By Jared Stanger
The first day of NFL Scouting Combine player arrivals is this Tuesday. First group weigh-ins are Wednesday. And the first groups to do testing and field work will happen Friday. The recipe is the same as it’s always been, but let’s take a look at what the farm has brought to market this year.
We’ll take a look at each position group highlighting the guys that should stand out, and a few of the potential surpRISERS.
Quarterback – field testing Saturday, March 2
It’s a down year for QB’s. It’s down for them as passers, and it’s down for them as athletes. It’s safe to assume that Kyler Murray will be the big winner athletically. His size is more akin to a running back, and his athleticism should follow that same comparison.
The guy that is going to surprise people is Jake Browning. I believe Jake has the potential to run in the 4.6’s in the 40 yard dash.
But, for the most part, we shouldn’t (and don’t) care about QB athleticism. QB’s should be making their money in private team interviews.
Running back – field testing Friday, March 1
RB is another group that lacks much star power. There are a handful of backs that I will be watching with curiosity: Mike Weber, Devin Singletary, Miles Sanders, Justice Hill, Trayveon Williams.
But mostly, I am looking forward to the testing numbers for Damien Harris and Jordan Scarlett. These are both similarly built 5’11″/215lbs runners from SEC schools where they found themselves in backfield timeshares this year.
Scarlett placed second in Florida carries to Lamical Perine’s 134 attempts; finishing with 776 yards on 131 carries, 5.92ypc, and 5 TD’s.
Harris led Alabama in carries with 150, 876 yards, 5.84 ypc, 9 TD to out-touch Josh Jacobs’ 120 carries, and Najee Harris’ 117.
But, now, at the combine; both of these backs will be able to work individually, and show the world something it hasn’t quite grasped yet: these two guys are nice athletes. I think Harris can leave Indy with a 4.48s time, and Scarlett will make the most money in his group running in the 4.40-4.43s range.
In a general sense; the single RB test to keep an eye on is the Shuttle. But really you want to wait for the composite scores like SPARQ for runners.
Wide receiver – field testing Saturday, March 2
WR is always one of the biggest groups, which gives the biggest chance for surprises. You get a lot of small-school receivers that are tough to find tape on like Emmanuel Butler, Keelan Doss, Ahston Dulin, Jazz Ferguson, Alex Wesley. I really have no clue if any of these guys are gonna test well.
The handful of WR that I expect to do best in the 40: Parris Campbell, Emanuel Hall, Darius Slayton, Terry McLaurin, Andy Isabella.
For overall testing, I like Travis Fulgham, Hall, and McLaurin a lot, and then I’m hoping for solid testing from any/all of LilJordan Humphrey, Gary Jennings, Riley Ridley, Demarkus Lodge, Anthony Johnson, Tyre Brady. I like Seattle to try and replace Jaron Brown on the cheap this year in the draft. Someone in the 6’2″/210lb range with 4.4s speed.
Analytics’ly, the test to watch is the 3-cone. Production-wise, the stat to watch is the “hog” factor (market share). I’ve talked about Seattle’s penchant for drafting hogs for many years now. Lockett was a hog, PRich was a hog, Golden was a hog.
This year’s hogs:
And then the next tier goes something like: Anthony Johnson, Hakeem Butler, Tyre Brady, LilJordan Humphrey, Stanley Morgan, Kelvin Harmon, Jovon Durante.
Tight end – field testing Saturday, March 2
What started out as a pretty dismal TE class grew throughout the season into a very nice group as the best of the best of underclassmen all seemed to declare.
We should see a fair amount of stud athletes at TE. I’ve got, in no certain order, Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson, Irv Smith, Jace Sternberger, Caleb Wilson, and maybe Alize Mack sneaking in there.
The TE forty times will, as usual, get the headlines, but what you want to watch here is both of their jumps. The forty you can actually make due with pretty much any time under a 4.80s. I like a 9’6″ minimum broad, and a 30″ minimum vert.
Offensive line – field testing Friday, March 1
I’m really looking forward to finding out how many of the OL have the athleticism to match what is a very solid class of players on tape. I’m not expecting a crazy amount of athletes. That isn’t what this class is about, for me. This class is blue collar, grinders. But it’s always nice when you can get athleticism, too.
The two unique guys that I immediately get most excited about seeing are the two WA guys: Andre Dillard and Kaleb McGary. Dillard is going to compete for the fastest OL forty time, and McGary should put on a show in the bench and jumps.
I’m sure there will be a new Kolton Miller this year. Somebody that tests out of sight, and then gets overdrafted relative to his game tape. David Edwards seems like that kind of name going in to the combine, but I’m not sure he’s that name coming out of it. I think the name coming out of the combine will be Yoshua Nijman. Nijman is gonna win the weigh-in, and should surprise people in his testing. But if you revisit the tape, Yosh really didn’t take the step forward in 2018 that I was hoping he’d make.
Defensive line – field testing Sunday, March 3
It’s a spectacular group of DL in this year’s draft. Lets hope they also put up some spectacular test scores.
The two obvious names in this group going into the combine are Ed Oliver and Rashan Gary. I’m not particularly high on either of them. Oliver feels like the guy that constantly ends up nicked, and Gary is simply not a good player. But, yes, they should put up tremendous test scores.
I’m more excited to see scores for Dre’mont Jones, Christian Wilkins, Khalen Saunders.
The tests we really want to watch for DL are the jumps, and not the 40 time, but the 10-split of the 40 time. That’s how you potentially spot a Michael Bennett upside from a guy with a poor 40.
My interest is on LJ Collier, Kingsley Keke, Joe Jackson, Anthony Nelson, and Charles Omenihu.
Edge rushers – field testing Sunday, March 3
There are plenty of edge guys that are already getting their deserved hype, and most should test well next Sunday. This is the Josh Allen, Nick Bosa, Montez Sweat, Jachai Polite, Brian Burns group. I’m not going to focus on them.
My focus is going to be on lengthening the Edge lineup by finding the next Yannick Ngakoue from this year’s class. I think there’s a lower tier of DE/OLB filled with names like Ben Banogu, Jordan Brailford, Malik Carney, Jamal Davis, Justin Hollins, Christian Miller, Deandre Walker, Wyatt Ray that isn’t getting the respect they deserve. Any of this group posting a sub-4.75s forty time and solid jumps should be considered good value in the 3rd-4th rounds. If you can properly develop one of these guys; this year’s 3rd round Kyler Fackrell could become 2021’s 10-sack player.
The biggest sleeper in this group athletically might be Jamal Davis. The one-time Pitt Panther transferred to Akron and kind of got lost in the crowd, but at 6’4″/240lbs, 82 tackles, 16.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 6 hurries, 6 PBU; Jamal has got a nice skillset.
Linebacker – field testing Sunday, March 3
Similar to how I feel about this year’s OL class is how I feel about this year’s LB class. It’s not a crazy athletic group. It’s more blue-collar, playing smart and tough. I don’t know if you find a Bobby Wagner this year…but I think there’s potential for quite a few KJ Wright’s.
I also kinda think the Combine dropped the ball at LB; missing invites for Khalil Hodge, Tre Watson, Joe Dineen, Jordan Kunaszyk, Malik Fountain. If you know how to predict NFL success; these guys should have been given a combine shot.
Hopefully one of Terrill Hanks, Otaro Alaka, TJ Edwards, Joe Giles-Harris, Bobby Okereke emerges from the Sunday session.
Unlike a lot positions; the 40 time matters here.
Safety – field testing Monday, March 4
The most problematic position group of this year’s defensive class. Not a lot of athletes, not a lot of blue collar, not a lot of future stars. I strongly suggest considering stealing from CB to build a safety.
Deionte Thompson can play, but he isn’t an athlete (and today was announced he won’t test due to surgery on his wrist). Jonathan Abram is the blue collar guy, but I’m spooked by his potential to stay healthy with his playing style. Nasir Adderley might be the best athlete in the group, but (unlike most) I don’t see a 1st round player nor star in him. Taylor Rapp is a well-rounded player, but his speed will surprise and disappoint people.
I’m left sitting here hoping that Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and/or Darnell Savage can distinguish themselves from this field.
Cornerback – field testing Monday, March 4
This is actually a pretty interesting group for the Combine. We have SOOO many similarly graded players at corner this year. Potentially quite a few guys with 5th round tape but 2nd round athleticism. Tie-breakers can easily be made with athletic testing, to establish an “upside” edge over comparable film scores.
My group of 5th round tape, 2nd round athleticism:
Thomas is the name on that list that you need to watch for most. He’s going to run a 4.3s forty. Jordan Miller is also pretty freaky and should post some crazy jumps.
Specific to the Seahawks, of course you generally start with those CB’s with 32″ arms. Usually also 190lbs or bigger. But…this year Seattle is potentially finding itself in more need of a nickel corner type. This is the role Justin Coleman has played for the last couple years, but Coleman is in line for a fat payday in free agency and that likely comes on another team.
So what was Coleman? 5’11″/185lbs, 4.53s forty, 37.5″ vert, 10’04” broad, 3.98 shuttle, 6.61 cone. Slightly smaller build, but still big jumps like most Seattle CB. But the big difference is the agility scores. The other recent Seattle nickel was more of a hybrid in Jeremy Lane: 6’0″/190lbs, 4.48s forty, 42″ vert, 10’10” broad, 4.14 shuttle, 7.02 cone.
Names I’m interested in for the nickel spot (at the right testing and the right price): Xavier Crawford, Montre Hartage, David Long, Kendall Sheffield.