NFL 2023 Combine failures with the most to prove at Pro Days

With the NFL Combine over, this year’s draft class is running out of opportunities to prove themselves to NFL scouts and general managers. Next up are the pro days, and after that, the interview process is over and it’s time to find out who did enough to earn the job and make some life-changing money.

Overall, last week’s combine featured plenty of outstanding performances as several prospects put up eye-popping numbers in athletic testing drills and on-field drills. It was difficult to get to the “losers”, but there were several players who missed the mark and failed.

All is not lost for those who fall into the latter category, but they will certainly face more pressure during Pro Day practice than their peers.

The reasons why players made it to this list are varied. For some, it’s as simple as improving on their time at Indianapolis because they fell short or didn’t meet certain expectations, while others have to find a way to keep up with the rest of the competition.

Regardless, the pressure is on because the difference between a good and bad performance at Pro Day could be millions of dollars. Again, this is the last chance they’ll have to impress the NFL’s decision makers.

For reference, the player Relative Athletic Score (RAS) will be mentioned throughout this article. RAS is a formula that takes into account a prospect’s size and number of athletic tests to produce a numerical score based on past combine results.

The calculator calculates what position each player plays, and the total score and score for each test will vary depending on the position listed. For example, a 40-yard dash time of 4.7 seconds would get a poor grade for a wide receiver, but an elite grade for an offensive lineman.

Bryce Young, 2023 NFL Combine AP Photo/Darron Cummings

In fairness to Bryce Young, it’s not like he did anything in Indianapolis that hurt his lineup, but he made this list because he didn’t do anything.

The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner opted to sit out practice on the field while the other top running backs — Florida’s Anthony Richardson, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis — took the field.

Richardson ended up putting together one of the best linebacker combinations ever with perfect 10 RAS score, and he put on a show during pitching practice. Stroud did not participate in athletic testing, but his throwing was rated “one of the best” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ever seen.

As for Levis, he made money elite class from RAS for his explosion with a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10’4″ broad jump while standing 6’4″ and just under 230 pounds. He was also relatively sharp throwing the pigskin around.

In a sense, Young needs to have a good Pro Day in Tuscaloosa to “keep up with the Joneses.” If one or two of the other top four backs were unhappy, his absence wouldn’t be a big deal. But all the other three did their best, so the level of competition for pick no. 1 in the overall ranking increased.

The Alabama product checked one box with his weight of over 200 pounds—204 to be exact, 10 pounds heavier than his stated weight in college. However, a lot of his game and ability to avoid injury is based on the way he moves and avoids shots, and we don’t know if that will carry over with the added weight. That’s what he’ll have to prove at Bama’s Pro Day.

Jordan Addison Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Going into the combine, everyone knew Jordan Addison wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, so his height just a shade over 5’11” and 173 pounds weren’t a surprise. However, his underwhelming numbers on the athletic tests were a bit of a shocker.

Addison ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, which isn’t a bad time in itself, but had to be closer to 4.3 than 4.5 given his lean frame. Wide receivers under 180 pounds have to be able to vertically stretch the field, and now the question is whether he can do that at the next level.

This dropped the Trojan to 23rd overall and third in the running The latest big board B/Ra TCU’s Quentin Johnston (No. 10) and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 12) moved up 0.5 and 0.4 points, respectively, in the rankings.

To get back into that category, Addison will have to do two things at his Pro Day; knock that 40 times in at least a few hundredths of a second and/or achieve an impressive agility score. He sat out the shuttle and three-cone drills, while Smith-Njigba topped the rankings with times 3.93 and 6.57 seconds. He is an ex fourth best in width since 2007

If a team is looking for a strong receiver, then Johnston is their guy no matter what, and Addison was probably never on their radar. However, clubs could decide between him and Smith-Njigba, and after the combination, the Buckeye have momentum.

Kayshon Boutte Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

From one disappointing and undersized wide receiver to another. Truth be told, Kayshon Boutte’s draft stock has taken a hit since the start of the college football season as he eclipsed the 100-yard mark in just two out of 11 games and finished the campaign with just two touchdowns. Unfortunately, that trend continued in Indianapolis.

Boutte measured in at a quarter-inch over 5’11” and right at 195 pounds, nearly an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than his listed height and weight at LSU. Like Addison, he should have clocked an impressive 40-yard dash time at that size, a 4.5 ran just won’t cut it. Combining that with a 4.25-second flight isn’t quite what scouts were hoping for given his size.

To make matters worse, his 29-inch vertical he earned 0.53 points out of 10 on the RAS scale, so not only is he short of that spot, but he won’t be able to go up and get the ball high in the air in contested catch situations. It’s a tough combo to master, except it doesn’t have lightning speed.

Tiger needs to lower his 40-time and put up better numbers in the agility test to stop sliding down the diving board. He didn’t participate in the three-cone drill at the combine, so that could be one area during his Pro Day where he performs well to alleviate some concerns.

Otherwise, he’ll have a hard time breaking into the top 100, as he’s currently the 110th prospect on B/R large plate.

Clark Phillips Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Clark Phillips is another prospect who was expected to be on the lower end of the measurement scale, so the fact that he’s only 5’9″ and 184 pounds isn’t a huge surprise. In fact, it kind of makes his bench press even better impressively as he did 18 reps at 225, more than 40 pounds more than his body weight.

However, the Phillips 33-inch vertical is a concern. It only earned a 2.74 grade from RAS and means he’ll have little to no chance to cover bigger receivers, especially on 50/50 balls. But even that wasn’t the most concerning aspect of his training.

The Utah product posted a 20-yard dash time of 4.32 seconds, which is just 3.73 for the position on the RAS rankings. The biggest problem with that number is that he’s projected to be a coin at the next level, where change-of-direction skills are extremely important.

In most offenses, receivers play shorter and sharper routes, often depending on how the defender plays the receiver. For example, if the defensive back makes an inside leverage play, the wideout will have the option to break the route to the outside in an attempt to make the defensive back miss and vice versa.

Also, the closer you are to the middle of the field, the more ground you have to cover laterally, so the nickelback must be able to get in and out of his cuts quickly to cover the receiver or make a tackle shortly after the catch. .

Phillips needs to shorten that time and get a good three-cone at his Pro Day, or NFL scouts and GMs will have a hard time finding a scheme fit/position for him at the next level.

Mike Morris Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you look at Mike Morris’ testing results in Indianapolis as a defensive player, he earned a respectable grade 7.86 RAS score. He was listed at 292 pounds Census of Michigan this season, so at first glance, playing inside more like a pro than he did in Ann Arbor seems like a natural transition. But the combination reveals the true weight of the player…

Either Morris lost more than 15 pounds during training or the above number was greatly inflated, as he tipped the scales at 275 pounds in Indianapolis. He did suffer an injury later in the season that could have caused him to lose some weight, but regardless, his numbers in testing just aren’t going to be a defensive end.

His 40-yard dash time is a great example of how the evaluation changes depending on the position he will play. 4.95 is enough for the elite 8.86 grade from RAS as a procedure, but the rating drops to 3.51 as an ending. Even more concerning is his slow 10-yard dash (1.72 seconds), as those numbers are the difference between 8.44 and 3.90.

The reason the 10-yard split is so important is because it’s a test of a quarterback’s exit. This is even more significant on the edge because you want players who explode off the ball and pressure offensive attacks vertically. He is still important on the inside, but less so because the guards and centers will always have help on the outside.

So to avoid being labeled a “tweener,” Morris will either have to put his weight back on or show more explosiveness at his Pro Day.

Christopher Smith Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

To say that Christopher Smith II had a disappointing performance at the combine would be an honest understatement. He entered the week as B/R’s 17th overall prospect, the second-highest defensive back and No. 1 safety. However, it fell to 38th, fifth and third place in those categories post-combined large plate.

Of all the safety devices that were tested, Smith scored the lowest RAS score is 2.97. For perspective, the site lists an “average” safety rating of 5.21, so he was more than two points below the baseline.

Perhaps the Georgia product’s biggest concern in practice was his 4.62-second 40-time, which is 4.55 out of 10 on the RAS scale. What’s unusual, though, is that his 10-yard dash — 1.56 seconds and an 8.20 — was quite impressive. Basically, it means that he started well and just ran out of gas.

Why this is significant for safety is because high speed is important for position. As the name implies, they are the last line of defense and often the last defender on the field to prevent an explosive play from becoming a touchdown. Often their job is to hunt down speedy receivers and give the defense a chance to keep points off the board.

Smith’s measurements also suggest he is too small and not strong enough to play in the box. He’s 5’11” and weighs just 192 pounds, and he only did 15 reps on the bench press. That just won’t cut it when tight ends or offensive linemen come to block him in the run game.

At his Pro Day in Athens, Smith will have to show he can maintain his speed and cutback those 40 times or he will continue to slide down draft boards.

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