With the Senior Bowl in our rear view mirror the draft community turns their attention to who to watch at the NFL Combine which has turned from a small gathering for the NFL teams to the biggest event before the NFL Draft.
The seven-day event has taken on a life of itself over the past several years with day long coverage on the NFL Network and close to 1,000 media members credentialed to attend and player and coach press conferences can attract a packed room.
Drills like the 40-yard dash and the vertical leap will get the most attention from fans, but it’s the on field workouts, medical testing and player interviews of the over 300 prospects that makes this such an important week for scouts, general managers and coaches.
For the prospects there is a lot to gain by testing well in drills or wowing teams on the field or in the meeting rooms. Not only can they see their stock increase but that could translate to millions of dollars earned by a single event.
Who to Watch at the NFL Combine
Top 5 Quarterbacks
It was great to see Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield duel back and forth at the Senior Bowl, but come the Combine we actually will get a chance to watch the Big 5 (Mayfiled, Rosen, Darnold, Allen and Jackson) all throw in the drills. This will be the first look at the underclassmen and a chance to see each prospect make the same type of throws. While this isn’t the end all be all, having all five of them (along with Mason Rudolph who was unable to participate at the Senior Bowl) compete in the same drills and make the same throws will allow us all to gauge their arm talent against each other. This will be big for the underclassmen like Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold who have lost a bit of momentum. But the big winner may be Lamar Jackson who will get to show of his arm and hopefully for him put to rest some of this wide receiver talk.
Saquan Barkley RB Penn State
Everybody knows the talent that Saquan Barkley has and his ability to reel off big runs and explosive plays. We’ve also heard about all the freakish athletic feats that Barkley has shown at Penn State, well at the Combine we’ll get a chance to finally put some numbers behind what we’ve seen on tape. There’s been reports that he’s ran 4.33 in the 40 and could well top that, while his vertical leap would be a good indicator of his explosiveness. Unless Barkley completely bombs the Combine he’s going to be the first running back taken and a likely top 10 pick, but if he blows up the Combine like most people think he can, it may solidify a top 5 selection.
James Washington WR Oklahoma State
Washington has had a great four year career at Oklahoma State providing a big downfield threat with over 4,400 career yards, 39 touchdowns and averaging 19.8 yards per catch. In the Cowboys offense it didn’t have Washington run many change of direction routes instead running mainly posts, goes and a few comeback type routes. At the Senior Bowl Washington had a good week and was clearly the best receiver there. In Indianapolis Washington will really get a chance to show he can make in breaking routes and create some separation underneath. If he can show that ability he could vault himself up into the first round talk and contend with Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk as the top receivers in the draft.
Orlando Brown OT Oklahoma
— Brian Johannes (@Draft_Brian) December 27, 2017
There is talent in this tackle class but we’re lacking that elite guy. However there are some evaluators out there that are in love with Orlando Brown. A massive tackle at 6’8 360lbs Brown has done well in college using his size well to shield defenders off and lean on them to create a push. While Brown isn’t immobile he does show some lateral agility but often uses his length and power to his advantage against college defenders. At the Combine I want to see him move in the shadow drill and the kick step to really see how well he moves. Brown has talent, but I haven’t seen the footwork skills that others claim him has. It’s hard to teach size, but as we’ve with Zach Banner, you still need to move.
Tremaine Edmunds LB Virginia Tech
The praise and hype around Tremaine Edmunds is at an all time high. At 6’4 240lbs he’s shown the ability to play in coverage, rush the passer, plug the run and run and chase. At only 19 years of age there is a load of potential with Edmunds who could fit into any scheme. In Indianapolis Edmunds will either get a chance to put on a show and put himself into the top five discussion, but there are some concerns that he won’t test well which could drop him out of the top 10 and be more of a top 25 prospect. Either way whoever is getting Edmunds is getting a flat out baller.
Donte Jackson CB LSU
Speed thrills and every year the attention of the Combine usually shifts to the 40 yard dash. Last year we saw John Ross blaze to a record 4.22 time. One of the prospects that could push that is Jackson who is a track star running a 10.26 100 yard dash while being timed at a 4.24 40 yard dash at LSU. Lucas Oil Stadium is known as a fast track and Jackson is the favorite to come out of the event with the fastest time. This is all said without mentioning that Jackson is one of the best cornerbacks in this class showing that elite speed along with quick hips that allow him to stay in the hip pocket of defenders.