The Combine provides an opportunity for draft prospects to prove their worth and silence the naysayers. Many of them take the risk and fall short of the mark, but others end up boosting their draft stock and soaring up the ranks of the first round.
In today's article we're taking a look at the best performances from both the wide receiver and tight ends group of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. There were some seriously impressive 40-yard dash times and a few gauntlet runs that were smoother than butter...
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
Ex Mountaineer, Ford-Wheaton, didn't make too many headlines in his collegiate career - recording just three 100-yard games in his time there. But the athletic WR showed the scouts he had all the tools that NFL teams dream of.
The 6’4, 221-pound receiver led all players at his position with a 41-inch vertical and put down an astonishing 4.38 40-yard dash.
His route running might need some improvement but the athletic WR would have trouble finding a place to gain the NFL knowledge he needs to become an elite receiver.
Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
Officially the tallest player ever, Zack Kuntz certainly made an impact in the measurable parts of the combine.
Coming in at 6'7 (and change), 255-pounds and achieving a 40 inch vertical, Kuntz looks to be one of the most sought after tight ends in the draft class.
Not only is he built like a Goliath, he can also run like the wind. The former Penn State tight end recorded a 4.55 40 yard dash.
Kuntz may have seen his 2022 season cut short by a season-ending injury, but he caught 73 passes in his first season at Old Dominion with a good performance that should place him in a great position for the 2023 NFL draft.
Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Washington broke the scales in the athletic testing last week - measuring the longest wingspan for TEs in combine history at 83.75".
Following his record breaking wingspan, Washington ran a 4.65 40-yard dash to put his stamp on the field.
Darnell Washington 4.65 unofficial 40. Wowzers pic.twitter.com/UOR5oDjnSJ— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 4, 2023
Shortly after his dash, NFL Network offered former Jaguars first round pick Marcedes Lewis as a comparison for Washington. They may have been almost identical in size, but Washington was two tenths of a second faster than Lewis.
If it wasn’t for Brock Bowers dominating in 2022, Washington might have been the best tight end of the draft class. Despite only catching 45 passes in his collegiate career, he's made a great case for being a first round pick this year.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Over the final five games of the 2021 season, Smith-Njigba accumulated 60 receptions for 958 yards and six touchdowns. Then he burst onto the national scene in a Rose Bowl shootout against Utah when he recorded 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Scouts already
Smith-Njigba displayed everything we needed to see Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine to prove he’s the right pick for any team.
He didn’t run the 40-yard dash, which is probably smart because as a slot receiver, teams that draft him aren't necessarily looking for a burner. But he did outperform all combine participants so far with a 6.57-second 3-cone drill and 3.93-second short shuttle. What's more? He logged a respectable 10-foot-5 broad jump and 35-inch vertical, proving he's got agility and explosivity.
Despite all of his impressive drill performances, it was his flawless route-running that stole the show.
I would take Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 14 overall and not look back pic.twitter.com/RyyjTQ87Bj— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) March 4, 2023
Without running a 40, the comparison isn't perfect, but JSN stacked up almost identically to Julian Edelman - except he's 3 inches taller...
Smith-Njigba is definitely a rookie to watch heading into the new season.
Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
Now, if you haven’t bought Trey Palmer Stock, you better get it quick because the Combine price has been soaring even since he touched the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Every Nebraska fan knew that Trey Palmer was fast - we've seen him light up defenses all year, and he even clocked 21.15 during the Senior Bowl. But seeing him put down a 4.33 40-yard dash - the fastest time of any receiver in this class, is set to push him well up the board on draft day.
Palmer's route running wasn't always crisp and he may have had a few double-catches, but with the athleticism he put on display, he certainly improved his draft stock.