The NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and hundreds of prospects are getting themselves ready for the three-day event that runs April 29 to May 1. The draft isn’t just a chance for teams to pick players; it’s a full-blown cultural phenomenon and an in-depth (and somewhat bizarre) test for players. Athletes are treated like commodities and have their bodies examined with a fine-toothed comb, all in hopes of being rewarded with a high draft pick—and a contract worth millions of dollars.
For the first time since the early 1980s, there is no centralized NFL Scouting Combine. In normal years, 300-some prospects descend on one city to go through rigorous, standardized physical testing. Instead, all of those workouts are happening at universities’ “pro days.” The schools host coaching and scouting staffs from the 32 NFL teams, and the players perform workouts on their former college campuses.
The lack of a central combine has not meant a lack of eye-popping athletic achievements, however, and a few players have put up outrageous numbers. Here are six of those standout efforts, along with analysis of how these workout warriors will translate their physical talents to the field next fall.
Jaylen Twyman is FIRED UP 🔥
4️⃣0️⃣ reps on the 225 Bench Press
💪 @JaylenTwyman 💪
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) March 17, 2021
Pitt defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman’s 40 bench press reps
Twyman benched 225 pounds 40 times before an audience of NFL scouts and coaches, then stood up and made sure everyone knew it. (Ohio State DT Tommy Togiai also hit 40 reps on the bench.) Twyman was a force in the middle of the defensive line for the Panthers. He’s somewhat small for the position and measured just 6’1” and 301 pounds at his pro day, but he bears some similarities to Aaron Donald, another undersized Pitt defensive tackle who has since gone on to become the best player in the NFL.
The 40 reps on the bench are a high mark for the 2021 draft class, according to data from Sports Reference, and not too far from the all-time Combine record of 49, set in 2011 by Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea. On the bench and on the field, Twyman is a monster.
— Herb Lawrence (@Ecnerwal23) March 17, 2021
Illinois receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe’s 46.5-inch vertical leap
Imatorbhebhe’s vert was higher than any other player on the pro day circuit this year. He’s a big, physical wideout who can line up on the outside and win contested catches against cornerbacks. For proof, just check out his highlight reel.
Another impressive vertical leap from this cycle came from Purdue receiver Rondale Moore, who pulled off a 42.5-inch leap and paired it with a stunning 4.29-second 40-yard dash. (Imatorbhebhe’s time was 4.48 seconds.)
— NFL (@NFL) March 25, 2021
Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh’s 4.36-second 40-yard dash
Oweh is a 6’5”, 257-pound defensive end. He is not supposed to be able to move this fast. Although pro day 40 times are unofficial—they’re timed with stopwatches and not the lasers that are typically used at the central Combine—it’s clear Oweh was booking it.
Setting aside wide receivers and defensive backs, his time is the fastest in this year’s draft. And if you believe the unofficial numbers, it’s the fastest dash time a defensive end or linebacker has run this century. Oweh only had seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in three seasons at Penn State, and it’ll be interesting to see if his physical gifts translate to playing time and production in the NFL.
Justin Fields with the strong dime 🎯💪
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 30, 2021
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields making this incredible throw (and running a 4.44)
Fields’ 4.44-second 40 time was eye-catching. It was the second-fastest recorded time for a draft QB prospect since 2000, falling behind Robert Griffin III’s 4.33 in 2012. But if you really want to see why Fields is such a unique player (and why he might go in the top five picks), all you really need to see is his pass in the video above. There’s no substitute for arm talent, and Fields’ ability to throw on the run is special.
South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn had an absurd 11’1” broad jump yesterday 🤯
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) March 25, 2021
South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn’s 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump
The son of longtime NFL receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee is one of the best defensive backs in the draft class. His athleticism is one of his strongest traits, and you can see it here. Horn also ran the 40 in a reported 4.39 seconds—he weighs 205 pounds, and that’s tremendous speed for someone his size. In addition, his 41.5-inch vertical is in the top 50 of all players since 2000. On the field, Horn can use both physicality and speed to cause real problems for any receiver lined up against him.
If there had been another measurement on there, Marco Wilson would’ve hit it
— Kassidy Hill (@KassidyGHill) March 31, 2021
Florida cornerback Marco Wilson’s entire workout
Wilson’s recorded pro day numbers: At 5’11” and 191 pounds, he ran the 40 in 4.37 seconds, achieved a 43.5-inch vert, performed 26 bench press reps, and naild a broad jump of 11 feet, 4 inches. All of those performances are in the top 50 among all draft prospects since 2000. Wilson really put on a show for the NFL.
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