The NFL Scouting Combine is that magical place where dreams can come true, or they can be crushed. While there was constant reinforcement from Mike Mayock that players get “two bites at the apple” we’ve seen more and more marginal players have their stock shift based on their performance at the combine, rather than their pro-day. For those of you not as invested in the process as I am, let me break it down a bit.
The combine is where the NFL invites hundreds of positional players to come and work out to showcase their measurable abilities. Players have the option of participating in all, some, or none of the activities. Players have various reasons and motivations for not wanting to participate, ranging from medical right through to psychological. Players who don’t participate can try to showcase their skills at their school’s pro-day. This is where larger schools hold similar demonstrations of abilities, but at their facilities. Players often perform better at their pro-day as they are comfortable with the surroundings. Coaches and scouts often look at the combine results as being more accurate, and they do help to showcase some mental toughness on the part of the athletes. Of course, game tape is often weighted equally to performances at these events as they show game IQ and decision making abilities.
So with all that said, let’s break down who did themselves a service and who hurt their draft stock with their NFL Draft Combine performances (or lack there of).
Stock Up: Dak Prescott – Mississippi State
Stock Down: Connor Cook – Michigan State
Quarterback measurables are all a little silly. Unless you’re asking your QB to run for you than a lot of what the combine is meant to showcase isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. After Jared Goff and Carson Wentz teams might be struggling to put a third name on their draft board. Enter Dak Prescott. Prescott showed off great timing and accuracy in all the passing drills, including a very fine touch that a lot of QB’s are lacking at this stage. Coupled with solid footwork, balance, and strong leadership skills, Prescott may have just worked himself into the first round.
Unlike Prescott, Connor Cook did not look good in his passing drills. The ball was rarely on target, particularly on balls that were meant to be placed high and outside. Cook is coming off an injury, and that is taken into account, but his struggles can not be overlooked when evaluating his draft stock.
Stock Up: Kenyan Drake – Alabama
Stock Down: Alex Collins – Arkansas
Running Backs have been devalued a great deal in the NFL recently. Teams seems content to pick up guys in the 3rd round or later to help fill out their roster. I even lost a bet last year as I assumed no running back would go before the 15th overall pick. With that said, there are still guys trying to make a living of this and Drake is no exception. Drake was mired in the shadow of Derrick Henry at Bama, but showed some real athleticism running two times of 4.4 in the forty and showcased great balance and hands in positional drills. It would be tough to ask him to shoulder the load, but he could be a great option as a third-down back or as part of a rotational backfield in the NFL.
On a lot of draftboards you’d have found Alex Collins near the top. All the game tape led every scout to value him as a great fit in the NFL. Unfortunately, Collins posted a 4.59 forty and had a lot of trouble catching the ball, even for a running back. With how much most teams like to use their running back as part of the passing game this is a huge concern.
Stock Up: Josh Doctson – TCU
Stock Down: De’Runnya Wilson – Mississippi State
So much with wide receivers at the combine is about your hands and your speed. The route running is a big thing, but often times teams look at the pro-day and the game tape. Here is where your measurables can really help or hurt you. Doctson came in with some question marks but given his size of 6’2″ and 202 pounds running well was in question. A solid 4.5 forty showed that this guy has some jets to go along with his bulk. But the 41″ vertical and 131″ broad jump really helped showcase this young man as a red zone threat.
Wilson got the distinct honor of having one of the worst 40 times at 4.9 seconds. It didn’t help that Wilson was arrested on drug charges back in March. Wilson was less productive than you’d expect a guy who is 6’5”, but Wilson was going to be a project. With the lack of pure speed teams now need to think about just how much of a project this guy is.
Stock Up: Jack Conklin – Michigan State
Stock Down: Vadal Alexander – LSU
Linemen are one of the few positions where you might shift around a bit, but you’re not being asked to play a totally different position when you move to the next level. This is where the drills can really showcase the cream of the crop. Speaking of, Jack Conklin was a walk-on at Michigan State. That’s hard to imagine when you watch his tape. He’s more than got the size to play at the NFL level at 6’ 6” and 325lbs, but when a guy this size runs the forty in 5.00 flat you take notice. He also showed great burst and explosion in the situational drills.
Alexander was a very solid contributor as a tackle at LSU, but his 5.57 forty time is going to have people question if he can play as a tackle at the next level. At 6’ 5” and 336 pounds a lot of teams may be looking at him as a guard, and unfortunately guards are never drafted as high as tackles are.
Stock Up: Robert Nkemdiche – Ole Miss
Stock Down: Noah Spence Eastern Kentucky
Often time linemen at the college level can be undersized when thinking about the NFL. That is not the case for Nkemdiche coming out of Ole Miss. 6’ 3” and 294 pounds makes him a fantastic frame for most defensive coaches to work with. The red flag for Robert is the marijuana arrest this past year, which cost him an appearance in a bowl game. Teams often look at players like this as projects, opting not to take them in the first round. However when Nkemdiche put up a 4.87 forty, 28 bench reps and a 35-inch vertical it’s hard to pass up on that kind of player.
Spence was one of those guys who was perhaps a little undersized. The Eastern Kentucky product is only 6’ 2” and 251 pounds. A lot of teams would like him as an OLB, especially in a 3-4 scheme, assuming his measurables supported that switch. Sadly they did not. A 4.80 forty has left a lot of scouts wondering about his ability to cover in space.
Stock Up: Kamalei Correa – Boise State
Stock Down: Leonard Floyd – Georgia
With linebackers it’s tough to gauge a lot of things when it comes to projecting to the NFL. One thing I noted during the workouts was how small most of the linebackers were. A lot of college DE’s will be asked to make the switch to OLB’s at the next level, and some linebackers might be asked to move to safety. Correa played at Boise State, and in large part did not garnish a lot of hype. All that changed with many positive performances. At 6’3” and 243 pounds Correa is very close to what teams are looking for in terms of linebacker size. Coupling that with a 4.69 forty, 21 reps of 225 pounds and a 33-inch vertical jump mean this guy has all the measurables. His best performances though were the position drills were Correa showed great body control and bend. He’s probably best suited for a 3-4 defense where he can attack off the edge.
Floyd came into the combine ranked as a top-ten pass rusher on most peoples boards. At 6’ 6” and 244 pounds teams could have worked with him in a multitude of ways. Bulk him up and use him as an end. Keep him slim and use him as a backer. He could play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. Then the unthinkable happened. Floyd hurt himself while running his only forty-yard-dash (which clocked in a 4.60 seconds). He did manage a 39.5” vertical and a 10’7” broad jump before that, but the injury is raising concerns. Floyd did not come in with a great body of work to rest his hat on, so his skill performance was going to go a long way to making him a first round selection. Now he’ll have to dazzle as his pro day or become a late round gamble.
Stock Up: Jalen Ramsey – Florida State
Stock Down: Darin Thompson – Boise State
Evaluating Safeties is often very tricky for scouts as the systems they play in often times put them in positions to win or fail outside of what their abilities would allow them to do at the next level. Jalen Ramsey showcased his abilities are far superior to that of his peers with a 4.41 forty, 41.5-inch vertical and an 11’ 3” broad jump. His explosive athleticism is going to have a few teams consider him as a corner, however his natural football IQ shows he is a true free safety. Ramsey was also very fluid in drills and showed great ball awareness to add to a stellar collection of highlight reel hits from his college career.
Thompson was fresh off an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, which had a lot of people projecting him to go at least in the second round. With that stellar showing the measurables still very much matter, and Thompson came out flat. A 4.69 forty really has a lot of teams wondering if he can cover in space and keep up with slot receivers in coverage schemes. Thompson projected as a free safety at 6’ 2” and 208 pounds. Given his slow time, a team may opt to try and bulk him up and try him as a strong safety as Thompson is a solid tackler. It is also worth noting that Thompson did miss some games this year with a concussion.
Stock Up: Eli Apple – Ohio State
Stock Down: Harlan Miller – Southeastern Louisiana
Cornerbacks are a position many coaches look at as one that can be coached up. So long as you have the right speed and size your technique can be refined and you can be geared to play in the system. Eli Apple did himself a huge favor by showcasing his speed and his size. At 6’ 1” and 199 pounds Apple was larger than the average corner, and heavier too. It was likely that his forty time would dictate if teams would even take a bite at this Apple. A 4.40 flat made sure teams were lining up for a second look. He also looked very fluid in drills. The knock on Apple is his ability to recognize plays ahead of time, but this is something that can be coached up.
When you’re coming out a small school tape can often be discredited because you’re not always playing against the best competition. So when a player like Harlan Miller from Southeastern Louisiana gets an invite you had better bring your “A” game. Sadly Miller brought a game that was hardly “A” material. A 4.65 forty is all but a death sentence for a corner back, especially one from a school that likely won’t even have a pro day. Miller also played most of his positional drills from a very high stance, showing stiffness in his movements and transitions.