Sports Paulumn: Standouts from the 2024 NFL Draft Combine

I’m Paul Czarnecki, current editor-in-chief and former sports editor and reporter for The Scribe. This new weekly column will be free of structure and will overall be based on what I liked, disliked or generally felt the dire need to write a thousand words about. And yes, the pun-ridden title is here to stay.

To kick us off, I would like to discuss the NFL Draft Combine, an annual event that allows draft prospects from NCAA schools to showcase their athleticism and physical traits to professional scouts.

Every year, a few of these prospects display their abilities so well, their draft stock takes a leap, either from round-to-round or, potentially, undrafted to hearing their name called by the commissioner.

This year’s Combine was nothing short of prolific in the talent pool. However, these five names stood out among the rest.

Chop Robinson, DE, Penn State

The 2024 NFL Draft is overloaded with strong talent on the defensive side of the ball, especially at edge rusher. Robinson, a projected second-round pick from the Nittany Lions, however, immensely elevated his stock at the Combine.

Measuring at 6’3, 254 pounds, Robinson ran a 4.48 40-yard dash with a 1.54 10-yard split, both ranking second among edge rushers. Robinson nailed the broad jump as well, recording a 10’ 8” jump, the best of any DE.

Coming into the Combine, the most appealing part of Robinson’s game was his comparable athleticism to explosive NFL players like Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons. Robinson’s ability to pressure the quarterback and maneuver through tight windows shows potential, and the junior definitely proved that he can become an immediate starter in the league, if given the opportunity.

Quinyon Mitchell, CB, Toledo

Rarely does a college prospect from a mid-major school show as many flashes as Mitchell did during the Combine.

The former 4-star athlete from Toledo was electric performing for NFL scouts, running a 4.33 40-yard dash with a 1.51 10-yard split. Although it wasn’t too surprising to see Mitchell out-perform others in speed, it was impressive to see him hit 20 reps on the Bench Press, first among all defensive backs.

Mitchell’s 38” vertical jump was just outside the top 10 as well. In lieu of his performance, NFL Next Gen Stats ranked him first among all cornerbacks in Combine score.

There were many defensive backs projected to go ahead of Mitchell in the NFL Draft before the Combine. Now, there’s a significant chance Mitchell is the first one taken off the board come April.

Theo Johnson, TE, Penn State

A few of the more highly-touted tight end prospects opted out of participating in the NFL Combine, including Georgia standout Brock Bowers. However, this allowed Penn State’s Theo Johnson to showcase his athleticism on a bigger scale.

Another Nittany Lion, Johnson has not been noted as a particularly elite prospect, but measuring at 6’6”, 259 pounds with a 33” wingspan turned some heads.

Johnson was the second-fastest tight end, running a 4.57 40-yard dash with a 1.55 10-yard split. His vertical (39.5”) and broad jump (10’5”) were both second in his class, and he was able to show off his elite hands during the Combine’s catching drills, something that was secondary to his primary talent of run blocking.

After Bowers and Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, there appeared to be a large drop-off in talent. However, don’t be surprised if Johnson finds himself selected as early as day two of the NFL Draft.

Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville

Guerendo’s draft stock may have risen more than any other player that attended the Combine. A 4.33 40-yard dash with a ridiculous 41.5” vertical jump for a running back? That’s a recipe for an elite NFL player.

The Wisconsin transfer recorded 810 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in his senior season for Louisville, including a three-score performance against the USC Trojans at this year’s Holiday Bowl.

While Guerendo has been noted by NFL analyst Lance Zierlein have a “fairly average cut-and-go burst,” running the quickest 40 of any running back at the Combine may have changed Zierlein’s mind

Running backs don’t tend to be the hottest commodity during NFL drafts, as more positions of need tend to get filled with those higher picks, Guerendo set himself up to be put right in the conversation with some of the top halfback prospects.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

Of course, the player who broke records at the Combine is going to be a high riser on everybody’s draft boards.

Worthy ran a 4.21 40-yard dash, shattering the previous record held by wide receiver John Ross in 2017. It also should be mentioned that Worthy’s time was over one-tenth of a second faster than any other wide receiver at the Combine in 2024. Add a 41” vertical jump and a nearly 11’ broad jump and Worthy is just as elite as any Combine participant in the past decade.

The Longhorn wideout considerably elevated his draft positioning, and may have passed up his teammate Adonai Mitchell, another Texas wide receiver with first-round-pick projections. Between the two, though, Worthy’s unprecedented speed showed out throughout the 2023 season, and could have him selected as high as the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Graphic by Lexi Petri.