clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

11 winners and 5 losers from the 2020 NFL Combine

Breaking most of the records for your position group? Winner. Trying a scrambled eggs and Gatorade smoothie? Loser.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When the smoke clears after the Super Bowl, the first major event of the draft process is the NFL Combine. Hundreds of prospects travel to Indianapolis, where they’re measured, evaluated, interviewed, and tested by NFL scouts and executives.

Ultimately, the collegiate careers of those players will determine when they get drafted in April. But performing well in drills like the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, or the bench press can convince a team there’s untapped potential. Conversely, a poor performance, an injury, or any other red flag can sink a prospect’s draft stock.

Here are the most (and least) impressive showings at the 2020 NFL Combine.

You can also check out our individual winners/losers for the quarterback, wide receiver/tight end, running back, DL/linebacker, and defensive back position groups.

Winner: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

Breaking just about every record for your position group makes you as big of an NFL Combine winner as it gets.

Wirfs is now the all-time leader among offensive linemen in both the vertical jump and broad jump. His 40-yard dash was a record for players weighing at least 320 pounds.

How ridiculous was his 36.5-inch vertical? Just look at it compared to some of the best receivers both in the NFL and the 2020 NFL Draft class:

Wirfs is projected by SB Nation’s Dan Kadar to be a top-10 draft pick this April. Etching his name into the combine record books only solidified his stock.

Winner: Michael Turk, P, Arizona State

It’s almost weird that punters, kickers, and long snappers even participate in the NFL Combine. Those positions typically don’t require much speed, strength, or athleticism.

But Turk managed to show all three in a combine performance that would’ve been impressive for any position. First, he cranked out 25 reps on the bench press:

That’s more combine reps than Rob Gronkowski (23), Chandler Jones (22), and Jadeveon Clowney (21). And Turk wasn’t done there. He also showed off his speed and explosiveness.

Whichever team winds up with him may need to figure out a way to unleash Turk’s athleticism in more ways than just punting.

Loser: Mitchell Wilcox, TE, South Florida

Wilcox is fighting to be a late-round draft pick in April, so it wasn’t too surprising that his numbers didn’t really stand out. His 4.88-second 40-yard dash and 31-inch vertical were among the worst marks for tight ends.

Even worse, the most memorable part of his performance in Indianapolis was when he got blasted in the face by a pass.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the shot to the face burst a blood vessel in Wilcox’s eye. Yikes. Sorry, Mitchell, landing on the NFL Combine blooper reel is a one-way trip to the loser column.

Winner: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

Becton is a giant. At 6’7, 364 pounds, the Louisville lineman was the largest prospect in Indianapolis.

But it was what he did with all that size that wowed at the NFL Combine. The gigantic tackle ran the 40-yard dash in 5.11 seconds, possibly the fastest time ever for a player over 350 pounds (combine records get a little shaky before 2006).

While it doesn’t matter much how fast an offensive lineman can run 40 yards, it was important for a player as large as Becton to show he’s not a statue. He passed that test with flying colors and could be a top-10 pick in April.

Winner: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

The only two running backs in the last four combines to finish the 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds are Taylor and Colts running back Nyheim Hines. Oddsmakers predicted a 4.51-second finish for Taylor, but by finishing in 4.39 seconds, he displayed elite speed. That could be enough to push him into the first round.

There’s a crowded field of running backs vying to be the first off the board. Taylor may have the edge now after his performance.

Winner: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

Even worse than the running back logjam is the 2020 tight end class. Not only is it unlikely a player from that position will go in the first round, even the second round could be tight end-free.

But that lackluster group left room for unheralded players to shine, and Okwuegbunam took advantage. His 4.49-second 40-yard dash (at 258 pounds!) was one of the fastest times ever for a tight end.

Okwuegbunam wasn’t very productive in the Missouri offense, but his size and speed in Indianapolis could easily convince a team he’s capable of much more.

Loser: Colleen Wolfe’s assignment for NFL Network

St. John’s offensive lineman Ben Bartch earned attention for revealing an interesting weight-gain strategy: A disgusting smoothie with scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, Gatorade, and other ingredients. Surely there are better ways to put on pounds.

Unfortunately for NFL Network’s Colleen Wolfe, she drew the assignment to go smoothie tasting with Bartch on the sideline.

Wolfe says it’s not bad. I don’t believe her.

Winner: A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College

Two years ago, Dillon tweeted he’d show up at the NFL Combine at 245 pounds and steal the show.

His prediction came awfully close.

Dillon weighed in at 247 pounds and perfectly nailed his goal of a 41-inch vertical. While his 4.53-second 40-yard dash and 23 bench reps came up short, it was still a stellar showing for a running back of his size.

Loser: Those who worried too much about Antoine Winfield Jr.’s medicals

Winfield became a star for the Gophers in 2019, but coming into the combine he faced extra scrutiny for his injury history. Not long after earning more playing time in 2017, Winfield sustained a season-ending hamstring injury. Once he returned in 2018, he started to play well again before he went down with a foot injury that was also season-ending.

In short, there were plenty of folks doubting him, and enough reason to suggest he needed a strong combine performance to turn heads. Of course, he was healthy throughout his excellent 2019 campaign, which probably should have been enough:

And if all of that wasn’t enough, I mean ... look at where he comes from! Sure, that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be good, but it should give you an idea of the level of athlete we’re working with here.

Winfield’s actual performance at the combine was easy to predict. He ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, which is pretty dang fast for someone who also had some speed concerns coming into the combine. Here’s his fastest attempt:

Winfield also showed up well in the drills, and was consistently highlighted during the NFL Network broadcast as someone who was standing out:

Winfield’s 40-yard dash was tied for sixth-fastest among defensive backs. He also posted a 36-inch vertical leap and a 124-inch broad jump.

Winner: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Everyone already knew Ruggs was fast. He verified that by putting down one of the five fastest times since 2006. Ruggs made history thanks to that sprint coupled with his 42-inch vertical jump:

The success rate of 40-yard dash speedsters hasn’t been great in the NFL. Ruggs has more than enough tools to buck that trend, though.

Loser: The old NFL Combine format

If the NFL has a chance to turn something into a primetime event, the league will always take the opportunity. It decided to move the combine workouts from an event that started in the morning (usually 9 a.m. ET) to one that didn’t get started in the afternoon (4 p.m. ET).

It’s probably safe to assume the change is here to stay.

According to Pro Football Talk, the first night of coverage averaged 322,000 viewers, a 119 percent increase from the 2019 NFL Combine’s viewership. It peaked at just over a half-million tuning in just after 9 p.m.

The caveat is that the first day in 2019 was offensive linemen, while 2020 was quarterbacks. But the significant increase means the primetime NFL Combine isn’t going anywhere.

Winner: Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

It’s probably a good sign when the NFL posts a graphic that puts you across from Calvin Johnson:

Claypool is a huge wide receiver, but was far from lumbering in his combine showing. The Notre Dame product blazed down the track in 4.42 seconds and had a 40.5-inch vertical.

The depth of the 2020 receiver class will likely push Claypool to the middle rounds in April. His combine performance will make sure he doesn’t have to wait too long to get scooped up, though.

Winner: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

Simmons was a Swiss Army knife for the Clemson defense, lining up at damn near every position imaginable. So when he was asked by a reporter at the NFL Combine what position he played, he had a perfect one-word answer: “Defense.”

It’s not surprising that such a versatile player did well in combine drills. But he did REALLY, really well.

Simmons didn’t even run a second 40-yard dash after his nearly record-breaking first attempt. And he summed up his feelings about his performance with a tweet shortly after his run.

Don’t expect Simmons to fall out of the top 10 in April.

Loser: Hamstrings

Aside from avoiding taking a football to the face like Wilcox, the top priority at the NFL Combine is to avoid injury.

Unfortunately, several hamstrings haven’t cooperated.

Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray was having a tremendous day until he pulled up during a 40-yard dash attempt.

That was right around the same time LSU’s Patrick Queen pulled up grabbing his hamstring:

Hamstring problems also slowed down Kentucky receiver Lynn Bowden, Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler, Utah running back Zack Moss, LSU offensive lineman Lloyd Cushenberry, Michigan tight end Sean McKeon, Michigan guard Ben Bredeson, and Michigan linebacker Josh Uche (does Jim Harbaugh not have his players stretch?).

The good news is these type of injuries usually aren’t serious and none of these players tanked their draft stock. But sheesh, combine gods, take it easy on the hamstrings.

Winner: Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah

While much of the focus in the 40-yard dash was on Ruggs from the WR group, a few defensive backs stood out, as usual. One in particular was Guidry, who broke the 4.3-second mark in his attempt. His unofficial time for his top run was a 4.30 on the dot:

His time was later adjusted to an official 4.29 seconds, only two-hundredths of a second slower than Ruggs. Guidry was the fastest among the always-quick defensive back class. Unfortunately, Guidry didn’t do other on-field workouts or the jumping, but he did hit the bench press:

Guidry finished with 21 reps of 225 pounds, the most of any defensive back. On top of that, its the most reps of any player who ran a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash since 2003. He didn’t even need the other drills to have a great showing.

Winner: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Every year, NFL Network personality Rich Eisen runs the 40-yard dash at the combine wearing a suit, raising money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Eisen’s best-ever time in the 40 was in 2016, when he ran a 5.94. Last year, he ran a 6.00 flat, which he managed to improve on this time around. He posted a 5.98, two-hundredths of a second better:

Seeing whether or not Eisen can improve upon his 40 time now that he’s in his 50s is just the spectacle, though. The real reason he’s running is for charity and at the time of writing, the Run Rich Run campaign has raised a total of $816,129, a huge amount that comes from viewers as well as from NFL players, teams and other figures.

This year, others joined Eisen in the cause, including 49ers great Jerry Rice, who ran the 40-yard dash in a GOAT sweater. Because that’s what a true GOAT would do!