The first night of prime time on-field drills and athletic testing from the 2020 NFL Combine kicked off Thursday night, with the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends putting on a show to impress NFL decision makers. Although everyone held their breath for the 40-yard dash of Henry Ruggs hoping to see history, there were a few standout performances.
Cole Kmet TE Notre Dame
Kmet running a 4.7 40-yard dash is a big deal. Straight-line speed was a question mark coming in and that time can help him in his quest to be the first tight end off the board. Adding to the better-than-expected 40 time, Kmet posted a 37” vertical jump, best among tight ends, along with a 123” broad jump, tied for second in the position group. These three tests together paint the picture of a more athletic and explosive athlete than some might have thought from his tape and should help him improve his stock.
Chase Claypool WR Notre Dame
Another Golden Domer who turned heads on Thursday night was Chase Claypool. There were whispers of a position switch to tight end coming into tonight and although they may still be present in the minds of some evaluators, Claypool running a 4.42 40-yard dash, jumping 44.5” in the vertical, and 126” in the broad jump should quiet a lot of that talk down. Claypool is firmly in the day two discussion at this point and with his blocking ferocity and diverse route tree, could be an option for teams who want to wait a bit to pick a receiver in this deep class.
Albert Okwuegbunam TE Missouri
He ran a 4.49 in the 40—at 258 lbs. Even though he didn’t record a lot of other drills, that straight-line speed is enough to get people to notice.
Justin Jefferson WR LSU
After Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs, there are some questions as to the identity of the fourth wide receiver in this class. Some have Jalen Reagor, some Tee Higgins, and some Laviska Shenault Jr., but Justin Jefferson declared loudly that he was in contention for that spot and a first-round pick by running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash, nailing the gauntlet drill, and showing great body control during the fade drill. Teams at the end of the first round who miss out on Ruggs/Jeudy/Lamb will be watching this versatile receiver closely if they weren’t before.
Anthony Gordon QB Washington State
Gordon’s throwing mechanics were consistent enough to set your watch by in the on-field drills and although he didn’t have the howitzer throws that came off the arms of Jacob Eason, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert, his ball placement continued to be a strength for this sleeper in the 2020 NFL Draft class.
Denzel Mims WR Baylor
Not so fast Justin Jefferson. Mims ran a blistering 4.38 40-yard dash along with top-ten performances in both the broad and vertical jumps, showing explosiveness along with straight-line speed. Displaying athleticism like that will make the limited route tree he ran at Baylor less of a concern at the next level. Mims is clearly fighting to stand out in a suddenly-crowded day-two receiver group, and he’s succeeding.
Donovan Peoples-Jones WR Michigan
44.5” vertical. 139” broad jump. Excellent natural skills during the gauntlet. DPJ got to display all the things he didn’t get to show at Michigan as he was held back by sub-par quarterback play. He’ll very likely be a better pro than college player and along with Mims, Jefferson and Claypool from this list, will be someone to watch on day two the draft.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan for Buffalo Rumblings. For some of my offensive draft crushes, refer to Thursday’s episode of “The Nick & Nolan Show” on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network.