NFL Workout Wonders Who Worked Out
By Charlie Bernstein
Posted Jul 22, 2009
Ten players who boosted their stock considerably due to their big-time workouts, and their teams who have not regretted the moves.
When the phrase “workout wonder” is uttered in NFL circles, it almost always has a negative connotation. Guys like Matt Jones, Mike Mamula, Akili Smith, and Tony Mandarich typify what most NFL general managers are most scared of, players whose college careers were good, but not fantastic, but leap up in the draft due to fantastic workouts. Then those players immediately flame out in the pros, and everybody can point and say, “I told you so.”
We decided to go the other way and find some of these players who boosted their stock considerably due to their big-time workouts, and their teams have not regretted the moves.
1. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans- Williams had a solid collegiate career at North Carolina State, but his team finished just 7-5 during his final year, despite having Williams as well as Manny Lawson, John McCargo, and DeMario Pressley on the defensive line. Williams workouts vaulted him to a surprise top-overall pick, and he’s had 26 sacks combined in his last two seasons which included a Pro Bowl selection in 2008.
2. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans- Although Chris Johnson had a big senior year at ECU as he gained 1,423 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, many believed that his production came against inferior competition in the Conference USA. Johnson ran a 4.24 second 40-yard dash at the combine and was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the 24th pick in the first round in 2008. As a rookie, Johnson earned a Pro Bowl selection by gaining 1,228 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
3. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Arizona Cardinals- Although Rodgers-Cromartie had a fine career at Tennessee State, he was only a third-team All-America corner as a senior. Fueled by a position-best 4.28 second 40-yard dash at the combine, Rodgers-Cromartie’s stock went way up and he was selected by the Cardinals with the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft. As a rookie, Rodgers-Cromartie was the best defensive back on the team and could be the best corner in his conference in 2009.
4. Antonio Cromartie, CB, San Diego Chargers- In three years at Florida State, Cromartie’s numbers were pedestrian at best, as he failed to register a single interception and missed the entire 2005 season with a torn ACL. Still, Cromartie’s 6’3”, 200 lb. frame with a 4.38 second 40-yard dash and 42 inch vertical leap at his pro day boosted him to first-round status. San Diego took Cromartie with the 19th overall pick in the 2006 draft and the team hasn’t missed the playoffs since, and Cromartie has been a playmaker at the NFL level.
5. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers- Jennings was a very productive receiver at Western Michigan, but there were certain questions about the level of competition he faced. Jennings had a fine combine which included a 4.42 second 40-yard dash and a 36 inch vertical leap which caused the Packers to select him with the 52nd overall pick (second round) in the 2006 draft. Since being drafted, Jennings has averaged nearly 1,000 yards receiving per season and has 24 touchdowns. His best year came in 2008 when he caught 80 passes for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns which earned him a Pro Bowl selection.
6. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars- As a running back at UCLA, Jones-Drew’s highest rushing total was just 1,007 yards as a sophomore. Although the 5’7” back had great hands and kick return ability, most saw him as purely a third-down back on the next level. Jones-Drew’s 4.39 second 40-yard dash at the combine boosted the miniature back into the second round, as he was taken with the 60th overall pick by the Jaguars in the 2006 draft. Since being selected, Jones-Drew has been the Jaguars top playmaker and face of the franchise, as he’s scored 42 touchdowns in just three seasons.
7. Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins- Ronnie Brown was never “the man” at Auburn, as he split time with Carnell Williams. Brown only went over 1,000 yards once on the ground (2002- 1,008 yds.), and there were certain questions of whether he can be an effective back on his own. Brown’s 6’0”, 233 lb. frame, combined with a 4.43 second 40-yard dash at the combine vaulted him to the second-overall pick in the 2005 draft. Despite battling knee injuries as a pro, Brown has averaged over 1,100 yards from scrimmage and earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2008.
8. Nick Collins, S, Green Bay Packers- Nick Collins wasn’t highly recruited out of high school and attended Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, FL. Collins earned third-team All-America I-AA honors as a senior after leading the MEAC in interceptions (six). A 40-yard dash of 4.36 seconds at the combine, in addition to a 40 inch vertical leap made Collins a second-round selection (#51 overall) in the 2005 draft. Since arriving in Green Bay, Collins has been a legit playmaker as he’s scored four defensive touchdowns and had seven interceptions in 2008 while playing in just 10 games, earning him a spot in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
9. Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts- Addai was a solid running back at LSU, but never topped 1,000 yards in any of his four collegiate seasons. His fine combine performance which included a 4.40 40-yard dash and a 38.5 inch vertical leap helped convince Colts general manager Bill Polian to select him with the 30th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Since being selected, Addai helped the Colts win a Super Bowl as a rookie, and has been over 1,400 yards from scrimmage twice, including 30 career touchdowns. Addai enjoyed his best season as a pro in 2007, as he ran for 1,072 yards, caught 41 passes for 364 yards, and had 15 total touchdowns, earning him a Pro Bowl selection.
10. Shawne Merriman, LB, San Diego Chargers- Merriman was a solid player at the University of Maryland, but started just 17 of 38 games and had a career high of 85 tackles, which is somewhat pedestrian. At 6’5”, 272 lbs, Merriman ran in the 4.6’s in the 40-yard dash and registered a 40 inch vertical leap, which vaulted him into the first round, where the Chargers selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. Since being selected, Merriman has earned three Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro selections, while being named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2005.
The year's upcoming draft and the college game can be discussed here.
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