After a whirlwind week in Indianapolis, the NFL Scouting Combine has come to a close. The four days of on-field work for the 319 prospects in attendance gave us plenty of wow moments and plenty of reason to go back and watch a bunch more tape on players who impressed with their athletic achievements on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Here's my top five guys that turned heads by turning in some incredible performances:
5. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Christian Gonzalez came into the Combine ranked by many evaluators as one of the top three corners in this draft class. A performance in Indy that included a 4.38 40-yard dash, 41.5-inch vertical jump, 11-foot-1 broad jump, elite fluidity and change of direction during the field drills for a 6-foot-1, 197-pound corner makes striking through those bolded words above a far less bold opinion.
On a night where other top corners like Illinois' Devon Witherspoon (hamstring) & Penn State's Joey Porter, Jr (withdrew after 40-yard dash) did not compete in the on-field workout, Gonzalez shined under the Lucas Oil Stadium spotlight. For some context on what Gonzalez achieved in Indy, his Combine measurables and athletic testing compare favorably to Jeff Okudah who was drafted No. 3 overall in 2020 by the Lions, while Next Gen Stats blended Gonzalez's Combine performance with his production throughout his collegiate career to spit out a comparison to Saints Pro Bowl CB Marshon Lattimore.
4. Blake Freeland, OL, BYU
The offensive lineman as a whole sent the Combine out on a high note after the final day of on-field workouts. Well-known names like Ohio State's Paris Johnson Jr., Northwestern's Peter Skoronski and Georgia's Broderick Jones all performed like we expected for guys in the conversation to be the first OL off the board. However, it was a name a bit outside that tier that I was particularly impressed with.
We're talking about BYU tackle Blake Freeland, who stood tall – actually, stood the tallest – among the OL at 6-foot-7, and then turned in the best vertical jump we've seen from a lineman at the Combine since 2003, hitting the 37-inch mark. Freeland also won the broad jump in the OL group with a mark of 10 feet. When you combine the athleticism for a big man with his work at the Senior Bowl, the BYU Cougar is going to be elevated in draft rooms around the league for the next couple months.
3. Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
Yes, Nolan Smith deserves some major respect among the DL group for hitting a 4.39 on his 40-yard dash and I probably would've included him here if he had been able to complete the workout. Instead, we need to give our full attention to Adetomiwa Adebawore, a guy I loved watching on tape because you didn't have to know what number he was. All you had to do was look for the offensive lineman that was getting pushed the furthest into the backfield and there you'd find the Wildcat stud D-lineman.
Adebawore absolutely crushed every aspect of the Combine putting up the fastest 40-yard dash from a player 280+ pounds since 2003 with his 4.49 at 282 pounds. He also showed tremendous agility and explosive ability during the position drills, which shouldn't surprise us since the vertical jump is always a good indicator of explosive qualities and Adebawore put up the best vert for someone 280+ pounds since J.J. Watt in 2011 (AA actually out jumped J.J. by a half inch). There is some question as to where and how NFL teams will want to use Adebawore since he is a little heavier than a typical edge rusher and a little lighter than a typical defensive tackle, but that's a challenge the best defensive coordinators will gladly take with a player like this.
2. Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
The tight ends with first-round pick potential make for a crowded conversation this year as the position is as deep and talented as we've seen in a decade. One of those tight ends likely to hear his name called on night one of the draft in Kansas City is Georgia's Darnell Washington, which is crazy considering he wasn't even thought of as the top tight end on the Bulldogs' National Championship team this year, but his Combine performance just might have entered him into the top TE chats amongst NFL evaluators. The 6-foot-7, 264-pound tight end was often thought of as an extra offensive lineman with his effectiveness in the run game for the 'dogs and you could see that with the way he pushed the one-man sled in Indy with ease.
Washington looked like he played heavier in college than the 264-pound frame he showcased at the Combine, but he sure did look smooth and refined as a route runner, which wasn't a surprise after blazing a 4.64 40-yard dash, putting him in line with guys like the Ravens' Mark Andrews & Browns' David Njoku already established in the league. From start to finish, Washington was on top of his game with the entire NFL watching and speaking of finish – he literally gave us THE play of the entire Combine on his final rep when he went up on an end zone fade drill and high-pointed a pass utilizing his 83 ¾-inch wingspan, stabbing the ball with one hand and coming down in bounds for a would-be touchdown. A glimpse of the immense playmaking potential many teams will covet.
1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
Sure, Florida QB Anthony Richardson wowed us with his incredible athleticism – breaking the QB Combine record in the vertical jump (40.5 inches), leading the QB group in almost every athletic testing metric and even throwing the ball better and with more consistency then he often showed on tape – but C.J. Stroud showcased his superpower.
Already the most consistently accurate QB in this class coming in, Stroud was nearly flawless throwing routes to receivers, dotting the ball to wideouts with the precision that his friends on the Ohio State University marching band use to dot the "i" in "Ohio" on Saturdays at the Horseshoe. Stroud's ball placement and ability to make every single throw with ease and accuracy set him apart from every other QB throwing inside Lucas Oil Stadium and with Bryce Young opting to wait until Alabama's pro day in April to throw for scouts, C.J. is firmly in contention to be the first QB off the board on April 27th.
View photos of draft prospects at the 2023 NFL Combine whom top analysts are predicting the Raiders may pick at No. 7.