Who are the 10 biggest NFL combine snubs in 2023?

TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 05: Mafi Atonio #56 of the UCLA Bruins pass blocks against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 05, 2022 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 05: Mafi Atonio #56 of the UCLA Bruins pass blocks against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 05, 2022 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

With the NFL Scouting Combine set to take place February 28 through March 6 at Lucas Oil Stadium, the NFL released the list of players invited on Wednesday. 319 2023 NFL Draft prospects will descend on Indianapolis for a week of athletic testing, interviews, and measurements as a key part of the evaluation puzzle.

Every year there are quality prospects left out of the NFL Combine process, and every year multiple non-Combine players are selected in the NFL Draft. Last year Fresno State’s DaRon Bland was snubbed, but still managed to go in the fifth-round to the Dallas Cowboys and finish his rookie season with five interceptions. Other non-Combine players to thrive in the NFL include Julian Edelman, Chris Harris Jr., Doug Baldwin, and James Harrison.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a major tool for boosting a prospects stock, but it’s not the end-all be-all of them making the leap to the next level. That’s why every year non-Combine players are selected in the NFL Draft and make an impact in the NFL. The NFL will find you, regardless of if you get the prestigious invite. This year there will be plenty of non-Combine players who make it in the NFL, so who were the biggest snubs?

Karl Brooks, DL, Bowling Green (6-3, 303)

If there was one player mentioned as an NFL Combine snub more than anyone else it was Bowling Green’s Karl Brooks. Brooks played out position as an edge rusher for the Falcons and became one of the most dominant players in the Group of Five racking up 46 TFLs and 27.5 sacks in five years.

With the size and quickness creating mismatches as an interior defensive lineman, Brooks shifted to his more natural position at the Senior Bowl last week. He was a big winner from the week in Mobile, consistently making plays as a 3-Tech and showing pass rush upside with his hand quickness. He looked like a shoo-in to be in Indianapolis; he’s still likely to be a mid-Day 3 pick.

Atonio Mafi, OG, UCLA (6-3, 338)

One of the best kept secrets in the 2023 NFL Draft, it looked as if the jig was up for Atonio Mafi after a dominant week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, but alas he was the biggest offensive snub of the NFL Combine.

A mauling run blocker fit to dominate in a gap scheme, Mafi plays with eye-popping power at the point of attack and has more pancakes on his tape than almost everyone in this draft class. At the Shrine he showed he could be a trustworthy pass protector too with  hand placement and a sturdy base and anchor.

Though he won’t be at the Combine, Mafi looks like he’s going to end up a mid to late-Day 3 steal in the draft.

Aubrey Miller, LB, Jackson State (6-0, 229)

There were more than a few HBCU prospects snubbed by the NFL Combine this year, but none more prevalent than Jackson State’s Aubrey Miller. It’s even more perplexing when taking into account how solid Miller was at the Senior Bowl last week, especially with his performance in the game.

A Missouri transfer, Miller quickly became the defensive leader for Deion Sanders defense the last two years, combining for 226 tackles, 23.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles. A hit-and-run type of linebacker, Miller is a physical sideline-to-sideline run stuffer who showed improvements in coverage in Mobile.

With the makeup of a special teams contributor and depth player, Miller is a mid to late Day 3 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft.

BJ Thompson, EDGE, Stephen F. Austin (6-5, 238)

Of all the NFL Combine snubs, BJ Thompson’s might be the toughest to swallow simply because he was poised to put on a show in Indianapolis. After showing explosiveness, fluidity, and bend all week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, Thompson firmly put himself into Day 3 contention this April.

What Thompson lacks in size and power, he makes up for in production (25.5 TFLs and 18.5 sacks in three years) and athleticism. He has the makings of a developmental edge rusher in and getting on an NFL lifting program and diet will do wonders for him.

Without the Combine, which he would have blown up, to give him a major boost, Thompson will have a tougher fight to be selected now.

Marte Mapu, LB/S, Sacramento State (6-3, 217)

Two weeks ago not a lot of people were talking about Marte Mapu, but then he looked like one of the best players at the NFLPA Bowl and parlayed it into a Senior Bowl invite. In Mobile, he came out of nowhere to put together one of the best weeks among linebackers.

Despite showing ferocity as a run defender, discipline in coverage, and having an impressive mix of size, versatility, and athleticism, Mapu didn’t catch an invite to Indianapolis. It’s a shame too because every chance he’s gotten he’s helped his stock.

Still, with what he did at the Senior Bowl and the intriguing skill set he brings to the table, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team use a late pick on him.

Drake Thomas, LB, NC State (5-11, 228)

If Drake Thomas was two inches taller he might be viewed as one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Instead, he’ll be training on his own when all the top players at his position are testing at the NFL Combine.

Thomas has some of the most electric tape in the class with his explosive downhill thumping style and impressive blitzing ability for an off-ball linebacker. The captain of the Wolfpack defense tallied 292 tackles, 46 TFLs, 19 sacks, and 4 interceptions in four years.

After going to the East-West Shrine Bowl and not only being the best linebacker there, but showing ridiculous change of direction skills, Thomas looked like an obvious NFL Combine candidate. Now he’ll have another bump in the road to overcome, along with his length; someone will bang the table to take him Day 3.

Shaquan Davis, WR, South Carolina State (6-5, 217)

Receivers over six-foot-five, 200 pounds, with 82-inch wingspans and the deep speed to take the top off a defense don’t grow on trees. Yet, Shaquan Davis wasn’t extended an NFL Combine invite.
This comes after he looked like he belonged in the NFL with a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Bowl. His ability to beat press coverage and create separation vertically while possessing the ball tracking skills and catch radius to win 50/50 balls is exactly what teams want.

The sheer amount of depth every year in the NFL Draft at the receiver position pushes talented pass catchers down the board, perhaps Davis won’t be selected without the Combine to help his stock, but he’s going to have plenty of teams calling as soon as Mr. Irrelevant is announced.

D’Shawn Jamison, CB, Texas (5-9, 186)

A four-year starter at Texas, D’Shawn Jamison has long been on the NFL Draft radar, both as a cornerback and return man. With 140 tackles, six interceptions, 17 passes defenses, and over 1,700 return yards to go with three return touchdowns, he was one of the biggest names at the East-West Shrine Bowl.

In Las Vegas, he looked as expected, like one of the top corners there thanks to his clean footwork to mirror, ability to throttle down and stick to receivers, and his speed to carry vertically.

Given his experience at a major program, ability in the return game, and potential to contribute on special teams, Jamison should be a late Day 3 prospect, and it’s hard to understand why he wasn’t invited to Indianapolis.

Xazavian Valladay, RB, Arizona State (5-11, 199)

Running back is an undervalued position in today’s NFL and because of that talented players like Xazavian Valladay slips through the cracks. Valladay didn’t get invited to the NFL Combine and probably won’t be selected in the NFL Draft this April, but you can bet he’ll be on a roster.

In five seasons of college football, four with Wyoming and his super-senior season with Arizona State, Valladay topped 5,000 yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns. He then went to the East-West Shrine Bowl and made noise with his decisive one-cut style and consistency catching the football; he had the most well-rounded week of the running back group.

While he may not have put on a show at the NFL Combine, getting there would have signified his rise in a deep class of running backs, and even without it he looks like he’ll be a worthwhile priority free agent.

Desjuan Johnson, DL, Toledo (6-2, 267)

Desjuan Johnson seems like he might be a casualty of circumstances. He’s been one of the best players in the MAC for several years now as an anchor of Toledo’s defensive line where he was asked to play everything between 5-Tech and nose tackle despite being a natural edge rusher.

Even as an undersized interior defensive lineman, Johnson was dominant with 45.5 TFLs and 14.5 sacks in his career. He’s got heavy hands, legitimate power created by his natural leverage and explosiveness, and a motor that won’t quit.

After turning in a very solid week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, Johnson was starting to build some buzz, and the noise he created won’t be silence just because he doesn’t get the opportunity to participate at the NFL Combine. Johnson remains a Day 3 draft darling in this class.

Honorable mentions:

  • Kadeem Telfort, OT, UAB
  • Kahlef Hailassie, CB, Western Kentucky
  • Dallas Daniels, WR, Jackson State
  • Jadakis Bonds, WR, Hampton
  • Nikko Remigio, WR, Fresno State
  • Jordan Mims, RB, Fresno State
  • Trevor Reid, OT, Louisville
  • Robert Soderholm, LS, VMI
  • Chandler Zavala, OG, NC State
  • Jerron Cage, IDL, Ohio State
  • Kobie Turner, DL, Wake Forest
  • Kazmeir Allen, RB/WR, UCLA
  • Brodric Martin, NT, Western Kentucky
  • Eric Scott, CB, Southern Miss
  • Starling Thomas, CB, UAB
  • Mohamoud Diabate, LB, Utah
  • Jack Colletto, FB/TE, Oregon State
  • Keidron Smith, CB, Kentucky
  • Derek Parish, FB/EDGE, Houston
  • Bennett Williams, DB, Oregon
  • Jayson Ademilola, DL, Notre Dame
  • Quindell Johnson, S, Memphis