NFL Combine 2022: Tyquan Thornton, Christian Watson among 5 wide receivers who improved their draft stock

Which wide receivers benefited most from the results at the 2022 NFL Combine? Here are five who might have gained the most on Thursday.

The NFL Combine results don’t mean everything for wide receivers. At this point, we’ve amassed enough cautionary tales of over-drafting elite athletes with underdeveloped football savvy. A fine balance has to be struck. But at the same time, for players who want to boost their NFL Draft stock, a good number can get it done, and it can draw more people to their tape, prompting valuable reevaluations. With Tyquan Thornton and Christian Watson making headlines Thursday, what has that done to their draft stock, and which other receivers boosted their draft stock on Day 1 of the Combine?

5 Wide receivers who boosted their stock at the NFL Combine

The wide receiver group was impressive this year. For a moment, it looked like we were going to have three receivers with 40-yard dash times in the 4.2 range. But even with the slightly slower official times, there was plenty to like. A lot of receivers helped themselves, or at least adequately confirmed what we’d seen on tape. But these five truly made the most of their days.

Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

He’s still the record holder in our hearts. For a little while on Thursday night, it looked like there was a new record for the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. Tyquan Thornton unofficially ran a 4.21, one-hundredth of a second faster than John Ross’ record-breaking 4.22 time back in 2017.

Thornton’s time was eventually corrected and listed as an official 4.28 — but that’s still blazing for a receiver who’s 6’2 3/8″, 181 pounds, with arms over 33 inches long. Thornton has legit field-stretching speed and tested well in the explosiveness drills, with a 36.5-inch vertical and a 130-inch broad jump. With his speed and size alone, Thornton qualifies as a rare prospect who could now garner Day 2 interest.

Christian Watson, North Dakota State

If you’re a draft person, you were either trying to hype Christian Watson up or pour cold water on the buzz ahead of the NFL Combine. There was no middle ground. In the end, the Watson truthers reigned supreme — because the North Dakota State playmaker had an absolutely stellar day at the NFL Combine. His Relative Athletic Score (RAS) ended up settling at 9.98.

Watson measured in at 6’4″, 208 pounds, with 10-inch hands and arms over 32 inches. That size is already impressive, but his testing blew it out of the water. Watson put up absurd explosiveness numbers, including a 38.5-inch vertical and a 136-inch broad jump (seventh-best all-time among Combine WRs). To top it off, Watson ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash. It was simply a continuation of Watson’s electric Senior Bowl showing, but his stock continues to skyrocket.

Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame

Kevin Austin Jr. is one of those guys who always flashed on tape. But his Combine numbers will send many back to the film to rewatch him. That’s what the Combine is for, and Austin used it to perfection. Measuring in at 6’2 3/8″, 200 pounds, with nearly 33-inch arms was already a good start. But Austin compounded that start with stellar testing values.

At his size, Austin ran a strong 4.43 40-yard dash. He also registered a 39-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump. Additionally, Austin was one of the few receivers to test in both agility drills, and he put up solid numbers there, too. Austin logged a 4.15 short shuttle and a 6.71 three-cone. His three-cone, in particular, was in the 93rd percentile, and he ended up with a Relative Athletic Score of 9.9.

Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa

Of all the wide receivers at the NFL Combine, the results may be most beneficial for Northern Iowa WR Isaiah Weston, simply because of where his stock was before the event. There wasn’t nearly as much buzz for Weston. Even now, Watson is still viewed as the far superior FCS prospect. But Weston did what he needed to do (and more) on Thursday to help get noticed.

The Northern Iowa WR, listed at a steely 6’3 1/2″, 214 pounds, with arms over 32 inches, put up elite numbers for his size. He was one of just two receivers to crack the 40-inch mark in the vertical jump and just trailed Watson with his 135-inch broad jump. Going further, Weston ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. He also showed off his strength by getting 20 reps at the bench press — a number better than some tight ends.

Calvin Austin III, Memphis

I know, this may get confusing. There was a Kevin and a Calvin Austin at the NFL Combine on Thursday. And they both took over the testing portion. The latter Austin — Calvin — isn’t quite the size spectacle his counterpart from Notre Dame is. The Memphis WR measured at just 5’8″, 170 pounds. That’s why it was all the more important for Austin to put up elite testing numbers. Luckily, he did.

Austin predictably turned heads with his explosiveness numbers, registering a 39-inch vertical and a 135-inch broad jump, just behind Watson’s historic number. Austin also ran a 4.32 in the 40-yard dash and looked like he could have genuinely run in the 4.2s. If that wasn’t enough, Austin also ran a 4.07 in the short shuttle, the best time for receivers that participated. At his size, Austin needed to prove he had elite athleticism. Now, there’s no doubt.

Honorable Mentions: Alec Pierce, Cincinnati; Bo Melton, Rutgers; Danny Gray, SMU; Ty Fryfogle, Indiana; Jalen Nailor, Michigan State

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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