Commentary

Workout warriors: 10 who excelled at combine

Former NFL GM Floyd Reese identifies 10 players who improved their draft stock with outstanding combine workouts.

Originally Published: February 19, 2008
By Floyd Reese | ESPN.com

Davis Vernon, Matt Jones and Dwight FreeneyGetty ImagesFrom left, San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones and Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney excelled at their combine workouts. Freeney is a star in the NFL, but the jury is still out on Davis and Jones.
Although most experienced NFL scouts say it's difficult for a player to significantly affect his draft position at the combine, here are 10 players from the past 10 years who improved their standings with outstanding workouts:

2007: Chris Henry, Arizona -- Titans (2nd round, No. 50 overall)

As Henry lacked extensive playing time and production during his college career, he is a great example of how an impressive combine workout can improve a player's standing. Very physically mature at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, Henry went to the combine solely to show off his measurables.

2006: Vernon Davis, Maryland -- 49ers (1st round, No. 6 overall)

Following a productive junior year (51 catches, 6 TDs), Davis needed to go to the combine to show he had the speed to be a receiving weapon in the NFL. At 6-3, Davis lacks ideal size for a tight end, but he ran the fastest 40-yard dash time for a tight end in combine history (high 4.3s) and showed he had the measurables to become a productive NFL player. Davis has yet to prove himself a top-flight talent in the NFL.

2005: Michael Boulware, Florida State -- Seahawks (2nd round, No. 53 overall)

Boulware was an outstanding college player, a prototypical outside linebacker. He was smooth, athletic, quick, productive and appeared to have good speed. Following his outstanding combine workout, Boulware was drafted as a safety. Even though the Texans might move him back to his college position, it is incredible for a college linebacker to be able to step into the NFL and play safety.

2004: Matt Jones, Arkansas -- Jaguars (1st round, No. 21 overall)

Jones was an outstanding college quarterback and basketball player for the Razorbacks, but few believed he could play QB in the NFL. His size (6-6) and athleticism could have slotted him in several different positions. Following Jones' combine workout, in which he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, many scouts believed receiver was the way to go. He was drafted as a receiver by Jacksonville, but his production has been disappointing.

2003: Jonathan Sullivan, Georgia -- Saints (1st round, No. 6 overall)

Following Sullivan's brief college career, he entered the combine as part of a very deep defensive tackle group. He ran well, distinguishing himself as one of the top two or three defensive tackles in the country. In the draft, he was selected three slots above Kevin Williams. Williams, a three-time Pro Bowler, still is playing for Minnesota. Sullivan is no longer in the league.

2002: Dwight Freeney, Syracuse -- Colts (1st round, No. 11 overall)

Freeney is a great example of how an experienced general manager can sift through the combine and find gold. He is not prototypical in all of the measurables. He is not small, but he is short (6-1). However, the Colts realized a 4.48 40-yard dash time, 37-inch vertical leap and 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press were terrific numbers for a 266-pound man. Because of his combine workout, Freeney skyrocketed to the 11th pick and has been a standout for the Colts.

2001: Adam Archuleta, Arizona State -- Rams (1st round, No. 20 overall)

Archuleta is the poster boy for a great combine workout. Many say Archuleta had the finest workout for a safety in combine history. His 4.42 40-yard dash time, 39-inch vertical leap and 31 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press were impressive, but his play in the NFL never has matched that combine performance.

2000: John Engelberger, Virginia Tech -- 49ers (2nd round, No. 35 overall)

Engelberger was a mid-round player who jumped into the second round primarily because of his measurables and combine workout. A 260-pound defensive end, Engelberger ran a 4.73 40-yard dash, had a 34-inch vertical leap and had an incredible three-cone drill time of 6.95 seconds. His best position is as a 4-3 rush end, but he has shown versatility throughout his career, even playing linebacker at times. Now with Denver and entering his ninth season, Engelberger's sack (19.5) and career tackle (194) totals are not reflective of a 35th overall selection.

1999: David Boston, Ohio State -- Cardinals (1st round, No. 8 overall)

During a period in which the NFL was searching for bigger, more physical receivers, Boston was the model. He was a strong, productive college player who needed a good combine workout to improve his value. By running a mid-4.4 40-yard dash and recording a 37-inch vertical leap, Boston proved to scouts he was more than just a physical specimen. During his NFL career, Pro Bowl-caliber years were offset by periods of personal problems, injuries and lack of production. Boston is out of the league.

1998: Kyle Turley, San Diego State -- Saints (1st round, No. 7 overall)

Many scouts in the NFL liked Turley's toughness, aggressiveness and playing style. Some hoped he would perform well at the combine to rationalize picking him high. Because Turley never was the mass of humanity associated with most NFL offensive tackles, it was important for him to show off his athleticism. His 4.9 40-yard dash time and impressive performance in foot and agility drills at the combine made him look more like a tight end than an offensive tackle. Not injury or incident free, Turley, now with the Chiefs, has had a solid career.

Former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese frequently contributes to ESPN.com.

Former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese contributes frequently to ESPN.com.