Acing combine tests doesn’t necessarily foretell NFL stardom
Michigan cornerback D.J. Turner II posted the fastest time in the 40-yard dash at this year’s NFL scouting combine and his 4.26-second performance is the fifth-fastest ever, regardless of position.
Turner is projected as a second-round pick in the NFL draft next month. Also producing a top-five all-time performance at this year’s event was Illinois safety Jartavius Martin with a 44-inch vertical jump.
While starring at the scouting combine can foreshadow NFL stardom like in the case of Deion Sanders, who blazed to a 4.27-second hand-clocked time in the 40-yard dash in 1989, superlative performances at what some call the “Underwear Olympics,” don’t necessarily foretell exemplary NFL careers.
Some of the best performers in Indianapolis, such as Ohio State strongman Mike Kudla in 2006 or Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall in 2019, never heard their names called in the draft or appeared in an NFL game.
While more nuanced indicators of a prospect’s potential and fit can be gleaned from position drills, game film, team visits, sit-down interviews and college pro days, standing out in one or more of the staple drills at the league’s annual gathering of franchises and their future stars can vault players up the draft board.
Here are the other top performances all-time at the NFL scouting combine and a look at how the players fared on the football field:
4.22 seconds — John Ross III, WR, Washington, 2017. Drafted ninth overall by Cincinnati, Ross caught 11 TD passes and played in just 37 games over five NFL seasons with the Bengals and Giants.
Noteworthy: 4.24 — Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina, 2008. Drafted 24th overall by Tennessee, he ran for 2,006 yards and 14 TDs in 2009 and scored 54 times over a 10-year career with the Titans, Jets and Cardinals.
49 repetitions — Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State, 2011. A second-round pick by Chicago, Paea started for three seasons in Chicago. He also spent a year each in Washington, Cleveland and Dallas.
Noteworthy: 44 (tie) — Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis, 2012. Drafted 11th overall by the Chiefs, Poe also played for Atlanta, Carolina and Dallas during a nine-year career that included two Pro Bowls.
45 inches (tie) — Chris Conley, WR, Georgia, 2015. A third-round pick by Kansas City, Conley has spent nine years in the NFL, including stints with the Jaguars, Texans and Titans. He has 16 career TDs.
45 inches (tie) — Donald Washington, CB, Ohio State, 2009. A fourth-round pick, he spent three seasons in the NFL, all in Kansas City, and never intercepted a pass.
Noteworthy: 44 (tie) — Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia, 2019. A second-round pick by Kansas City, Thornhill has been a mainstay in the Chiefs’ secondary, recording eight career interceptions and winning two Super Bowls.
12 feet, 3 inches — Byron Jones, CB, UConn, 2015. The Cowboys made Jones the 27th overall pick and he missed just four games in a solid seven-year career that finished with two seasons in Miami.
6.42 seconds — Jeff Maehl, WR, Oregon, 2011. Undrafted, Maehl played three games in two seasons in Houston and in 24 games over two years in Philadelphia, where he posted his only career TD in 2013.
Noteworthy: 6.44 — Buster Skrine, DB, Chattanooga, 2011. A fifth-round draft pick by Cleveland, Skrine beat the odds with an 11-year NFL career with the Browns, Jets, Bears, 49ers and Titans.
3.81 seconds (tie) — Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State, 2014. The 20th overall pick by the Saints, Cooks’ spectacular nine-year career features 49 TD catches and stints with the Patriots, Rams and Texans.
3.81 seconds (tie) — Jason Allen, CB, Tennessee, 2006. The 16th overall pick by Miami enjoyed a solid seven-year NFL career that included 15 interceptions and stints in Houston and Cincinnati.
Noteworthy: 3.85 (tie) — Justin Simmons, FS, Boston College, 2016. A third-round pick by Denver, Simmons has emerged as a premier safety with multiple picks in all seven seasons, including a league-best six in 2022.
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