What an NFL Draft prospect did on the field during their few years in college largely determines their draft stock. But it’s naive to assume production is all that matters to NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers.
Sometimes being a physical freak (and we mean that in a good way) can go a long way towards getting a prospect on the radar of NFL teams.
All coaches, from pop warner all the way up to the NFL, believe that the can “coach up” a player as long as he has the right intangibles. And sometimes, all a player needs is size, speed, the ability to jump high, or even something a simple as big hands, to end up becoming a “pet project” for an optimistic NFL coach.
Of course, at the end of the day it will always come down to production. So simply having great measurables or athleticism isn’t everything — you have to be able to play the game of football, after all — but these five NFL draft prospects have put themselves on the radar because of their physical attributes as well.
Some have the skill and college production to back it up, and they very well could be top picks. Others may actually not make it, but they’re certainly worth the chance and certainly look the part as promising prospects.
Cam Robinson, offensive tackle, Alabama
Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson looks like he was born to play left tackle. He checks in at an incredible 6-foot-6, 322 pounds, and has turned heads for his combination of size and athleticism ever since high school.
A former freshman All-American, he started every game at left tackle for the Crimson Tide. So he definitely has the football ability to go along with his size.
Considering how big he is, though, Robinson’s athleticism needs to be mentioned. He was in the Top 10 of lineman running the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, putting up a time of 5.15. That may not sound fast, but again, consider his size. Robinson jumped 26 inches in the high jump and 106 inches in the broad jump, which was among the better lineman jumps at the draft.
Again, though, it’s the size that lands Robinson on this list. That, and the fact that he’s taken that size and turned himself into a likely high first-round pick.
John Ross, wide receiver, Washington
John Ross was certainly productive for the Huskies during his college career. In just three seasons of play (he redshirted in 2015 due to injury), Ross put up 1,729 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 15.2 yards per catch. Of those 1,729 yards and 22 touchdowns, 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns came in 2016.
So yeah, Ross certainly put himself on NFL radars because of his production.
But he may have vaulted himself into the argument for top wide receiver in the draft along with Clemson’s Mike Williams and Western Michigan’s Corey Davis thanks to his showing at the combine.
Most notably, Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard dash, which broke a record that Chris Johnson set in 2008 coming out of East Carolina (watch here).
Ross proved at Washington that he can be productive. He proved at the combine that he can beat any NFL defender deep, which is going to make him a high draft pick.
Forrest Lamp, guard, Western Kentucky
Coming out of Western Kentucky, Forrest Lamp has a bit more to prove than the other offensive linemen. The reason is that he played in Conference-USA, which features less talent. This is a big deal for him when compared to players like Cam Robinson, Ryan Ramcyzk, Ethan Pocic and Dan Feeney, who played for Alabama, Wisconsin, LSU, and Indiana, respectively.
That’s not a slight against C-USA, but more so the reality of the SEC and Big Ten featuring a slightly higher caliber of player. This, of course, meant that the other offensive lineman had a bit tougher competition.
Still, Lamp is generally considered to be the top guard in the 2017 NFL Draft, much in thanks to his combination of great size and elite athleticism. Lamp checks in at an imposing 6-foot-4, 309 pounds, and he ran a 5.00-second 40 at the combine. He put up 34 reps in the bench press event, jumped 111.0 inches in the broad jump and ran the three-cone drill in 7.55 seconds.
For reference, his 40 time was the fourth best among offensive linemen. His 34 reps on the bench was second best only to Isaac Asiata’s 35, and he was top five among lineman in the three-cone drill and broad jump.
Obi Melifonwu, safety, UConn
Vert: 44’’ | 40: 4.40 | Broad jump: 11’9’’
Obi Melifonwu had one of the best Combines of all time.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 7, 2017
Melifonwu was a four-year starter for the Huskies, notching 349 total tackles (221 solo), 11 tackles for loss, 16 passes defended, eight interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Four of his interceptions came in 2016.
Melifonwu’s production for UConn was impressive enough, but consider this: He did all of that checking in as a 6-foot-4, 224 pounds defensive back.
That’s incredible size, even for a safety. Essentially, he’s a slimmed down linebacker. Melifonwu was able to combine his physical attributes with some incredible athleticism at the NFL Combine, and there’s a very good chance that could see him taken in the first round.
Melifonwu was the top safety in the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, and broad jump. He ran an extremely fast 4.40 40-yard dash, which is incredible considering his size. He also jumped 44 inches, which was best among all players at the combine.
NFL quarterbacks are going to have a tough time getting the deep ball past Melifonwu.
Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Garrett very well could be the No. 1 overall pick in this upcoming draft, and he easily qualifies as a “freak” athlete. He’s a 6-foot-4, 272-pound edge defender who can line up as a straight-up defensive end or even as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
For as big as he is, Garrett is incredibly athletic. He has an extremely quick first step and the speed to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. He’s explosive off the edge and adept and turning his shoulder and closing on a quarterback — no matter where they are in the pocket.
He notched 8.5 sacks in 2016, overshadowed by his 11.0 sack season and 11.5 sack season in 2014 and 2015 respectively. He also has five passes defended, seven forced fumbles a fumble recovery and an interception on his Texas A&M resume.
Garrett’s athleticism really showed up at the combine.
He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash, which was fifth best among defensive linemen. He also put up 33 reps in the bench press, second only to Auburn’s Carl Lawson (35), and was the top vertical jumper among defensive lineman with an extremely impressive 41 inches.
There’s a reason Garrett is considered the top player in the draft. That’s a ton of athleticism.