5 biggest NFL Combine fails of all time

NFL Combine Chris Jones

The NFL Combine is the job interview for college football players aspiring to turn pro. It’s a platform where players can showcase their skills and abilities, demonstrating they have what it takes to succeed in the world of professional football.

Picture it as a combination of physical assessments, such as sprints and weightlifting, alongside mental challenges, like high-pressure interviews and strategic playbook analyses. The NFL Combine offers players a chance to excel on a big stage, and while many players impress scouts and boost their chances in the draft, some fall short, leaving evaluators wanting more. It’s a moment that can either launch future NFL stars or raise enough doubts about someone that their draft prospects are stunted along with their professional football dreams.

Let’s look at the top five NFL Combine fails of all time and how those players either recovered from them or how it hurt their pro career from that moment forward.

5. 2016 NFL Combine: Chris Jones and his wardrobe malfunction

NFL Combine Chris Jones
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Jones, a lineman from Mississippi State who has gone on to win three Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs, faced a rather embarrassing and challenging moment during the 40-yard dash at the 2016 NFL Combine. His workout shorts failed him as he crossed the finish line, resulting in his, uh, private parts being exposed on national television. Although Jones quickly composed himself and completed the sprint, the incident went viral. Despite this hiccup, the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the second round, proving that solid performances can, and do, overcome bumps in the NFL Combine road.

4. 2018 NFL Combine: Orlando Brown Jr.’s performance letdown

NFL Combine Orlando Brown
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando Brown Jr., a lineman from the University of Oklahoma, came to the Combine as one of his position’s top prospects but left with doubts about his draft potential. Brown only managed to complete 14 reps on the bench press — a terrible showing for a lineman. His 40-yard sprint clocked in at 5.85 seconds, making it one of the slowest times among his peers. Even though Brown was the biggest disappointments of the 2018 NFL Combine, he was picked in the third round by the Baltimore Ravens. Brown has since emerged as one of the NFL’s top offensive tackles going to show that a players performance at the NFL Combine doesn’t always predict their success in the NFL.

3. 2009 NFL Combine: B.J. Raji’s rumored failed drug test

Syndication: Milwaukee
Credit: Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

B.J. Raji had a setback in 2009 when rumors emerged that he failed a drug test for marijuana at the Combine, although later reports clarified that his test results were clean. Despite this controversy affecting his draft stock, Raji was still drafted ninth overall by the Green Bay Packers. Raji had a tremendous and accomplished career, including winning a Super Bowl. It proves that overcoming obstacles is part and parcel of being a high-profile athlete, especially in the NFL.

2. 2012 NFL Combine: Vontaze Burfict’s less than perfect workout

NFL Combine Vontaze Burfict
Credit: Kareem Elgazzar, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

In 2012, Vontaze Burfict, a linebacker from Arizona State with unbridled potential, had an underwhelming showing at the NFL Combine, which hurt his selection in the NFL Draft. His time of 5.09 seconds in the 40-yard dash was notably slow for a linebacker. He also could have performed better in the agility tests and struggled during the bench press. Adding to his troubles, Burfict’s team meetings reportedly didn’t go smoothly. He went undrafted and later signed with the Cincinnati Bengals/ Despite facing challenges throughout his career with fines and suspensions, Burfict’s less-than-stellar Combine was just a temporary setback.

1. 1995 NFL Combine: Mike Mamula — the original NFL Combine fail

NLF Combine Mike Mamula

Mike Mamula, a defensive end from Boston College, is often remembered as the NFL Combine’s “original disappointment” due to how his career compared to his Combine performance. Mamula’s case was unique because he specifically trained for the Combine drills, becoming one of the first players to do so. He excelled in all tests, boosting his draft stock into the first round when the Philadelphia Eagles picked him seventh overall. However, Mamula’s NFL journey didn’t match up to his NFL Combine prowess, prompting questions about how much importance should be placed on Combine’s results when assessing a player’s potential.

These five athletes had setbacks at the NFL Combine, showcasing its unpredictability and highlighting the challenges of transitioning from college football to the NFL. When the NFL Combine showcases a player’s abilities, it is a great addition to what they’ve already done on the football field as a college player. When it goes horribly wrong, dreams can be in jeopardy which highlights just how much the event can mean to a prospective pro player.

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