Find out which prospects helped their stock in Indy and which players wished they stayed home.
Every year, two months after meaningful college football games have concluded, draft hopefuls, scouts, and GMs alike converge on Indianapolis for the annual NFL Draft Combine. While the event is essentially a glorified track and field competition with some positional football drills sprinkled in, it gives the executives and fans a chance to see how the new crop of NFL hopefuls stack up in as close to a vacuum as there is in football.
Basically, it’s the NFL version of the SAT, designed to see where players are in their physical fitness and ability while trying to predict how well their skills will translate to the league. Just like the student who is great at standardized tests, but struggles with the excess of college life, a great combine does not predict a great career and vice versa. That said, just like getting into college, the players need to be given an opportunity to perform, so a poor combine might scare teams off the way a bad SAT score would deter some institutions of higher learning.
For every Mike Mamula, who rocketed up draft charts due to a monster performance, there is an Anquan Bolden, whose 4.7 40-yard dash time hid his true All-Pro potential. Let’s take a look at who helped themselves the most from the class of 2017, and which young men will be hoping for a better showing come their Pro Days.
Five Biggest Winners
Haason Reddick, Temple DL/LB
So normally I would be looking for any spot to give my alma mater some shine, but in this space Reddick took care of it for me. In case you don’t follow Owls football like I do (and no one who is mentally healthy should), you may have missed the miraculous transformation that Reddick underwent during his four years in the Cherry and White.
A walk-on from Camden, Reddick began his career in the defensive backfield, playing safety and nickelback. As he began to put on muscle, he shifted to linebacker, before finally settling on the defensive line. All he did last year was finish with 22 tackles for loss (third-best in the NCAA) and 11 sacks, tying Carlos Watkins and Jonathan Allen, while besting potential No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett by two.
In addition to his remarkable statistical production, Reddick proved to be a combine freak.
He ran a faster time than some of the best offensive players in the NFL, not to mention his unbelievable broad jump:
NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2017
This fast riser went from off the radar of the casual fan to top of their wish list. Expect to see Reddick’s name called on the first day of the draft in his hometown.
Chris Godwin Jr., Penn St. WR
Many people thought that Godwin made a hasty decision when he declared for the draft with a year of eligibility left. He was coming off a tremendous performance in the shootout that was the Rose Bowl, and some thought he was feeling himself a bit too much. Well, Godwin proved that he might have been undervalued heading into this year and that breakout performance put his name in rightful contention for a top round selection.
NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 4, 2017
That type of concentration and hand strength is what NFL scouts are looking for in a potential stud receiver. Pair that with plus speed.
NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2017
Godwin might have shown enough from a size/speed/strength (his 19 bench press reps were second among WR) perspective to warrant a second round selection or higher.
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky OL
A longtime favorite of metric savvy draftniks, Lamp verified that he should be one of the top linemen taken with his impressive combine display. He finished in the top five among OL in the 40-yard dash, bench press, broad jump, and three cone drill, proving that he is one of the elite athletes available at that position this year. The only knock on him is his height and arm length, which seems to suggest that he will be moved inside to guard during his time in the NFL.
GMFB (@gmfb) February 23, 2017
Regardless, the tape and now the proof of athleticism should be enough to push Lamp into lighting up the first round.
Obi Melifonwu, UConn DB
My personal winner for combine of the year, the rangy and little known defensive back from Connecticut piqued my interest when I saw him mentioned among the top safety prospects a few weeks ago. When you see his impressive athleticism in action, there is little room for doubt that this young man could be a future star. At 6‘4”, he has the time of height and arm length that are in vogue for defensive backs these days. In addition, he has the speed and explosion that will allow him to play all over the field at the next level.
Obi Melifonwu at combine:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 6, 2017
- Taller than Larry Fitzgerald
- Quicker than Darren Sproles
- Faster than Devin Hester
- Jumps higher than OBJ pic.twitter.com/y230S04CUQ
That is quite the package when considering the longevity and production of the players mentioned. If that wasn’t enough, he can jump really far too.
NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 6, 2017
What’s in the water up there in Storrs? Anyway, Melifonwu’s ascension is so similar to Jones’ that he should be looked at in a better light given his predecessor’s great success in Dallas. This might be the apex of Obi hype, given that the draft is still two months away, but the former Husky might be able to ride this wave into the first round.
Evan Engram, Ole Miss TE
We talked earlier about how Godwin’s fast 40-yard dash time should improve his standing, but factor in that Engram ran the same time at over 20 pounds heavier.
Engram was among the top performers in a particularly exciting tight end class in nearly every measure. The former Rebel finished sixth or higher among tight ends in 40 time (first), vertical jump (fifth), broad jump (sixth), three cone drill (second), and 20-yard shuttle (third). Considering he was matched up with fellow big-time athletes OJ Howard, David Njoku, Bucky Hodges, and Jonnu Smith, those rankings are even more telling. With that ability, expect Engram to be more of a TE/WR hybrid who can split out wide or play on the end of the line.
Five Biggest Losers
Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M WR
The former five star recruit never lived up to the hype in college as he was surpassed by a myriad of wide outs on the Aggies depth chart during his three years in College Station. The lack of production was scary enough for NFL scouts who saw a player dripping with potential, but little ability to excel when on the field. This seemed to be Seals-Jones’ last chance to impress teams enough to warrant serious consideration, and if it was, it was wasted.
Seals-Jones, who is the cousin of NFL great Eric Dickerson, ran the third slowest 40 time among WR, coming in at 4.69. His 28.0 vertical jump was second lowest, while his three cone drill was the worst registered by wide outs. His broad jump wasn’t terrible, but he finished third… among A&M WRs.
The good news for Seals-Jones is he had some of the highest bench press reps and he was the largest receiver measured at 6‘5” and 243 lbs. A conversion to tight end seems necessary, but his measurables aren’t great in comparison to that class either — he would have had the least bench press reps, was out jumped in the vert by all but two TEs and ran the fifth slowest 40 time as well. If the struggles of Dorial Green-Beckham are any indication, Seals-Jones won’t be a particularly impactful acquisition.
Jihad Thomas, Temple RB
This one pains me because Thomas was such a productive player in college for a winning team, but he tested really poorly. Undersized, third-down backs are normally not known for their great strength, so Thomas’ 11 bench press reps aren’t a killer, but that 4.62 forty yard dash time might be. Not only that, but Thomas didn’t show much explosion on either of the jumps — a 32” vertical and a 116” broad jump — where he ranked in the bottom half in both. At 5‘10” and 190 lbs., Thomas will have to show more during his Pro Day to get back on the radar. The good news is, with Reddick and Dion Dawkins slaying the combine, there should be plenty of scouts in attendance to make a better second impression.
Ben Boulware, Clemson LB
While Boulware didn’t participate in the combine’s sexiest event, the 40-yard dash, he may have wished he didn’t participate at all. The book on Boulware has always been, “great player, below average athlete,” so it comes as no surprise that he tested like it. Still, when you finish near the bottom of every category except bench press, it doesn’t bode well for getting selected high in the draft. The national championship-winning linebacker was tied for last in vertical jump, second to last in broad jump, third-worst in 20-yard shuttle and dead last (by nearly two tenths) in 60-yard shuttle. This probably won’t foreclose on Boulware’s draft prospects, but it certainly will give teams the idea that he may be available in the later rounds.
Jaleel Johnson, Iowa DL
Interior defensive lineman usually don’t have to worry too much about the combine because they rarely have to run too far or jump very much; a slow 40 time or a bad vertical jump can easily be forgiven. But, Johnson didn’t run fast, nor did he prove himself to be very strong, and that is problematic. The 5.38 40-yard dash time, paired with just 19 bench press reps, doesn’t bode well for a 300+ pounder, especially when a wide receiver who is 100 pounds lighter throws up the same total on the bench. Johnson needs to show improved strength at his pro day if he wants to be drafted where his talent and production justify him to be selected.
Teez Tabor, Florida DB
The defensive backs were the most impressive group that performed during the combine, which is bad news for Tabor, whose talent might buoy him in other classes, but whose display this weekend might doom him in this extraordinary year.
Myles Garrett - 6‘4, 274 lbs: 4.64 40 yd dash— Tyler Steege (@TSteegeNFL) March 6, 2017
Teez Tabor - 6‘0, 201 lbs: 4.63 40 yd dash
That pretty much sums it up, but unfortunately Tabor went even farther to hurt his stock by posting only nine bench press reps — the second-worst among DBs. Teez made it a trifecta by only jumping 31” in the vertical, giving him the title of “slowest, weakest and least explosive elite DB prospect in this draft.” With other talented corners exploding onto the scene, Tabor might fall by the wayside in the minds of NFL GMs.
Best of the Rest
Christian McCaffery, Stanford RB
The all-time single season leader in all purpose yards was supposed to post a very nice workout, but he exceeded even his lofty expectations. His 4.48 40-yard dash time was fifth-best among RBs, showcasing great speed, and a 37.5” vertical tied for the second-highest among ball carriers. McCaffery really gave the people what they wanted when he proved to be the quickest offensive player in this draft by posting the second-best three cone drill time among all entrants. That quickness should allow him to succeed in the backfield as well as the in slot and on special teams in the NFL.
Jabrill Peppers, Michigan LB/DB
More than anything, Peppers did enough in this combine to prove his versatility at the next level.
Jabrill Peppers, based on his combine:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 5, 2017
- Runs faster than Antonio Brown
- Quicker than DeSean Jackson
- Jumps higher than A.J. Green pic.twitter.com/OqfyZYbwyg
The biggest question about Peppers is what position he will play at the next level, but really it depends on what team he goes to and where he fits best in that system. With 19 bench press reps and experience playing LB, he could fit in the box, but can also play the nickel or at safety. A great athlete who excels in a variety of positions should have no problem finding a home in the NFL.
John Ross, Washington WR
The U Dub speedster was always expected to challenge for the title of fastest 40 at this combine, but few expected him to run that fast.
NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2017
Toss in a 37” vertical jump and Ross punched his ticket to the first round.
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M DL
The prospective number one overall pick just needed to post solid workout to maintain his hold on the top spot on most draft boards. He then proceeded to crush the combine, like few have ever done.
Myles Garrett at the combine:— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 5, 2017
Taller than Julio Jones
Heavier than Rob Gronkowski
Quicker than Devonta Freeman
Faster than Jarvis Landry pic.twitter.com/9Dl6GIJt2F
The reason that Garrett isn’t one of the “winners” in this column is most people had an inclination this type of combine was coming from him. His freakish athleticism is one of the biggest reasons why he has been the consensus number one prospect since the beginning of the college football season. Still, Garrett’s workout may have been the best of the weekend, proving he is worthy of all the hype.
All of the Elite Tight End Prospects
We already expounded on Evan Engram’s great performance, but his position mates were nearly as impressive. Including Engram, five tight ends ran a sub 4.6 40-yard dash, while eight prospects put up at least 20 bench press reps. David Njoku, OJ Howard, Jonnu Smith, Bucky Hodges, and George Kittle all had excellent combines which should provide great depth for teams hoping to select a TE.
Kevin King, Washington DB
While Sidney Jones may have been the CB from Seattle that everyone was talking about before the combine, King certainly put himself in that conversation after his head turning performance. The 6‘3” DB ran a 4.43 40-yard dash while putting up some of the best jumps and shuttles of the combine. He may be raw and could take a year or two before he makes an impact for the team that drafts him, but King might be a risk worth taking in the second day based on his stunning size and athleticism.
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