Now that I have recovered from the “shock and awe” of the CARR/SAINTS marriage announcement, as well as the BEARS taking advantage of the Panthers impatient Owner Mr. Tepper and moving off Pick One in the 2023 Draft, I am getting back to the guys who used the Combine to raise their Draft stock in my mind, and some who slipped down my Prospect List.
Moving’ On Up
YASIR ABDULLAH OLB Louisville 6’1/237 ABDULLAH was among a half-dozen names I saw on the Combine Invite list and I had to go check out his 2022 stats immediately. I had not put his name in any of my prospect lists at that point in time. He is up there now. ABDULLAH was a blitzing LB who recorded 63 Tackles and 9.5 Sacks last season for the Cardinals. His 4.47/40 was the 4th fastest of the 20 players from the LB Group to run their 40’s. He tested well in almost every category. He showed enough that a lot of us are going back to watch some game action, which I did little of this past season of the Louisville football program. That makes this a positive Combine for Mr. Abdullah.
EARL BOSTICK OT Kansas 6’6/309 I had BOSTICK in a few of my early prospect lists, but shuffled him down when I saw no one on that band wagon. Until, that is, his name popped up on the East/West Shrine roster. I liked his size and had to get past my Kansas Football program negative bias. They were a competitive team last season and had to have some talent. When his name appeared on the Combine Invite list I perked up. Then I really perked up when I saw some of his Combine numbers. 34 1/8″ arms said to me, ‘hey maybe OT after all’. A 5.05/40 time, with a 1.74 split. His 31″ vert, was 4th best in the OT group. I now have him in my OT list as an early Round 4 prospect.
BRAEDEN DANIELS IOL Utah 6’4/295 A tough, experienced product of the solid UTES football program. He might have looked a bit out of place with the OT group, but not so with his Indy friends on the IOL. He too posted a sub-5.00/40 time(4.99)and his 1.71 second, 10 yd split was the lowest of the 20 IOL who ran their 40. His overall athleticism stood out, and I think he now has solid Round 4 Draft value, due in large part to his versatility to back up all 5 OL spots as needed.
BRYCE FORD-WHEATON WR West Virginia. 6’4/221 I had watched FORD-WHEATON in several early season games. I liked the big guy and his work on jump ball throws and sideline possession work. But the best was yet to come at the Combine. His sub-4.40/40 (4.38) was outstanding. He showed explosive numbers with a 41″ vert & 10’9″ BJ. His 33 1/2″ arm length combined with his Vert clearly indicate a very large catch radius. He is back into my Top 100 after this show.
BLAKE FREELAND OT BYU 6’8/302 The former multi-sport athlete showed it during workouts. He will need to work on his upper body strength, but his 4.98/40 at 6’8 was a total surprise to me. Even more so was his 37″ vert which was impressive for his frame. I can see him in late Round 3 and spending his first NFL season trying to bulk up with more muscle, but he got some solid interest from scouts. Once again, back to the game tape guys.
JON GAINES IOL UCLA 6’4/303 I will confess that I was not viewing him as a Draft Prospect until he showed up on Mr. Galko’s Shrine Bowl roster. He had also been on the NFLPA roster. So when I saw his name on the Combine Invite list I prepared to check his numbers… and they were very good. In fact in both the 40-time and 10 yd/split he finished just fractions of a second behind DANIELS (see above). He looks athletic enough to win an NFL roster spot, and I anticipate his name being called by Round 5/6.
CALIJAH KANCEY DT Pitt 6’1/281 Yep, I am well aware it’s a long way from a break-out final year in college football to a League Defensive Player of the Year, but it’s also hard to miss the similarities between AARON DONALD and KANCEY. KANCEY recorded the fastest 40 time and 10 yd/split amongst the DL group. He had an excellent 2022 season @ PITT, and is now being talked about as a First Rounder. Count me in on the praise for KANCEY. He has proved that he has change for a First Round call, ala that that other famous PITT Panther named DONALD.
ZACH KUNTZ TE Old Dominion 6’6/255 IMO, a very strong and deep TE Group got even deeper with the numbers KUNTZ posted. His 4.55/40 was not expected for his size, at 255. 10 1’4″ hands and 34″ long arms also impressed. He’s a bit raw right now, but he’s in my Top 10 of the stellar TE group now. He may be in the early Day 3 range.
TREY PALMER WR/RS Nebraska 6’0/192 I was most anxious to watch PALMER in drill work and speed measurements. He did not disappoint. His 4.33/40 was the 4th fastest at the Combine, and fastest in the WR Group. He looked smooth and fast in passing/receiving drills. His 9 5/8″ hand size is very good, and his 6’/192 frame is solid. As long as he passed the interview process he should have a solid place for Round 3. And he may be an elite Return Specialist in the NFL as well.
JALEN REDMOND DL Oklahoma 6’2/291 Let’s face it, the biggest problem, in Oklahoma in recent history has been ineffective Defense, despite some very good athletes on the D side of the ball. Some of the issues had to be the schemes during the RILEY regime. The most recent example is Mr. REDMOND who knocked my socks off with his numbers at the Combine. He came in at 6’2/291, so kinda in the KANCEY/DONALD body build class. He ran a 4.81/40 with a 1.71 split. He also posted a 34.5″ Vert. His hands were 10 1/8″ & arms 32 5/8″ in length. He looked smooth in the drill work.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON QB Florida 6’4/244 He did everything we thought he would… and then some. His 4.43/40 was record setting . So too, were his 40.5″ vertical and 10’9″ Broad Jump. His 10 1/2″ hands made him a likely safe pick for even cold weather teams. But what really stood out was his solid work in throwing drills. His throwing techniques look like someone has been working overtime with him , and though he has a way to go he’s clearly back in Round One despite his limited resume’ in game action. The ceiling is just too high for QB needy teams to ignore. And I am including teams with older starting QB who do not have a logical successor in house.
NOLAN SMITH ER/OB Georgia 6’2/238 The serious torn pec muscle was the only reason he lost some of his shine in 2022. But everything he did in Indy showed he’s all healed up and ready to be an impact rusher in the NFL. His 4.39/40 was mind blowing at 238 lbs. But I don’t see him on the Edge up front. I think he will need to convert to OLB and perhaps put his hand on the ground purely on passing downs. That 41.5″ vert was pretty darn athletic as well. Solid Round One… again.
DARNELL WASHINGTON TE Georgia 6’7/264 A monstrous physical presence, and an elite athlete for his size. A 4.64/40 is pretty special at almost 6’7 and 264 lbs. His 34 3/8″ arms and vert make him a huge target. His Wingspan measured 83 3/4″. We have seen him block and he’s gonna be in some Jumbo Packages as a pro. There is not doubt in my mind that his comp is MARCEDES LEWIS, who was a Round One draftee by Jacksonville, who ended up in Green Bay and was still solid as a blocker and occasional target for Mr. Rodgers last season. Oh yeah, DARNELL made a couple of OBJ-like, one-handed catches in drill work in Indy as well.
BYRON YOUNG ER/OB Tennessee 6’2/250 This guy looked so athletic and strong that he posted top tier numbers in both the LB and ER Groups. His 4.43/40 at 250 lbs, was elite in either position group. His 38″ Vert & 11′ BJ were also exceptional for his size. His 33 1/2″ arms are incredible on his 6’2 frame. This is the kind of athlete the VOLS used to turn out every year. A Top 100 prospect who used the Combine to cement his spot as a likely Top 50 Draftee.
BRIAN BRANCH DB Alabama 6’0/190 BRANCH is a decent athlete and very instinctive player. One of the best pure tacklers of the secondary players in Indy. But his 4.58/40 clearly makes him a S prospect, not a First Round Nickel. He’s still in my Top 100, but not at all the guy I had flirting with First Round potential.
ANTON HARRISON OT Oklahoma 6’4/315 Didn’t quite measure up to the hype some had given him during the 2022 season. He measured only 6’4, with 34 1/8″arms. He ran well, with a sub-5.00/40-time. His lower body looks kinda slender and stiff. Another First Round mention, who I thought looked like a 3rd Rounder.
BRANDON JOSEPH S Notre Dame. 6’0/202 Another highly touted grad transfer, who looked lost a lot of the time in the Notre Dame secondary last season. And in a rather weak S Group he was not impressive at the Combine. In fact he displayed non-athleticism in much of his work. He also showed short arms at only 30 7/8″. I now consider him “late” draftable.
KENNY McINTOSH RB Georgia 6’0/204 The high praise for McIntosh began when he decided to attend Senior Bowl week. He had a mediocre, at times awkward, week of practices there. He dropped quite a few balls and seemed to lack his purported breakaway speed. It was no fluke. He ran a slow 4.62/40 in Indy. He just disappeared as time went on and after his poor 40-time, he skipped all other tests. He is not even in my Top 100 any more.
MICHAEL MORRIS DL Michigan 6’5/275 After reports that this guy was around 290 lbs.last season in Big Ten play, he showed up and weighed 275. But worst of all was his body stiffness and inability to change directions. He fell multiple times trying to perform field drills in the DL group. H MORRIS probably should have gone back to An Arbor for another year and worked on some of his athletic short comings.
WANYA MORRIS OT Oklahoma 6’5/307 MORRIS has been a a tantalizing athletics specimen with height and long (35 1/8″) arms, but he does not play at an elite level. He is also not impressively strong at 6’5, but only 307. I didn’t see a top prospect when I saw his name on the invite list, and he was almost invisible on the field in Indy. Later Round draftable.
JARRETT PATTERSON IOL Notre Dame 6’5/306 PATTERSON is solid and has lots of experience against top level programs. But he did nothing special to catch your eye in Indy with these other top athletes. His 5.33/40 indicates OC for him. His 31 3/8″ arms are also clearly IOL length. I luv his 10″ hands for an OC who must grip that ball in cold weather games. Round 4, but nothing he did in Indy elevated his stock.
CLARK PHILLIPS NB Utah 5’9/184 He will still get drafted (Day 3 early) but he is just too small, all over, and his testing numbers were not impressive. His 4.51/40 was disappointing. His 29 1/8″ arms screamed out Nickel. And his 33″ vert tied him with Alex Austin for shortest jump of the 27 CB who did the Vertical. Not good at all for an NFL prospect.
NOAH SEWELL ILB Oregon 6’2/246 He did not test as well as expected. His 4.64/40-time was in the slower half of his position group. The same was true for his Vert and Broad Jump numbers. He was NOT terrible, but did not show the athleticism to make my Top 100.
TULI TUIPULOTU DL Southern Cal 6’3/266 He and his agent must have decided it was best for him to shoot for the bigger money of a DE/Edge player. So he showed up in Indy about 20 lbs. lighter than people thought he would. But it was if he was a no show for the Combine. I don’t know exactly how to rank him right now, but I do know it’s not going to be in my Top 100.
Off My Board
KAYSHON BOUTTE WR LSU 5’11/195 Besides not looking athletic, and likely not in top football condition in Indy, I am just sick and tired of the rumors and innuendo about his off field issues at LSU. If I worked for, or ran, an NFL team’s Personnel Department I would check this guy off as not worth the hassle or risk of ringing him into my locker room. Just me, and if he ever wakes up, I would have to eat crow upon his first Pro Bowl appearance.
STETSON BENNETT QB Georgia 5’11/192 He was a great college football story at Georgia, but he really doesn’t have enough pro football assets to truly compete for a job in the NFL to my eyes. The chip on his shoulder may too much for him to carry. I have heard, from folks I trust, that he is a “different” guy, and he’s had a few oops moments off the field.
Close to making this list in my mind is one WILL LEVIS/QB/Kentucky. He may have a “cannon arm” (his own words) but I feel like he has been dodging exposure since his ankle injury last Fall. The talent is there, but he has done a lot more talking than playing football over the past 4 months or so. Poor decision making when coverage in a secondary gets tight. Being a full sized QB, he’s not officially on this list yet, but I sure as heck wouldn’t risk a Round One Pick on him.