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NFL Combine: Top Running Back Performances

By Ryan Mayer

The NFL combine workouts begin today with three position groups of players going through the rotation of drills as we all watch breathlessly (don’t lie some of you are). As we prepare to marvel at the athletic feats of these players that overall have nothing to do with on-field production, here’s the previous running backs that have set records in each drill and how their careers turned out. 

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Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

40-yard dash – Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina (2008): Johnson continues to be a legend this time of year with his official 40 time of 4.24 seconds standing out ahead of all challengers since 2008. There’s even a million dollar offer for any athlete that can surpass his time. CJ2K’s career has gone pretty well as in eight seasons he’s rushed for 9,442 yards, 54 touchdowns with a 4.5 yards per carry average. 

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Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Bench Press – Tommy Bohanon, FB, Wake Forest (2013): Unsurprisingly, a fullback holds the record in this category which has absolutely nothing to do with the running back position. At least, you can argue that the 40 has the ability to show the kind of burst a player has. Regardless, Bohanon in 2013 put up 36 reps of 225 pounds and has since made a nice career for himself as the lead blocker for the New York Jets rushing attack. True fullbacks are rarely seen in the league anymore, but Bohanon has been on the Jets roster for the past three years and has played in all 16 games twice. 

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Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Vertical Jump – Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M (2013): Michael had a pretty impressive overall combine performance in addition to his record performance for a running back in the vertical (43 inches), he posted a 4.54 in the 40, 27 reps on the bench, a 10’4″ broad jump, 6.69 3-cone drill, and a 4.02 20-yard shuttle. That performance led the Ravens to take him in the 2nd round (62nd overall) and trade him to the Seahawks. He didn’t play much as the back-up to Marshawn Lynch before being overtaken for that role by Thomas Rawls this season. He was then released and picked up by the Cowboys this year. He’s played just 22 games in three seasons carrying 106 times for 497 yards and 0 touchdowns. 

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Credit: Getty Images

Broad Jump – Anthony Alridge, RB, Houston (2008): Alridge set the record for running backs at 11’2″ in 2008, but he went undrafted before being signed by the Broncos. He has never appeared in an NFL game – bouncing from the Broncos to the Redskins, Texans, Redskins and finally Toronto Argonauts (CFL) practice squads. 

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Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

3 cone Drill – Chris Rainey, RB, Florida (2012): Rainey was another of the Florida playmaker type backs who were mainly known for speed and he proved it at the combine. His 6.5 second 3-cone drill is the record for backs, but he also recorded a 3.93 20 yard shuttle which is the record for the position. Combine that with a 4.45 40-yard time and 11.06 60-yard shuttle, and Rainey was taken in the 5th round (159th overall) by the Steelers. He played just one season there before being let go and picked up by the Colts. After “violating team rules,” he was let go by Indy as well and hasn’t been in the league since. 

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Credit: Sean M Haffey/Getty Images

60 yard shuttle – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (2015): Gordon was one of two backs drafted in the 1st round in 2015 and his college stats were a big part of the reason why. Of course, setting the position record in this drill probably didn’t hurt with an 11-second time. Taken by the Chargers with the 15th pick, he had an up and down first season with injuries limiting him to 14 games. He carried 184 times for 641 yards behind a beat up Chargers offensive line. 

As you can tell, individual performance in these drills isn’t a great indicator of career success as only three of these guys are still in the league. Only one (Johnson) could be considered a star player. Granted, Gordon will have his chance, but this illustrates further that combine drill performance isn’t always indicative of NFL success. 

 Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.

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