vanderbilt CB Joejuan Williams."
Instead, Williams rumbled to a time of 4.64 seconds. He only tested in one other drill, posting 17 reps on the bench press.
That's a shame, as good numbers might have thrown Williams into first-round chatter. A good pro day might be able to.
Pro day: March 12, 11 a.m. ET
Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke
Few players had a tougher time at the combine than Duke's Joe Giles-Harris.
Giles-Harris stuck out on film as a guy who covered backs and tight ends well, so it was encouraging to see him measure in at 6'2" and 234 pounds in Indianapolis.
At that weight, the 21-year-old linebacker seemed destined to run well. But a 4.75-second 40-yard-dash time dampened expectations. His 29½-inch vertical leap and 111-inch broad jump were the worst marks at his position.
Those numbers hint at an odd lack of sideline-to-sideline range, which doesn't necessarily pop up on tape. Giles-Harris will need a massive pro day to rehab his stock, though in the interim, scouts are likely going back over his film with a watchful eye.
Pro day: March 26, noon ET
Greg Little, OT, Mississippi
Greg Little didn't do himself any favors at the scouting combine.
The Mississippi product seemed like a possible starter on either edge if he could measure and test well. The former, at least, wasn't a problem. Little checked in at 6'5" and 310 pounds.
But the good vibes stopped there.
Little ran the 40-yard dash in 5.33 seconds, which would be amazing for a 310-pound man anywhere but the combine. It was the second-worst mark at his position. And yes, running in a straight line isn't an offensive lineman's job, but Little also underperformed on the vertical jump (25"), earning him the third-worst mark there.
A surprising lack of athleticism from a prospect who looked good on tape is a problem. He didn't do the bench press either, so unless he can improve on his numbers at his pro day, he'll face questions about whether he can keep up with NFL edge-rushers.
Pro day: March 29, 9 a.m. ET
Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
Big-play tight ends are a huge element of offenses in the NFL right now, especially if they can get down the field and climb the ladder on contested catches.
It seemed like Stanford's Kaden Smith could do all of the above.
But Smith's performance in Indianapolis doesn't match the tape. He was big at 6'5" and 255 pounds, sure. But a 4.92-second 40-yard dash was a letdown, and so were his 15 reps on the bench press. The latter is concerning from a strength standpoint, suggesting his lack of blocking in college was by design.
If Smith can't prove he has a better ability to get downfield and make plays at the pro level, teams might not waste time trying to refine his strength and blocking technique. Stanford's pro day is a chance to quell some of these concerns.
Pro day: April 4, noon ET
Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
Jachai Polite looked like a shoo-in for one of the combine's top performers.
A Florida Gators defensive end who terrorized quarterbacks in the SEC from the edge, Polite was business as usual from a measurement standpoint, ticking the boxes at 6'3" and 258 pounds.
But the rest was a ho-hum showing. Polite ran the 40 in 4.84 seconds and had the fifth-worst vertical jump (32") at his position before calling it a combine.
To make matters worse, multiple scouts told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller (warning: NSFW language) that Polite's interviews went poorly. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com was one of many to point out Polite took a nosedive out of the first round .
Whatever reportedly went on isn't so easily fixed. But Polite can set the record straight at his pro day and has plenty of time to get ready for it.
Pro day: March 27, 8:30 a.m. ET
Pro-day information via NFL.com.