More COMBINE Thoughts from PIGSKIN
I cannot believe today’s “NOW” society at times. I’m still pulling together numbers and notes from the NFL Combine, and being accused of living in the past by some. The Combine wrapped up less than one week ago! How can it be old news?! All of our observations cannot be based on first impressions, so I will continue to propose more thoughts on last weekend’s event in Indy in the coming week or two.
Another of my more surprising moments from the Combine was the disappointing 40-times run by both Florida Gator CBs. TEEZ TABOR, could only manage a 4.62/40, while his teammate QUINCY WILSON was acceptable, but not elite, with a 4.54 posting. Both of these players have been listed as Top 10 CB with TABOR even appearing in many Mock First Rounds. There is more to being a top pro CB than straight-line speed, but it is a given that being fast is expected. Both of these guys will have to make up some time, so to speak, at their Pro Days to stay in the Top 50, in my eyes. Expect better in Gainesville, but I sure hope some NFL folks who attend the workout measure to make sure the sprint is on a full 40-yard run basis.
On a brighter note on a CB from the Sunshine State, and UCF, SHAQ GRIFFIN really impressed during his time in Indy. It started at the weigh-in when he was a solid 6’0 and 194 lbs. His 32 3/8″ arms were a real positive as well. He blazed a 4.38/40, as well as showing loose hips in his ability to flip them in coverage drills. His 38.5″ Vert was a clear indicator of explosion in his lower body. A sub-7 second 3-Cone time @ 6.87 was also what scouts like to see. He’s an aggressive player, who should only get better under pro coaching. Watch for him to crack the Top 100 in the Draft. And if you like back-stories check out that of he and his 1-handed brother, SHAQUEM.
An annual mystery to me is trying to figure out what is going on with players who show serious weight differences between their post-season work and what they looked like during their college career. A couple such guys have emerged again since January in this years Draft Class.
KAREEM HUNT was a record setting RB at Toledo, on a winning program during his career there. He was a strong player at over 220 lbs., with good hands as a receiver. He was an explosive runner while at the Senior Bowl venue, but surprised many with a weigh-in number of only 208 lbs. At the Combine he was back up to 216 lbs. running a 4.62/40. Now clearly we know that his game film shows a productive, hard running player who should fit an NFL RB rotation quite nicely. But as Mike Mayock likes to say, ‘I want to know who he is’ in referencing his playing weight. It creates another variable that personnel folks must sort through. Can’t wait to see his weight at the Toledo campus Pro Day.
Another mystery man, probably of even more significance, is TE/GERALD EVERETT of South Alabama. EVERETT is of the same ilk as EVAN ENGRAM, with some scouts ranking him above ENGRAM, who wowed at the Senior Bowl. EVERETT is the hybrid TE type, ala JORDAN REED of the Redskins, but his weight has been all over the place of late. He was listed in the college game programs at a generous 240 lbs, but drew polite gasps in Mobile when he weighed in at only 227 lbs. At the Combine he was back up to 239 lbs. while running a less than blazing 4.62/40. The timing of such a weight gain/loss in advance of running his 40 is questionable to say the least. It was also a bit disconcerting to have his hands measure in less than 9″, at 8.5″. I don’t think EVERETT helped his Draft status with the weight fluctuation and resultant workout numbers. He’s got some explaining to do, and some speed to flash, at team workouts and perhaps his Pro Day.
A sleeper who I mentioned back last Fall in my Who Caught My Eye column, got my attention again at the Combine. I am referring to Ole Miss DT, D.J. JONES. JONES had some excellent workout numbers in Indy. He was right on target measuring in at 6’1/319 lbs. Albeit in a very limited area, he shows some surprising quickness and pursuit along the line of scrimmage. He also has excellent hand strength and obviously a nice low center of gravity. For a team looking for a big bodied, plugger for the middle of their DL he could make a very valuable late round draftee in April. For a team that likes him, waiting tis after the Draft to get him as URFA could become somewhat problematic.
Another oddity that caught my eye watching hour after hour of workouts over the length of the Combine, was my mind’s comparison of the running of the gauntlet drill by receivers and DB groups in general. One of the intangibles that personnel people look for during this drill is for players to run straight along the yard-line that they begin the drill on. It looked quite clear to me that it was the DB group that stayed true to that line, while many in the receivers group were zig-zagging most of the width of the field. Not sure how that gets judged/ranked in scout notebooks, but it was conspicuously noticeable to me.
I am perfectly willing to admit that I do not watch an equal amount of game film on every player that I venture a scouting opinion on. And a guy who I only watched twice this past season (I discounted the hurricane mud-bowl game vs Notre Dame) was JOSH JONES/SS/NC STATE. I thought he looked OK in those 2 games I did watch, but was a bit surprised when I saw he had declared to leave school early for the 2017 Draft. I feel like he blew up his Combine opportunity with a standout display of athleticism and football related skill. It began with his 4.41/40 which he ran at a SS weight of 220 lbs., on a 6’1 frame. He looked very smooth in drill work whether running in forward or reverse mode. He added a 37.5″ Vert and a 132″ (that’s 11′ to you math challenged folks) broad jump, He also has functional strength, which include 20 reps in the Bench Press, with 32″ long arms. Throw his workout numbers on top of a 2016 season that included 109 tackles and 3 Int., and you have a young man who could be headed for a Draft slot as high as Round 2.
Though not as clear-cut good as JONES, a bit of a pleasant surprise in the secondary group was DELANO HILL/S/Michigan. HILL had a decent showing at the Shrine venue back in January, and really looked good at the Combine. He displayed a bit more athleticism at the Combine than expected perhaps, which should make it more likely to actually be drafted than we thought in December. HILL measured 6’1/216 lbs. and was able to run a 4.47/40. He also has 9 3/8″ hand spread & 32 1/8″ arm length. His 6.96, 3-cone time shows he has some change of direction flex to his body. He is lacking a bit in ball skills, but can run with receivers downfield. He showed solid all-around skills out on the field in 2016 with 52 tackles, 4.5TFL, 3 PBU & 3 Int. His ability to run and change direction was obvious in drill work in Indy, and he got mention on several occasions during NFLN broadcast times. Do not sleep on this guy once we get into Draft Saturday.
That’s what I have for today, but chances are good I’ll have more thoughts early in the coming week. I intend to watch the NFLN replay of the RB group workouts later today. I had satellite reception issues on that Combine Friday so I’m thinking I’ll have some additional thoughts on that group in particular early next week.
PIGSKIN’S COMBINE THOUGHTS 2017 Part 1
Seems like I never learn from some of my previous mistakes. Every year I make the same mistake around NFL Combine time. I watch hours and hours of coverage on NFLN and take notes while I watch. Then I decide to wait until I see a bit more the next day before writing anything for the website. Before you know it the event is over and I am sitting with a dazed look on my face and brain lock form information overload. Then the real issue kicks in… at what point to start writing.
As of right now it seems that a good start might be to begin with some names and observations that I clearly did not see coming. I’m not going to try to rank them in significance or chronological order so let the thought flow begin.
AVIANTE COLLINS/OT TCU. COLLINS was not on my prospect list at all before the Combine invite list was put out for consumption. And his name did not inspire me enough to do any pre-Combine research on him. Just another name that some team really wanted to get a better look at so they pestered National Scouting into inviting him. Happens every year with 10 or so guys, most of whom quickly establish that they are in over their heads against the real prospects. COLLINS measured in at 6’4, 295 lbs., so the first thought, if one bothered to venture a thought on him, was that because of his height and arm length he would be switching inside to OG in an NFL Training Camp next summer. Then the guy pushed the bar up 34 times in the Bench Press. But what caused jaws to drop with the stopwatch crowd was a 4.81/40 at his size. That’s the kind of number about half the TE group put up in Indy during a normal year’s Combine. I suppose you could say we should have seen this coming since his dad and brother are noted track athletes, but still.. What does it mean going forward? It means a lot of scouts will be watching TCU game film, and heading to the TCU Pro Day to see if he can duplicate that number. It may also ported the possibility that some scouts potential steal of the Draft is now on a lot of radar screens. Look for him to turn out to be a Round 5-6 Draftee in April.
With a tip of the hat to GBN friend and contributor LARRY, he was the first guy to point me in the direction of ADAM SHAHEEN (almost a year ago no less) the hulking basketball turned TE at D-2 school ASHLAND. We knew he was big (6’6/278), and as a successful basketball player likely to be athletic. But it was still breath taking to watch him in action on the field with the big boys, and showing some of them up. His arms are not super long at 33.5″, but it was still impressive to see him pump iron up 24 times to tie for the lead in the TE group. He certainly looked more than OK running around in shorts during drill work. His hands are big and dependable. There could be a run of TE drafting in the top rounds this year, given overall quality of the position group, which could mean that SHAHEEN hears his name called early on Day 3 of the Draft.
I can still recall watching JAELN MYRICK/CB/Minnesota during Shrine Week practices and noting to myself that I liked his style of aggressive play for a short guy, with a muscled body. He practiced hard and seemed to be trying to learn from his coaches. But I could not find any specific mention of his explosiveness or speed/quickness anywhere in my notes. So imagine my surprise when he went out and toasted the entire DB group with his 4.28/40. Were it not for the blazing, record setting dash by JOHN ROSS @ 4.22 MYRICK would still be heading Combine wrap headlines. As it is I am guessing this run may propel him into an early 3rd Day Draft slot. Assuming that he impresses in the interviews over the next two months, I would bet his game tape will put him Round 4 consideration. By the way credit where credit is due, the last words out of Mike Mayock’s mouth on air before MYRICK took off was ‘this guy could run really fast’. Chalk that one up in the Mayock win column.
On the other hand, I’m gonna say I nailed it on FABIEN MOREAU/CB/UCLA, when I projected him as a top prospect at the Shrine, when he clearly showed he had recovered most, if not all, of his speed in recovering from a knee injury two years ago. And at 6’0, 206 lbs. what NFL team wouldn’t want him in their secondary. Especially, when you throw in that 4.35 he posted in his 40. The only things perhaps keeping him from being considered elite could be his apparent lack of ball skills, and a bit of stiffness to his frame. But I think he is clearly Top 100 in a very top heavy DB class.
You had to be impressed as MYLES GARRETT/Texas A&M posted great workout numbers that cemented his status as likely the first selection in April’s Draft. It’s hard to not be impressed by a 4.64/40 time at 272 lbs. But I want to go on record here in noting that I thought GARRETT looked far from smooth with his running. He looked somewhat awkward to me, listing to one side as he grunted his way to some excellent numbers. It may speak volumes for his work ethic and inherent athleticism, but I sure wouldn’t use the word “smooth” in describing his sprinting or backpedal. Go back and compare the film on VON MILLER running his drills. Now that is smooth!
I’m not exactly what I want National Scouting to do about it, but it bothers me when they list a bunch of edge-rushers, most of whom will have to stand up most of the time as a pro at OLB. The talent and skill set disparity between a guy at 230 lbs., and a real DE at 290 makes their numbers look very disparate on a stat sheet listing the top 40-times within the DL group.On the Combine player list it showed 59 DL and only 29 LB prospects. I counted 12 players that should have been reassigned based on their likely potential pro positions. That would have made it 47 in the DL group, and 41 in the LB group. Just saying!
Seems like a lot of people like JORDAN WILIS/DE/KANSAS STATE better the more they see of him in action. He was a rising star at the Senior Bowl and put up some numbers in Indy that I really did not expect from him. He’s more athletic than I ever thought watching him in action at K-State the past two seasons. His 4.53/40 time was good enough to call him a LB at 255 lbs. His 39 ” vert and 125″ board jump indicate more explosion than I would have expected. His hustle and effort are elite, but apparently so is his athleticism. I’m still not seeing him as a First Rounder, but must admit he’s knocking on the door. He may end up being a surprise as a pro, ala RYAN KERRIGAN of the Redskins, who I thought was too slow and stiff to stand up, but has proven my judgement wrong.
Gotta run for now. I’ll go through more notes and post more Combine impressions in a day or two.
Ranking DEFENSIVE Position Groups 2017 DRAFT Part 2
Now it’s time to finish up my group rankings as we prepare for the NFL COMBINE this coming week.
ILB Group There is always a bit of disagreement within the scouting community on ILB vs OLB, but not too many would dispute that the best pure LB prospect may be REUBEN FOSTER?alabama. FOSTER reminds me a lot of former ‘Bama ILB MOSLEY, now wit the RAVENS. FOSTER shows the ability to defend effectively against the run and pass, which means he’s more likely to remain on the field for all three downs. FOSTER should be in the first half of Round 1. RAEKWON McMILLAN/Ohio State, who also shows versatility born of his athleticism is the other probable 1st Rounder in this group, tho he will be later in the Round.
I project another 3 ILB to be taken in the Top 100 selections in April. The average number of ILB taken per Draft is 10, with 12 being taken in 2106. I think somewhere in that 10-12 is a realistic range this year.
A perplexing prospect has emerged this year within this position group by the name of ALEX ANZALONE/Florida. ALEX is a nice sized, very athletic defender, who covers the field with speed and a nose for the ball. He shows some pass rush ability as a blitzer and is adequate in mid-field coverage duty. His best spot might be Inside in a 3-4 scheme, at 6’3/240, with a 76 1/4″ wingspan. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and was a standout all week. But he has missed more games in his college career than he has actually started. In the contact sport of football it is very hard to ignore his preponderance of injuries. Who rolls the ice on him, and how high in the Draft may end up becoming an ongoing saga come April.
Group Grade: B
CB Group This should be an exceptional year for teams needing some CB help on their roster. And the variety to choose from is part of the reason. There are big press-cover guys and quick twitch slot cover guys. There are zone defenders who will run step for step with speed receivers. Most of these Corners are willing participants in run support. The cherry on the cupcake is that as a bonus there are numerous CB who are excellent Return Specialists as well.
I expect a half-dozen guys to be taken in Round 1: MARSHON LATTIMORE/Ohio St, SIDNEY JONES/Washington, QUINCY WILSON/Florida, TRA’DAVIOUS WHITE/LSU, MARLON HUMPHREY/Alabama & ADOREE’ JACKSON/USC. HUMPHREY might be taken as a S. I also see as many as 15 CB in the Top 100.
The average number of CB taken in a Draft is 33, with 35 taken last year. I look for the same number this year.
As we head to the Combine I strongly recommend that you keep your eyes and ears open whenever you hear the name of FABIAN MOREAU/UCLA mentioned. He’s a full sized guy @ 6’/204. He bounced back very nicely last season from a nasty knee injury the year prior. He looked excellent in his play in the Shrine venue, and had many wondering why he was not in Mobile as well.Based on pure talent and size he’s very close to being a first rounder. His medical evaluation will be critical, and if that knee checks out OK his speed and quickness numbers will be scrutinized closely. Many think that a healthy MOREAU could run a sub-4.4/40. If he does, put his name down in late Round 1 for a team like the PACKERS.
Group GRADE: A-
S Group This could be the deepest and most talented S group in some time. In this era of pass-happy offensive attacks the S slots have re-emerged in importance for teams looking to stop big plays, down the deep middle of the field. It is also fashionable again to have a S or two who can be effective and impactful for blitzing situations.
I have 4 Safeties slotted for Round 1, which is a high number compared to most years. Right now my four are JAMAL ADMAS/LSU, MALIK HOOKER/Ohio State, OBI MELIFONWU/UConn & JABRILL PEPPERS/Michigan. ADAMS & HOOKER could be Top 12-15 if they post the expected numbers at the Combine. Overall I project about 10 S going in the Top 100.
In a normal year the League drafts 18 S, with 17 going last year. Play the over if your in Vegas in April, as I could see about 20 being drafted this year.
A sure-thing to fall in the Top 100 should be one of the best CB in college football the past 2 seasons in DESMOND KING/Iowa. KING is a real ball hawk as well as a great tackler. Unless he proves otherwise in Indy, the expectation is that he will be a bit slow, and a tad tight in the hips to be considered an elite CB for the pro game. But he could become the next BOB SANDERS/Iowa, who folks in Indy remember fondly for his All-Pro play as a crunching S. IF you like the play of MICAH HYDE for the PACKERS, expect KING to be just a step above in overall ability.
Group GRADE: B+
THat’s a wrap heading into the Combine. There is no doubt that we will see the prospect meter shift a bit based on some players who exceed expectations in Indy, and some who disappoint a bit. It’s always fun if you are tracking the detail of prospect evaluations.
This group of prospects is a bit light on proven skill position stars, but is long on potential and very deep in talent in general. I’d be glad to swap my first rounder for extra picks in Rounds 2-3-4. There may be little to separate prospect 50 from 100, which will make it critical for teams to identify the players who really fit the schemes of their current coaching staffs. It could also precipitate a rash of trades late in Round 1. And remember this is the first year that teams are allowed to trade Compensatory Picks, which were just announced. One more bit of spice to stir into your Draft gumbo.
RANKING DEFENSIVE Position Groups 2017 DRAFT
Our defensive discussion will start with the big guys up front. For this year’s projection I am going to work with the time honored position groups of DE, DT, ILB, OLB, CB & S. But bear in mind this kind of breakdown is starting to feel more and more outdated with the absolute lust for edge-rushers about to force us to create a whole new position category for them. For now I will place those guys at either DE or OLB depending upon size and style of play, but keep in mind that calling that approach imperfect is putting it mildly, to say the least.
DT Group This will be comprised of guys playing on the Nose in a 3-4 scheme, or at DT in a 4-3 scheme. This is a solid year for the big guys who anchor the defensive front, even though a few of them actually excel in pressuring the pocket. I am only projecting 2 DT for Round 1 at this time: CALEB BRANTLEY/Florida & CARLOS WATKINS/Clemson.
The irony of these two being the only first rounders is that they are contrary in their style of play. BRANTLEY is cat quick, with strong hands that allow him to push past OL and record TFL and/or inside pressure on the pocket. WATKINS is a bit more traditional. He is above average in quickness, but is more of a power rusher. But he is NOT a Nose Tackle.
I see another half dozen DT being worthy of Top 100 selection. In an average year 18 DT are drafted overall, with 20 selected last year. I’m thinking I’d take the under for 2017 if I were a betting man.
Grade C+, some nice talent, but too many of them will play only on early downs, not full-time, thus limiting their value.
DE Group Remember now that this category must include 4-3 DE, as well as 5-technique guys for base 3-4 schemes. For players who I feel will play the majority of their time standing up, with their hand off the ground (which includes 3-4 OLB types) you will find them coming up later as OLB. Have I got you confused yet?
I see a solid 4-5 DE in this year’s prospect group. THe best of all is JONATHAN ALLEN/Alabama as the almost perfect 5-technique, but also capable of sliding inside for pass-rushing situations, and also being able of staying on the field in 2-man DL fronts. That versatility and his athleticism should make him a Top 10 draftee.
ALso likely to be taken in Round 1 are SOLOMON THOMAS/Stanford, CHARLES HARRIS/Missouri, DEREK BARNETT/Tennessee & TACO CHARLTON.Michigan State pretty much in that order. That’s a total of 5 for Round 1, and I would project another 6-7 in the Top 100. The average DE taken per Draft is 21, with 19 last year. Let’s round it off and say 20 this year.
A guy who really intrigues me is DEATRICH WISE/Arkansas. He played in the Shrine Game and had an excellent week’s work there. Physically he is a monster at 6’5/275, with 10 3/8″ hands and 35″ arms, with an 85″ wingspan. He’s a lot of legs, and had trouble staying on the field during his college career. But when he is healthy, as he was all week in St Pete, he can dominate a game for a series or two. At his best he looks a lot like JADEVEON CLOWNEY. How early will someone take a flyer on him? If he tests well at the Combine (which he should) and does well during the interview process, he could be an early Day 3 draftee.
Grade: B, a good just not great group.
OLB Group I’ll jump to this group next since I am pulling out multiple collegiate DE to stand up and play the position, especially in 3-4 base schemes.
Included in that category is the potential top pick on the Draft, MYLES GARRETT/Texas A&M, who I think is a just a bit bigger version of VON MILLER/Broncos, himself a former Aggie. GARRETT battled injuries this season but still impressed overall. He’s long and has a knack for spinning his way into the pocket. Like MILLER, he’s likeLy to learn on the fly and be headed to Pro Bowls in a couple of years.
I would also project the following guys to be first round OLB types: TAK McKINLEY/UCLA, ZACH CUNINGHAM/Vanderbilt, TIM WILLIAMS/Alabama, T.J. WATT/Wisconsin. That would mean 5 guys for Round One. I would also project another 5 OLB in the Top 100. The average Draft class sees 22 per year, with 24 drafted in 2016 as OLB. Unless the scouting community transitions quite a few more DE to stand up, then I might bet the under and place the 2017 Draft as having 20 taken overall.
One of the biggest ground gainers through the all-star process was HAASON REDDICK, who was outstanding in everything he did. The biggest surprise for many was his ability to match-up in coverage with RB & TE all week in Mobile. Two seasons ago he played almost exclusively as a pass rushing DE with his hand in the dirt. The expectation is he will rock the Combine with his athleticism, which tells me he could jump up into Round 2 of the Draft.
Grade C+, a few too many conversions projects here and that makes me a bit nervous.
Cheers for now.
- Ranking Offensive Position Groups 2017 DRAFT Part 2
- Ranking Offensive Position Groups 2017 Draft
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