With the combine wrapped up in Indianapolis, I wanted to take a look at who impressed the scouts with their numbers and on-field workouts. While the tape is clearly the main material for evaluating these prospects, putting them into positions, that might reveal their weaknesses, can go a long way in telling you what someone can’t do. On the other hand, with a great showing at this event, players can force scouts to go back to their film, because of how well they performed and showed something, the evaluators didn’t expect them to be able to do. Either way, here are my standout performers over the weekend:
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
I had Hernandez as one of my players to watch, when talking about question marks surrounding draft prospects. The big guy showed up at 327 pounds and proved his power right away, by leading all offensive linemen with 37 reps on the bench press. More importantly, I thought he moved very well on the field. I was extremely impressed when seeing him run a 5.14 in the 40 at that weight. Moreover, I thought Hernandez looked fluid and explosive in all the field drills, coming right around the cones and other O-linemen on the cross-blocking drills, as well showing nice lateral agility when mirroring those guys, he competed with. He still has work to do with his pad-level and overall technique, but I think he should clearly be a second-round pick at this point.
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
We already knew Miller would be one of the tallest men measured in Indianapolis, but he actually measured in at 6’8’’ 1/2, which topped everybody else showing up during the weekend. Not only did he impressive with his height, he also showed a ton of lower body explosion, as he led all offensive linemen in both leaping events, while setting a new combine record for broad jumps among offensive linemen at 10’1’’. In addition to that, he ran sub-five on the 40 and stayed under control when moving sideways. While I’m concerned with the lack of knee-bend and base power on tape, his size never seemed to be an issue when transitioning from different movements at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Did we need any more proof, that Barkley is the number one guy on the board? He arrived in Indianapolis at 233 pounds, which might be even a little heavier than what he will play at, and he just crushed all the events. First, Barkley was tied with Georgia’s Nick Chubb with 29 reps on the bench, then he sky-rocketed 41 inches on the vertical jump and finally he was right at the 4.4 mark in the 40. Moreover, he looked smooth in all the field workouts, running with a low center of gravity and exploding out of his cuts. He caught every single ball thrown his way and showed excellent burst to finish the drills. Barkley is a workout warrior, but when you watch him in pads, you realize he’s an even better football player.
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
This guy gets labelled as slow way too much and hopefully he shut some people up this weekend. Chubb ran faster than his teammate Sony Michel with a 4.52 in the 40 and was tied with Barkley for the most reps on the bench press with 29. He was one of the top performers in both the leaping events and was out there catching passes with ease, which was questioned by some people, after just 31 catches throughout his collegiate career. While Chubb won’t dazzle viewers with incredible jump-cuts or hurdles like Barkley, I thought he looked outstanding at 228 pounds and I’ve always said he had great short-area quickness to jump into the hole and go North. I think he will ultimately end up being the fifth or sixth running-back selected in late April.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Any time you throw the ball 65 yards through the air with perfect velocity, scouts will talk about you. That’s what happened with Allen over the weekend. Even though the steps on his drop-backs are way too far apart for my taste and he was late on a bunch of throws throughout the workout, that arm strength had NFL people gushing. Just looking at how late into receivers’ routes Allen released the ball and the fact they still arrived on time, just by how much throwing power he possesses was impressive. Measuring in at 6’5’’, 233 pounds, with 10 inch hands and finishing with some of the best numbers in the 40, three-cone, broad and vertical jump certainly didn’t hurt either, but it was his improved accuracy and big arm that got everybody talking. I still have major problems with his tape in terms of consistency and pocket presence, but there will be a bunch of quarterback coaches, who are very intrigued by this young man and think they can fix that kind of stuff.
D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
This young man is kind of the Zay Jones of this year’s draft. The Bills receiver went into the Senior Bowl as a potential third-day selection, but improved his stock in Mobile and Indianapolis so much, he ultimately was an early second round pick. Chark is well on his way to doing the same, as he recorded 160 yards at the Senior Bowl game and now made his mark on the combine. He led all receivers with his 4.34 in the 40 yard dash, put up 10’9’’ on the broad jump and another 40 inches on the vertical. In addition to those numbers, he caught the ball very naturally through all the drills and just looked smooth, which is the first word I wrote down when studying him on tape. I don’t think he will end up as one of the top three receivers taken, but after that it’s anybody’s guess at this point and Chark has definitely created a buzz.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
And here we have the second athletic freak out of Penn State, who wowed scouts in Indy. Gesicki was a top performer in every single event at the combine. These are the most impressive ones to me – he ran a 4.54 in the 40, put up a 41 ½ inch vertical jump and a 6.76 in the three-cone drill, which was almost two tenths faster than the next-closest tight-end. The former star volleyball and basketball player looks like one of those new move tight-ends, who can be a mismatch in the passing game. He will definitely make his mark detached from the line, as he lacks the physicality to block edge guys in the run game, but there’s no doubt – teams will find a role for him and I wouldn’t be shocked if a team fell in love with him at the end of the first round, like he Giants did with Evan Engram a year ago.
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Alabama has brought out a multitude of outstanding prospects among the interior defensive line in recent years and Payne is the next guy in line. He was a rock against the run for the Crimson Tide and put his name out there with big plays in the college playoffs, but with just one sack on the season, a few scouts questioned his ability to impact the passing game. Not only did I see him do a lot of the dirty work, in terms of pushing the pocket and taking on double-teams, he also showed what he can do at 311 pounds at the combine. Payne ran a 4.95 in the 40, in addition to looking very quick and fluid in on-field workouts. His athleticism stood out to me among the DL group and things seemed to be effortless for him. He also showed some pop in his hands when he hit the bags, which should be nothing new to anybody, who has watched him bench-press offensive linemen on tape.
Bradley Chubb, Edge, N.C. State
Chubb came into the weekend is the clear-cut number one prospect among edge rushers and he only confirmed that with his combine showing. He ran a 4.65 at 270 pounds, finished top-five in the vertical jump and surpassed 10 feet in the broad. More importantly he showed violent, quick hands on the bags and an ability to flatten to the quarterback in those drills. I thought he looked very fluid for his size as well and showed no issues changing directions in any of the on-field stuff. Even when asked to drop into coverage and move in space, I thought he looked more than solid for a guy, who is used to going forward and flattening guys with the ball in their hands.
Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
How can this guy not make my list? Griffin’s story is well-documented by now and I don’t need to get into the details about his amputated hand. What actually counts, is the fact, he recorded the fastest time in the 40 for any linebacker ever measured at the combine, at 4.38. He also put up 20 reps in the bench press, which is more than a lot of guys at his weight with two functional arms. Unfortunately, he cramped up pretty bad in the on-field drills, but he still showed his background as a safety and that he will be able to move off the ball at the next level. Moreover, he could have easily quit the rest of the workout, like so many other guys did, but he fought through it. I’m rooting hard for this kid and I have no doubt, that he will make an impact on the league.
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
I didn’t really hear a lot of people talk about this kid in recent weeks, but I believe Alexander had an excellent overall day and should be back in the conversation among the top cornerbacks in this draft. He ran sub 4.4 in the 40 and really set an example as the first guy to go through all the drills. He looked explosive in his change of directions in the W-drill, smooth in unlocking his hips off the backpedal and very natural at adjusting to the ball in the air, plus bringing in catches. Alexander missed about half of his junior season, when I thought he came into the year as the nation’s top cornerback. With his work in Indianapolis, I think he reminded all the scouts that he can be one hell of a player, as part of a class, that I didn’t think anybody really separated themselves from, outside of him.
Derwin James, SS, Florida State
At 6’2’’, 215 pounds and with the way he lights up receivers on the field, James is often labelled as a box-safety, but when I put on the tape, I saw a player, who can be a chess-piece in multiple defensive schemes and his combine performance backed up what an incredible athlete he is. First, he ran a 4.47 in the 40 at that size, then he jumped out the building with an 11 feet broad and a 40 inch vertical leap and in the on-field drills, he looked more fluid in space then a lot of the cornerbacks earlier that day. I still believe Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top guy in this safety class, but James could easily be in the top ten of a lot of teams’ boards.
James Daniels, C, Iowa
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
B.J. Hill, DT, N.C. State
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Tony Brown, CB, Alabama
Troy Apke, S, Penn State