Combine 2020: Who Got My Attention

March 4, 2020

Over 300 prospects running, jumping, and talking their way towards the NFL Draft. It’s one of the world’s biggest Job Fairs, and the most heavily scrutinized by football fans everywhere. And don’t forget the all important medical component that starts things off for each player. You may choose not to run your “40” at Indy, but you will go through the medical and interview processes. If you aren’t doing those, then stay at your Performance Camps boys. But overall, it is a valuable tool for the serious Draftnik, and team personnel departments. One major catch is that a great deal goes on behind the closed doors that the league keeps to itself and it’s members. Hey, it’s their party and we are just along for part of the ride. I look at their secrets at the Combine being a handy excuse when I project a guy for Round 3 and he isn’t selected ’til Round 6. If I had only had all that medical info… We must also remember that they don’t wear pads and engage in combat. I always like to say that the NFL Draft process is a good sized jigsaw puzzle, and the Combine is one piece in that puzzle.

So here are 12 players, who I either had serious questions about, or was hardly even aware of, that made me sit up on the edge of my chair with their numbers and appearance in Indy. In alphabetical order…

CAM AKERS  RB Florida State 5’103″  217 lbs.  4.47/40  20 reps  35.5″ vert. Not that long ago, this guy was ranked as a 5-Star, top RB in the country when he went to FSU. However, he got caught up in a mess in Tallahassee with HC JIMBO FISHER getting tired of his program having less than elite facilities and his not getting paid top dollar. For his 3-years at FSU, AKERS never even had a mediocre OL to block for him. So, he’s headed to the NFL and trying to re-establish his reputation as a RB. Starting with his 5th best 40-time in the RB group, he looked smooth and athletic in his drill work. He was even faster (by 0.01 seconds) than a first round projected player named SWIFT. Word also leaked out that he is carrying a big chip on his shoulder for all the luster his name lost toiling for the Seminoles. I’m gonna say I now have him ranked as the 5th best RB prospect in the Draft.

MEHKI BECTON  OT  Louisville  6’073″  364   5.10/40  23 reps  35 5/8″ arms   10 3/4″ hands  Massive, huge, gargantuan… pick a word. He might be what a son of Andre The Giant might look like. Now take a very close look at his 40-time above. Before the 2018 Combine, a giant named ORLANDO BROWN came out of Oklahoma, and became an instant starter at OT for the Ravens. BROWN is about 6’8/345 lbs. He ran a 5.85/40 at the 2018 Combine. Now look at Becton’s 5.10/40 again. Back in late Jan. Daniel Jeremiah, of NFL Network published his first Top 50 list and had BECTON as his 5th highest ranked prospect overall. I choked on my coffee and muttered that DJ had lost his mind. Just as the Combine was starting, DJ republished his rankings and dropped BECTON to 10th. I am no longer laughing. BECTON, and his 5.10/40 are the real deal. He’s huge, he’s agile, he’s strong. He hit a Home Run with his work in Indy.

JEREMY CHINN  S/LB  Southern Illinois  6’3  221    4.45/40  20 reps   41″ vert  138″ BJ      You might recall that back in late January, during Senior Bowl week, I was singing the praises of two small school Safeties named DUGGER & CHINN. I said that they were the best two S’s at that venue. DUGGER continued to get praise and attention over the next month, but I seldom heard CHINN’s name come up again. Well they were both at the Combine, and they both did well again, with CHINN’s numbers a bit better than DUGGER’s overall. CHINN, to me, is a poor man’s ISAIAH SIMMONS, with position and scheme versatility, as well as athleticism to spare. CHINN used the Combine to his advantage and is solidly in my Top 100 prospect list. He’s at least a 3rd Round Pick in April. I would take him in late Round 2.

CHASE CLAYPOOL   WR   Notre Dame  6’042″  238 lbs.    9 7/8″ hands  80″wing    4.42/40  40.5″ vert  I’ve been drinking CLAYPOOL Kool-Aid since rooming with SCOTT WRIGHT in Mobile for Senior Bowl week. Scott is a huge Domer, and luvs the size and versatility of CLAYPOOL. I share his opinion, and that was strengthened when I studied the tape and found what a key Special Teams guy he was. CLAYPOOL had a solid week in Mobile, and had some momentum heading into the Combine, but there was some talk that perhaps he should gain another 7-10 lbs. and view himself as a TE prospect. Well, he put that little concept to rest when he ran his 4.42/40 at 238 lbs. And he was stellar at just about everything he did in Indy. That would also include the interview process from what I have heard. CLAYPOOL cinched it in my book, a a Top 100 player and at the WR spot.

EZRA CLEVELAND  OT  Boise State   6’6″ 311 lbs.  4.93/40    33 3/8″ arms   80 3/8″ wing  30 reps CLEVELAND was a guy who made me feel silly with his Combine work. I recall seeing his name as an early entry shortly before the declaration deadline for underclassmen. I think I yawned when I saw the announcement. You have “punked” me Mr. CLEVELAND. The guy I saw working out in Indy was a long player, with good athleticism. About the only thing I could quibble with was his arm length for an NFL OT. But even that isn’t off by much. He got my attention right away when he sprinted to his sub-5 second 40-time. I also liked his balance in every drill I watched him in.  At the least,  I now have him just outside my Top 100, as a 4th Rounder. But maybe with some game tape review, he just might get himself into my Top 100.

KHALIL DAVIS  DT  Nebraska   6’01”   308 lbs.  9 3/4″ hands  4.75/40    32 reps    This is another player who I seriously missed during my scouting time at the Shrine Venue. Quite frankly, I think I got caught up in the human interest aspect of he and his twin brother (CARLOS) being somewhat joined at the hip as a DT tandem. With that mindset, I missed out on what he was doing a an individual prospect. His 40-time smacked me right between the eyes at the Combine.  He’s not quite heavy enough to be considered a prospect on the Nose, but in a 4-3 base scheme, he may have a lot to offer. GALLIMORE may have gotten more pub, but the DAVIS twins (there I go again) carved out their niche in Indy. KHALIL is now firmly in my Top 100.

DENZEL MIMS    WR   Baylor    6’027″ 207 lbs.  4.38/40    9 3/8″ hands  33 7/8″ arms  6.66 3-Cone MIMS got some serious attention for his work in Mobile during Senior Bowl week. He was a long, smooth athlete who used his size to good advantage and caught everything thrown his way. However, I wasn’t totally sold in a very crowded group of WR prospects. He totally won me over at the Combine, starting with that sub-4.40/40. I think part of the reason that I missed some of his skill is that he is so damn smooth. He makes it look effortless at times, and his gliding running is deceptive when it comes to gauging his speed. Count me in as a strong believer who now has MIMS entrenched in my Top 100.

ALBERT OKWUEGBUNAM    TE  Missouri    6’054″  258 lbs.   4.49/40   10 1/4″ hands  34 1/8″ arms  This guy has been a highly rated athlete since entering he Mizzou program, and he clearly was a victim of  a lot of upheaval in the football program, which ended with the firing of HC BARRY ODOM, which likely had a lot to do with ALBERT O’s decision to leave school a year early. Many, yours truly included, felt it was not the wisest move after a season in which he personally regressed to only 26 catches, despite a pretty talented QB in Clemson transfer KELLY BRYANT. Well, ALBERT O. put up some Combine numbers that got him some legit attention in a year with a less than strong TE group for the Draft. Look at his size numbers above and then think about that 40-time. His hands and arms are what you want to see on a guy his size. He may have moved himself back into a Day 2 draft position if his interviews were strong.

DANNY PINTER   OG    Ball State   6’042″  306 lbs.  4.91/40   9 1/2″ hands    31 7/8″ arms  This guy was my biggest “wow, who’s he” moment of the Combine. I had no familiarity with the TE turned OT. The MAC was mediocre from top to bottom last season, and some of the action was unwatchable for yours truly. His height and arm length target him for an Interior OL job, where he will be a good size fit, and above average as an athlete. Gotta get me some tape, and pay attention, to see what he might do at the Ball State Pro Day, but he has my full attention as a potential Day 3, draftable player.

JAMES SMITH-WILLIAMS   EDGE  N.C. State   6’035″  265 lbs.   4.60/40   33 3/4″ arms   81 1/2″ wing   I had seen SMITH-WILLIAMS in action back in January at the Shrine venue. The long, lean frame and ability to bend on the edge were hard to miss. He. was a big time “flash” player all week. Some of the numbers recorded next to his name reconfirmed my initial opinions on him. The key question is whether he will purely be an edge-rush specialist, or can he develop into a full time DE. His 4.60/40-time was the fastest for any DL at the Combine who weighed over 250 lbs. His smooth performance in shorts still has me fascinated with his potential. The Wolfpack has put a lot of defensive linemen into the NFL in recent years. Could he be the next one? I am not sure, but I am fascinated.

DAVION TAYLOR  LB  Colorado   6’004″  228  lbs.  4.49/40   9 5/8″ Hands  35″ Vert  6.96/3-cone TAYLOR is another player who impressed at the Senior Bowl with his quickness, speed, and instincts. He clearly fits the new mold of NFL Defense where LB’s must have speed and cover ability to stay on the field. TAYLOR’s 3-Cone of sub-7.00 tells you that he uses that quickness effectively in changing direction. I have put away my “size prejudice” and see his quickness and ball instincts as being more important than being taller and heavier. He also has the look of an excellent Special Teamer.

TRISTAN WIRFS   OT  Iowa  6’047″  320 lbs.  4.85/40  34″arms  80 1/4″ wing  36.5″ Vert  121″ BJ    You may recall that I was not an immediate WIRFS fan last Fall. However, the light went on late in the Hawkeyes season as their Offense seemingly emerged from the stone ages. Opening up that O allowed WIRFS more chances to display his athleticism. His weigh-in numbers in Indy were impressive overall, and then he blazed that 4.85/40 at 320 lbs. Count me in as seeing him as a Top 10 draftee. He looked very smooth in his on-field drill work. His arms are just OK for a pro OT, but that 80+ wing span helps. I also think that his 36.5″ vertical jump at his weight gives a clear indication of his explosion off the snap of the ball. Very well done Mr. WIRFS!