Sometimes, the NFL Combine produces legendary performances. Our all-time All-Combine Team is loaded with sub-4.3 40-yard dashes, 40-plus-inch verticals, and offensive linemen eating bench press reps for lunch.
Other times, the combine reveals that some of the most sought-after prospects aren’t as athletic as everyone thought. And some of those times, the players who test poorly in Indianapolis go on to excellent pro careers. This post is a celebration of those players, going back to 2000, with help from the combine results search engine at Sports Reference.
Tom Brady, 2000
Let’s not overcomplicate things to start.
Brady ran the 40 in 5.28 seconds, tied for the fifth-worst time by a QB this century. He posted a 24.5-inch vertical, tied for sixth-worst. He did fine in agility drills, but he established himself as one of the least explosive athletes to ever participate in the combine. The greatest QB of all-time demonstrated all the athleticism of an accountant.
Brady’s terrible combine has become part of a mythology about what an underdog he was. It goes right along with his status as a sixth-round pick, the notion that he barely played at Michigan (not true), and the labeling of him as an unranked recruit (even though he would’ve been a four-star if such things existed).
The whole thing’s too much. But Brady’s combine was indeed bad.
LeGarrette Blount, 2010
Alfred Morris, 2012
Frankly, it’s hard to be a good NFL running back if you don’t test well at the combine. This position group might offer the slimmest pickings of “bad” combine showings.
Historically, the average 40 time for running backs and fullbacks at the combine is 4.53 seconds, and the average bench reps are 20.
Oregon’s Blount ran a 4.7, the slowest in his position group that year and in the bottom 50 of the century. He repped 18 times on the bench, more than any other 2010 RB but below the position’s historical average. (Relatedly, 2010 did not have a good running backs class.)
FAU’s Morris managed three 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL and has hung around the league despite performing pretty badly in Indy. He ran a 4.63 40 and repped 16 on the bench, performing around average on most of the other exercises.
Anquan Boldin, 2003
Antonio Brown, 2010
Jarvis Landry, 2014
FSU’s Boldin ran a 4.72 40, placing him in the bottom 20 of receivers this century, and finished below receivers’ historical average in the vert (33.5 inches) and broad jump (114). He was a second-round pick by the Cardinals and then a star.
Central Michigan’s Brown ran a 4.56 50, repped just 13 times on the bench, and posted the same 33.5-inch vert. He was right around average on the shuttle and three-cone drills. He wound up being a sixth-round pick … and then one of the best receivers ever.
Jason Peters, 2004
Hell yeah, I’m including an all-pro offensive tackle as my tight end. Peters played TE at Arkansas, where he caught 27 balls for 288 yards and four TDs. The Arkansas alum worked out with the tight ends at the combine and ran a 4.93 40, extremely slow for the position. (He did this at a listed 336 pounds, so go easy on him.) But he only repped 21 times on the bench, which is average for a tight end and well below average for offensive linemen.
Peters went undrafted. The Bills signed him as a tight end. They eventually taught him to play tackle, and he went on to be one of the better tackles in history. Pretty good!
Kareem McKenzie, 2001
Jahri Evans, 2006
Zach Strief, 2006
Ramon Foster, 2009
Orlando Brown, 2018
The average 40 time for offensive linemen is right around 5.25. With the exception of Evans, who was right on that number, everyone here was well slower than that. None repped more than 20 times on the bench. (The average is about 26.) Four of five came in well below the 102-inch average broad jump for O-linemen. Yet all have made strong runs in the league.
Penn State’s McKenzie started for 10 years between the two New York franchises and rarely missed a game. Texas A&M’s Evans and Northwestern’s Strief both went to the Saints and stayed there for a long time, winning a Super Bowl. Foster’s a mainstay with the Steelers’ elite line.
Oklahoma’s Brown had the worst combine performance in recorded history before going on to one of the better rookie seasons of 2018. You could argue his listing here is premature, but I’d counter that he was so bad at the combine, he already deserves his spot.
Domata Peko, 2006
Calais Campbell, 2008
Wallace Gilberry, 2008
Pernell McPhee, 2011
Michigan State’s Peko ran a 5.27 40 (compared to a roughly 5.08 average for DTs) and repped 25 times on the bench press (average: about 28), but he’s gone on to an ironman-like career with the Bengals and Broncos.
Miami’s Campbell ran a 5.04 40, against a 4.81 historical average for ends, though he was on the bigger side. He paired that with 16 bench reps, worst among the position group that year, and below-average showings in the vert and agility runs.
Bama’s Gilberry, another end, ran the 40 in 4.98 and benched 19 times. He didn’t even get drafted but managed a nine-year career, most of it as a starter.
Mississippi State’s McPhee has moved around to different positions during his pro career, but as a DE at the combine, he put up a 4.91 40 and 20 bench reps. He was also below average on the vert (28.5) and shuttle (4.59).
Clark Haggans, 2000
Terrell Suggs, 2003
Chad Greenway, 2006
Danny Trevathan, 2012
Colorado State’s Haggans is one of 11 linebackers to post a 4.9-second 40 or worse and rep 20 times or fewer on the bench. He’s the only one of them who became an NFL starter, and he did that for seven years, winning a Super Bowl with Pittsburgh.
Arizona State’s Suggs, at the time the FBS career sacks leader, ran an ugly 4.84 40.
Iowa’s Greenway ran a 4.76 40, repped 16 times (against historical linebacker averages of 4.7 and 23, respectively) and was a slightly below average jumper. He nonetheless was the No. 17 pick and had a 10-year Vikings career.
Kentucky’s Trevathan had a 4.84 40 time at around 237 pounds, which is bad. He also only repped 18 times on the bench. He’s been a starter for the last six years, when healthy.
Renaldo Hill, 2001
Jairus Byrd, 2009
Joe Haden, 2010
Josh Norman, 2012
Haden’s a different case than the others here. He was always going to be a high first-round pick, and he was in the end. But he ran a 4.52 40, bad for a 5’11 corner, and had the 10th-worst vert (35) inches of the 26 corners who tested. He also had the third-worst shuttle time, but it didn’t stop him from putting together a strong career.
Otherwise, let’s just pick three of the 92 corners to run a 4.6 40 or worse this century, two of whom also came in below average on the vertical leap. (Byrd didn’t do that drill.)
Of all the really slow corners, these are rare players who got extended careers as starters Hill and Byrd did it at sub-6 feet, and Byrd eventually moved to safety.
Corners are generally the fastest group, with a historical average 40 time of 4.49. Respect to the (relatively) slow guys for making it work anyway.
Georgia Tech’s Landry and Michigan’s June ran 40s in the 4.6s, against a historical safety average of 4.54. They were average in the other stuff, and they’re here in large part because few safeties ever do that badly in the combine and then make it in the league.
Mason Crosby, 2007
This Colorado Buffalo ran a 5.18-second 40, second-worst of the century by a kicker, but has spent 12 years as (usually) one of the better kickers in the league. The 40 is the only drill specialists typically partake in.
Dave Zastudil, 2002
The Ohio Bobcat ran a 5.26 40, tied for the worst of the century by a punter. He dutifully held down punting jobs over 12 years for three teams anyway.
Clint Gresham, 2010
Being a long snapper at the combine is extremely lonely, with just one or two in attendance most years. I award this spot to TCU’s Gresham, who ran a 5.08 40 and went undrafted but still snapped for the Seahawks for six years and won a Super Bowl.
Let me know.