INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Some have the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Others geek out over the Met Gala. Me? I have the NFL Combine.
An annual gathering of the nation’s top draft prospects — dressed in dazzling spandex I might add — the Combine is an opportunity for NFL hopefuls to catch the eye of 32 teams looking to pinpoint their next star.
Over the course of several days, the players are pulled, prodded, questioned, measured and timed as evaluators attempt to quantify their talent. While the Combine is just part of the equation when judging how well a prospect will transition to the pros, it’s an opportunity for teams to get better insight into what they’re buying and for fans to gawk at some of the world’s best athletes.
Narrowing the best Combine workouts of 2020 down to five was no easy task. Thursday through Sunday, Lucas Oil Stadium saw men do things most humans simply cannot. Below are five performances that stood out among the group as “freakish.”
Isaiah Simmons — Linebacker — Clemson
Height: 6’4” Weight: 238 lbs Arm Length: 33 ⅜” Hand Size: 9 ⅝”
If you want to talk about freaks, the conversation starts here. Simmons — who is labeled as a linebacker but played all over the field for Clemson — ran a turf-blazing 4.39 40-yard dash at nearly 240 pounds. His time tied for seventh best among all players at this year’s Combine and is the second best among linebackers since 2006, behind the Seahawks’ Shaquem Griffin (4.38). But Simmons wasn’t done. The expected top 10 pick showed he can leap out of and across the gym when he posted a 39” vertical and 132” broad jump. Those numbers rank third and second best, respectively, among 2020’s linebacker group. Simmons’ otherworldly combination of size and athleticism enables him to take the term “versatile” to a new level.
Henry Ruggs III — Wide Receiver — Alabama
Height: 5’11” Weight: 188 lbs Arm Length: 30 ½” Hand Size: 10 ⅛”
There was so much anticipation surrounding Ruggs’ 40 time that there was almost a sense of disappointment when he didn’t break John Ross’ record of 4.22. Let’s not lose sight of how special his time of 4.27 was. Ruggs’ 40 is tied for the fourth best of any prospect since 2006, behind only Ross, Chris Johnson (4.24) and Dre Archer (4.26). He didn’t disappoint in the other drills either. Ruggs’ 42” vertical jump was the second best at this year’s Combine and his 131” broad jump tied for fourth best among receivers. What makes Ruggs’ performance so exciting is that he’s not just a workout warrior. On the field, 21-year-old’s speed makes those around him appear like they’re moving in slow motion. Ruggs is one of the top receiver prospects in this draft.
Tristan Wirfs — Offensive Tackle — Iowa
Height: 6’5” Weight: 320 lbs Arm Length: 34” Hand Size: 10 ¼”
Men of Wirfs’ size aren’t supposed to move the way he does. His 4.85 40-yard dash was the top time among 2020’s offensive linemen and the sixth best time among O-linemen since 2006. What’s more impressive is the fact he somehow got his 320-pound frame 36.5 inches off the ground! That number is the highest of any offensive lineman’s vertical jump dating back to 2006. Wirf’s broad jump of 121” was also historic and ties the Raiders’ Kolten Miller for top spot at the position since 06’. His three-cone and 20-yard shuttle times also rank top seven in this year’s offensive line class. The former Hawkeye will likely be a top-15 selection come April.
Chase Claypool — Wide Receiver — Notre Dame
Height: 6’4” Weight: 238 lbs Arm Length: 32 ½” Hand Size: 9 ⅞”
Claypool tacked on nearly ten pounds since the Senior Bowl, but it certainly didn’t slow him down. His 4.42 40 time ranks seventh best among this year’s receivers, many of whom weigh a good 20-40 pounds less. The Notre Dame standout joined Calvin “Megatron” Johnson as the only wideout 6’4” & 235 pounds or bigger to run a sub-4.45, according to NFL.com. Claypool’s 40.5” vertical ranks fourth at the position in 2020 and his 126” broad jump is also impressive given his size. Due to his stature, there has been talk of having Claypool play as a “move” tight end at the next level, like Evan Engram does for the Giants. Wherever he lines up, Claypool is a mismatch weapon whose name is quickly rising up draft boards.
Willie Gay Jr. — Linebacker — Mississippi State
Height: 6’1” Weight: 243 lbs Arm Length: 32 ⅝” Hand Size: 10 ½”
While Gay Jr. isn’t regarded as the high-level NFL prospect others on this list are, his performance at the Combine turned heads. His 4.46 40-yard dash time and 39.5” vertical jump both rank second among this year’s linebackers, and his 136” broad jump ranks first. You’ll struggle to find 243-pound men who can move like that regardless of position. Gay Jr. is currently a far better athlete that football player, but he has the kind of freakish athleticism that NFL teams like to invest in during the later rounds.