New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The NFL Combine just wrapped up in Indianapolis. Every year, this is heralded as one of if not the best player evaluation opportunity throughout the entire pre-draft process. Players’ draft stocks can be majorly impacted just based on how they performed at the event.

However, it’s important to remember this is just one part of the draft process. There’s so much more to the makeup of these players than just their 40 times, bench press numbers, etc.

In fact, a number of players have gone on to have very successful NFL careers, despite disappointing Combine performances. Some of those players have even gone on to play key roles for the Patriots. Here’s five Patriots players from the Bill Belichick era who thrived in the NFL despite not having the best performance in Indianapolis…

  • WR Jakobi Meyers

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 11: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots rushes the football in the fourth quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 11: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots rushes the football in the fourth quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    When talking about the Combine and skill position players, the 40-yard dash is the first thing that comes to mind. That wasn’t great news for Meyers in 2019. His 4.63 second 40 was the second-worst among all wide receivers that year, only ahead of future Patriots Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who went undrafted.

    Meyers’ 40 time is probably a big part of the reason he went undrafted. The Patriots were still willing to give him a shot as a UDFA though, and it worked out. After playing a mostly reserve role as a rookie, he’s gone on to be the Patriots’ leading receiver in each of the last three seasons. This offseason, he projects to be the highest-paid wide receiver in free agency – despite his 40 time.

  • RB Stevan Ridley

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 20: Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots runs into the endzone past Dawan Landry #26 of the New York Jets during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – OCTOBER 20: Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots runs into the endzone past Dawan Landry #26 of the New York Jets during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Now to another skill position player who struggled in the 40. In 2011, Ridley ran the 40 in 4.65 seconds – the slowest of any running back drafted that year. His 4.21 second shuttle drill was also the seventh-slowest among drafted running backs, and his 18 reps on the bench were the third-lowest.

    Ridley would go on to have an eight-year NFL career, with four of those seasons coming in New England. Two years after his Combine performance, Ridley ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing, with 1,263 yards and was third in the league with 12 touchdowns. It’s still the second-most rushing yards for a Patriots player in the Bill Belichick era, and the most since 2004.

  • LB Brandon Spikes

    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes #55 of the New England Patriots tackles quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos during a game at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

    FOXBORO, MA – NOVEMBER 24: Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes #55 of the New England Patriots tackles quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos during a game at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

    Most Patriots fans probably remember Spikes as an explosive, hard-hitting linebacker. He was, but his Combine testing didn’t foreshadow that.

    One of the tests often linked to explosiveness is the vertical jump, which essentially tests lower body strength. Spikes had a 29-inch vertical, the worst of any linebacker in 2010.

    Still, Spikes was a regular in the Patriots’ linebacker rotation for all four years he was in New England. That included a 92-tackle season in 2012, when he also had six pass breakups.

  • G Logan Mankins

    Logan Mankins #70 of the New England Patriots gets ready on the line of scrimmage during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 27, 2005 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 26-16. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

    Logan Mankins #70 of the New England Patriots gets ready on the line of scrimmage during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on November 27, 2005 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 26-16. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

    A big part of the NFL Combine is the player measurements. It’s the first time teams get to find out objectively how big these players are, beyond the numbers given by their schools, which are usually inflated. Mankins, who played tackle in college, was 6-foot-4 but just 307 pounds, and had 33-inch arms. That all adds up to being undersized for a tackle, and suddenly had him projected as a guard.

    Mankins’ testing didn’t go great either. His 21 reps on the bench were the fifth-fewest among all offensive linemen and the third fewest for interior offensive linemen.

    Still, the Patriots saw fit to take Mankins in the first round and play him at guard. That turned out to be the right decision, as he ended up having an All-Pro caliber career, and was named a member of the NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team.

  • QB Tom Brady

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 20: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime during the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 20, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Tom Brady’s performance from the 2000 NFL Combine is, by now, stuff of legends. From his infamously awkward Combine photo, to stumbling through the 40-yard dash and shuttle drill, to a below-average hand size measurement, and more.

    Yet the rest, as they say, is history. Brady just retired as the most decorated player in the history of the sport. So let that be a consolation to any players who don’t perform the way they’re hoping to this week.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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