Five underrated prospects who shined at the 2024 NFL Combine

The 2024 NFL Combine is officially complete! Here are five players who are expected to be drafted outside the first round, but dominated this year’s combine.

NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

After four long days, the 2024 NFL Combine is officially complete! Over 300 prospects were invited to the combine this year and many players put on a show, displaying their elite athleticism for all the fans, coaches, and front-office personnel to see. Let’s take a look at five players who are expected to be drafted outside the first round, but dominated this year’s combine.

Payton Wilson, Linebacker, North Carolina State

This year’s linebacker class is considered to be a bit weak and no linebacker prospect appears in the top forty on the consensus big board. However, North Carolina State’s Payton Wilson put on a show at the combine, making his case that he might actually be worth a first-round selection.

Wilson is 6-foot-4 (96th percentile) and weighs 233 pounds (49th percentile). He is a bit light for a linebacker, but he makes up for it was good explosion and elite speed. At the combine, he put up a 34.5-inch vertical (72nd percentile) and a 9-foot-11 broad jump (73rd percentile), both being good marks for a linebacker.

Where he really shined was the speed drills as he had a 4.43 forty-yard dash (99th percentile) and a 1.54 10-yard split (98th percentile). Although Wilson is a smaller linebacker, he tested well in terms of explosion and speed, giving him a relative athletic score of 9.81.

Relative athletic score is a metric created by Twitter user Kent Lee Platte, which takes a player’s combine measurements and compares them to every other player at the position who has attended the combine since 1987. Wilson’s RAS means his combine performance ranks in the 98th percentile for linebackers.

After a strong final season at North Carolina State in which he recorded six sacks and three sacks plus having an elite combine performance, Wilson has likely guaranteed that he will be at least a second-round pick in this year’s draft

Luke McCaffrey, Wide Receiver, Rice

Luke McCaffrey, who I wrote about before the Senior Bowl, is an intriguing wide receiver prospect because he has only been playing the position for two seasons but still produced at a fairly high level at Rice.

He continued to excel at the combine, putting together an exceptional athletic profile. He started by measuring at just under 6-foot-2 (72nd percentile) and 198 pounds (58th percentile), giving him a solid frame for a receiver. 

He also put up a 36-inch vertical (72nd percentile) and a 10-foot-1 broad jump (63rd percentile), both decent marks for a receiver. His speed was much better, though, as he recorded a 4.46 forty-yard dash (84th percentile) and a 1.52 10-yard split (94th percentile). He then put up a 4.02 shuttle (97th percentile) and a 6.7 3-cone (95th percentile). All of this gives him an RAS of 9.56, a great mark for a receiver who is expected to be a day-three pick.

While McCaffrey doesn’t have elite size or jumping ability, he is very fast and extremely agile. It’s clear that he is more than athletic enough to play receiver and, after two productive seasons at the position, perhaps he can carve out a role at the next level. 

Braden Fiske, Interior Defensive Lineman, Florida State

Florida State had a lot of players attend this year’s combine and few helped their draft stock more than Braden Fiske.

Fiske measured in at 6-foot-4 (84th percentile) and 292 pounds (39th percentile). Although he is pretty tall for a defensive tackle, he is extremely light for the position. While some people will be concerned about his slight frame, everything else about his athletic profile is elite.

His explosion numbers were incredible as he put up a 33.5-inch vertical (95th percentile) and 9-foot-9 broad jump (98th percentile). He also tested off the charts in terms of speed, recording a 4.78 forty-yard dash (99th percentile) and a 1.69 10-yard split (93rd percentile).

Despite having a thin frame, Fiske put up an RAS score of 9.92, the 14th-best mark ever for a defensive tackle. After recording 28 pressures and 26 stops this past season plus having an incredible combine performance, Fiske should expect to hear his name called before the second round is over.

Patrick Paul, Offensive Tackle, Houston

This year’s offensive tackle class is phenomenal and there is a good chance that six or seven tackles will be drafted in the first round. One tackle who has gone under the radar to some degree is Houston’s Patrick Paul, who currently ranks 56th on the consensus big board.

There were questions about Patrick Paul’s athleticism heading into the combine, but he answered these questions with flying colors. He started by measuring in at 6-foot-7 (93rd percentile) and 331 pounds (91st percentile). He also has 36.25-inch arms and put up 30 reps on the bench (93rd percentile), giving him a fantastic profile in terms of size and strength.

He then put up a 29-inch vertical (70th percentile), a 5.13 forty-yard dash (80th percentile), a 1.77 10-yard split (83rd percentile), and a 7.65 3-cone (76th percentile). He didn’t have any elite marks in terms of athleticism, but these numbers are excellent for a guy this big. This is why his RAS score is 9.8, a top-30 mark ever for an offensive tackle.

While Patrick Paul is projected to be a second-round pick, it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him be selected in the first round due to his size, athletic testing, and track record as a pass protector in college.

Gabriel Murphy, Edge Rusher, UCLA

UCLA’s defensive line featured a plethora of dominant players this season, including Gabriel Murphy, a projected fourth-round pick who recorded 104 pressures across two seasons at UCLA.

Murphy measured in at 6-foot-2 (26th percentile) and 247 pounds (20th percentile) with 30.5-inch arms. He also put up 25 reps on the bench press (79th percentile) Size is definitely a concern, but the rest of his athletic profile is fantastic.

His explosion numbers are incredible as he put up a 39.5-inch vertical (99th percentile) and a 10-foot-3 broad jump (92nd percentile). He also tested extremely well in terms of speed, recording a 4.68 forty-yard dash (90th percentile) and 1.59 10-yard split (95th percentile)

Gabriel Murphy is an interesting prospect. He played three seasons at North Texas before transferring to UCLA, but he was mostly just a solid player for the Eagles. He then put up two strong seasons at UCLA, but he was already an older prospect at that point. Still, he has an intriguing profile in terms of his production and athleticism and it wouldn’t be shocking if he ends up getting drafted higher than expected.