Winners, losers from 2023 NFL combine include C.J. Stroud, Kayshon Boutte
Winners, losers from 2023 NFL combine include Stroud, Boutte originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
It’s time to unpack what just happened at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
Over the course of a hectic week in Indianapolis, a number of draft prospects improved their stock with impressive measurements, athletic testing and workout sessions. On the other hand, others are tumbling down draft boards after struggling in key areas.
So, who helped themselves the most at the combine? And who has work to do at their upcoming pro days?
Here are some winners and losers from an action-packed week:
Winners: Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud
These two quarterbacks shined in different areas.
Starting with Richardson, the former Florida quarterback stood out – as expected – in the athletic testing and measurements. Richardson measured in at 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds before posting the highest vertical jump (40.5 inches) by any QB at the combine since at least 2003. He also tied the modern combine QB record with a 10-foot-9 broad jump and ran a 4.43 second 40-yard dash, fourth-best by a QB since 2003.
As for Stroud, the former Ohio State quarterback put on an impressive throwing display after not participating in the athletic testing. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah called it “one of the best throwing sessions” he’d ever seen at the combine. With other quarterbacks like Richardson and Will Levis rising up draft boards lately, Stroud made his case as one of the class’ best throwers.
CJ Stroud throwing moon balls. ð @OhioStateFB
ðº: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
ð±: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/adkpt7fogB
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
Winner: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Ask five experts who the top receiver in this class is, and you might just get five different answers. Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnson, Jordan Addison and Jalin Hyatt all have a case, but Smith-Njigba made the best impression at the combine.
The Ohio State product led all receivers with a 6.57-second three-cone and 3.93-second short shuttle. In the throwing session alongside his former teammate Stroud, Smith-Njigba displayed impressive route-running and sure hands. After a hamstring injury limited him to just three games last season, this was a critical performance for JSN.
I would take Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 14 overall and not look back pic.twitter.com/RyyjTQ87Bj
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) March 4, 2023
Loser: Kayshon Boutte
Before his combine performance, Boutte told the media “nobody can guard me” and “I’m still the wide receiver one (in this class).” But the LSU wideout fell flat, failing to back up his own words.
Boutte finished 39th among receivers in the 10-yard split (1.58 seconds), second-to-last in the broad jump (9-foot-10) and dead last in the vertical (29 inches). He entered last year as a preseason AP first-team All-American, but underwhelmed with 48 catches for 538 yards in 11 games. After another disappointment at the combine, Boutte’s draft stock has taken a major hit.
Winner: Darnell Washington
There aren’t many star tight ends in the NFL. But the 2023 draft class has been praised almost universally, with several potential first-round picks and even more slated to be picked on Day 2.
Washington didn’t get a ton of opportunities at Georgia, but he captured everyone’s attention at the combine. He had a size and speed profile comparable to Rob Gronkowski, widely considered the greatest tight end of all-time. While measurements and athleticism don’t necessarily guarantee pro success, Washington also showed out as a receiver – making this absurd one-handed grab:
OH MY, DARNELL WASHINGTON.
WHAT A CATCH. @GeorgiaFootball
ðº: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
ð±: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/OYN4vaJ4a3
— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023
Loser: Mike Morris
The former Michigan defensive end traveled to Indianapolis as a projected Day 2 pick, with a chance to raise his stock. That didn’t happen, though, after a rocky performance.
Morris, a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season, didn’t stand out with his 4.95-second 40-yard dash, 28.5-inch vertical and 9-foot-2 broad jump. During his on-field drills, Morris slipped multiple times and looked incapable of quick, change-of-direction movements:
Mike Morris slips a couple times in the four bag agility drill pic.twitter.com/nEcDmu1Gzy
— TheWolverine.com (@TheWolverineOn3) March 2, 2023
Winner: Nolan Smith
Similar to Washington, Smith was buried on Georgia’s insane depth chart. He played eight games last season due to a pec injury and totaled just 12.5 sacks in 38 career games. Because of all that, he entered Indy as a fringe first-round pick.
At the combine, though, the 6-foot-2, 238-pound EDGE rusher proved why he’s a clear-cut first-rounder. Smith’s vertical (41.5 inches) was in the 98th percentile and his broad jump (10-foot-8) was in the 95th percentile. He led all defensive lineman with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash – quicker than Saquon Barkley, Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins, among other NFL stars.
NFL Network announces that Georgia edge Nolan Smith, at 238 pounds, is the heaviest player with a sub 4.4 40-yard dash (4.39) and vertical over 40" (41.5") in combine history. pic.twitter.com/DnCLZirHyd
— Kipp Adams (@KippLAdams) March 2, 2023