The track meet, also known as the NFL Combine, is in the books, leaving NFL Personnel Departments with a lot of new info to digest, as they plan ahead for the final big event of the next season. That would be the NFL Draft, being held in Las Vegas this year, starting April 28. And they certainly have a lot of new info to chew on. And we as fans don’t even know the half of it, when it comes to what went on in Indy. We saw workouts and tons of numbers in the annual attempt to quantify the relative quality of football players to be distributed around the League in April. However, we do not know exactly what the exhaustive medical process, and team/player interviews revealed.
It only seems fitting that the Combine was held within a reasonably inexpensive Uber-fare to the site of the annual Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its Indy 500 race around Memorial Day. Speed was certainly the by-word of this year’s Combine.
Clearly the definition of speed at this venue is a bit relative to size, but even then, the outliers posted some pretty impressive 40-time numbers. By position groups, here are the leaders, and what they clocked:
RB/P. STRONG/4.37 & I. PACHECO/4.37
And even tho he was not the fastest in his position group, RUSSEL DAVIS DT Georgia stole the show early on Saturday with a 40-time of 4.78 at whopping 341 lbs. The biggest of the big guys, OT DANIEL FAALELE Minnesota, declined to run a 40 and rumor has it that at 384 lbs. he was asked not to run, or attempt a vertical jump, at the request of the Building Inspector at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Just kidding.
And as the old saying goes, these speed merchants may be the cream of the crop, so to speak, but they also represent just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. For those of you who are not scientifically inclined, the visual part of the average iceberg sticking out of the water is only the top 20% of the total size. 80% is below the surface of the water.
We still have quite a bit to look forward to as Pro Day’s begin. For instance, of the consensus Top 6 of the QB prospects, only 3 hit the field to work out. Malik Willis, with a tip of the cap to Lamar Jackson, didn’t even run a 40, although he did throw a bit. 9 of my Top 50 players at the Combine did not fully participate in the proceedings. Those guys now have an INCOMPLETE on their proverbial report cards with Pro Day’s coming up next.
If you were putting a college track team together based on this venue, you would have to select the guys from Baylor. TYQUAN THORNTON/4.28, KALON BARNES/4.23, J.T. WOODS/4.36, were all blazers. And some other Baylor prospects (J. Pitre, A. Smith, T. Bernard) will likely post solid numbers at their Pro Day.
Daniel Jeremiah relayed an interesting story about Baylor, when MATT RUHLE moved there from Temple. His first year there was rough out on the football field and he decided their biggest issue was a lack of speed and athleticism on their roster. So he and his staff targeted exceptional track athletes from around Texas, and he charged his position group coaches to develop them as football players. It clearly worked, with Dave Aranda picking up on that process in recent recruiting classes.
As most of you probably know, GEORGIA had the most players of any team at the Combine, with 14. And none of them looked out of place. In fact, I did a little projecting of them for Draft purposes. I came up with 5 in Round 1, 9 in the first 3 Rounds, and all 14 drafted overall. Even their Punter CAMARDA will likely be drafted.
So my guess is that many of you want to know who I am projecting into Round 1… in probable order..
TRAVON WALKER DL/ER
JORDAN DAVIS DT
NAKOBE DEAN LB (Did not work out at Combine)
LEWIS CINE S
DEVONTE WYATT DT
Although we saw flashes from him at the Senior Bowl, I was blown away by the testing in Indy, for AMARE’ BARNO, from VA TECH. He is likely to be a hybrid OLB/Edge player, who gets moved all over the formations so that opposing offenses have to play Where’s Waldo with him. BARNO measured in at 6’045/246, with 34″ Arms. Then he blazed a 4.36/40, which included an explosive 1.54-second, 10-yard split.
I have now placed BARNO in my potential Round 1 Prospect list, which after the Combine has blown up to 46 players. I will of course whittle that down, but you get the idea of the quality depth of this year’s Prospect list. I have actually omitted one of the previously elite CB prospects from my First Round projections, at least for now: DEREK STINGLEY/CB/LSU. He was in Indy, but could not yet participate in any drill work. Word was that he had just gotten clearance from his doctor for full workouts, and to participate in the LSU Pro-Day, which is lucky for him, very late in the process. Good luck Mr. Stingley.
Hope you enjoyed Combine watching and are geared up for Pro Day’s to fill in some more blanks.
P.S. Just as another little aside, more than half of my Top 50 ranked prospects were officially considered Underclassmen by the League Office back in January.
P.S.S. In an article for later this week I will be detailing the 7 players who impressed me enough that I added them to fill out my Top 300 0verall prospects list.