The 2022 NFL Combine opened their on-field drills on Thursday night, with the tight ends taking the field first, followed by two combined groups of quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Speed was on display throughout the evening hours, as this was collectively the fastest group of wide receivers to ever grace the field of Lucas Oil Stadium. On Thursday night, nine receivers ran sub-4.4 40-yard-dashes, 12 if you give preference to the unofficial hand times.
Let’s look at the official sub-4.4 times:
- Tyquan Thornton, Baylor: 4.28
- Velus Jones, Tennessee: 4.31
- Calvin Austin III, Memphis: 4.32
- Alec Pierce, Cincinnati: 4.33
- Danny Gray, SMU: 4.33
- Bo Melton, Maryland: 4.34
- Christian Watson, North Dakota State: 4.36
- Garrett Wilson, Ohio State: 4.38
- Chris Olave, Ohio State: 4.39
If a lot of those names look familiar, then thanks for reading our draft coverage because we have written articles that have included breakdowns on all but Thornton—who surprised us all by running a sub-4.3 (of note: the unofficial hand time for his run was a stunning 4.21, which would have been a Combine record).
But it goes beyond speed with this group, as several others shined in measured testing as well as in on-field drills. And good news for the Detroit Lions, when the receivers were running through their workouts, wide receiver coach Antwaan Randle El had a front-row seat for a bunch of the drills, giving him a unique perspective of the group.
Let’s take a look at the rest of those who stood out.
Christian Watson, NDSU, 6-foot-4, 208
4.36 (40), 38.5” vertical jump, 11-foot-4 broad jump (best in group)
Watson was freakish in his scores, not only running a sub-4.4 but also exploding through the jump drills. But it wasn’t just super impressive testing numbers, Watson also shined in drills. He looked smooth, fast, and strong in the Gauntlet, was impressive in the 15-yard square-in, among others. At his height, with these athletic markers, and building off a strong Senior Bowl and Combine, Watson’s stock is rising as quickly as any player in this class.
Chris Olave, Ohio State, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 187
4.39 (40), 32” vertical, 10-foot-4 broad jump
Olave’s numbers were solid but he stole the show in on-field drills. Quarterbacks were routinely overthrowing the receivers on the go-routes, but Olave looked fast, under control, and didn’t get outthrown. He checked enough boxes that should get him drafted in the first round.
George Pickens, Georgia, 6-foot-3 1⁄4, 195
4.47 (40), 33” vertical jump, 10-foot-5 broad jump
When we started the day, I mentioned Pickens as my choice as the player I was most excited to watch, pointing to him needing a solid 40 time to help solidify his stock—and a 4.47 gets that box checked. I didn’t see him in any on-field drills, but it’s unclear if he was just a victim of the televised commercials during his routes, or if he opted not to participate, remembering that he is only a year removed from an ACL.
Taking care of business
Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), Treylon Burks (Arkansas), and Jahan Dotson (Penn State) all left Indianapolis having solidified their stock. Pretty much all their testing numbers were on par with expectations, and each looked strong in on-field drills. All three have a legitimate shot of being first-round picks, while Wilson and Burks are likely battling to see who can be the first receiver selected.
Freaky athletes that I need to go back and study more
Tyquan Thornton (Baylor, 6-foot-2 1⁄2, 181)
4.28 (40), 36.5” vertical jump, 10-foot-10 broad jump
Kevin Austin (Notre Dame, 6-foot-2 1⁄2, 200)
4.43 (40), 39” vertical jump, 11-foot-0 broad jump, 4.15 short shuttle
Isaiah Weston (Northern Iowa, 6-foot-3 1⁄2,214)
4.42 (40), 20 bench press (1st in group), 40” vertical jump (2nd), 11-foot-3 broad jump (2nd)
Skyy Moore (Western Michigan, 5-foot-9 1⁄2, 195) looked smooth in routes, quick in and out of his breaks, and likely solidified himself as a second-round pick.
Calvin Austin III (Memphis, 5-foot-8, 170) was third in the 40 (4.32 seconds), third in the vertical jump (39-inches), second in the broad jump (11-foot-3), and first in the short shuttle (4.07 seconds). At his size, he needed a performance like this to illustrate that his game tape is translatable.
Alec Pierce (Cincinnati, 6-foot-3, 211) had a very strong Combine with a 4.33 (40), 40.5” vertical jump, and 10-foot-9 broad jump. His height checked another box and he likely solidified himself as a top-100 WR-Z who can threaten defenses deep.
Danny Gray (SMU, 6-foot-0, 186) also ran a 4.33 (40) and showed some vertical skill in drills. He still feels like a Day 3 sleeper.
Velus Jones (Tennessee, 6-foot-0, 204) had several strong routes that showed off some technical advancements to his game. Add in his 4.31 (40) and kick return skills, and he’s going to have the attention of a lot of teams.
David Bell (Purdue, 6-foot-1, 212) ran a disappointing 4.65 (40) and was on the wrong side of average in most other testing. For those who believe in his game film, this performance could be just what the doctor ordered as he could slip in the draft, providing value. I’d be curious to see his GPS data from Purdue, and I guarantee Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes already has his hands on it.