Testing numbers at the NFL Combine can be unimportant for a lot of positions. It doesn’t really matter how fast an offensive lineman can run the 40-yard dash and no team is drafting a quarterback because of their impressive vertical jump.
Showing off that athleticism crucial for receivers, though.
Yes, some of the best pass catchers in NFL history — like Jerry Rice, for instance — didn’t shine at the NFL Combine. But it’s much harder for a prospect to convince a team he can get open if he doesn’t show the size, speed, and quickness to do so.
In 2019, Ole Miss receiver DK Metcalf stole the show with an outrageous performance. His skills won over the Seattle Seahawks, who picked him at the tail end of the second round. Metcalf proved his abilities translated well to the football field by finishing his rookie season with 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He also had a game-sealing grab in the playoffs that eliminated the Eagles.
There probably won’t be a performance as superhuman as Metcalf’s at the 2020 NFL Combine, but there were a few players who have stood out so far, both positively and negatively.
Let’s look at six winners and three losers among the receivers and tight ends in Indianapolis, listed in no particular order.
Check out our overall combine winners and losers, as well as the quarterback, running back, DL/linebacker, and defensive back position groups.
1. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
It seems more likely than not that no tight end gets picked in the first round this April. But the good news for this class is the lack of star power at tight end leaves a whole lot of room for unheralded prospects to shine.
Okwuegbunam snagged that opportunity with one of the speediest 40-yard dashes ever recorded by a tight end. The 258-pounder blazed down the path in 4.49 seconds.
6'5", 258 lbs.@MizzouFootball TE Albert Okwuegbunam runs a 4.49u 40-yard dash!— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
Would tie for fourth-fastest 40 by a tight end since 2003.
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/hGZ8nbXRVw
And just to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t a fluke, Okwuegbunam followed it up with a 4.50-second dash on his next attempt. He finished with an official time nearly two-tenths of a second faster than any other tight end.
Top 5 official 40-yard dash times among 2020 #NFLCombine tight ends:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) February 27, 2020
1) Albert Okwuegbunam, @MizzouFootball, 4.49
T-2) Brycen Hopkins, @BoilerFootball, 4.66
T-2) Stephen Sullivan, @LSUfootball, 4.66
4) Cole Kmet, @NDFootball, 4.70
5) Dalton Keene, @HokiesFB, 4.71
His performance isn’t completely out of left field. Dan Kadar listed Okwuegbunam as a player who could stand out at the NFL Combine, despite only catching 26 passes in the 2019 season. Before you blame him too much for that, consider George Kittle only caught 22 passes in his last season at Iowa.
2. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah provided the perfect evidence that Jefferson had a great showing at the NFL Combine. When the LSU receiver took off down the track in Indianapolis, Jeremiah told Rich Eisen, “I don’t anticipate that we’ll see a really fast — well, never mind. Hey now!”
Just as Jeremiah was lowering the expectations for Jefferson, the receiver finished the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. That’s a tremendous time for a receiver who already showed he can do everything else at an extremely high level.
Justin Jefferson had (2019):— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 27, 2020
• A 92.3% contested catch rate
• Forced 23 missed tackles
• Most catches from the slot
• Most yards from the slot
And just ran a 4.44pic.twitter.com/VvVv6TFlS2
If Jefferson wasn’t already a first-round pick, he made his case even stronger Thursday.
3. Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
Claypool is bordering on tight end size at 238 pounds. But the weight definitely isn’t slowing him down. The Notre Dame pass catcher followed up a 4.45-second run in the 40-yard dash with a 4.43 on his next attempt.
WHEW! Chase Claypool with a 4.43 on his 2nd 40 attempt! Dude is killing it at the combine pic.twitter.com/hkGobdmQes— SUSPENDED AGAIN (@FTBeard1) February 27, 2020
That kind of speed is rare for a player as large as Claypool.
Only two wideouts to measure 6’4” & 235 pounds or bigger have run a sub-4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine since 2003:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) February 28, 2020
One is known as “Megatron” (Calvin Johnson). The other?
Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool at the 2020 Combine.@NDFootball @ChaseClaypool pic.twitter.com/iHByYLhnp1
Claypool also put in 19 bench press reps and a 40.5-inch vertical, showing both strength and explosiveness to go with his speed.
4. Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Kmet is considered by most (including Kadar) to be the best tight end of the draft class. It seemed unlikely he’d wow many in on-field tests at the NFL Combine, though.
But his 4.70-second performance in the 40-yard dash was in the top five among players at his position.
.@NDFootball TE @ColeKmet runs a 4.70u 40-yard dash!— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
Kmet is @MoveTheSticks' top-ranked tight end.
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/zh4q0uLgGG
The Notre Dame tight end told reporters earlier in the week his best-ever time in the 40-yard dash time was 4.69 seconds. By just about matching that time, Kmet bolstered his stock.
5. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Gerald Sensabaugh’s record-setting 46-inch vertical jump from 2006 still stands as the best mark in NFL Combine history. Peoples-Jones was just 1.5 inches away from tying it.
The 6’2, 212-pound receiver took flight in the vertical with a 44.5-inch jump that looks downright majestic in slow motion.
44.5" vertical jump for @UMichFootball WR @dpeoplesjones!— NFL (@NFL) February 27, 2020
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/Noyk6vssct
Peoples-Jones is a bit buried in a deep wide receiver class and his vertical won’t change the fact he never made a huge impact at Michigan. It does show he has explosiveness and a large catch radius, though. That, along with his strong numbers in other events (a 4.48-second 40, 11’7 broad jump) should help Peoples-Jones stand out a bit.
6. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
We knew Ruggs was fast coming into the combine, and though he ultimately failed to break the 4.22 mark set by John Ross III, he was still a gosh dang blur out there. Ruggs, despite what looked like a slightly slow start, ran a ridiculously fast 40-yard dash.
HENRY RUGGS III. 4.28u @AlabamaFTBL | @__RUGGS— NFL (@NFL) February 28, 2020
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/vCm6JC9T2s
Ruggs managed a 4.27 in his first attempt and a 4.31 in his second. In addition to that, Ruggs had a stellar 42-inch vertical jump, and a 10’11 broad jump, both of which put him in the top five among receivers — and in his own class:
Henry Ruggs III had the highest vertical leap (42”) of any player to run a sub-4.30 in the 40-yard dash since official combine data was tracked in 2003@__RUGGS @AlabamaFTBL— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) February 28, 2020
He was the fastest of what turned out to be an extremely fast group of receivers:
Blazing times by second group of receivers. Might never have seen a faster group in all my years of timing:— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 28, 2020
-- 2 under 4.3
-- 7 between 4.3 and 4.4
Unfortunately, Ruggs didn’t see the field for the gauntlet as he was seen putting ice on his quad following his second attempt at the 40. He told Kim Jones of the NFL Network that he will be ready to run routes at Alabama’s pro day, though.
1. Mitchell Wilcox, TE, South Florida
Here’s a quick list of things you really want to avoid doing at the NFL Combine:
- A wardrobe malfunction
- An injury
- Getting hit in the face with a football
Wilcox kept his shorts on and didn’t get hurt. But he couldn’t avoid getting drilled in the face by a pass.
Lol pic.twitter.com/CEXdPHSxba— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) February 27, 2020
Dang. Sorry, Mitchell.
2. Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
Moss is one of the more interesting prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft, not only because his dad is Randy Moss, but also because he developed into a damn good pass catcher at LSU.
He caught one touchdown in the Tigers’ Peach Bowl victory over Oklahoma and two touchdowns in the College Football Playoff National Championship win against Clemson.
Moss told reporters he wouldn’t participate in drills at the NFL Combine due to wear-and-tear from LSU’s extended season. His physical in Indianapolis revealed the problem is worse than that, though. According to Ian Rapoport, Moss has a Jones fracture in his foot that will require surgery to repair.
From our Combine coverage: #LSU TE Thaddeus Moss will have surgery on a Jones fractured discovered in his Combine physical, with Dr. Robert Anderson expected to do the procedure. It won't affect his draft stock. pic.twitter.com/w3NZoIEmlK— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2020
While Rapoport says the six to eight week recovery from the injury won’t cost Moss any time during the 2020 season. It will probably keep him from working out at all for teams prior to the draft. That news made the trip to Indianapolis a decidedly unfortunate one for Moss.
3. Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Reagor had a bit of a mixed day at the combine. On one hand, he measured well, finishing second in the vertical leap at 42 inches and second in the broad jump at 11’6. But one thing experts agreed on going into the combine was that he needed to bulk up a little bit.
And now the concern might be that he bulked up too much, because his 40-yard dash was a bit lackluster. Don’t get me wrong — he’s still very fast, but he did come up short of expectations.
Jalen Reagor has met with the #49ers. pic.twitter.com/0oUpDotiNi— Kevin Chow (@Kevin__Chow) February 28, 2020
Some thought he’d be in the record discussion alongside Ruggs, but his fastest time came in at 4.47. Reagor himself said before the combine that he expected to be in the “high 4.2s, low 4.3s”.