Legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis arrived at the NFL Combine in 2009 armed with the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft and determined to resurrect the formula from the franchise’s glory days.
Infatuated by blinding speed dating to the infancy of the AFL, Davis surveyed a draft class that was top-heavy at wide receiver (six wound up going in the first round alone).
In one of his final drafts before his death in 2011, Davis stunned pundits by tabbing Darrius Heyward-Bey of the University of Maryland at No. 7. Heyward-Bey had only 13 touchdown receptions in three seasons at Maryland but managed to erase three seasons of average productivity in a flash at the combine.
Heyward-Bey ripped off the fastest time in the 40-yard dash with a 4.30 clocking, prompting the Raiders to vault the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder ahead of more highly regarded prospects such as Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin.
Heyward-Bey lasted four seasons in Oakland, posting career highs of 64 catches for 975 yards in 2011, but he was cut loose after those numbers dipped to 41 receptions for 605 yards the following year.
Heyward-Bey is among a number of players whose careers never took off after their performances at the NFL Combine.
Vernon Gholston, defensive end, 2006
After amassing 14 sacks in his final season at Ohio State, Gholston was touted as a potential first-round pick before he lit up the combine with an otherworldly performance.
The media puts way to much attention on the combine. Stephen Hill & Vernon Gholston also had incredible combines and how did that work out?
Packing a chiseled 266 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, Gholston tied Jake Long — the eventual No. 1 overall pick — for the most reps (37) in the 225-pound bench press and was tops at his position in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (35.5) and broad jump (10-5).
Gholston’s stock skyrocketed and the New York Jets snatched him up with the No. 6 pick, but he was a shell of the combine superstar in his three seasons. Gholston made only five starts, notching 42 tackles and failing to record a sack before he was released by the Jets.
Chris Henry, running back, 2007
There wasn’t much to separate Henry and Adrian Peterson at the 2007 NFL Combine.
Not only did Henry match Peterson for the fastest 40-yard time (4.40) among running backs, he also tied the Vikings superstar for the top broad jump (10-7) while finishing fourth in the bench press (26 reps) at his position.
Henry parlayed his combine performance into a second-round selection (No. 50 overall) of the Tennessee Titans, but the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder’s college days proved to be a better indicator of his talent. He appeared in only 11 games in four seasons, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
Steelers running back Dri Archer ran the second-fastest 40 time in combine history but failed to get through two seasons with the team.
Dri Archer, running back, 2014
Small school. Small stature. Those were the two major hurdles facing Archer coming out of Kent State in the 2014 draft.
The 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer quickly doused any concerns by turning in a blazing 4.26 40 — the second-fastest time ever posted at the combine behind Chris Johnson’s 4.24 in 2008. A third-round draft pick, he lasted 1 1/2 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing for only 40 yards on 10 carries before he was released.
Bruce Campbell, offensive tackle, 2010
Campbell caused a stir by clocking a 4.85 40 at 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds – one of the fastest ever by an offensive lineman at the combine. He also had 34 reps in the bench press and a vertical jump of 32 inches.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus trumpeting Campbell as a top-10 pick but he went to the Raiders in the fourth round and lasted three seasons in the NFL, never making a start while appearing in 19 games with Oakland and the Carolina Panthers.
Margus Hunt, defensive end, 2013
A track and field athlete who grew up in Estonia, Hunt didn’t play football until he arrived at Southern Methodist University. The 6-foot-8, 277-pounder tore up the combine, tying for the best performance in the bench press (38 reps) while posting an eye-opening 4.6 in the 40 and a vertical jump of 34.5-inches.
Compared to Arizona’s Calais Campbell, Hunt was the No. 53 overall pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, but he has yet to earn a start in 29 games, notching 12 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in three seasons.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill couldn’t hang on for more than two seasons with the Jets, managing a total of 45 receptions.
Stephen Hill, wide receiver, 2012
Hill’s opportunities were limited in a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, although he did average 29.3 yards on 28 receptions in his final season. He made a splash at the combine with the second-fastest 40 time (4.36) while tying for first in the broad jump (11-1) and vertical jump (39.5 inches).
The 43rd pick of Rex Ryan and the Jets, Hill averaged fewer than two receptions per game (45 in 23 games) with a combined four touchdowns in his two seasons before he was released and signed to Carolina’s practice squad in 2014.
Taylor Mays, safety, 2010
A four-year starter and All-American at the University of Southern California, Mays also put on a show in Indianapolis. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Mays clocked the fastest 40 time for a safety with a dazzling 4.43. He also posted a top-10 number in the vertical jump (41-0) while adding 24 reps in the bench press.
Mays was drafted No. 49 overall by the San Francisco 49ers but was traded after one season to the Bengals, where he spent four seasons. Released and re-signed by the Raiders in 2015, Mays has started only 15 of 80 career games and has yet to record an interception.
Barkevious Mingo, defensive end, 2013
At 241 pounds, the 6-foot-4 Mingo was shifted to linebacker after the Cleveland Browns took him with the No. 6 overall selection in the 2013 draft. He sped to the second-fastest time in the 40 (4.58) while also posting top-two numbers among defensive end in the vertical jump (37.0), 3-cone drill (6.84) and broad jump (10-8).
Mingo had eight sacks in his second season at Louisiana State, a number that dwindled to 4.5 the following season. A similar trend is unfolding with the Browns – after collecting five sacks as a rookie, Mingo had two in his second season and none in 2015 while falling into a backup role.