2024 Scouting Combine: Workout warriors to watch in Indy

Selected one spot ahead of Patrick Mahomes, John Ross III caught 62 passes during his five-year career, but man could he run.

Ross was the ninth overall pick by Cincinnati in the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s famous — well, infamous — for clocking the fastest verified 40 time this century at the NFL Scouting Combine. Ross covered 40 yards in 4.22 seconds and ran his way into the top 10 picks in the draft.

With 17 TD catches as a junior, Ross decided to exit Washington a year early and enter the draft. But Ross delayed shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in order to be on the field in front of scouts in Indianapolis.

He never did outrun injury woes.

At the finish line of his record 40-yard run, he strained his calf and couldn’t participate in position drills.

While there were definite flashes of greatness — seven TD catches in 2018, back-to-back 100-yard games to begin the 2019 season — Ross had knee, shoulder and foot injuries before demanding a trade from the Bengals in 2020. He wasn’t traded, but was done in Cincinnati and reclamation bids with the Giants and Chiefs never took.

There are many similar stories of players recognized more for their workout numbers and seasoned scouts understand the warning labels warranted for prospects who win the underwear Olympics in Indianapolis.

By the same token, there are stories of fringe prospects who “win” the combine each year with the traits and on-field results to indicate they’re worth a little bit extra on draft day.

The jury remains out on former Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, the No. 4 pick in the 2023 draft, who left Indianapolis last March as one of the biggest winners. He showcased size (official measurements of 6-4, 244), speed (4.43 40) and rocket arm evident in on-field position drills. He went from a top-32 grade to a top-10 grade in a blink.

Here are the leading candidates for the all-workout team at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine:

CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama: When Arnold committed to the Crimson Tide he did so with the understanding he was welcome to join Nate Oats’ basketball team at the end of the season. But since college football season in Tuscaloosa typically means after the College Football Playoff, Arnold never suited up to play hoops. His vast athleticism, competitiveness and speed are draws for the first-round cover man who could be a top-10 candidate with a superb showing when defensive backs work out for scouts Friday.

WR Keon Coleman, Florida State: How freaky was the FSU receiver room last season? The sidekick to 6-6, 237-pound teammate Johnny Wilson with the Seminoles, Coleman rates as a top-50 pick based on our projections. He dominates in jump-ball situations and has good speed for a 6-4 target. More than the 40-yard dash figure, the explosiveness expected from Coleman’s broad jump, vertical and his 10-yard split out of the blocks can boost the former Michigan State Spartans basketball player into the top 30.

CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: For those new to the Mitchell Bandwagon, now’s the time to get on board. His short-area explosion was a factor in ranking second in the FBS in pass deflections and his long speed was rarely tested. A 40-yard time in the 4.3s wouldn’t be a surprise for Mitchell, widely heralded as a first-round pick at the Senior Bowl.

WR Malik Nabers, LSU: Separation Saturday is a legit chance for Nabers to grab the No. 1 ranking at wide receiver for teams viewing Marvin Harrison Jr. and Nabers as 1 and 1A in the position pecking order. Wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks are on the field Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium and Nabers appears to be a lock to run in the 4.4 range based on his 100-meter time at Comeaux High School in Lafayette. He was timed before committing to Mike Leach at Mississippi State — Nabers flipped his commitment to LSU — in the 40 and ran a 4.4 at age 17 with a 38-inch vertical.

Edge Demeioun “Chop” Robinson, Penn State: Robinson committed to building an NFL-ready body at this time last year. That’s not to say he wasn’t already working with NFL timber.

Robinson weighed more than 14 pounds at birth and at 6-3, 255, he has a grade worthy of a top-20 pick before the combine.

A transfer from Maryland, Robinson said he added 10 pounds of muscle and reduced his 40-yard dash time to 4.47 seconds in 2023. Only six edge players this century have clocked under 4.47 seconds in Indy.

As a pass rusher first, Robinson’s first 10 yards will be scrutinized but he’s expecting to be in the 1.51-1.52 range. That’s the same get-off time as Georgia’s Nolan Smith (first round, Eagles, 2023) at last year’s combine. Only four edge players since 2000 have topped that time.

CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson: If Wiggins’ size is confirmed at a suspected 6-2, 195 and he runs as fast as scouts expect, he would become a candidate to be drafted in the top 15 despite being knocked for a track mentality. The direct implication that Wiggins isn’t physical enough for the NFL has dropped other superior athletes lower in the draft than expected. But the current trend toward tall and long-limbed cornerbacks is here to stay.

WR Roman Wilson, Michigan: Get ready for numbers that imply Wilson has been training for this moment his whole life. Because, well, he has.

So focused on this goal way back in seventh and eighth grade that he legitimately flew to his first several high school attendance days a few islands over in Oahu, Wilson won’t disappoint with sudden change-of-direction agility in short shuttle tests and can be in the discussion as one of the fastest players in attendance this week.

Former Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said Wilson won the “fastest man” label at Michigan the old-fashioned way, with a few footraces in fall camp. Wilson was timed at 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. He’s worked with speed coach David Kamalani since middle school and his mom was a high school track star at St. Ignace in Michigan who lost only one race. A Hawaii native who attended the same high school as Tua Tagovailoa, Wilson also has a vertical in the high 30s.