Are you prepared for the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine? In case you haven’t heard, our editor-in-chief Chris Trapasso will be in Indianapolis this weekend to report on the workouts and interviews from the different college prospects. While we wait for him to get there, and with the first weigh-in results being recorded, I have some thoughts about this year’s Combine that I’d like to share in King-ian fashion. Here’s what I think I think about this year’s Combine, which I believe to feature the most talented draft class since at least 2014:
1. The beautifully diverse running back class
The 2017 NFL Draft is expected to feature incredible depth and variety in its running back group, even moreso than the vaunted 2015 group: from tiny waterbugs like Tarik Cohen and Donnell Pumphrey, to huge monsters like Leonard Fournette and D’Onta Foreman, and everything in between. I’m looking forward to seeing the full spectrum of workouts, where this group will likely have some exciting outliers, and the drills, which will show off the footwork prowess for these players.
2. How crazy good will this safety class look?
This class already has two elite prospects in Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker. While Hooker won’t work out due to labrum surgery, Adams could cement himself as a top five pick with a great workout. Second tier players like Budda Baker and Eddie Jackson are both capable of putting up outstanding testing numbers. Then there’s a slew of other names expected to test as excellent athletes: Josh Harvey-Clemons, John Johnson, Josh Jones, Marcus Williams. Will they live up to the hype?
3. OJ Howard, David Njoku, and Adam Shaheen
What an intriguing tight end class before us. Howard was the top high school tight end recruit, played four seasons at Alabama, and is expected to do a great job in all of the workouts. Njoku is much less experienced, with only nine career starts, but may be more athletic - I consider him the type of player everyone hoped they were getting with Eric Ebron. Shaheen is the wildcard: A Division II prospect standing six-foot-six and 277 pounds. He dominated his opponents in college, but can he match up favorably against the other two in the positional drills?
4. Reuben Foster and Jabrill Peppers
I’m interested in the size of both of these players. Foster played in the 220’s and 230’s at Alabama; what will his weight be in Indianapolis? Peppers, who some considered a safety prospect, is expected to weigh in under 210 pounds. It would make him the lightest linebacker in the NFL.
The athletic workouts for both players will be extremely relevant. Can Foster show off speed and burst that puts him closer to Bobby Wagner territory? Will Peppers run a sub-4.4 forty yard dash, as some betting sites believe he could? If either of them are elite athletes, it will bode well for their draft chances.
5. Who are the “freaks”?
We have a few guesses as the players who will blow up the Combine with absurd testing numbers. Myles Garrett is one. Solomon Thomas is another name. Budda Baker, Adoree’ Jackson and John Ross are some more. Who do you think will make headlines?
6. Receiving drills for Noah Brown and Carlos Henderson
Both of these players appear to have major talent, and I want to get a closer look at their ability to run different routes, to track the ball in midair, and to show off their catching technique as part of the “gauntlet” drill. Brown barely saw any targets in his Ohio State career, but he was a four star recruit and looked tremendous in a four touchdown performance against Oklahoma. Henderson looked like another Percy Harvin with the way he carved up defenses after the catch, but he also had a tendency to catch the ball with his body.
7. Quarterback measurements and throwing drills
I think a great deal of questions will be answered at this Combine, unlike in previous years where the prospects liked to play things close to the vest. Is Deshaun Watson really an athlete on par with Tyrod Taylor? Is Patrick Mahomes comfortable taking snaps under center yet (and how pinpoint is that accuracy when he’s not improvising)? Does Mitch Trubisky have the size that NFL teams look for, and can he flash good throwing talents during the quarterback drills? Are Jerod Evans and Brad Kaaya more than “Just A Guy” options who should’ve stayed another year in college?
8. Edge rusher athleticism
Edge rushing is a profession that relies a great deal on winning battles with athletic ability. Don’t believe what pundits tell you about height or arm length - if a player has burst and can bend around the corner, he’ll have an impact in the NFL. Last year was an awful draft class for the position, and only a few players had impressive measurements - Joey Bosa, Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, and a couple others.
This year’s group is expected to be immensely deeper. Like the safety group, expect to be wowed by more than a few names during the vertical leap and the three cone drill.
9. Cornerback drills
Over the years, I think I’ve settled on my favorite activity at this event being the footwork drills for defensive backs. Like edge rushers, cornerbacks are highly dependent on their athleticism. But they also need refined technique for backpedaling, flipping their hips, and changing direction to break up a pass. The different exercises these players do are a great way to see which cornerbacks are going to star in man coverage, and which ones just can’t keep up.
10. Noteworthy absences
As encouraging as it may be to see some sign (any sign) that the NFL is beginning to embrace a culture that promotes community outreach and law-abiding, I’m frustrated to see players excused altogether from the Combine due to their past circumstances. The NFL draft process is all about taking maximum diligence to research a prospect’s profile and decide if they are a great fit for the league and a team. Withholding players with checkered backgrounds from the interview rooms and press conferences in Indianapolis seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Chad Kelly and Joe Mixon (among others) have NFL-caliber talents, but they need to answer major questions about their behavior. It’s a disservice to the teams and the players to not give them that opportunity by denying them entry to the Combine, especially because these are clearly special circumstances. Dalvin Cook has his own history of domestic violence, but that was glossed over when the Combine invite list was revealed.