Every year, over 300 college athletes get invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. There, they go under the proverbial (and sometimes literal) microscopes of pro football personnel, getting interviewed, tested, poked, and prodded to prove their potential worth to a franchise.
And they’re considered the lucky ones.
For every invitee there exist multiple snubs, forcing the forgotten to take part in college team pro days. For the past few years, we’ve sought out athletes who show that, had they been invited to Indy, they would have belonged.
For an explanation of what each drill entails, you can check out the NFL Combine workouts page. (The 3-cone drill, which highlights a player’s quickness, has proven to be an important one for the Patriots.) Many thanks to longtime NFL scout Gil Brandt for his pro day page, an invaluable resource during this time of year.
So, is there a potential Malcolm Butler or Sebastian Vollmer among these snubs? We shall see.
Barnes Storming: Alabama State tight end Brandon Barnes blew the hinges off the door at his pro day. Measuring almost 6-5 and 255 pounds, Barnes ran a 4.69 40-yard dash that would have tied for top 10 tight end at the combine. His 35.5-inch vertical jump would have placed sixth among TEs, while his 7.03-second 3-cone drill would have been fifth-best. Along with his 20 bench presses (eighth), and his 9-foot-6 broad jump (12th), Barnes demonstrated he would have fit in well with the tight end herd.
Now here’s a surprise: last season, Barnes caught only five passes for 85 yards (17.0 avg.) with one touchdown. That did not preclude him or his followers from putting together a nice little highlight reel, where Barnes spends most of his time split out. Go, Hornets!
Ware The Boys Are: Seems to be Alabama State at the moment. Offensive tackle Jylan Ware ran a 4.92-second 40, none too shabby for a 6-8, 317-pound mass of a man. That time would have been second-best for offensive linemen in Indianapolis. Ware also would have made combine linemen top ten in the broad jump (9-foot-5, third), and vertical jump (29 inches, tied for seventh), and 11th with his 4.70-second 20-yard shuttle. Here’s a quick interview with Ware on nfldraftdiamonds.com.
Earning And Burton: A potentially moneymaking pro day for Deante Burton of Kansas State. The 6-2, 200-pound receiver ran a so-so 4.53 40-yard dash, but showed off his change-of-direction skills like a boomerang in a wind tunnel. His 4.07-second 20-yard shuttle would have made fourth receiver at the combine, just ahead of Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp. Burton’s 6.75-second 3-cone would have tied for ninth combine wide receiver (with, of all people, Kupp). Burton caught 29 passes last year for 404 yards (13.9 avg.) and one TD. He also made First Team Academic All-Big 12.
One Small Step, One Giant Leap: Despite being named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2016, Nebraska’s six-foot, 216-pound quarterback Tommy Armstrong will probably switch positions in his bid for the NFL. He made a very strong case for receiver at his pro day. After running a meh 4.57-second 40, Armstrong hit the top 10 for combine receivers in four categories: 37.5-inch vertical (fourth), 4.11 20-yard shuttle (seventh), 6.76 3-cone (10th,) and 16 bench reps (10th). Armstrong passed for 2,180 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, adding 512 yards and seven TDs rushing (4.5 avg.).
Fun And/Or Odd Fact: Former Nebraska QB Eric Crouch won the Heisman Trophy in 2001 yet never caught on as an NFL QB. Hamburg Sea Devils, anyone?
Carr Is Driven: Northwestern receiver Austin Carr capped off a stellar season with a shiny pro day. The All-Big Ten First-Teamer ran a mediocre 4.61 40, but showed off a 6.70-second 3-cone and 4.07 20-yard shuttle, which would have respectively placed him third and fourth for combine receivers. His 16 bench reps would have placed 10th. Hard to figure why Carr didn’t get the combine invitation after setting one school record with 1,247 receiving yards and tying another with 90 receptions. He averaged almost 14 yards per catch.
Fun Fact: The Patriots drafted Northwestern receiver Jeremy Ebert in the seventh round in 2012.
Fun And/Or Odd Facts: As a senior at Benicia High in California, Carr rushed for 1,481 yards and 19 TDs. In all four years at Northwestern, he rushed once for a seven-yard loss.
Out With The Old, In With The Newell: It’s possible that Montana State fullback Chad Newell (6-1, 215) “lost his invite in the mail” because he’s a bit of a slowpoke, as his 4.75-second 40 would make geologists impatient (14 combine defensive linemen had faster 40 times). Looking at some of the other drills, though, Newell would have made himself at home in Indy. His 37.5-inch vertical jump and 6.80-second 3-cone both would have registered as second-best for running backs; meanwhile, his 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle would have been the highest mark for running backs at the combine.
Newell, a team captain for the Bobcats, earned All-Big Sky Honorable Mention as a fullback after rushing for 703 yards and eight touchdowns (4.8 yard avg.) and catching six passes in eight games.
Fun Fact: Newell was a mechanical engineering major. That means that he did mechanical stuff with moving-parts things and junk.
Funner Fact: I was an English major. That means that WORDS.
Flynn And You’re In: A smaller school like Montana State can still come up with NFL-caliber athletes. Along with Newell, there’s offensive lineman J. P. Flynn (6-6, 310). Flynn ran a 5.15 40-yard dash, a top-eight time for combine linemen. He also leapt a 30.5-inch vertical, tied for third-best, and a 4.73 20-yard shuttle, tied for 12th. Most impressive – and a time that will catch some eyes in Foxboro – his 3-cone of 7.05 seconds would have beaten all combine offensive linemen, as the best OL time in Indy came from Utah’s Garrett Bolles at 7.29 seconds. At guard, Flynn made All-Big Sky Conference First Team, helping the Bobcats run up 4,047 yards of offense (2,332 rushing, 1,715 passing).
Fun Fact: Flynn was a mechanical engineering technology major. So take that, Newell!
More Than A Thousand Reeds Springing Up Like Weeds: Or maybe just one, in this case. Receiver Dominique Reed (6-2, 182) out of Arkansas did himself some big favors at his pro day, his numbers catching special attention from Gil Brandt himself. Reed, whose build fits his name at 6-2, 182, ran a 4.39 40 and leapt a 40-inch vertical, both good enough for third-best combine receiver. His 6.82 3-cone would have tied for 14th-best WR at Indy. Reed caught only 16 passes for 256 yards and two TDs for the Razorbacks in 2016. In his two-year Arkansas career, he had 44 catches for 791 yards (18.0 avg.) and returned 19 kicks for 383 yards (20.2 avg.).
Fun Fact: Reed was named team MVP of Coffeyville Community College in 2014, leading the Red Ravens with 61 receptions for 1,157 yards (19.0 avg.) and 18 TDs.
Fun-Song-Stuck-In-Your-Head Fact: If you think of Peter Gabriel singing “Red Raven” to this tune, you’ll get it stuck in your brain for an hour. You’re welcome.
Cool It Now, Kublanow: Though not a huge guy at 6-2, 300 pounds (“huge” being a relative term, here), Georgia offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow put up some strong numbers at his pro day. A 29-inch vertical would have tied for seventh combine lineman, while his 31 bench reps would have made fifth-best for OLs. Most importantly, Kublanow, a center, comes from the same program that produced starting Patriots center David Andrews. As a Bulldog, Kublanow started 39 straight games from 2014-2016, taking over at center after Andrews left. He was a team captain last season.
No Gambling Against Grambling: Pass-catcher Chad Williams (6-1, 207) made us wonder why scouts would bet against him as he worked out at Louisiana Tech’s pro day. The Senior Bowl invite ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, which would have tied for third-best combine receiver. He also put up a 38.5-inch vertical, which would have been fourth-best. He would have bested all combine receivers on the bench, putting up 26, three more than the top number at Indy (Billy Brown, Shepherd). Williams earned AFCA National FCS Second-Team All-American honors (not exactly sure what all that means, but stick with me) with 90 catches for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Fun Fact: AFCA stands for American Football Coaches Association. FCS, of course, is Football Championship Series, formerly Division I-AA. (See? I told you to stick with me.)
Some Rich Kid From Harvard: We’ve seen a few candidates for offensive line whom New England could seek out, either later in the draft or right after it. They’ve now got a local guy on the radar. Harvard tackle Max Rich (6-7, 311) had a stellar pro day, with a 7.18-second 3-cone that would have been the fastest time for offensive linemen at the combine. He also ran a 4.51-second 20-yard shuttle (second-best for combine OLs) and a 5.12 40 (eighth-best among OLs). His 30-inch vertical would have tied for fifth-best OL. Rich was named First Team All-Ivy by league coaches and to the New England Football Writers’ All-New England Team for 2016.
Fun Fact: NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard. (It’s true. I looked it up.)
Lighten Up, Francis: Maybe Francis Owusu lost weight, or maybe his training got him into peak shape for Stanford’s pro day. In either case, a wonderful showing for the wide receiver, who measured 6-3, 221 pounds – enticing for any team like the Patriots seeking a larger pass-catcher. Running a 4.35-second 40 would have earned him third place among combine receivers, fourth place overall. His 39-inch vertical (fourth wide receiver, 10th overall), 10-7 broad jump (11th WR), and 4.13-second 20-yard shuttle (tied for ninth WR) would have gotten notice in Indianapolis. His 7.07-second 3-cone isn’t super swift, but suitable for a receiver his size (220-pounder Michael Floyd ran a 7.11 3-cone at Notre Dame’s pro day in 2012).
One big reason for Owusu’s snub? His stats, or lack thereof. Eight receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown in 2016. For some perspective: last season, I scored only one fewer touchdown for Stanford than he did.
Fun Fact: Owusu’s big brother Chris has played in the NFL since 2012 for the Bucs and Jets.
A Night With Shining Armah: Looks like defensive end Alex Armah (6-0, 244) out of Georgia State could rescue his career with a switch to fullback. Some interesting numbers for the former defender at his pro day. His 4.70-second 40 won’t turn lots of heads, but most of his other scores compare well with combine running backs, including 26 bench reps (second for all combine backs), a 7.00-second 3-cone drill (sixth place), a 4.29-second 20-yard shuttle (seventh), and a 10-foot-2 broad jump (eighth). For the Wolves, Armah rang up 52 tackles, including 14.5 for loss (nine sacks).
Aaaaannnthonnyyyyyy! Nice work running by receiver Anthony Nash, who posted a 4.38-second 40 at Duke’s pro day. That time would have been third-fastest for combine receivers, tied for seventh-fastest overall. His 37.5-inch vertical would have tied for fourth WR. The 6-4, 211-pound pass-catcher had 29 receptions for 398 yards in 2016 (13.7 avg.), with two touchdowns.
Some Pressure On Cole Could Produce A Diamond: Lineman Cole Gardner (6-6, 301) sparkled at Eastern Michigan’s pro day (as did his teammate, whom we’ll get to below). Gardner leapt 33 inches high, a top score for combine offensive linemen. His 5.06-second 40 and nine-foot broad jump both would have scored top seven for linemen, while his 7.46 3-cone would have netted third OL. Gardner, a left tackle, made All-MAC Second Team for the Eagles, who were ranked second in the country in allowing tackles for loss.
Fun Fact: Gardner, a team captain in 2016, converted to offensive lineman in 2015. As a sophomore tight end the previous year, he caught eight passes for 78 yards.
Fun Patriots-Related Fact: Starting left tackle Nate Solder began his college career as a tight end, catching three passes for 50 yards as a freshman at Colorado.
I’ll Be Here A Wylie: No, he may not hear his name called on draft day, but Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Andrew Wylie (6-5, 304) did enough work at his pro day to get on post-draft calling lists. His 34-inch vertical would have bettered his teammate Gardner, and thus all offensive linemen at the combine. His 9-7 broad jump would have tied for first among combine OLs; his 7.46-second 3-cone would have come in third; his 5.12-second 40 would have come in eighth. Wylie bookended Cole in 2016, making All-MAC Third Team at right tackle. He had 44 starts in his career.
Fun Fact: Wylie started at left tackle as a sophomore and played left guard for seven games as a junior before settling in at right tackle.
Lonely Is The Hunter: Looks like defensive end Hunter Dimick (6-3, 268) won’t have too much time to himself after his strong pro day at Utah. (I’ve always kept an eye out for defensive edge players from that school: back when we called them hybrids, I interviewed Paul Kruger in 2009 and Koa Misi in 2010 for PatriotsDaily.com.) Dimick should get a long look on draft day after putting up 38 reps on the bench press, which would have bested the top overall combine score by three (submitted by Utah teammate Isaac Asiata). With his strength came quickness, as Dimick ran a 4.13 20-yard shuttle that would have come in first for all combine defensive linemen. His 7.15 3-cone (13th DL) and 4.73-second 40 (14th DL) would have fit right in at Indy, too. Dimick earned All-Pac 12 and Second-Team All-American honors in 2016 with 14.5 sacks (third-best nationally), and 20 tackles for loss. He also broke up seven passes and forced a fumble.
Fun Fact: At Syracuse High in Utah, Dimick was the state sack leader in both 2010 and 2011.
Sooner Rather Than Later: Not sure why Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans got snubbed, but I do feel certain that scouts asked themselves the same question on his pro day. The 6-3, 232-pound speedster ran a 4.51-second 40, better than all but one combine linebacker (Jabrill Peppers, 4.46). He also had a 4.27-second 20-yard shuttle (sixth best linebacker), a 7.00-second 3-cone (ninth best), and 19 bench press reps (14th – tied with Peppers). In 2016, Evans made All-Big 12 First Team, leading the Sooners with 98 tackles. He also had 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, and eight pass break-ups.
I’m Serious, He’s A Kidder: Defensive end Caleb Kidder (6-5, 269) out of Montana lacks great speed (4.93 40), but his 6.91-second 3-cone time would have tied for second-best among combine defensive linemen, while his 30 bench press reps would have tied for fourth DL. Kidder’s switch from tackle to end his senior year worked out well, as he made All-Big Sky Conference Second Team with 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He totaled 55 tackles on the year, with six QB hits and a blocked kick.
A Trip To South Quincy: Strong safety Quincy Mauger made scouts’ journey to Georgia’s pro day worth it. At 6-0, 208, Mauger showed some ability to make up for a relative lack of size with athleticism for the position. His 4.60 time would only have been 14th-best among combine safeties, but his 10-foot broad jump (tied for 10th), 4.22 20-yard shuttle (ninth), 37.5-inch vertical (tied for third), 6.83 3-cone (fifth), and 20 bench reps (tied for first) would have all made top 10 at Indy. For the Bulldogs, Mauger had 21 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions.
Fun Fact: If you’re like me, you’ve been pronouncing his name wrong. According to his Georgia player page, it’s mo-ZHAY.
Fun, Random, Local Fact: The Quincy (Mass.) High School mascot is the President.
X-Man, The Last Stand: Congrats to Portland State cornerback Xavier Coleman (5-9, 189) for making the best of his last chance to impress NFL reps. He ran a not-quite-combine-ready 4.50 40, but put up a 40-inch vertical (second-best for combine corners), 10-5 broad jump (eighth-best), 4.15 20-yard shuttle (10th-best), and 6.85 3-cone (eighth-best). Coleman, a team captain, earned All-Big Sky Conference First-Team honors with 29 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass break-ups. He started 35 games in his Vikings career.
There Is No Acceptable Pun For Heiman: Though Cody Heiman (6-1, 229) played linebacker for Washburn, he put up the kinds of numbers that could see him make a switch to strong safety. He may be thinking along these lines as well, considering his shedding of the pounds (his player page lists him at 245). Running a 4.57 40-yard dash would have made top 12 for combine safeties, top two for linebackers. His 36-inch vertical (sixth safety, fourth LB), 10-2 broad jump (sixth safety, eighth LB), 4.21-second 20-yard shuttle (eighth safety, fourth LB), and 6.90 3-cone (seventh safety, sixth LB) would have all qualified for top 10 at either position. Best of all, his 31 bench reps would have been the most for both positions by far (linebacker Ben Gedeon out of Michigan put up 27). Heiman led the Ichabods (see below) with 79 tackles and three interceptions.
Fun Fact: Washburn University, located in Topeka, Kansas, is named after Ichabod Washburn (aka “the father of the wire industry“) who was born in Kingston, Mass.
We CU, UCLA: Bruin Eli Ankou, a defensive tackle about as stout as a barrel of Guiness at 6-3, 331 pounds, ran a surprisingly swift 5.15-second 40 at the Bruins’ pro day. It’s tough to compare that time to other defensive linemen at the combine, because they don’t break down D-linemen into separate ends or tackles categories. Had Ankou run with the comparably-sized offensive linemen at Indy, he would have tied for eighth-fastest 40. He also would have tied for the best broad jump among OLs at 9-foot-7. Ankou’s 31 bench reps would have made fourth for combine defensive linemen.
While attending school in glorious, beautiful Westwood – where it never snows in March! – Ankou compiled 85 tackles in the past two seasons, with seven for loss and three passes defensed.
Fun-But-Less-So-This-Time-Around Fact: Again, we’re pronouncing a player’s name wrong. It’s E-lee.
All The Leaps Are Brown: Well, not all of them, but linebacker Richie Brown (6-1, 234) out of Mississippi State made a good case for an NFL camp with his 37-inch vertical leap, which would have tied for second-best linebacker at the combine. His 6.75-second 3-cone would have tied for top linebacker time at Indy (with Tyus Bowser). In 2016, Brown led the Bulldogs with 102 tackles (four for loss), with 1.5 sacks, two pass break-ups, and one forced fumble.
Fun Fact: Brown, who has an industrial technology degree, used to back up MSU grad and current Texans linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, who had five tackles and two passes defensed vs. New England in the Divisional Round this past January.
Less Than A Scherer Thing: An injury this past season set Missouri linebacker Michael Scherer (6-1, 231) back a ways, but his pro day may have returned him to draft boards. His 26 bench reps (second-best combine linebacker), 10-2 broad jump (tied, eighth-best LB), and 34-inch vertical (tied, ninth-best) all would have made top 10 for combine linebackers. Scherer played in seven games before his season ended with an ACL injury in his right knee, tallying 53 tackles (3.5 for loss) and defending three passes. His previous two years, he averaged 103.5 stops per season.
A Light In Augusta: Not sure if you can call a 347-pounder “light,” but considering Missouri defensive tackle Josh Augusta reportedly weighed 390 during the season, he’s gotten positively svelte – and has said he’d like to get down to 335. He’s on this list not just for his notable size, but for an alleged 4.95-second 40 at Mizzou’s pro day. If true, his 40-time is 0.13 faster than Vince Wilfork’s 5.08 back in 2004, when he weighed in at 323. Augusta had 23 tackles in 2016, with four for loss (one sack).
Fun Fact: Augusta rushed for two touchdowns last season. You can see him carrying the ball and blocking as a fullback on this SB Nation page.
Superman And Green Lantern Ain’t Got Nothing On Me: Yes, his pro day was just that good. Donavin Newsom completes our Tigers trifecta. The lithe linebacker (6-1, 237) showed his stripes at Mizzou’s pro day, running a 4.50-second 40 that would have been second-best for linebackers at the combine. His 36-inch vertical would have come in fourth among linebackers, while his 22 bench reps would have been eighth-best for LBs. Newsom had himself a hell of a 2016, leading the team with 73 tackles (5.5 for loss, including three sacks), four pass break-ups, and a forced fumble.
The Devil And The Deep Blue D: A Blue Devil, that is. Duke had zero combine invitees, but – along with receiver Nash above – safety Corbin McCarthy added his name to the list of noteworthy snubs. On the small side at 5-9, 208, McCarthy flew through the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds, which would have tied for second-fastest safety at the combine. His 4.18-second 20-yard shuttle (tied, fourth), 36-inch vertical (sixth), and 10-foot broad jump (tied for 10th) all would have made combine safety top 10, while his 7.28 3-cone would have come in 12th. At Duke, McCarthy had 59 tackles (12 for loss), including 3.5 sacks. He also broke up two passes and forced one fumble.
Fun Fact: McCarthy’s roster bio photo looks like Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas had a kid. (It also, upon closer inspection, shows he eschews the Windsor knot for something a little more extravagant.)
Thompson Twin: Hold me now, we could have another Matthew Slater on our hands. Utah special-teamer Jason Thompson will make a lot more potential roster lists after his pro day performance. The 6-2, 210-pound kinda/sorta safety would have crushed it at the combine at that position, with top safety scores in the 3-cone (6.57 seconds, second overall), 20-yard shuttle (4.01 seconds, fifth overall), and bench reps (20, tied for top safety). His 11-1 broad jump (second safety, sixth overall), 4.44-second 40 (third safety), and 39.5-inch vertical (fourth) would have all made top four for combine safeties. Last season, Thompson had eight tackles and one fumble recovery, mostly on special teams. He is the ultimate jack-of-all-trades guy who never found a regular starting position.
Fun Fact: Thompson made the switch to safety after transferring from Wyoming in 2014, where he had played both quarterback and running back. His first play for the Utes came on their opening offensive snap in the Las Vegas Bowl, where he ran an end-around and lateraled to the QB, who threw downfield. (You can see the highlight here.)
TOP COMBINE VS. SNUBS RESULTS (Combine In Italics)
4.22 seconds – John Ross, Washington WR
4.35 seconds – Francis Owusu, Stanford WR
4.38 seconds – Anthony Nash, Duke WR
4.39 seconds – Dominique Reed, Arkansas WR
38 reps – Hunter Dimick, Utah DE
35 reps – Isaac Asiata, Utah OG; Carl Lawson, Auburn DE
31 reps – Eli Ankou, UCLA DT; Cody Heiman, Washburn LB
44.0 inches – Obi Melifonwu, UConn S
40.0 inches – Xavier Coleman, Portland State CB
11-foot-9 – Obi Melifonwu, UConn S
11-foot-1 – Jason Thompson, Utah S
6.56 seconds – Kevin King, Washington CB
6.57 seconds – Jason Thompson, Utah S
3.89 seconds – Kevin King, Washington CB
4.01 seconds – Jason Thompson, Utah S
4.07 seconds – Deante Burton, Kansas State WR
We’ll spend the next few weeks scouring upcoming pro days and compiling more Combine Snubs. The NFL draft begins April 27.
Chris Warner got a new DVD player but forgot about the Daffy Duck compilation in the old one which got stuck and required a screwdriver and several minutes of his life he’ll never get back. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cwarn89.