Football's greatest minds will get together at the NFL Combine this week to poke, prod and time college football's most elite players. If history has proven anything, however, it is that freak athletes, generational speedsters and rocket arms don't always equate to success in the NFL.
Every year there is at least one player who shoots up the draft board after a mesmerizing week at the combine. And although Al Davis is no longer around to draft those players, someone will–based on speed alone.
With that in mind, we take a look at the NFL Combine Beasts who became NFL Busts.
It's only right we start with one of Davis' last grasps at death-defying speed. At the 2009 Combine, Heyward-Bey clocked a 4.30 40-yard dash. Before Davis could wipe the drool off his face, he vaulted Heward Bey to the top of his draft board. He was projected as a late first, early second and was a surprise to everyone at number seven. Heyward-Bey has moved around a lot in his career, never living up to the exptectations. He also was taken ahead of wide receivers like Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin.
NFLN: Vernon Gholston – 2008 Combine Performance
Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston's performance and Highlights from the 2008 NFL combine.
Gholston was on people's draft board after amassing 14 sacks his junior year at Ohio State. Then he showed up at the Combine and turned Indianapolis into his very own playground. He tied number one pick, Jake Long, for most bench press reps at 225 (37), and led his position in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (35.5) and broad jump (10-5).
The Jets took Gholston No. 6 overall. All the stellar numbers did not translate to the gridiron. Gholston was out of football after three seasons and just five starts for the Jets.
Jones walked into the Combine as an average quarterback. After posting a 4.37 40 and a 39.5 vertical leap, he walked out a bona fide first-round wide receiver prospect.The Jaguars drafted the 6-foot-6-inch, 242-pound Jones 21st overall — three picks in front of Aaron Rodgers, six picks ahead of Roddy White. In four seasons, Jones averaged 538 yards on 41 receptions and four touchdowns.
Mandarich is the gold standard for NFL busts. At the Combine, the "Incredible Bulk" ran a 4.65 in the 40, showed off a 30” vertical and 10-3 broad jump–at 300 pounds. He pressed 39 reps of 225 pounds on the bench to end the session.
Mandarich was the second pick in one of the most loaded drafts in NFL history. He is the only player in the top five who is not in the Hall of Fame. Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders were taken after him.
Mamula was a pass rusher from Boston College who notched 13 sacks and made the All-Big East team as a defensive end. Heading into the Combine he was projected as a third-round pick. He benched 225 pounds 28 times, had a vertical jump of 38.5 inches, and ran the 40 in 4.58 seconds. He also scored a 49 out of 50 on the Wonderlic.
The Eagles were so enamored with Mamula's performance, they took him seventh, over players like Warren Sapp, Joey Galloway, Derrick Brooks and Ty Law. To add insult to injury, the Eagles traded their No. 12 overall pick and two second-round selections to the Buccaneers in order to move up. Mamula played just five seasons, retiring in 2000. He finished with 31.5 sacks and 156 tackles in 64 starts.
Mamula has become the cautionary tale. Every year, however, there is at least one player who jumps up people's boards because of a strong Combine.
Who will it be this year?