Kyren Williams 2022 NFL Scouting Combine Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams (RB37) runs the 40-yard dash during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

More than 320 players are in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine, where they will run, jump, lift, interview, and most of all try to impress a huge contingent of coaches, scouts, and executives. There are always big surprises at the event, usually a guy who posts a ridiculously fast 40-yard time, leading to the inevitable “He really improved his draft status” predictions.

Yet there are also always players who have a disappointing — even terrible — combine performance, leading to dire predictions about their future. Take the offensive tackle who in the 2018 combine posted a horrendous 40 time of almost six seconds. Several football websites called it “one of the worst combines in history.” Today that man, Orlando Brown, is a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Here’s a look back at 10 surprising players who had disastrous combines, yet went on to become NFL stars.

Orlando Brown, OT (2018)

Combine disaster: The above reference doesn’t do justice to just how bad Brown looked at that combine. The Oklahoma star’s 5.86 40-yard time was the fifth worst performance in the combine’s history, which dates back to 1982. He also had the worst broad jump that year, struggled with the weights, and also reportedly got called out by coaches for loafing his way through drills.

NFL career: While he slipped from a likely first-round pick to the third round in the NFL Draft, Brown has since made four Pro Bowls. Remember that before you dismiss a big man for a terrible 40 time at the combine.

Kyren Williams, RB (2022)

Combine disaster: Williams ran a glacial 4.65 40, slowest among 27 running backs at the combine. The Notre Dame star didn’t impress in the other metrics, either.

NFL career: Williams slipped from a possible third-round pick to the fifth round after his poor combine showing. Flash forward two years, and the Los Angeles Rams star looks like one of the best running backs in the league. He ran for 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2023.

Antonio Brown, WR (2010)

Combine disaster: Coming out of Central Michigan, Brown had plenty to prove at the combine. Instead, he checked in small (186 pounds) and slow (4.56 40). And he didn’t move the needle in the other events, either.

NFL career: Brown slipped to the sixth round, yet became a five-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Zach Ertz, TE (2013)

Combine disaster: Bleacher Report compared Ertz unfavorably to former Stanford teammate Coby Fleener, noting, “Anyone who has compared Ertz to … Coby Fleener has seriously overrated Ertz’s physical abilities. … Ertz struggled to impress in his short shuttle run (4.47 seconds) and vertical jump (30.5 inches). He also has short arms for a 6’5″ frame.”

NFL career: Ertz has made three Pro Bowls, and he has more than 700 catches and almost 7,500 yards in 11 NFL seasons. Not to diss Fleener, who played six NFL seasons, but you would have to say Ertz has had a far more productive career.

Cam Newton, QB (2011)

Combine disaster: Newton is the rare example of a player who had a bad combine yet it didn’t affect his draft status one bit (the Carolina Panthers selected him No. 1 overall). But Newton had issues in the combine that raised questions. His athletic skills tests went very well, but he really struggled throwing the ball and with maturity, two obviously critical traits for a quarterback.

Bleacher Report broke it down: “When it came to the most important drill, Newton was disappointing. Newton struggled with throwing the ball and was very flustered at times. His timing was off. … [He] missed all the deep throws and wasn’t very effective on the short routes, either. His interviews went well, but he was upset when asked about why he disobeyed his coaches in the National Championship game. Sources who were there said he got defensive with his answer. Not a good sign for someone whose maturity is being questioned.”

NFL career: The 2015 NFL MVP has had a great career, but ironically, the two biggest knocks against him by critics involve his passing accuracy and maturity. So sometimes, red flags at the combine do translate into problems in the NFL.

Vontaze Burfict, LB (2012)

Combine disaster: Everyone ripped Burfict after this combine. CBS Sports hit all the lowlights: “Burfict is almost certainly the biggest loser of the entire combine. There was plenty of discussion, based on Burfict’s play on the field, that he could be a first-round pick. That’s laughable at this point, and it’s possible that Burfict could even go undrafted. He ripped his old coaches, he ran the slowest linebacker 40 time and he didn’t look like the elite talent people claim to have seen on tape.:

NFL career: Burfict did go undrafted, but he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Putting aside his reputation for cheap shots that made him one of the most hated players in NFL history, he played eight seasons and earned All-Pro honors in 2013.

Leonard Floyd, LB (2016)

Combine disaster: Floyd landed here not through any fault of his own; the Georgia pass rusher posted good numbers in the vertical and broad jumps but injured himself running the 40. As reported, “Floyd’s inability to work out prevented scouts from assessing his skills as a pass rusher. … After failing to complete the workout, the jury is still out on whether he is worthy of consideration as a potential first-rounder.”

NFL career: Floyd ended up going No. 9 overall to the Chicago Bears, and he’s been a solid starter for eight seasons. He collected 10.5 sacks for the Buffalo Bills in 2023.

Marcus Peters, CB (2015)

Combine disaster: The Washington Huskies star got suspended from the team for “disciplinary issues” in November 2014, so he needed a good combine to remind scouts of his potential. Instead, reported, “A 4.53 forty time for a 5’11” corner isn’t ideal. Peters hasn’t played a game since November and his skills looked very rusty. He is another guy that came in as a top 10 corner in the draft and saw his stock fall for the time being.”

NFL career: Peters went No. 18 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs and is now a three-time All-Pro.

Cooper Kupp, WR (2017)

Combine disaster: Kupp didn’t play at a college football power (Eastern Washington), so the combine provided him the change to improve his draft prospects. Instead, he ran a 4.62 40, near the bottom among wide receivers.

NFL career: Kupp went to the Los Angeles Rams in the third round. While he will likely never approach the video game-like stats he had in 2021 (145 catches, 1,947 yards, 16 touchdowns), he’s still among the best in the game.

Tom Brady, QB (2000)

Combine disaster: This might be an overstatement, because to qualify as a combine bust there have to be some expectations. There were no expectations for Brady entering the 2000 combine, and he lived down to them. Fifteen offensive lineman both jumped higher and ran faster than the Michigan quarterback. His 40 time, 5.28 seconds, is considered below average for a defensive lineman.

As one scout famously noted about Brady, “Awful. He’s not even on my board. Weak. He’ll make somebody a good husband or a good medical salesman.”

NFL career: Everyone knows about all the Super Bowls, MVPs, and GOAT talk. Yet a crazy Brady achievement in 2019 slipped under the radar. That summer, the almost 42-year-old Brady ran a 40-yard dash in 5.17 seconds — faster than his combine time almost 20 years earlier.

For Brady to run faster in his early 40s than he did coming out of college is freakish, although it’s worth noting his personal trainer held the stopwatch. Brady’s career just goes to show that the combine stats that scouts and fans love to talk about can often be meaningless.

Which brings us back to Orlando Brown, the four-time Pro Bowl tackle whose almost 6-second 40-yard dash in 2018 earned him widespread ridicule for “one of the worst combines in history.” As Brown’s college teammate Baker Mayfield wisely noted at the time, “When are you going to watch Orlando Brown run 40 yards down the field? Never. Look at his film.”

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.