Every year, the conglomerate of NFL general managers, coaches, personnel, media and many more congregate in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. As shrimp cocktails are downed at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse and sleeping hours wane by the day, the week-long festivities bring together the professional football sphere by bringing its future stars to the spotlight.
The merits of the Combine exercises continue to be debated: after all, to run without pads in a largely empty arena is not remotely close to playing in an actual football game. But, one element of the “Underwear Olympics” that can’t be disputed is the ability of prospects to see their outlooks skyrocket after outstanding performances.
The first day of on-field drills, showcasing the defensive linemen, edge rushers and linebackers, did not fail to provide such sparks. Georgia’s Nolan Smith nearly tested out of the gym with a 4.39 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-8-inch broad jump. All figures ranked in at least the 95th percentile among edge rushers since 1999, according to Mockdraftable.
Smith, though, was far from the only front-seven defender to show out.
Before reaching Indy, Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore had already reached radars after being named to Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List this summer. Adebawore’s stock continued to rise following the 2022 season after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, where he was named National Team Practice DL of the Week.
Any expectations for a good showing for Adetomiwa in Lucas Oil Stadium were thoroughly shattered, to say the least.
In the 40-yard dash, Adetomiwa blazed to the tune of a 4.54 unofficial time, which was later corrected to a 4.49 official number. That marked the fastest 40 time by an interior defensive lineman since at least 1999, besting the 4.67 run by Pitt’s Calijah Kancey earlier in the afternoon (granted, Adebawore technically ran with the EDGE group, but has played plenty inside). Additionally, Adebawore posted the fastest time by a player to weigh 270 or more pounds since 2003, per NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, and the unbelievable feat led the ‘Cat to top all adjusted speed scores among edge rushers.
With an updated 4.49 forty, Adetomiwa Adebawore has the highest speed score I have in my EDGE database. https://t.co/xarWnWxio8— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) March 2, 2023
While Adebawore’s 40 — at 282 pounds — was what really drew attention to the former Wildcat, his prior measures were also phenomenal. The Kansas City native’s 37.5-inch vertical jump was in the 94th percentile among all defensive linemen over more than the last 20 years. Moreover, Adebawore broad jumped 10 feet, five inches, finishing in the 95th percentile among D-linemen.
All told, Adebawore’s otherworldly outing in Lucas Oil translated to a stellar raw athletic score (RAS) of 9.83 as an edge rusher, per Kent Lee Platt. If analyzing Adebawore as a defensive tackle, that RAS sits at 9.58, which is still elite.
While Smith posted the fastest time of any player on Thursday, Adebawore very well may have left the most profound impact, with experts mulling how a player at that size could run that hastily.
I've been studying and charting EDGE and DL athleticism for years.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 3, 2023
I can honestly say there are no close comps for Adetomiwa Adebawore.
I've never seen a 275+ pound player run a sub 4.50 40-yard dash.
DT Adetomiwa Adebawore out of Northwestern just clocked an unofficial 4.54 40— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 2, 2023
Sitting at 40-yard finish and one team clocked Adebawore at 4.49…at 282 pounds! Rest were in 4.50-4.52 range. That’s RARE! https://t.co/rqiC9ECMKT— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 2, 2023
Adebawore running a 4.49 at *checks notes* 282 FREAKING POUNDS is preposterous— JP Acosta (@acosta32_jp) March 2, 2023
Past Wildcats have shown out at the Combine, and Adebawore firmly cemented himself in that legacy. According to Next Gen Stats, Adebawore’s 97 athleticism score matched Rashawn Slater’s in 2021, which trailed just Luis Castillo’s 99 in 2005 among Northwestern draft prospects since 2003.
Slater and Castillo were each first-round picks, and Adebawore could very well be trending that way, especially factoring in the change of direction, fluidity, bend and explosiveness he demonstrated in on-field drills like the Body Control and Run and Club. As of late February, the senior had seen his stock jump to between a Round Three and Four projection. Now, he very well may not last until the end of Round Two, and could even join teammate Peter Skoronski on the draft’s first night.
The cliché of shining when the lights are the brightest doesn’t only apply to actual sporting events: it also holds weight under the intense, league-wide beams of Indianapolis. Based on how he performed Thursday, Adebawore very well may have been the most luminous star of them all.