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Prospects With High-Potential Despite Poor Combine

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 8, 2019

Irv Smith Jr. may not have had the best Combine performance athletically, but he still has massive potential

Earlier this week, we talked about players whose stock moved significantly in one direction or another based on their athletic profile at the NFL Combine (read it here). But what about the players who tested poorly? Does that mean you should write them off as duds and forget about them? No. Do you remember what everyone was saying about Calvin Ridley this time last year? I think he’s doing pretty well in the NFL.

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So, today we’ll be talking about some players who may have struggled to test well at the Combine but can still have a prosperous career in the NFL. This is essentially me telling you to not overreact on these players, though it’s definitely nice to get a discount on some of them.

Dwayne Haskins (QB – Ohio State)
He didn’t have a disastrous Combine, but his 5.04-second 40-yard dash was the slowest among quarterbacks, while his 28.5-inch vertical was the second-shortest. You’ll have to trust me when I say those things don’t matter to him. He’s a strong-armed quarterback who reminds me a bit of Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t think anyone would criticize Roethlisberger for his 40-time nowadays. If there’s one knock on Haskins, it’s his lack of experience, but the same can be said about Kyler Murray. There’s plenty of potential with Haskins, regardless of a poor Combine.

David Montgomery (RB – Iowa State)
Coming out of Iowa State, Montgomery isn’t getting the love he would had he gone to Alabama. He’s not a workout warrior who was going to run a 4.3 or anything. His 4.64-second 40-yard dash wasn’t great, but it didn’t need to be. He’s a hardnosed runner who simply creates yardage on his own. There will be some who tell you running backs don’t matter, but when you turn on Montgomery’s film, he absolutely mattered. If you like players who’ll fight for every last yard, no matter what it takes, he’s your guy.

Devin Singletary (RB – Florida Atlantic)
I’m not the biggest Singletary guy, but to say that he should be written off after a poor Combine wouldn’t be right. He’s elusive, though his 40-yard dash won’t show that. He hides well behind his blockers, though there’s no drill that shows that. The biggest concern for him is being 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, as that’s not a great size for someone to get more than 10-12 touches per game. Some were comparing him to LeSean McCoy before the Combine, so his film was much better than his Combine.

Riley Ridley (WR – Georgia)
His brother was in this exact article last year, so it makes sense that the Ridley household just isn’t built for the Combine. There wasn’t one area of the Combine where Ridley performed above average, while there were plenty of wide receivers who showed off incredible size/speed combinations. What hasn’t changed is that Ridley is likely the best route-runner in this draft, something that won’t show at the Combine. The production concerns from college are there, too, though Georgia hasn’t been a school who’s produced highly-productive wide receivers with their scheme. From a physical and athletic standpoint, Ridley comps very closely to JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jordy Nelson.

Kelvin Harmon (WR – NC State)
He had one of the most damaging Combines, as there was really nothing he did that stood out. His 4.60-second 40-yard dash was damaging when you saw bigger wide receivers than him running two- or three-tenths faster. We now know that Harmon isn’t highly-athletic, but the fact remains that he’s a very solid football player who excels with contested catches. Sometimes football players just aren’t crazy athletes, though I’ll admit it’s tougher at the wide receiver position to find them.

Irv Smith Jr. (TE – Alabama)
I’ll admit that I thought Smith would do extremely well at the Combine, but for someone who’s a smaller tight end (6-foot-2, 242 pounds), he didn’t blow the doors off. His 4.63-second 40-time looks weak when you compare it to Noah Fant‘s 4.50 time, and he’s 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds. What the Combine doesn’t show is versatility as a player and Smith is as versatile as they come. He can play in-line, in the slot, out wide, or even at fullback, which Alabama did at times. He’s going to be a player in the NFL, so don’t let a mediocre Combine performance turn you off.

Jace Sternberger (TE – Texas A&M)
The only drill Sternberger was slightly above average in was the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, which do tend to show agility. He wasn’t someone I expected to dominate the Combine, though. He’s a natural football player with some of the best hands in the draft. He’s someone who can play a possession role in an offense and you don’t sacrifice much as a blocker, either. He may not have the upside of someone like Noah Fant, but he should be a sturdy player in the league.

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