NFL | Mar 08, 2022

Greatest NFL Combine Performances Ever

By Harry Bazley

Pexels terrance barksdale 10321242

As this year's NFL scouting draws to a close, we'll be taking a look at which soon-to-be rookies took the spotlight in each position. But first, let's see how they compare to the best of the best, by rounding up the greatest combine performances of all time.

The combines have launched players like Mike Mamula from mid-round projections to first-round picks in just a few days, but it's worth saying that they have also misled scouts to overlook greatness. The extreme focus on stats and figures certainly undermined the greatest quarterback in history - Tom Brady - as the 199th overall pick can't have been helped by his 5.28 dash (though this certainly didn't hinder his 7 Super Bowl victories).

Despite these rare instances, the combine tends to provide a great indication for player ability in some of the most important aspects of the game like speed, strength and mental aptitude. For this list, we'll be factoring in all the measurables such as bench reps, vertical leaps, broad jumps and of course, the infamous 40-yard dash, to round up the best of the best.

Without further ado, let's round up the greatest NFL combine performances of all time.

OT Trent Williams - 2010

Trent Williams is now considered one of the best offensive lineman in the league, but it all kicked off with his combine day performance in 2010.

At 6’4″, 315 pounds, he ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, which is well below the average OT time of 5.32s and even faster than the average quarterback. His other measurables also produced some impressive figures, producing a 4.63 short shuttle, 34.5-inch vertical and a 9’5″ broad jump. Alongside showcasing excellent form and technique in positional drills, his combine day progressed him from a borderline first-rounder to the 4th overall pick.

More recently, he was voted 42nd in the NFL's Top 100 ranking with some of the best OT highlights we've ever seen.

RB Chris Johnson - 2008

Perhaps the most prestigious and sought-after combine record is the 40-yard dash. Although this has since been broken by John Ross with his 4.22 dash, Chris Johnson's record-setting 4.24 time propelled him from being a second or third-round pick to a first-round starter in the NFL. He also recorded a huge 10-foot 10-inch broad jump and 35" vertical.

Johnson then went on to collect another record in the league - shattering the previous record for yards from scrimmage in a single season with 2,509.

DT Dontari Poe - 2012

Seeing Johnson run a record-breaking 4.24 dash is all well and good, but the lineman are the athletes you should be watching closely. At 300+ pounds they have absolutely no right doing the things they do.

We get so used to seeing wide receivers hit sub-4.3 times that anything over 4.5 goes under the radar, but Dontari Poe running 40-yards in 4.89s at 6'3" and 346 pounds cannot be overlooked. He was travelling at 16.7 miles per hour during that dash, which made him the first player in history over 340lbs to run under 4.9s.

Add to that a 29.5" vertical jump and 44 reps on the bench, Poe proved himself to be one of the greatest athletes on the turf that day.

LB Shaquem Griffin - 2018

Shaquem Griffin was one of the most talented players in his draft class - coming out of college after helping lead UCF to a national championship, he had a lot of pressure to stun the scouts on combine day.

Although he may have hit headlines for only having one hand, Griffin proved that it doesn't hold him back in the slightest. He outperformed most others in his positional group with some of the most impressive stats we've ever seen from a linebacker. At 227 pounds, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash - the fastest combine time ever recorded by a LB - and benched 225 pounds 20 times using a prosthetic.

Even if we didn't consider the scales being tipped against him, this would still be an elite showcase of athleticism and technical talent, leaving us with a combine performance for the ages.

WR Calvin Johnson - 2007

It should come as no surprise that Megatron dropped a bomb on combine day before the Lions took him as the second overall pick.

Johnson elected to run at the last minute using borrowed shoes and shocked everyone with a 4.35 40-yard dash at 6'3", 239 pounds. Accompanied by a huge 42.5" vertical and 11'7" broad jump, Megatron was later declared as the best athlete in the 2007 draft class and it's hard to disagree.

CB Deion Sanders - 1989

The infamous two-sport athlete - good enough to play as a major-league outfielder and star in the NFL Hall of Fame as one of the best cornerbacks ever - put on quite a show in the '89 combine.

Prime Time was always confident in his speed and technical ability, and he had good reason to be. The story is that Sanders turned up to the combine in a limo, didn't even bother to stretch, ran a blistering 4.27 40-yard dash and immediately left the building. This was tied for the quickest-ever time from a cornerback until this year, when Tariq Woolen clocked a 4.26 and Kalon Barnes put himself second-fastest all time with an insane 4.23 dash - just 0.01s away from John Ross' record.

Sanders claims that he really ran a 4.19 dash but this has never been confirmed...

DE J.J. Watt - 2015

J.J. Watt is proof that a great combine performance can launch your career beyond expectations. He put up just 4.5 and 7.0 sacks in his two college seasons as a D-lineman, but his combine work-out pushed him to 11th overall in the 2015 NFL draft and has since established himself as one of the greatest pass rashers in history.

He ran a 4.81 40-yard dash in front of the scouts - not a small feat for a 290-pounder. He also measured a 37" vertical, 10' broad jump and a clean 34 on the bench. To this day, he remains one of the most dominant players on the field with his strength, speed and clinical technique.

RB Bo Jackson - 1986

Bo Jackson - another multi-sport legend - was a home-run machine in the MLB and was certainly one of the greatest running backs to ever lace up cleats.

Before the days of high-tech equipment and countless media representatives, Jackson reportedly ran a 4.12 40-yard dash, which would make him by-far the quickest player in history. Whether he really managed a sub-4.2 dash or not is still up for debate, but it's undeniable that he was a monster on the turf and his ridiculous speed was on display every time he touched the ball.

WR John Ross - 2017

It wouldn't make sense to have a list of the greatest combine performances, without mentioning the current record holder for the coveted 40-yard dash.

This quick-sprint drill brings arguably the most heat on combine day with speed perhaps being the most important measurable for skill positions (minus QBs). The dash brings together players from all over the field to compete, with the victor technically crowned the fastest man in the league (although Tyreek Hill may have something to say for his CB-burning speed in helmet and pads).

John Ross set the record in 2017 with an unfathomable 4.22 40-yard dash. The last player to come close to this, did so just a few days ago - with Kalon Barnes clocking in at 4.23 - which makes you wonder: how much longer this Ross keep his crown?