NFL draft prospects had a long weekend in Indianapolis to prove a number of things. For some, their goal is to get analysts like Ian Rapoport and Mel Kiper to throw around phrases like, “freak athlete” and “workout warrior.” Those buzzwords seem to send prospects flying up draft boards,
At the combine, the prospects are not really playing football. They’re simulating the game during a televised workout, which gives elite athletes the opportunity to shine. And every year, teams take the bait on those athletes in the draft, for better or for worse.
Here are a few examples that didn’t work out.
Stephen Hill, WR, Jets
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds coming out of Georgia Tech, he looked a bit like Calvin Johnson. But he definitely wasn’t Megatron 2.0.
Hill is currently playing for the Toronto Argonauts after spending his NFL tenure with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. During his career, he recorded 45 receptions for 594 yards and four touchdown receptions.
Hill earned his way into the No. 43 pick and the hearts of the Jets’ front office by running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine. He’d proven in college he had the makings to become an elite deep threat. Apparently, all New York needed was some affirmation during the combine when Hill also flashed a very solid 39.5-inch vertical leap and a huge 11-foot-1-inch broad jump. With so much athleticism, Hill seemed destined to be world-beater.
Aaron Curry, LB, Seahawks
The every-down linebacker was useless on every down.
In four NFL seasons, Curry recorded 190 tackles, 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Everyone knew his name — but he was a nobody.
His draft stock coming out of Wake Forest was high, as he was hugely productive. He then seemingly clinched his ticket into the 2009 draft’s top three picks by reinforcing his good tape with equally impressive athleticism at the combine. At 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash with a 37-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4-inch broad jump. He also managed 25 reps of the bench press. The combine performance made sense in the context of his performances in college.
But then when he hit the field for Seattle, he stunk.
Chris Henry, RB, Titans
He certainly looked like an elite running back during the combine. He wasn’t a prototype — his athleticism extended beyond that. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash with a 10-foot-7-inch broad jump and a 36-inch vertical leap. At 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, he was built to blow over defenders and run by them.
But Henry did not prove explosive. He did not break tackles. And he was nothing special at running back despite going in the second round of the 2007 draft. He finished his humble career with 32 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns at 3.8 yards per carry. The Titans cut him after three seasons and he found no success during his stints with the Seahawks and the Texans.
Vernon Gholston, DE, Jets
He should have been an Olympic shot-putter — or javelin tosser.
Gholston, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft, managed an absurd 37 reps of the bench press while also running a 4.67 40-yard dash despite his 260-pound, 6-foot-4 frame. What’s more, he had a 35.5-inch vertical and managed 10 feet, five inches in the broad jump.
He’s a monster that can move. But when football players got in his way, he began having trouble. The defensive end managed just 42 tackles (no sacks, deflections, interceptions or fumbles) in his three seasons with the Jets, who dumped him after giving him just five starts.
Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars
Matt Jones, a standout college quarterback at Arkansa, decided to switch to receiver in the NFL. During the combine, he proved his athleticism was more than sufficient to make the change.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound athlete ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and had a 39.5-inch vertical leap. That was all the Jaguars needed to grab him with the 21st-overall pick, which proved a mistake.
After three seasons of relative irrelevance, he put together a respectable fourth season (65 receptions, 761 yards, two touchdowns) before getting popped with a three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Jaguars released him the following offseason after he was jailed for a drug-related charge. He bounced between teams, but never saw the field for another regular season game.
Bruce Campbell, OT, Raiders
After a truly mind-bending combine performance, some thought Campbell might rise even higher than where he went to the Raiders in the fourth round. Mel Kiper suggested he might even rise into the 2010 draft’s first round. Campbell’s combine numbers were somewhat unprecedented for an offensive lineman. The 6-foot-6, 314-pound left tackle ran a 4.85 40-yard dash and put up 34 reps of the bench press. He was one of the fastest linemen ever at the combine.
But his looks proved deceiving. His time at Maryland apparently didn’t prepare him for the NFL. Despite spending time at guard and left tackle in Oakland, he never started a game for the Raiders.
Honorable mentions: Stephen Paea (DT, Redskins), Dontay Moch (LB, Cardinals).
Still in play: Margus Hunt (DE, Bengals), Dri Archer (RB, Steelers), Dorial Green Beckham (Titans)