NFL Combine News and Notes


While some have questioned the worthiness of the NFL Combine and referred to it as the "Underwear Olympics" the GMs and Coaches of all 32 NFL teams are in attendance in furtherance of the draft process. And while the testing drills and the position drills will affect the draft status of some players, it may be the private meetings with the players that is of primary importance for the teams to get to know the players.  Each team is allowed to meet with 60 players for 15 minutes apiece to gain some knowledge of their personalities and football I.Qs.  This part of the process is followed up with Pro Days and individual workouts.  How much the actual workouts affect the draft status of players will vary but one to watch is Left Tackle Orlando Brown of Oklahoma who had one of the worst combine performances of all time.  Pre-Combine he was considered to be a 1st Round or early 2nd Round draft choice and post-Combine no one knows.  Last year Alvin Kamara ran the forty in 4.53 and 4.65 with an official time of 4.56 and Kareem Hunt ran 4.66 and 4.62 with an official time of 4.62, which times are not good for Running Backs and both slipped to being drafted in the 3rd Round and then turned out to be stars in their rookie season.  Defensive Safety Jamal Adams had forty times of 4.56, 4.56 and an official time of 4.56 which also are not good times for a DS and yet was still drafted 6th overall in the 1st Round and he too performed very well in his rookie season. So there is no telling which players will be affected by their Combine results.

CLEVELAND BROWNS GM John Dorsey announced that the Browns are open for business, meaning that they would trade the 1st overall pick in the draft presumably for a basket full of picks rather than players.  Since most analysts believe that the Browns are in need of a franchise Quarterback, this would indicate that the Browns aren't sold on any of the top rated QBs in this draft class. The question that I have is that since the Browns have already accumulated so many extra selections that it might be time to take advantage of the position that they are in and draft some great players instead of trading back for extra picks.  For instance, this year they have the 1st and 4th picks in the draft and they could select RB Saquon Barkley with the 1st pick and then Guard Quenton Nelson with the 4th pick.  These two players are considered to be the two best players in the draft and certain stars on the NFL level.  They both come with no character concerns and no injury issues.  In addition to those two picks, the Browns also have the 1st (33) and 3rd (35) picks in the 2nd Round and the 1st pick (65) in the 3rd Round, along with 9 more selections after the 3rd Round. So it may be that this is the time to fish or cut bait and take Barkley and Nelson and continue to load up with the additional picks outlined above.

After writing the above paragraph on Friday night after the first day of the Combine, I heard Mike Mayock on Saturday mention the same thing in taking Barkley with the 1st pick and Nelson with the 4th and while I won't make the argument that this is a case of great minds thinking alike, I do think that it shows that the situation is obvious and that is to take great prospects when they are available and forget about trading back to acquire more and more picks.

WILL HERNANDEZ, who was on my Mid-Season All American Team and generally considered before the Combine to be a 2nd Round choice, has performed so well in the testing and position drills along with the private meetings to firmly position himself in the 1st Round, despite the fact that the Guard position isn't considered a high priority.

QUENTON NELSON, the only Guard on my board rated higher than Will Hernandez (some have Isaiah Wynn of Georgia above Hernandez), checked in to the Combine at 6-5  325 with 33 3/4 Arms, 10 3/8 Hand and a Wingspan of 82 5/8 which is enough length to play Tackle.  Nelson also performed well in the Guard position drills so his length and work so far as a Guard might warrant a look at Left Tackle.  His kick slide and adjustment to moves in Pass Protection have been good as a Guard and while he would have a wider area to cover as a Tackle, he deserves a look at LT. 

Conversely, CONNOR WLLIAMS, LT from Texas who was highly rated heading into 2017 but who had a down year but then rebounded to perform very well at the Combine may be shifted to Guard as his overall length isn't what NFL teams are looking for at LT.  While his height measurement of 6051 is good, his arm length of 33 is slightly below the threshold of 34 and his wingspan of 77 7/8 being much less than the desired length.

QUARTERBACKS - NFL teams  prefer but not require that QBs hands be at least 10 inches and that is usually the cold weather teams so that the QB can better grip the ball in inclement weather and additionally will have a better grip on the ball so as to cut down on fumbles.  But this year, out of 13 QBs, only Josh Allen and Tanner Lee met that standard.  And speaking of Josh Allen, he has now strung together three good performances dating back to Dec. 22 in the Potato Bowl against Central Michigan where he was good but not great, but had cut down on the mistakes and throwing into coverage that seemed to plague him earlier in the year.  Then he went to the Senior Bowl where he impressed everyone and then had a good Combine where he gained everyone's attention with a 70 yard throw which was dropped in the bucket while hitting the receiver in stride.  That throw created a buzz among the GMs and Coaches in attendance.

HAMSTRINGS - The number of players who arrived with or sustained hamstring injuries at the Combine were enough that teams should take notice.  Taven Bryan, Darius Leonard, James Daniels, Ronnie Harrison, Bilal Nichols, Roquan Smith, Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Vita Vea, Ronald Jones, II,   Chris Wormley, Chandon Sullivan, Davin Bellamy and Dallas Goedert were all hampered by hamstring injuries which deprived the teams of the chance to evaluate these players in the testing and position drills phases of the Combine. 

OFFENSIVE TACKLES - The standouts were Kolton Miller of UCLA, Brian O'Neill from Pitt and Desmond Harrison from West Georgia.  Miller, at 6085, 309 ran sub 5 second forties and had the best 10 yard splits by far of all the OL that ran.  He also set the all time record in the Broad Jump with a leap of 10'1" but what was most impressive were his finishing 3rd in the 20 Yard Shuttle and the 3 Cone drill, which events are not made for people that are 6085 feet tall.  Reports are that he also did well in his Tackle position drills that he could now be the first Tackle drafted.  Brian O'Neill has always been known as an athletic Tackle as he was converted from Tight End and his Combine numbers bore out his athleticism. But the Combine also showed an area that needs improvement and that is that he could be stronger, which was reflected by only having 22 reps in the Bench Press.  I'm still not sold on him as a Pass Blocker but players can, and do, improve.  As for Harrison, he has shown that he has the athleticism to be an NFL player but he has a lot of off the field issues to clear up.  That leaves Kolton as the clear winner from the Tackle group.

PENN STATE FOOTBALL - While Penn State did not make it to the final four during the 2017 season and did not have the most invitees to the NFL Combine, they very probably had the most athletic group.  It started with RB Saquon Barkley who put on a show with his speed, athletic testing and then position drills.  It was so good that the New York Post had his picture on the sports cover with SUPERQUON as the headline and Head Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints calling Barkley the best RB in 25 years.  His performance was followed up by Tight End Mike Gesicki, who became a Freak by having the best 40 times as well as being the best in the Vertical Jump, the Broad Jump, the 20 Yard Short Shuttle, the 60 Yard Long Shuttle and the 3 Cone Drill.  The only event that he wasn't first in was the Bench Press where he had 22 reps to the 23 reps put up by Dallas Goedert.  So 6 firsts and a second is a very impressive performance.  Wide Receiver Daesean Hamilton put up respectable numbers in the limited events that he participated in and LB Jason Cabinda only did the Bench Press while Strong Safety Marcus Allen had decent numbers in limited events.  CB Christian Campbell, whom many expected to be a top performer, couldn't participate because of an injury.  In his absence, CB Grant Haley did very well running a 4.44 forty and performing well in all of the other drills but it was Free Safety Troy Apke who stole the show by running an official 4.34 forty along with a 41 inch Vertical Jump.  This is a player who was a borderline invite to the Combine and was considered to be a borderline draft choice but now is on every team's radar.  He did in fact have a pretty fair year and made some plays in a game that I saw and received All Conference Honorable Mention from the Media and was the MVP of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which is an all star game of borderline draftable players.

SHAQUEM GRIFFIN - By now everyone knows the story of the Central Florida Linebacker who only has one hand and initially wasn't invited to the Combine but who shocked the football world by running a 4.38 forty yard dash, which set the all -time record for linebackers.  He also amazingly did 20 reps in the Bench Press using a prosthetic hand.  This started the conversation about whether or not he could make an NFL team, possible as a backup LBer and Special Teams ace.  But what has been lost in the discussion about him is that he is a tremendous football player.  In 2016, he led his team in Solo Tackles (quite a feat for an Outside Linebacker), had 11.5 Sacks and an additional 20 Tackles for Loss, an Interception, 7 Passes Broken Up, 3 QB Hurries, 2 Fumble Recoveries and 2 Forced Fumbles.  He was 1st Team All Conference and the Conference Defensive Player of the Year.  In 2017 he was 3rd on his UCF team in Solo and Total Tackles and had 7 Sacks and an additional 13.5 Tackles for Loss, an Interception (yes, another Interception), 3 Passes Broken Up, 9 QB hurries, 2 Fumbles  Recovered and 2 Forced Fumbles), all of this with opponents trying to avoid him.  He again was 1st Team All-Conference,  but lost out as Defensive Player of the Year to Ed Oliver, DT from Houston.  As a player he has great recognition and instincts and a tremendous ability to close on the ball carrier or QB.  What may limit him from being a starter in the NFL as much as or more than only having the one hand is his lack of size for the linebacker position.  He has stood out on the collegiate level with his great instincts, quickness and speed.



1)  JACOB EASON - former 5 Star recruit and the No. 1 rated high school QB went to Georgia and after the first game in his freshman year of 2016 became their starting QB and he performed fairly well.  He again was the starting QB in 2017 but suffered a knee injury in the 1st quarter of the 1st game against Appalachian State, which allowed freshman Jake Fromm to take the reins which he kept all year and through the national championship game against Alabama.  Georgia most recently recruited the top rated QB for the coming season so Eason decided to return to his home state and signed with the Washington Huskies.  Fromm will also have to do some deep thinking about his situation but going back to Eason, I question if he made the right decision in going back to Washington.  The thinking was that QB Jake Browning has one more year left which year Eason would have to sit out anyway per the NCAA transfer rules and in which year Eason could learn the system and be around the players and then take over in 2019.  But as that old saying goes, "the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" as Washington has signed two freshman 4 Star QBs in the personages of Jacob Simon and Colson Yankoff and who are supposed to be very good. And they too will have a year in the system which raises the possibility that Eason may not be the starter in 2019.  The wiser move may have been to go the JC route where he could have continued to play rather than sit and then be able to pick a school that had a need for a QB and as a JC transfer he wouldn't have to sit out a year.  That move may still be possible if he sees in the 2018 Spring practices that one or the other of the freshman QBs are very good he could transfer this summer to a JC which is in need of a QB and proceed as previously mentioned.

2)  CLEMSON'S DEFENSIVE LINE - it was the opinion of a number of analysts that one, two or all three of the Tigers eligible defensive lineman might declare for this 2018 NFL draft as they were all coming off of good years and were thought to be first or second round draft choices.  But DT Christian Wilkins and DEs Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant all decided to return to Clemson and team up with sophomore DT Dexter Lawrence to form the best defensive line in the country for the 2018 season and make a run for the national championship.  It must have also been in their minds that they could also enhance their draft status by having even better years in 2018 but again that old saying, "the best laid-plans of mice and men often go awry" may apply in that they probably weren't aware of how good their DT and DE competition would be for the 2019 draft.  The following is a sampling of players who will be draft eligible but while all may not all declare for the draft should have been a consideration:                 Defensive Tackles:  Ed Oliver of Houston, almost certain to declare as the Coach who recruited him is no longer there, Houston doesn't have a strong team and there is nothing else for him to prove on the college level.  Jeffery Simmons of Mississippi State; Dexter Lawrence of Clemson who could be in competition with Christian Wilkins for draft ranking.  Derrick Brown of Auburn; Dre'mont Jones of Ohio State, Ricky Walker of Virginia Tech; Terry Beckner, Jr., of Missouri Benito Jones of Mississippi, Tyler Clark of Georgia and a number of others.

Defensive Ends:  Nick Bosa of Ohio State; Rashan Gary of Michigan Zach Allen of Boston College;  Jonathan Greenard of Louisville; McTelvin Agim of Arkansas; Raekwon Davis of Alabama; Joe Jackson and Demetrius Jackson, both of Miami; Carl Granderson of Wyoming along with a bunch of others in what would be a strong group.


Pete Marasco's 2018 NFL Draft Position Rankings