Ahead of the 2023 NFL Combine, I wrote about what questions I had going in that I wanted to have answered by the time the event ended. Just about all of those questions had been answered by the time I left Indianapolis, but one that stuck out was “who is going to surprise everyone the most?” It was one of the hardest questions to answer because of how many players and results did surprise us.
Here are 10 things that surprised me the most from Indianapolis last week at the NFL Combine.
- Almost everything to do with Anthony Richardson
Anyone who watched Anthony Richardson’s tape during his time at Florida knew that the quarterback prospect was one of the most athletically gifted players in the class. There may have been doubts about how NFL-ready he was coming into the week, but there weren’t any about his athleticism.
What was less clear was just how athletically gifted compared to all of the quarterback prospects ever to test at the NFL Combine. It turns out the answer was “the best ever, of all time.”
The surprises began at his weigh-in, where the Florida product measured in at 244 pounds, 12 pounds heavier than what he was listed at on Florida Athletics’ website. Then he went on to break all-time NFL Combine records for quarterbacks in the vertical leap (40.5”) and broad jump (10’9”) before running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, the third-fastest time ever by a quarterback. Then after all of that testing, Richardson was one of the best quarterbacks in throwing drills, timing his throws on in- and out-breaking routes well and unleashing his deep ball with nice touch to all of the receivers there.
Richardson’s NFL Combine performance was something truly special, and it will be interesting to see just how high he could come off the board in April.
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s agility testing numbers
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon-Smith Njigba came into this week with the race for WR1 still wide open and the chance to claim the top spot. He came out of it as the leader in the clubhouse.
The Ohio State product proved he was by far the quickest receiver at the NFL Combine with a lightning-fast 6.57-second performance in the three-cone (0.28 seconds faster than second place) and a 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle time (0.19 seconds faster than second). His three-cone time was the 12th-fastest among wide receivers in NFL Combine history and his shuttle performance was the fourth-best by a receiver in NFL Combine history.
- Jalin Hyatt’s 40 time
On the flip side, Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt underwhelmed in the 40-yard dash. That might seem like an unfair assessment and exaggeration for a time as fast as 4.40 seconds, but he didn’t crack the top five among receivers in attendance. For a guy whose main standout trait was his speed, a time outside of the 4.3s was a bit disappointing.
- The arm lengths of Ohio State linemen
For all of the discussions and debates about how short Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski’s arms were, there wasn’t nearly as much hullabaloo about how long some notable Ohio State linemen’s arms were on both sides of the ball. Left tackle prospect Paris Johnson Jr. had the second-longest measurement of any offensive tackle at the NFL Combine with 36 ⅛-inch arms. That number only made his 29 reps in the bench press look more impressive with the extra distance he had to push the weight. Johnson came second to only his teammate and right tackle prospect Dawand Jones’ 36 ⅜-inch arms among offensive linemen at the NFL Combine.
On the defensive side, Ohio State edge rusher Zach Harrison’s arms measured in at 36 ¼ inches. The three of them were the top three in arm length measurements at this year’s Combine. Whatever they’re feeding the big boys out in Columbus is clearly working.
- Bryce Young’s height and weight measurements
One of the biggest conversations surrounding quarterback prospects coming into this week was the one about Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s size. If he measured in under six feet tall and under 200 pounds, he would have been one of the slightest quarterback prospects to ever have a chance at being a first-round pick. For Young, getting up over 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds were going to be important marks for him to hit to avoid advancing the narrative that he was too small to be drafted early.
Fortunately for him—and surprisingly for those in attendance—Young measured in at 5-foot-10⅛ inches and 204 pounds. Is he going to play at 204 pounds? Probably not, but he proved there’s some potential for him to add some weight to his frame which could allow him to avoid injuries as one of the smallest quarterbacks in the NFL.
- Jahmyr Gibbs held his own behind Bijan Robinson
Texas running back Bijan Robinson has been the talk of the town as the top running back in this draft class all season long. However, Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs has held pace with him as the clear-cut RB2 all season long as well. At this year’s NFL Combine, Gibbs might just have done enough to push himself into the first-round conversation thanks to excellent work in drills and a blazing 4.36-second 40-yard dash.
- Zack Kuntz’s athleticism
Just last year, we saw how much a great NFL Combine performance can help an athletic tight end prospect raise their draft stock when Jelani Woods shone brightly then went in the third round to the Colts. This year’s version of that seems to be Old Dominion tight end Zack Kuntz, a 6-foot-7, 255-pound prospect that showed out at this year’s NFL Combine with a stunning 4.55 in the 40, an incredible 40-inch vertical leap, and a 10-foot-8 broad jump. That kind of athleticism at his size is not common by any means, and Kuntz can ride that performance to a day-two selection.
- Adetomiwa Adebawore’s athleticism
On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore had his own version of Kuntz’s success. Coming off of an excellent Senior Bowl performance, Adebawore had a chance to further capitalize on his rising draft stock with a great showing at the NFL Combine.
He went on and ran a 4.49-second 40, the fastest time by any player weighing more than 280 pounds since 2003, on top of jumping higher and further than last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Travon Walker, in the vertical leap and broad jump.
- Jack Campbell’s testing numbers
In today’s NFL, a linebacker like Iowa’s Jack Campbell definitely has what can be considered a “throwback” frame: 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds. He’s a physical, downhill player that can defend the run well as a gap filler, but whether he’d have the range to track down runners and cover receivers on passing downs was a bigger question.
Well, Campbell showed off just how quick he really can be with a 6.74-second three-cone drill, the third fastest time of any player this year, and was second-best in the vertical leap (37.5”) and broad jump (10’8”) among linebackers as well. Campbell may be even more explosive and quick than we thought watching his film, and teams will be more willing to take him higher as a result.
- How underwhelmed I was by Will Levis
This is my most personal surprise as a guy that was semi-high on Kentucky quarterback Will Levis coming into this past week’s events. Watching Levis throw with a quarterback group that was far more lackluster than the one that included Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Richardson, I was really not as impressed as I felt I should have been for a guy that’s among the top quarterback prospects in this class.
Levis mistimed many of his throws on in- and out-breaking routes to his receivers and underthrew them on several of his deep ball throws. For a guy that prides himself so heavily on his cannon arm, Levis didn’t do enough to show me he’s worthy of the QB1 title. As of now, I’d easily slot him behind Young, Stroud, and Richardson.
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