What’s Old is New Again: Standout Wide Receivers at the First Ever NFL Veteran Combine

Aside from the free agents that are moving on from other teams, this past Sunday was the first ever NFL Veteran Combine.  According to what NFL Director of Football Development Matt Birk told NFL.com:

“Combines have long provided draft eligible players with the forum needed to showcase their skills to NFL teams.  The NFL Veteran Combine will give veteran free agents a similar opportunity to work out in front of club personnel in a streamlined process.”

And Shawne Merriman agrees that this is a great opportunity for all the talent out there that might have fallen off the radar over the years:

Shawne Merriman - Veterans Combine

There were over 100 players participating, but here’s a list of wide receivers that participated:

Adams, Joe WR Arkansas
Anderson, Joe WR Texas Southern
Gadsden, Ben WR Miami
Jean, Lestar WR Florida Atlantic
Johnson, Darius WR Southern Methodist
Kurihara, Tukashi WR No College
Mayo, Thomas WR California, Pa.
Mitchell, Carlton WR South Florida
Slaughter, Nathan WR West Texas A&M
Steelman, Trent WR Army
Williams, Laquan WR Maryland

And there were some notable performances among wide receivers:

Tukashi Kurihara

Kurihara, 27, was invited to the Ravens rookie camp two years ago, but didn’t make it farther than that.  He totaled 614 yards and six touchdowns in 8 games, including the playoffs and Japan X Bowl, for the IBM Big Blue of Japan’s X League last season. Kurihara was previously awarded the MVP of the Kanto collegiate league in 2009 for the Hosei University Tomahawks. It’s hard to find good video quality highlights, but this should give you a feel for what he could do:

39 wide receivers ran the 40 yard dash in the NFL Combine back in mid-February, with the fastest time going to J.J. Nelson of UAB with 4.28 seconds and the slowest time going to Devin Funchess of Michigan with 4.70 seconds.  Kurihara averaged 40 yard dash of 4.57 seconds would have put him tied for 29 out of 39 from the NFL Combine, but is still fast enough to be worth a look as a WR4 and special teamer.

Nathan Slaughter

Slaughter, other than having a great last name, is ridiculously speedy.  Not only did he average 4.36 seconds on his 40 yard dash at the Veteran Combine (which would have been 5th out of 39 at the 2015 NFL Combine), but he also ran an averaged 4.34 seconds at his Pro Day in 2014.  Slaughter’s skill sets also included a 44 1/2-inch vertical jump (which accommodates for his 5′ 9″ height), reliable hands and decent yards after catch, in large part due to his speed.  In addition, he was a fairly good kick returner in college.  Unfortunately, he specialized in simple, straight routes in college, which makes sense because his speed matched go routes well, but doesn’t give him much versatility in the pros.  But he certainly was a force to be reckoned with in college:

Slaughter ended up being an undrafted free agent in 2014, initially latching on to the Texans in early May, but was released by late May.  He was later picked up by the Jaguars in June, but was placed on IR with a foot ailment in August and then released in November.

If nothing else, the Veteran Combine demonstrated that Slaughter hasn’t lost a step, and he could be a good gamble as a WR3/4 and special teamer with upside.

Who knows what the future holds for any of these players or the NFL Veteran Combine, but one thing is for sure, and that’s giving the players and the teams a second chance of finding a diamond in the rough makes a lot of sense.

UPDATE – 3/23/15 (1:45 PM ET): Nathan Slaughter has signed with the Arizona Cardinals.  There you go, the proof is in the pudding.  The Veteran Combine works!

By Ha Kung Wong

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime