As we’ve noted in the past week, the NFL scouting combine is used predominantly for some baseline testing on prospects. Most important on the pecking order is the medical evaluation; coming in behind that would be getting verified numbers (heights, weights, etc.) on players and interviewing them in a controlled environment with top decision makers.
There also is value placed in the testing numbers and the on-field workouts, but maybe not as much as the made-for-TV events would lead you to believe. Yes, there’s a value in the 40-yard dash, the bench press and all the rest. But by no means are they end-all-be-all measurements.
In general, teams scout players and estimate how they’ll work out. So when a player such as Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson or Penn State’s Saquon Barkley performed well, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean their stock is “rising.” It merely confirmed how special every NFL team already believed they were coming into the event.
When workout numbers are drastically different than expected — better or worse — it can have an effect on a player’s stock. More often than not, it forces scouts to go back to the tape and see what they missed or why there’s a disparity in the numbers.
With that said, here are some players who helped and hurt themselves on the offensive side of the ball. PFW’s draft analyst, Greg Gabriel, will handle the defensive side of the ball on Tuesday’s newsletter.
UTEP OG Will Hernandez — At 327 pounds, he turned in a very strong workout. Don’t be scared by a 5.15-second 40-yard dash; that’s a very good time at his weight. And Hernandez’s 37 bench reps were the highest OL total this year and tied for the most at the position since 2012. He also built off a strong Senior Bowl performance with his on-field position work and helped solidify himself as one of the safer top-50 picks in the draft class.
UCLA OT Kolton Miller — The redshirt junior first checked in at 6-foot-9 (which isn’t necessarily a positive) and 309 pounds, with 34 1/2-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands. That opened eyes. But the real stunner was him setting the OL record for the broad jump (121 inches) and cranking out a 4.95 40. Neither were expected, even as his stock began to heat up prior to the draft.
There’s some concern about Miller’s uneven college performance, and he only played a year at left tackle. But his combine workout will send scouts back to the tape. And it doesn’t hurt that he was coached by two former NFL offensive linemen with the Bruins. Miller’s most recent OL coach, Hank Fraley, is now the Detroit Lions’ OL coach.
Fordham RB Chase Edmonds — The small-school workhorse isn’t big (5-9, 205 pounds) but turned in the top RB times in both the 3-cone drill (6.79 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.07), along with the third-best time in the 60-yard shuttle (11.63). Throw in some very respectable numbers in the bench press (19 reps), vertical (34 inches) and broad jumps (122), and you can overlook his middling 40 time (4.55) and lack of bulk.
He’ll fit teams such as the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers — and others — that are more concerned with lateral and short-area quickness than they are with long speed at running back.
UCLA QB Josh Rosen — Some nitpicked his throwing performance, but we spoke to two QB-needy teams that were impressed with what they saw. In particular, Rosen uncorked a few gorgeous deep balls with the velocity, trajectory and placement that teams want to see in that type of environment. He has advanced footwork and mechanics for the position, and it showed.
Additionally, those two teams both met with Rosen and each found him engaging. For a player who has been branded as one who has character questions, Rosen disarmed both teams’ decision makers with strong interviews.
“Didn’t make excuses about anything we asked, which is refreshing,” one person who witnessed his interview told PFW.
Wyoming QB Josh Allen — We’ve been critical of his flaws, but anyone watching the showcase throwing session Allen put on couldn’t help but be impressed. On a throw-to-throw basis, he was the best performer at the position on Saturday. Was it against air in a dome? Yes. But Allen stood out — especially on throws to the perimeter and down the field.
It’s clear that he’s blessed with rare physical traits and that whatever team drafts him — and it’s going to be high, folks — will be getting a player with a high ceiling. Said one college scouting director whose team used a higher pick on a QB in recent years, “The teams that loved him coming in will love him that much more now. He might not have changed a lot of minds, but he certainly didn’t hurt himself.”
The Cleveland Browns, owners of the first and fourth picks in the draft, were one of those teams who liked Allen a lot coming in. Don’t count him out going there.
LSU WR DJ Chark — Another player we’ve been a bit bearish about, Chark has built off an ascending week at the Senior Bowl by turning in a great workout in Indy. The 6-3, 199-pounder has always been fast, but his WR-best 4.34 40 was even faster than most expected. Additionally, Chark’s vertical jump (40 inches) paced all receivers, and his 129-inch broad jump was fourth-highest.
But most importantly for a player who had a mere 66 receptions in 35 career games for the Tigers, Chark looked far more natural catching passes in the gauntlet drill and the positional work than most anticipated.
One scouting director we spoke with brought up the name Chris Conley, the highly athletic third-rounder of the Kansas City Chiefs who came into the combine as a bit of a sleeper, as an athletic comp for Chark.
Maryland WR D.J. Moore — There already had been some buzz about Moore the player coming into the combine, and his measuring in at 6-foot – higher than expected and 205 pounds was a good start to the week. Running a 4.42 40 kept the momentum going, and turning in the top WR broad jump number (132 inches), the second-highest broad jump (39.5 inches, just behind Chark) and third-place marks in the shuttle drills capped off a great week of work.
Penn State TE Mike Gesicki — Do you know how many 247-pound (or heavier) tight ends have run a 4.54 40 or better and benched at least 22 reps at the combine? Since 2000, only nine have reached those benchmarks — and before O.J. Howard last year, it had been five years since we saw a tight end accomplish all of those.
Some have compared Gesicki athletically to Jordan Cameron, another former volleyball player whose career was off to a strong start before concussion concerns. We definitely can see the overlap. Gesicki also dominated the vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jumps (129).
And after a strong performance in the receiving drills, it would not be out of the question to see him vie for TE1 honors and crash the late first round, or early second.
South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst — The only other tight end we felt was more fluid in the receiving drills was Hurst, who has had to answer questions about his age (he turns 25 in August) following a stint playing minor league baseball. But with his flashy receiving ability, very solid testing numbers and strong team interviews, Hurst appears to be in solid footing to go early on Day 2.
“Mature and grounded,” one evaluator told PFW after meeting with Hurst in Indy.
Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown — It feels like piling on at this point. Brown had one of the worst statistical workout performances in recent combine history, looking sluggish and poorly conditioned in both the strength and movement drills, which led to him becoming some of a Twitter dartboard.
Brown displayed candor and humor with the media when it came to managing his weight, but the 345-pounder turned in a terrible 40 (tied for worst among OLs), a poor 10-yard split, a mere 14 reps on the bench press (17 wide receivers put up more) and some of the lowest vertical and broad jump numbers in a decade almost certainly knocks him out of Day 1 discussion and possibly puts Day 2 into doubt.
“Fleshy and soft,” the scouting director said of Brown. “That workout was a mess. He looked totally unprepared.”
Ohio State C Billy Price — It’s really unfortunate that Price suffered a torn left pectoral three reps into the bench press, and the severity of the injury isn’t fully known yet. Best-case scenario, Price could be back for the start of training camp; worst case, he might miss a big chunk, if not all, of his rookie season.
In the latter case, it most certainly crushes Price’s stock. But this was a player who was earning serious top-50 discussion and even was challenging for a spot in Round 1. With Iowa’s James Daniel performing well, he — and not Price — might be the top center in the 2018 class on many teams’ boards pending good medical news on the Buckeyes strong man.
Notre Dame TE Durham Smythe — Smythe certainly looks the part at 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds with big mitts, but testing closer to the bottom than the top in nearly every athletic drill this week didn’t help him. It’s a deep class of tight ends, especially loaded with quality receivers, and Smythe (24 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns the past two seasons combined) never has offered much in the passing game.
One evaluator gave him high marks for his team interview and praised his blocking (and work in the on-field drills), but the athletic limitations could keep Smythe planted in the Day 3 range.
Mississippi State TE Jordan Thomas — A rare physical specimen at 6-5 and 265 pounds with 34-inch arms and 11-inch (!) hands, Thomas exited the measurements portion of the week with some enticed scouts. But even with Thomas’ size factored in, his testing numbers ranged from good to below average.
The buzz picked up again when he easily plucked passes out of the air with his massive paws. But his performance wasn’t enough to win over some evaluators who are trying to figure out how to grade a converted receiver who has shown mental lapses on the field and who has no idea how to harness his physical traits as a blocker yet.
“Wasn’t impressed [with his interview],” an evaluator told us. “He feels like a project to me. I think he’ll have to learn how to be a pro. You get excited about the physical stuff, but he’s a long way away. I could see a team like Dallas or Cincinnati taking him [on Day 3] and taking a flier on him.”
Miami (Fla.) RB Mark Walton — He was expected to run in the mid-to-high 4.4s, perhaps the low 4.5s at worst. But Walton clocked a 4.60 40, and though straight-line speed only has so much importance for backs, it looked even worse for a 5-foot-9, 205-pound back who was below average in the jumping drills and didn’t run a 3-cone.
Walton’s on-field workouts also were underwhelming, and he’s got some work to do in the next few months to help separate himself in an extremely deep RB group in this year’s class.
UCLA WR Jordan Lasley — The 6-1, 203-pound Lasley was expected to run faster than the 4.50 40 he turned in and only put up moderate numbers in the other testing drills. He also caught the ball inconsistently in the on-field work. There had been some momentum for Lasley’s stock entering Indy, but at the very best that stalled a bit.
Florida State WR Auden Tate — The 6-5, 228-pound receiver was already fighting the reputation of being a one-trick pony as a jump-ball, red-zone specialist. Then he ran a fairly slow 40 (4.68 seconds) and bottom-barrel numbers in the jumping drills. On top of that, Tate opted not to lift or perform in the three-cone drill or either of the shuttles. Tate’s status as a Day 3 prospect likely were not improved.
– Eric Edholm