Post-combine draft review

February 23, 2015

So where are we now: The 2015 scouting combine is now on the books so what did we learn from 6 days in Indianapolis. And the #1 thing that seems to have learned at the combine is that with all due respects to QBs Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, both of whom put to bed many doubts with solid performances this week, the real strength of the 2015 draft will be the 3-4 edge rushing OLBs. Florida’s Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley of Clemson, Randy Gregory of Nebraska and Kentucky’s Bud Dupree each checked off all the boxes of a top prospect this week. And it likely would have been 5 OLBs turning heads this week, but Missouri‘s Shane Ray wasn‘t allowed to run because of a foot injury. And while the top tier of DE/OLBs had a great day on the field at the combine, the second tier group led by Danielle Hunter of LSU, Virginia’s Eli Harold, and Owa Odighizuwa of UCLA was also very very good.

It also appears that 2015 will be another good year at RB, although the consensus around the NFL seems to be that it still won’t be quite as highly rated as last year’s superlative group. Still, West Virginia’s Kevin White, who was among the 2-3 most impressive prospects in Indianapolis, and Alabama’s Amari Cooper flashed top 5 ability last week. in fact, there are probably 3 WRs with top 5 credentials after 6-5, 237-pound Dorial Green-Beckham put on an athletic show, although the former Missouri and Oklahoma wideout’s draft prospects are clouded by some major off-field issues. As well, there is plenty of quality depth at receiver this year with teams likely to be able to find some immediate help at the position right through the second-day and into the middle rounds.

On the other hand, the word around the NFL is that personnel people were a little disappointed with the RBs in Indianapolis. Of course, it didn’t help that two of the best backs in this year’s draft – Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Tevin Coleman – weren’t able to work out because of injuries. At the same time, Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford was the only back to break the 4.45 mark last week, and he’s really not considered to be more than a mid-round prospect. Meanwhile, backs like Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Jay  Ajayi of Boise State were somewhat slower that expected although each of that trio were actually much quicker in the agility drills.

Entering the scouting combine in Indianapolis the offensive line for the 2015 draft had a certain ’meh’ quality. No question there are some really good offensive linemen in this year’s draft field, but none had that must have/can’t miss quality that characterized many of the top prospects at the position in recent years. And that kind of middling quality was kind of confirmed at the combine this week when again there were some solid enough performances, but still pro evaluators likely left Indianapolis with almost as many questions as they had regarding the offensive line coming into the combine. Of course, it didn’t help that Iowa OT Brandon Scherff had to withdraw from combine activities after tweaking a hamstring on one of the early drills, although he was able to make a bit of a statement that he was indeed the top-rated offensive lineman this year when he ran the 40 in 5.05 seconds before being forced to the sidelines.

At the same time,  by all accounts, LSU G/T La’el Collins had a solid week in Indianapolis. Collins played LT for the Tigers, but there have been concerns about his overall athleticism and lateral agility which reportedly had many NFL teams thinking his best fit at the next level would be inside at OG. Collins, though, ran well at the combine and also really excelled in positional drills where he showed consistently light feet and lateral agility. However, that didn’t always show on game tapes and then there is still the matter of those 33 inch arms for Collins, who also didn’t have a very good bench press (just 21 reps) although his functional football strength has never really been doubted by pro scouts. Pro teams may also have conflicting results to deal with regarding Andrus Peat of Stanford and T J Clemmings, arguably the top-rated pure LT prospects in the 2015 draft. Neither had the kind of sub-5.0 40s one tends to expect from top 5-10 LT prospects, although both showed pretty good movement skills in positional drills. Still, both look more the stuff of draft projects rather than locks. The difference of opinion across the league may be sharpest for Peat who some teams feel has all the physical tools of a prototype LT, while others think that he may be just too stiff through the lower body to be more than a solid RT.

Indeed, it is kind of interesting that most of the the star of the show for the offensive linemen this week were second-tier guys like Jake Fisher of Oregon, D.J. Humphries of Florida, Laurence Gibson of Virginia Tech, San Diego State’s Terry Poole and unheralded G/T Ali Marpet from unheralded DII Hobart. At the same time, FSU C/T Cam Erving also had a solid workout to cement his status as the top C, however, a number of big RT prospects including Rob Havenstein of Wisconsin, Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo, Daryl Williams of Oklahoma, Donovan Smith of Penn State, Austin Shepherd of Alabama and Jeremiah Poutasi of Utah didn’t show much in the way of athleticism.

There are also some middling prospects at DT. USC’s Leonard Williams, though, was able to make a claim to be the top non-QB prospect in this year’s draft with a solid week in Indianapolis. There are a lot of big bodies at the position but not necessarily a lot of athleticism. Meanwhile, there are some questions about the front end talent at CB, but there is some depth. On the other hand, NFL types didn’t see much in Indianapolis to suggest that several positions including 4-3 DE and OLB, TE and safety won’t be relatively weak this year. In particular, the 4-3 DE situation look like virtual wasteland.

Which brings one back to the QBs. Both Winston and Mariota appear to have checked off all the boxes they could in Indianapolis, given the context of the combine, while UCLA’s Brett Hundley looks like the solid #3 guy at the position, but there appears to still be a major drop-off to the next level at the position. Stay tuned.

And while we are still in the process of updating the GBN Big Board, here’s what the first few levels of a hypothetical NFL draft board might look like given the information gleaned at the combine.

Hypothetical post-combine consensus 2015 value board

Level Players
#1 (1-2) QB Jameis Winston, DT Leonard Williams
#2 (3-6) QB Marcus Mariota, WR Kevin White, WR Amari Cooper, DE/OLB Dante Fowler
#3 (7-12) OT Brandon Scherff, NT Danny Shelton, OLB Vic Beasley, OLB Shane Ray, CB Trae Waynes, DE/OLB Bud Dupree
#4 (13-26) OT Andrus Peat, G/T La’el Collins, OT TJ Clemmings, WR Devante Parker, SS Landon Collins, DT Eddie Goldman, DT Malcom Brown, DT Jordan Phillips, RB Mevin Gordon; On the bubble: RB Todd Gurley, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, DT Arik Armstead, OLB Shaq thompson, CB Marcus Peters