In my other article this week, I went through some players that I thought did well for themselves at the Combine. However, not everyone had a great week in Indianapolis. Several players damaged their draft stock through underwhelming performance, unflattering measurables, or off-the-field concerns. Here, we’ll go through the players who hurt themselves at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. Take heart though: a bad day at the Combine does not destroy your chances of becoming a high pick. Players have their Pro Days and their college tape to fall back on if need be.
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Let’s take care of the elephant in the room first. Carter didn’t mess up AT the combine so to speak, but his problem arose during the same time period. Before finishing his medical exam, he was arrested and charged with reckless driving and racing prior to a late-night crash that proved fatal. Teams supposedly already had concerns about his makeup before learning about this event (they didn’t know ahead of time as far as I’m aware), and I doubt his arrest helps his cause. Carter wasn’t going to do the on-field drills anyway, so there were no risks of a poor performance, but the Combine might have been a helpful distraction from his issues. He did return to complete his medical exam, and I don’t think any red flags came up. Many view him as the #1 prospect in the class, but teams might go with an edge rusher like Will Anderson if they’re scared off by Carter’s off-field questions.
Cam Jones, LB, Indiana
At 6’1″ and 226 pounds, Jones was one of the smaller LBs to attend the Combine. Thus, he was expected to post a fast 40 time. His 4.69 underwhelmed, and even Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network said he needed to improve upon it at his Pro Day. Both of his runs were identical, so I can’t even call it a fluke. If Jones wants to be hopeful, he can recall that just last year, Utah LB Devin Lloyd ran a subpar 40-yard dash and still got chosen in round 1. However, Lloyd is bigger than Jones, and his tape showed him playing faster than his tested speed. Jones also didn’t look particularly fluid. He must prove that he can keep up in coverage and chase skill position players from sideline to sideline. His Combine wasn’t the best first impression.
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
Winners of the Jim Thorpe award as the nation’s best DB tend to be good players. Hodges-Tomlinson certainly qualifies. He’s tough, has good instincts, and exhibits excellent athleticism. His one poor trait is something that he unfortunately can’t control: his size. Listed at 5’9″, Hodges-Tomlinson was already going to be exclusively a slot corner in the NFL. Making matters worse, his listed height was erroneous; he measured just 5 feet, 7 and 5/8″ inches. That slight frame makes him a liability against larger receivers. No matter his speed (which is good) or his coverage ability (which is also good), a taller player with longer arms can simply box him out on balls placed up high, eliminating him from the play. Although I think he outplays what his size tells you he should be, but that’s a crippling issue that could cause a talented player to drop into the middle rounds of the draft.
Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
After the first month of the college football season, Hall was generating a lot of buzz. BYU was winning, and Hall was slinging the ball everywhere. Then, the team started losing, and Hall was part of the reason why. His accuracy was problematic, he suffered an injury (a common theme for him), and though the team won games late, it was more in spite of him. Thus, throwing well at the Combine was a must. I didn’t see a good performance. He was off target on several throws, missing behind his target and low. Hall also didn’t run a 40, and running is a big part of his game. At this point, Hall has gone from a likely day 2 pick to a late-round flier. There’s still developmental upside here, but it’s not what many originally thought.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Everyone wanted Young to register at least 200 lbs on the scale. He succeeded, measuring 204 lbs. That’s still a slight build, but acceptable. The problem was his height. Alabama listed him at 6 feet tall, but the expectation was that he’d measure 5’11”. The real result was worse: 5 feet, 10 and 1/8 inches. That’s nearly identical to Kyler Murray’s listed height (though I think his is fraudulent), and that’s not good. Young will have to play exclusively in the pistol and shotgun, as he needs to stand further back to see over his linemen. His overall size is small for a QB, and though it’s possible to still have success, the odds aren’t in his favor. I don’t expect his draft stock to take much of a hit, but a key team or 2 might decide that he isn’t big enough to be their man.
Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
LSU has been a factory for WR talent, pumping out prospects like Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr, to name a few. Once Chase left for the draft, Boutte was expected to be the next great WR for the Tigers. His college career started well, but his final season was plagued by drops and injuries. Most thought he wouldn’t declare for the draft. Not only did he declare, but his stock might have sunk even more at the Combine. Boutte’s main concern was his hands; his athleticism was not in question. It is now. He ran a pedestrian 4.50 40 at 5’11”, and his jumps were among the shortest among all WRs. Boutte’s drills looked clunky, and he did not resemble a top pick in terms of polish. Staying in school would have been his best bet, but he’s now looking at a day 3 draft slot in light of his string of poor performances.
Peter Skoronski, G, Northwestern
My fears (and those of many scouts) proved true at the Combine. Skoronski does not have the length to be a tackle in the NFL. Though he seems very good athletically, his arms (32 and 1/4 inches) are too short to handle good DEs. By my tally, only one other lineman (Ohio State G Luke Wypler) had shorter arms. Some compare Skoronski to his predecessor, Rashawn Slater, but they are not the same. Slater even measured 33″, and he was an overall superior prospect. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah astutely compared him to Alijah Vera-Tucker, another player who played LT in college but became a much better guard in the NFL due to his short arms. As I referenced in the sister article to this post, Skoronski might face the same fate, which is why my position listing for him here is “G”. As guard is less valuable to GMs than tackles, he could slide a bit depending on how teams view his future position.
Tavion Thomas, RB, Utah
Thomas had an excellent 2021 season for Utah, but his 2022 campaign was not nearly as good. While still decent, he ran for .6 yards less per carry and had almost 500 fewer total yards. I saw him stopped often behind the line of scrimmage when he would have run through the contact the year prior. The Combine did not help his case to come across as a speedy back either. Thomas ran a 4.74-s 40, by far the slowest among the RBs. I get that he’s a bigger power back, but he doesn’t offer anything else. He had 10 receptions total during his college career, so I don’t expect him to play much on 3rd downs. Therefore, he profiles as a 2-down thumper (albeit a mediocre one) who will be selected on day 3. The other backs all looked superior.