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One thing is for sure with the NFL Draft -- there will be a small collection of "surprise" selections late in the first round. Happens every year. And in almost every one of those instances, those surprising picks are freaky athletes. The NFL values traits in the draft like Gen Z values followers and likes on Instagram and TikTok. 

These picks are rarely used on prospects who are amazing football players already, yet possess physical attributes that are often too tantalizing to pass up for quality teams with late first-round picks. 

These are the 2023 prospects who tested themselves into Round 1. 

Rashee Rice, WR, SMU

Measurements: 6-foot-1, 204 pounds 
Workout (position rank):

  • 40-yard dash: 4.51 seconds (23rd) 
  • Vertical: 41 inches (T1st)
  • Broad: 10-foot-8 (T15)

The 23rd-fastest 40 and the 15th-best broad jump and Rice may have tested himself into the first round? Yes. At 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, Rice has the stocky frame teams are enamored with at receiver today, and only six wideouts over 200 pounds ran faster than him at this year's combine. 

With Rice, the question mark on film centered around his lack of explosiveness, and the 41-inch vertical emphatically stated he's actually quite explosive. The 10-foot-8 broad jump confirmed the vertical wasn't a fluke. Factor that into Jordan Addison not running or jumping well at 173 pounds, and Quentin Johnston and Jaxon Smith-Njigba not running at all, and Rice, already widely considered a Round 2 type, probably pushed himself into the first round. Want more context on his workout at size? Check this tweet, and yes, I'm embedding one of my own tweets. It's easier. 

To further that context, in 2020, Brandon Aiyuk ascended late in the 2020 pre-draft process and went No. 25 overall. He was the sixth wideout off the board, three selections after Justin Jefferson. They're comparable players on the field, too. Contested-catch winners, YAC specialists who play with a nasty, authoritative demeanor. After a slow-ish start to his pro career with some high-level flashes, Aiyuk went over 1,000 yards in 2020 with eight touchdowns.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

Measurements: 5-foot-9, 199 pounds 
Workout (position rank):

  • 40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds (2nd)
  • Vertical: 33.5 inches (11th)
  • 10-yard split: 1.52 (T3rd)

Gibbs' workout confirmed what's obvious on film -- he has elite breakaway speed. The vertical was surprisingly slow, but everyone will rightfully focus on that blistering 40-yard dash time of 4.36. Gibbs entered the Alabama program after two magnificent seasons at Georgia Tech and the brighter lights in Tuscaloosa didn't hinder his productivity whatsoever. 

And being that fast at essentially 200 pounds and a compact 5-9 is not just impressive but a testament to him being capable of handing much more than gadgety, jet sweep duties in an offense. Heck, Gibbs handled 383 carries across three seasons in college, with 151 of them coming as the clear-cut RB1 at Alabama last season. 

With consensus RB1 Bijan Robinson running 4.46, Gibbs can now sell himself as the premier speedster feature back (unless teams adore Devon Achane or Keaton Mitchell) in this class. Add in his receiving talent -- 103 catches for 1,212 yards and eight scores in three seasons -- and Gibbs has the rare first-round profile at the running back spot.

Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

Measurements: 6-foot-5, 249 pounds 
Workout (position rank):

  • 40-yard dash: 4.65 (T15th)
  • Vertical: 37.5 inches (3rd)
  • Broad: 10-foot-8 (2nd)
  • Three-cone: 6.74 (1st)

In many ways, Campbell is your classic Iowa linebacker. Three years of full-time starting experience, major production and clear-to-see well-coached play. He's fundamentally sound. Most Iowa defenders are. In other ways he's not your classic Iowa prospect. Campbell is massive at 6-5 and nearly 250 pounds, and now we know he's a high-caliber, sudden and agile athlete, all of which represented the concern about his game after scouring the film. 

The arms under 32 inches is strange and a limiting factor to his block-defeating skills at the next level. But his height, route awareness and overall athletic chops make him a rock in coverage, which is, by far, the most vital element of playing the linebacker spot today. In an off-ball linebacker class genuinely without a clear-cut top half of the first-round-type talent, which we normally see every year, Campbell feels like someone who realistically could land in Round 1 after his tremendous workout in Indy. 

Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern

Measurements: 6-foot-2, 282 pounds 
Workout (position rank):

  • 40-yard dash: 4.49 (T5th)
  • Vertical: 37.5 inches (3rd)
  • Broad: 10-foot-5 (T7th)
  • Bench: 27 reps (5th)

The first round is an encapsulation of the entire draft. It's way more about traits than the average fan thinks. And Adebawore has traits galore. This 282-pound man ran faster than 21 receivers (!), including one above in this article. Bananas. Truly elite explosiveness from Adebawore, which jumps off the film. Plus, he has that bull rush to win through blockers when necessary, and his 27 reps on the bench confirm that capability. 

A decade ago, Adebawore would be labeled a tweener with a negative connotation. Defensive coordinators would've been perplexed about his pro position. Now he'll be deployed in a variety of alignments and roles and should thrive. He's not a perfect prospect, but those physical attributes cannot be coached by any high-level assistant. Oh yeah, and Adebawore has arms just under 34 inches. Offensive tackle length. Even though his pass-rush production wasn't first-round caliber, his athleticism undoubtedly is. He's become the classic athletic freak pick we see every draft late in Round 1. 

Sydney Brown, S, Illinois

Measurements: 5-foot-10, 211 pounds 
Workout (position rank):

  • 40-yard dash: 4.47 (T4th)
  • Vertical: 40.5 inches (3rd)
  • Broad: 10-foot-10 (2nd)
  • 10-yard split: 1.51 seconds (3rd)

Brown is a darn good football player. Did everything in the Illinois defense and flourished. Box safety. Slot defender. Roamer in the deep middle, blitzer. The slight worry was that he wasn't a monster athlete. Welp, now we know, he is. This is why I adore the combine. Takes the guesswork out of one element of the extraordinarily inexact science of evaluating college football players and attempting to predict how they'll translate to the NFL.

Is Brown the most fluid, change-of-direction defensive back in this draft? Absolutely not. From a burst and acceleration perspective, there aren't many more impressive than him, and he's already mastered some of the finer details of playing an increasingly valuable, multi-faceted position. 

Brown has film that teeters on first-round quality. His workout is undeniably that of a first-round pick.