Combine Impressions

By | February 24, 2015

Hey there, surprise! I bet many of you thought I had gone to Mexico for a winter vacation and missed the Combine. Not the case. I have been immersed in watching and re-watching COMBINE action, and reflecting a bit on what I really think I saw. Hopefully some of you caught some of my daily tweeting. Though I always have some complaints about a few guys who are not invited to the event, let me say that none of the omissions impacted the first couple of rounds. Clearly, what I saw over the past 4 days represents the cream of the current prospect crop plus a very high percentage of the overall Draft. So before I talk about any specific players I’d like to give you my thoughts on strength of position groups for the 2015 Draft.
Overall, I have to say this group of players was not as fast as I had expected, or hoped. I am, in fact, amazed that only 7 players in Indy managed to break the 4.40/40 time barrier. Now having said that, I’m not sure what to think of 3 of those 7 who were not even on my Big Board in the Top 256, or draftable, as it were. JJ NELSON/WR/RS/4.28, CHRIS CONLEY/WR/4.35 & JUSTIN COX/DB/4.36 were certainly under the radar coming into the event. Now we have two months to rewatch some tape and decide if they are big time football players or should be prepping for a sprinters spot for the next Olympic Games.
As far as position group talent is concerned here is what I perceive based on adding Combine numbers to football players’ resumes’ at this point in time.

QB This group is strong @ the top with MARIOTA & WINSTON, who both deserve Top 10 draft slots, but lacks depth overall and might not really have another top prospect until Round 3. Out of the 15 players in this group less than half of them may get drafted. I think as many as 5 of these guys should look north of the border for a chance to play sooner and develop their games a bit.
My over/under for QB draftees is 8, more so because of the value placed on the QB position in today’s NFL, not because of excellence.

RB The fact that 36 RB/FB were at the Combine should tell you that this position is not forgotten and the talent is fairly deep. I am still thinking that both GORDON & GURLEY are 1st Rounders. But I found it surprising that JEREMY LANGFORD/Michigan State had the fastest time of any RB with a solid 4.42/40. He showed some burst last season for the Spartans, but I would not have predicted he’d be a full tenth of a second faster than GORDON. GURLEY is of course a ? because of his knee injury. And no, I do not blame him for not letting multiple doctors tug and pull at his surgically repaired knee at this point in time. He got full support on that decision from medical savant DR. JAMES ANDREWS. I’ll put the over/under for RB being drafted this year @ 25 from here plus another 2. A good, not great group, which could rank higher if GURLEY’s rehab goes really well.

WR Just as most of us thought this group is very deep and talented. I think as many as 6 guys who weren’t in Indy will get drafted, as well as the vast majority of the guys who were in town for the event. Don’t think this group was elite and really fast? 11 of the fastest 15 players, per 40-times, were from the WR group. Of the 44 WR at the Combine 39 of them ran their 40’s. 19 of the 39 broke the 4.50/40 mark. That is a pretty fast group. 6 WR had Verts of 40″+, 7 guys had hand spreads in excess of 10″. Just throwing some numbers at you, which is what the Combine is all about. I’ll put the draftable WR number at 40 right now. This group is well above average. I see 5 sure fire 1st Rounders here in COOPER, GREEN-BECKHAM, PARKER, STRONG & KEVIN WHITE. My projected over/under for WR draftees from this group is 39, with another 6 from the non-Combine list.

TE This group of 20 pretty much confirmed that the TE group for the 2105 Draft is undermanned in both depth & talent. Only one guy in this group could post a sub 4.6/40, in MYCOLE PRUITT? I was quite surprised that a guy widely considered to be more of a receiver than blocker, GERALD CHRISTIAN/Louisville, weighed in at 244 lbs. and led the group with 28 reps in the Bench Press. MAXX WILLIAMS/Minnesota had a solid overall set of numbers and on-field workout, but IMO it was not of 1st Round caliber. Based on overall numbers there might be only 2-3 TE taken in the Top 100. And it would likely be considered a reach if anyone in this group was tabbed in Round 1. Over/under for total TE taken in the Draft = 13.

OL Despite the fact that the “experts” want to move all the LT prospects to RT and the RT guys inside to OG or even OC this is a good group of prospects. The quality is aided nicely by underclassmen and some small school guys who have really stepped up. There aren’t a lot of bulked up, or fat guys this year with only 7 of 53 topping the scales at 330 lbs or more. But conversely, there were only 4 guys who weighed in at under 300 lbs. Due to various factors 12 of the 53 did not run their 40’s. Of the 41 players who did run only 1 man (ALI MARPET/4.98) broke the 5 second mark. Another 4 men ran under 5.1/40. This was a fairly “long” group with 25 guys 6’5″ or taller. and 16 with 34″ ,or longer, arms. There are several players listed as OG in this group who I feel could handle an OT job (JARVIS HARRISON the best), but the OC group is pretty mediocre unless you throw CAM ERVING/FSU in there from his OT listing. I could see another 6-7 OL taken in Round 1 and up to 20 in the Top 100. Top man in the bench press was ERECK FLOWERS/Miami, with 37 reps at the ripe old age of 20. Here’s an impressive stat for these big guys: 39 OL did the Vertical Jump and 14 of them hit 30″ or more! Just for the heck of it try to find long-sleeve shirts for these guys: TRENTON BROWN/Florida/36″ & CEDRIC OGBUEHI/Texas A&M/35 7/8″! I’ll set the over/under for total draftees from this group of 53 at 37. I think another 6 potential OL draftees were not invited to this Combine.

DL This group gets a bit tricky to evaluate because the NFL, from an official scouting standpoint, is still not separating out the ‘tweener’ group of edge-pass-rushers from the true down linemen. Most of those guys aren’t big enough to play DE, especially in a 3-4 scheme (which is about half the NFL teams), nor are they flexible enough to play full time standing up as true LBs. So let me play around here a bit with a very impressive overall group that the Combine defined as DL. Of the 55 players listed in the DL group, I would peg 16 players as either pure edge rushers or OLB candidates. Of those OLB candidates we would realistically need to differentiate between OLB for 3-4, or 4-3 schemes. Talk about specialization and finding square pegs for square holes… The variables these days between DE/OLB and the schemes they fit best in the pro game can be overwhelming and would explain why teams have those kind of players ranked so differently from team to team. And the weigh-in numbers on some of these guys did not help sort things out. BUD DUPREE/Kentucky weighed in at 269 lbs. but was listed over in the LB group. Meanwhile, RANDY GREGORY/Nebraska came in at 235 lbs., clearly not stout enough to stand up against the run at DE. Conflicting information was flying left and right for evaluators to decipher. But some really full-sized guys pretty much confirmed their potential as 1st Round DL like WILLIAMS, GOLDMAN, SHELTON & ARMSTEAD. Of the 48 guys who ran their 40’s, 26 had sub-5.0 second times. 10 of those sub-5.0 DL weighed 270 lbs. or more. 20 of the 55 DL weighed in over 300 lbs.Interesting number to me was that only 1 DL member had arms of 35″, that being JOEY MBU/Houston, right on the nose.A curious number to me was he fact that 35 reps won the Bench Press for this position group. Two guys did it with very different body types: DEON SIMON @ 321 lbs. & VIC BEASLEY @ 246 lbs. My plus/minus number for Draftees out of this position group is 35 Combine and another 5 who were excluded, for a total of 40.

LB Purely based on numbers this group of 35, as defined as LB, was statistically one of the weakest groups in Indy. I see perhaps 3-4 1st Rounders in the group, but maybe only another 4-5 in the Top 100. Only 4 players in this group ran sub-4.6/40’s. 15 of 35 guys came in at under 6’1″ tall. Yet only 3 players came in at less than 230 lbs. despite the lack of height. MIKE HULL/Penn State led the group with 31 reps in the bench press and though he is 5’117″ tall he does have 30.5″ long arms. Just as folks were about to bury ROD McKINNEY/Mississippi State as unathletic, he maxed out the group with a 40.5″ Vertical, but he also bottomed out the group with 16 reps in the Bench Press.The biggest disappointment of the group was PAUL DAWSON/TCU who had been rising up Draft Boards since the end of the season. His numbers were poor to average in general and he looked disinterested and/or awkward in field drills. He’s going to have to blow up his Pro Day big time now. Remember now, that I estimated another 16 guys in the DL group as actually being more likely NFL LB candidates than DL. But out of this group I would project an over/under of 23 draftees. Add another 4 from the uninvited column for a total of 27.

DB As usual this group was the largest at the proceedings, but only by 1 over the OL group. I thought it was surprising that only 3 of the fastest 15 40-times came from this group. TRAE WAYNES/Michigan State blazed a 4.31/40 to clearly push himself into the elite Top 12 of the Draft category. More about him later, but JUSTIN COX/Miss State tested out as an exceptional athlete and ran a 4.36/40, 6th best overall. Back to the tape on this player boys & girls. RONALD DARBY/FSU posted the 7th fastest time overall with a 4.38/40. The S group is nowhere near as impressive athletically as the CB, and the testing numbers validated that assessment. The fastest S was DAMARIOUS RANDALL/Arizona State @ 4.46, followed by LANDON COLLINS/Alabama & JAQUISKI TARTT/Samford both @ 4.53. 13 DB ran their 40’s in under 4.5 seconds. Overall I would say this was a solid group of DB, but not special athletically. JOSH SHAW/USC was the muscleman of the group with 26 reps on the Bench Press. One of the buzz players of the day was BYRON JONES/UCONN/CB with is 44.5″ Vert & 12’3″ Broad Jump. But he chose not to run. Quite an interesting circumstance that 3 of 4 Louisville DB were in this group.Though his workout numbers were good, KEVIN JOHNSON/CB/Wake Forest a Top 100 prospect projected to be about 5’10 and 175 lbs. checked in at 6’002″ and 188 lbs. Those are money making numbers for him. I also thought it was interesting that of UCF teammates, S/CLAYTON GEATHERS posted a faster 40-time of 4.55 than CB/JACOBY GLENN at 4.64. I’m thinking about 40 of the Combine DB will get drafted, as will another 6 uninvited players putting my over/under @ 46 for the DB group come Draft weekend.

That’s it for this article. Tomorrow I will highlight specific players who got my attention for their work in Indianapolis.