The annual NFL Scouting Combine is about confirmation when it comes to athletic testing. Teams have watched film on these players and they’re looking for confirmation that the movement and strength skills they think they see on tape line up with what they see in Indianapolis (although the event may take place at different locations moving forward). But surprises do still happen, both good and bad. Some players perform better than expected and others leave observers scratching their heads while they tell themselves “that looked different to me on film.”
With that in mind, here are some winners (good surprises) and losers (bad surprises) from this year’s event:
WINNER: Travis Jones, IDL, UConn
If it wasn’t for the performance by one of the other interior defensive lineman on this list, we’d be talking about Travis Jones as the big man who stole the show on the defensive side of the ball. With a 10-yard split of 1.76 seconds on his way to a 4.92 40-yard dash at 325 lbs and standing 6’4-3/8”, Travis Jones backed up his solid play on film where he didn’t get much help from NFL caliber talent on the Connecticut defensive line.
LOSER: Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Kyren Williams is fun to watch play football. His willingness to stick his nose into a blitzer in pass protection rarely gets old. But his combine testing results (4.65 40-yard dash, 32” vertical) paired with his size (5’9”, 194 lbs) make him the unideal combination of both small and slow relative to his peers in the draft class. His tape is still good enough to make him a draftable prospect and the Buffalo Bills’ own Devin Singletary may have had athletic composites that looked like this had it not been for Singletary’s agility drills (which Williams didn’t run). After Singletary has carved out a reasonable career for himself thus far, Kyren Williams should still hear his name called during the three-day April event.
LOSER: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
“Has Kyler Gordon blown up the Combine yet?”
This was a common refrain from people who watched Gordon’s film in anticipation of the Combine and saw the movement skills exhibited. But an official 40-yard dash time of 4.52, while not as concerning as the unofficial times of 4.57 and 4.60, surprised almost anyone who had done work on Gordon before the weekend event. With his Washington teammate Trent McDuffie measuring in with shorter arms but more robust athletic testing, it will be fascinating to see how the former Huskies come off the board in the draft. Both of them should remain top-40 picks.
WINNER: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
You knew this one was coming. People knew the former Georgia Bulldog nose tackle was capable of flashes of athletic brilliance, but it’s not hyperbolic to say that Jordan Davis had one of the best combine performances we’ve ever seen. Ever. It doesn’t do anything to silence the questions about conditioning, weight management, and pass-rush ability that linger around him. But if the flashes are the level of a 4.78 40-yard dash, a 32” vertical jump, a broad jump over 10’, and a 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds while measuring 6’6” and weighing in at 341 lbs, those questions may quiet down for a few teams drafting in the first round. I think the Los Angeles Chargers at pick 17 may be the floor for Davis at this point, with the Baltimore Ravens at pick 14 also feeling like a good fit.
LOSER: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas
This one is simply a victim of the concept that expectation minus reality equals disappointment. After going on record saying he needs to have specially made triple-XL gloves, Treylon Burks (who people thought may measure in at 6’4” and run in the 4.4s) measured in with 9 7/8” hands and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at 6’2” and 225 lbs. None of these numbers are bad at all and the role people often envision for Burks early on in his career (jet sweeps, bubble screens) is in no way jeopardized by the combine performance, but it was a victim of its own hype.
WINNER: Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
The idea that Kenneth Walker was bound to be the first running back off the board was challenged greatly by Breece Hall during the Combine. While Kenneth Walker had an expected good showing, Hall was elite in speed (4.39 40-yard dash, 1.54 100-yard split) and explosion (40” vertical jump that was best among running backs, over 10’ broad jump) drills and with his demonstrated ability in the passing game, Hall could be the first runner to hear his name called this year at the NFL Draft.
WINNER: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
There may not be a player who has helped themselves more this offseason than Calvin Austin III. The University of Memphis continues to send explosive athletes to the next level and after continuously turning heads at the Senior Bowl, Austin III crushed the Combine with a 4.32 40-yard dash (1.54 10-yard split), a 39” vertical jump, a broad jump over 11’, and a 4.07 short shuttle. If you’re going to be 5’7” and 170 lbs, you need to show explosion and separation abilities and through his performances in Mobile and now Indianapolis, Austin has put himself firmly in the Day 2 mix at wide receiver.