Five standout picks from the NFL Combine

Five standout picks from the Scouting Combine
Not only is the NFL Scouting Combine a vital part of the draft buildup, offering coaches and franchises the opportunity to scrutinize the physical attributes of the college stars they’ve been weighing up, but it is also an exciting event for fans, and a chance to get a closer look at the stars of the future. While Combine results are never taken in isolation, there is no doubt that doing well at the various drills can significantly boost a player’s prospects and lift them up the list of draft contenders. Here are five players who stood out at this year’s Combine.
Saquon Barkley
The last time a running back was first overall in the draft was 1995 when the Bengals grabbed Penn State product Ki-Jana Carter. Fast forward to 2018 and the Bengals could repeat the feat, by snapping up Saquon Barkley with the number one pick.
Barkley was highly rated going into the Combine, but his performance still surprised many pundits. Though he is nine pounds heavier than David Johnson and seven pounds heavier than Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley produced a 41-inch vertical leap, matching Johnson and beating Elliott by over nine inches. On top of that, he scored 29 bench presses and recorded a time of 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. Though 49 running backs have beaten that time since 2000, only three were heavier than 230 and none of those three could match Barkley’s vertical.
Quenton Nelson
At 6 foot 5, weighing 325 pounds and possessing 33¾-inch arms, Quenton Nelson is an imposing lineman and his bench-press reps figure of 35 was hugely impressive. At the time, it was the joint-highest figure for reps among all offensive linemen since 2015. Not only is Nelson a powerful figure, but he’s also versatile and capable of moving to tackle.
The Chicago Bears have the eighth overall pick this year and, given that they badly need a replacement for starting guard Josh Sitton, Nelson could fit the bill. His arrival at Soldier Field would certainly boost their prospect of competing in the NFC North division again.
Troy Apke
Prior to the Combine, safety Troy Apke of Penn State was considered an unlikely draftee, but his dynamic performance may change that calculation.
Apke sparkled with a 4.34 40-yard time, which was by some distance the fastest number recorded by a safety. He also topped the lists with a 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle run, and followed that up with a 41-inch vertical jump, which was not far off the top-rated 41.5 figure.
Though there are doubts about his ability as a playmaker, the physical attributes that he showed at the Combine will have grabbed attention, and he has likely done enough to get drafted.
Mike Gesicki
Tight end Mike Gesicki already had an impressive reputation – scoring 105 receptions, 1,242 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns in two seasons – and his stock has only risen following his Combine performances. Gesicki topped the rankings among tight ends in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, three-cone drill, and broad jump. He also scored an impressive 22 reps in the bench press – the second best in his category. One of the most athletically gifted tight ends ever, Gesicki could be a once-in-a-generation player.
Shaquem Griffin
One of the most remarkable stories in college football has been the success of Shaquem Griffin, the linebacker who lost his left hand to amputation following amniotic band constriction, but at the Combine, Griffin proved that he is more than just an inspirational figure. He scored 4.83 for the 40-yard dash, an incredible 0.13 seconds quicker than the competition, and the fastest time by a linebacker in more than ten years. He also silenced doubts about his strength with an impressive 20 reps on the bench press. Though projected as a linebacker, his prodigious speed and college record of three interceptions and 16 passes defended have led some to speculate that he could play safety. Either way, his Combine showing underlined his potential and marked him out as a star of the 2018 draft class.
This year’s NFL Scouting Combine provided the familiar heady cocktail of rumor, speculation, and prediction, and the debates over the merits of the new crop of potential NFL stars will rage on as we head towards one of the most eagerly awaited NFL drafts in years. However, one thing seems abundantly clear: the sheer level of talent, in multiple positions from linebacker to running back, indicates that the class of 2018 could be one of the most successful ever.