The combine is a standardized test that gauges athleticism and can be a tool to measure whether a player has the ability to compete against NFL level competition. Limited athleticism creates limited potential and can decrease the range of outcomes of how a player can “win “against NFL caliber athletes.
Athletic comparables are important because it provides a visualization on how a player may look on the field at the next level. Sometimes sorting through combine data can help you find that diamond in the rough or the prospect that everyone in your league is sleeping on.
For this exercise, I used the top prospects from the combine then sorted and listed the NFL players that best compare to their athletic profiles by using height, weight and the data from their combine drills. These comps are meant to gauge a player’s athleticism and not their overall profile.
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K.D Cannon, WR Baylor
Cannon didn’t have a bad combine as he proved he has enough speed to be a deep threat for an NFL team. His 37-inch vertical indicates that he’s an explosive athlete. He’s 182-pounds, which is less than optimal for a wide receiver who typically lines up on the perimeter, and could cause problems for him when it comes to getting off the line of scrimmage while fighting press coverage.
Jehu Chesson, WR Michigan
Chesson athletically compares to Josh Doctson who was one of the top prospects last season. He checks all the boxes with size, speed, agility and burst.
Stacy Coley, WR Miami
Coley was used primarily as a deep threat in college and his 4.45 40-yard dash indicates he has just enough speed to continue his role at the NFL level. He doesn’t have elite speed but he’s fast enough to get the job done if he can evolve into a route running technician. Stefon Diggs has proven to be a successful NFL player with similar athletic specs, which is a good sign, because it tells us that Coley’s athleticism shouldn’t be the thing hinders him from becoming an asset for an NFL team.
Amara Darboh, WR Michigan
Darboh is one of the best route runners in this class and he excels at making tough contested catches. He tested better than a lot of people thought. His 214-pound frame combined with his 4.45 40-yard dash means he has the potential to beat top NFL corners on the outside. Jordan Matthews pops up on his comparable list, which is very interesting considering both players are very technical when it comes to route running and are both high-effort players.
Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
Davis didn’t perform any of the drills at the combine and therefore we don’t have any accurate athletic comparable players to list for him. I did however, sort his height and weight in the database to provide an example of players who have similar builds. Referring to his college tape while referencing the data above would provide an inference of what players he would most likely compare to.
Malachi Dupre, WR LSU
Dupre’s 39.5-inch vertical leap indicates that he has a lot of burst, which could help him explode off the line of scrimmage and allow him to get to his top speed at an accelerated rate. His 40-yard dash and three-cone times scored less than optimal.
Travin Dural, WR LSU
Dural had a lackluster performance at the combine scoring below average in the 40-yard dash, three-cone and vertical jump. The numbers indicates that he needs to be a smart technical route runner for him to succeed in the NFL.
Amba Etta-Tawo, WR Syracuse
Etta-Tawo had a highly productive senior season, catching 94 receptions for 1,482 yards and 14 touchdowns. His combine statistics suggests that he has enough size, speed and short area quickness to compete against NFL level corners.
Isaiah Ford, WR Virginia Tech
Ford is not an elite athlete but he does provide enough short area quickness and burst to potentially carve out a role with an NFL team. He compares to both Tyler Boyd and Rashard Higgins who both had highly productive collegiate careers.
Chris Godwin, WR Penn State
Godwin increased his draft stock at the combine by running a 4.42 40-yard dash at 209-pounds, making him one of the most interesting prospects amongst the wide receivers in this draft class. He compares athletically to Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins who were both considered top-flight wide receiver prospects. His 26.9 percent market share during his junior season and his 39.49 percent market share during his sophomore season combined with his athletic profile should elevate his status to one of the top receivers in this draft class.
Carlos Henderson, WR Louisiana Tech
Odell Beckham’s name is illuminated in flashing lights on Henderson’s comparable list. Keep in mind, even though their combine numbers are close, Beckham is still a shade faster, quicker and more explosive than Henderson. If anything, this list provides hope that he has enough athleticism to potentially develop into a solid wide receiver.
Zay Jones, WR East Carolina
Jones is a “Jeremy Maclin” archetype when it comes to athleticism, as both players are very similar when it comes to height, weight, speed and quickness. With 2,659 career yards, Marvin Jones has proved to be a productive player in the league. Nelson Agholor may not be living up to the hopes of many dynasty players but he was drafted in the first round, making him a high-end prospect for his draft class. Jones had an amazing senior season at ECU, catching 158 receptions for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns while owning a 43.48 percent market share of ECU’s offensive production.
Cooper Kupp, WR Eastern Washington
Quicker-than-fast, the overused statement from Mike Mayock, is the perfect description for Kupp’s combine performance. He’s not going to blow by defenders with speed but he will utilize his short area quickness to create separation from defenders. He doesn’t have an exciting list of comparables but his list shouldn’t matter as much since he excels at beating defenders with technique and precision and not athleticism and speed.
Josh Malone, WR Tennessee
Malone is an underrated prospect who has some interesting athletic comps. He was never hyper productive at Tennessee, but he did manage to own an impressive 31.35 percent market share of Tennessee’s passing offense. Martavis Bryant is the most notable player on this list as both players compare in size, speed and quickness, but Bryant’s 39-inch vertical indicates that he’s the more explosive athlete.
Josh Reynolds, WR Texas A&M
Reynolds is another player who is currently considered an under the radar prospect. The tall-lanky receiver was utilized as a deep threat with Texas A&M and his combine scores provides the inference that he has the short area quickness and explosiveness to create separation from defenders.
Jalen Robinette, WR Air Force
Robinette finished his senior season owning an unheard of 54.74 percent market share of Air Force’s passing offense. He’s a diligent route runner who does a very good job at high pointing the football while making contested catches downfield. Allen Robinson is listed as one of the prospects that compare to him which is very promising, considering Robinson arguably one of the best wide receivers in the league. Robinette is a little bit quicker than Robinson but doesn’t come close to matching up when it comes to overall explosiveness and burst.
Fred Ross, WR Mississippi State
Ross’ 213-pound frame allows him to stand out amongst most of the wide receivers, considering most of the receiving prospects weigh barely over 200-pounds or less. He’s an average athlete who’s good enough to get the job done in almost all categories of athleticism. He owned a 33.64 percent market share of Mississippi State’s passing offense during his senior season.
John Ross, WR Washington
Ross broke Chris Johnson’s previous 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds. Adidas offered an island to any prospect that broke Johnson’s record, but unfortunately, Ross decided to decline on Adidas’ offer since he doesn’t know how to swim. He has elite speed and has the potential to be a nightmare for defensive backs at the next level. Brandin Cooks seems like an accurate comp when it comes to athleticism and style of play. Cooks is a little bit more diverse when it comes to route running but both players are very dangerous with the ball in their hands.
Curtis Samuel, WR Ohio State
Samuel had an amazing combine performance posting a 4.31 40-yard dash at 196-pounds. He was utilized as both a running back and wide receiver at Ohio State and was successful at both positions. If anything, he profiles more to Percy Harvin than compared to anyone else on this list due to how he was deployed in college.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR USC
Smith-Schuster ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at 215-pounds which is a decent speed for his weight and is fast enough for him to create separation from defensive backs. Since Smith-Schuster isn’t a deep threat and will more than likely won’t be utilized as one at the NFL level, all we needed from him was to not bomb the 40-yard dash by running near the 4.7-range. Unfortunately, he didn’t participate in the three-cone drill, so we don’t have any metrics concerning his short area quickness.
Taywan Taylor, WR Western Kentucky and Ardarius Stewart, WR Alabama
Both players fall into the same arc type when it comes to their athleticism. Like most of the previously mentioned players, Stewart and Taylor are not elite athletes but have just enough athleticism to carve out a role at the NFL level.
Mike Williams, WR Clemson
Williams didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash or the three-cone, making it very hard to create an accurate list of athletic comparable players for him. All we can really gather from his data is that he definitely has the size to out muscle defensive backs at the catch point.