Perhaps the #1 takeaway from this year’s scouting combine Indianapolis was that just about all the top prospects that did work out worked out very well. Of course, that starts all with Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, who came to Indianapolis as the consensus top prospect overall, but one not likely to be selected with the first pick in this year’s draft, and left with a buzz that just maybe he could go #1 overall on April 26th. Indeed, Barkley put on a show that more than one analyst has described as maybe the best ever by anyone at the combine. Whether in the end QB-needy teams like Cleveland or the Giants, which have the top picks in this year’s draft, would actually take a RB over a QB remains to be seen, but clearly it’s a bigger dilemma for those teams than it was at this time last week.
Meanwhile, the best story of the combine – and in fact the whole draft process – remains that of Central Florida LB Shaquem Griffin – who has overcome the loss of his left hand as a child to establish himself as a legitimate candidate to be drafted this spring. How legitimate? Griffin was able to do 20 reps in the bench press with the aid of a prosthetic and then went out and ran a blistering 4.38 40 that was the fastest time for a LB in over a decade at the combine. And for the record, Griffin’s clocking was the 8th fastest among all players at this year’s combine.
Other players who really helped their draft grades based on their combine performance:
- Wyoming QB Josh Allen: Entering the combine, the battle for the top QB grade for the 2018 draft, and maybe the #1 pick overall, was a two-man fight between Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen of UCLA. However, Allen may very well have made it a 3-way debate as he demonstrated a rare combination of size, athleticism and arm strength. And while Allen’s mechanics, accuracy and route anticipation still need work, there is no question about his physical tools.
- LSU WR DJ Chark: Everyone knew that Chark could run heading into the combine – and Chark did that posting a position-leading 4.34 40 clocking – but he really impressed catching the ball in positional drills.
- Maryland WR DJ Moore: It appears that it was good being a WR named DJ in Indianapolis last week as the Terps’ Moore also turned in a special performance as he ran the 40 in 4.42, had a 39.5” vertical, an 11’ long jump, along with quick times in the agility drills. And like LSU’s Cark, Moore looked smooth and efficient in receiving drills.
- Penn State TE Mike Gesicki: There was no clear leader among this year’s TE class heading into the combine, but Gesicki stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field in Indianapolis where he led the position in every test including the 40 where he clocked in at 4.54; he also had a 41.5” vertical and a 10-9 BJ along with very quick times in the agility drills.
- UCLA OT Kolton Miller: Like the TE position, the OT situation for the upcoming draft is rather fluid and Miller was able to make a statement as the 6-9, 310-pounder ran the 40 in under 5-flat (4.95) with a very quick (1.67) 10-yard split. Miller also impressed with a 31” vertical and was the only OL over 10’ in the long jump.
- UTEP OG Will Hernandez: Coming into the combine, Hernandez was considered to be a rugged small area mauler but with limited athleticism. However, Hernandez proved a lot of the skeptics wrong as he ran the 40 in 5.15 with a 1.71 second split; he also impressed with 37 reps in the bench while he had good numbers in the BJ and shuttles.
- Florida State ER Josh Sweat: Considered to be a latter second day prospect entering the combine, Sweat may have moved himself up with a very athletic outing that included a position best 4.53 clocking with a very quick 1.55 split; Sweat also had explosive leaps of 39.5” in the vertical and 10-4 in the BJ along with good times in the agility drills.
- Boston College ER Harold Landry: After leading the country in sacks in 2016, Landry didn’t play much this past season because of injuries. There were also questions about his overall athleticism heading into the combine, but he may have put those to rest after running a 4.64 40 with a 1.59 split; he also had a 36” vertical and a 10-foot long jump and even quicker times in the agility tests.
- Boise State ER Leighton Vander Esch: Just a one-year starter at Boise, but he put on a show at the combine running the 40 in 4.65 seconds, along with explosive leaps of 39.5” in the vertical and 10-11 in the BJ and like Landry had very quick times in the agility drills.
- Florida DT Taven Bryan: Was a little undersized when he weighed in at just 291 pounds, but he made up for it with some special athleticism as he ran under 5-flat in the 40, managed 30 reps in the bench, 35” in the vertical, along with shuttle times that would not have been out of place among the DEs or LBs.
- Louisville CB Jaire Alexander: The first CB out of the blocks in all the drills set the standard for the competition with a 4.38 40 clocking
- Ohio State CB Denzel Ward: Came into the combine as the top-rated pure corner, and left no doubt heading home as he blistered a 4.32 40 and chipped in big leaps of 39” in the vertical and 11-4 in the BJ; also was very smooth in positional drills
- Stanford FS Justin Reid: In a draft in which many of the top safeties are more SS types, Reid looked all the part of a rangy FS with a 4.40 40 clocking, along with solid leaps of 36” in the vertical and 10-8 in the BJ.
Honorable mentions: WRs Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Marq Valdes-Scantling (South Florida) and Courtland Sutton (SMU); TCU OT Joseph Noteboom; Iowa C James Daniels; OLBs Lorenzo Carter (Georgia), Jacob Pugh (Florida State), Oren Burks (Vanderbilt), Matt Thomas (Florida State); DTs BJ Hill (NC State) and Nate Shepherd (Ft Hays State); CBs Grant Haley (Penn State) and Avonte Maddox (Pittsburgh) and Arizona FS Dane Cruickshank.