The NFL combine workouts rarely make or break draft prospects. For all of the hype placed on the 40-yard dash, bench press, and alligator wrestling (or whatever it is they’re having these dudes do now) only two combine events usually matter to NFL teams: medical examinations and interviews. While Saquon Barkley’s ridiculous combine numbers raise eyebrows, everyone already knew he was an athletic prodigy. For a player to get seriously docked on a team’s draft board, he would have to perform stunningly below expectations — the workouts are the easiest part of the combine for players to perform well.
That is, unless you’re Orlando Brown. The gargantuan Oklahoma left tackle, who measured at 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds and was twice named Big 12 offensive lineman of the year and was a unanimous 2017 All-American, entered #draftszn among the top tier of left tackle prospects. That made it all the more shocking when he recorded historically bad combine numbers on Thursday and Friday. He clocked the slowest 40-yard dash (5.85), the shortest vertical jump (19.5 inches), and the fewest bench press reps (14 reps at 225 pounds) of any offensive lineman at the combine.
According to the Pro-Football-Reference combine database, which goes back to 2000, only one player has been drafted with a time slower than 5.85, and he was a seventh-round pick. In fact, only two players have been drafted since (at least) 2000 running slower than a 5.65.
And though an offensive tackle will never be asked to run in a straight line for 40 yards, Brown was flat-out terrible at other, more relevant events, too. Brown entered the combine a near-consensus middle-of-the-first-round pick. Now he’s logged measurables that suggest he may not be worth drafting at all.
Context on Orlando Brown's Combine, per @pfref's combine database:— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) March 2, 2018
19.5" vertical (would be worst of any player ever drafted)
82" broad jump (also would be worst ever drafted)
5.85 40 (2nd-worst, the other was a 7th-rounder in 2001)
14 bench reps (tied for 4th-worst amongst OLs)
“I didn’t stick to my breathing routine,” Brown told Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier about his bench press on Thursday. “That’s the lowest I have ever done, and I’ll redo it at my pro day. Keeping it real, it will be held against me. All my numbers will be held against me. As an offensive tackle, my numbers are going to be compared to other offensive tackles. That’s just the reality of it.”
The numbers may not concern teams as much as the reasoning behind them. If Brown doesn’t have an unreported injury that held him back, teams will surely grill him on whether or not he prepared rigorously for the combine, and teams are quick to drop players they fear may be complacent. If Brown logs better numbers at his pro day, he may end up being a bargain for teams on draft day. But if teams get the sense he didn’t take the combine seriously, whether in Indianapolis or in his preparation leading up to it, he could slide down the draft (and cost himself a lot of money). In the meantime, Brown managed the impossible: making the combine workouts matter.