BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The second day of on-field workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, when the offensive skill-positions take the field, always receives the most attention. With the way the 2015 NFL draft’s top quarterbacks and wide receivers put on a show Saturday, that attention was well-warranted.
While the top prospects at prominent positions often sit out the combine and wait until their pro days, the best players at each of the offensive skill positions—excepting Georgia running back Todd Gurley, who is still recovering from a torn ACL—participated in full workouts Saturday. That turned out to be the right decision for most of them, as the top talents at each position made that clear with their performances throughout the day.
Kevin White steals the show, other top receivers also impress
A well-built wide receiver at 6’3” and 215 pounds, West Virginia’s Kevin White was known more for his size and ability to make contested catches than his speed. That changed on Saturday, when he stole the show in Indianapolis by running an unexpected and spectacular 4.35-second 40-yard dash.
Officially tied for the third-fastest time among all wideouts who ran, White established himself as one of the top physical specimen at his position in this year’s draft. He also posted a 36.5” vertical jump and 10’3” broad jump.
White followed up his strong measurables with a strong showing in on-field drills, in which he ran clean routes and consistently caught the ball in his hands. All in all, White made a strong case for being the No. 1 wide receiver in this year’s draft class.
Whether he is remains up for debate, however, because the other top receivers in the draft class also had terrific performances.
Alabama’s Amari Cooper, White’s top competition to be the first receiver selected, ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash. That time is .01 second than what Sammy Watkins ran at the combine last year, while Cooper measured in at an identical height and weight (6’1”, 211 pounds) to the Buffalo Bills’ No. 4 overall pick’s measurables at last year’s combine.
Unsurprisingly, Cooper also shined as brightly as anyone in the on-field drills. He consistently clapped the ball in his hands for secure catches out away from his body, while his routes were clean and crisp. His numbers were a bit disappointing in the vertical jump (33”) and broad jump (10’), but his status as a top prospect has less to do with explosiveness than it does consistency and polish.
Another projected top-15 draft pick at wide receiver, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash. That is a quality time for Parker, who measured in at 6’3” and 209 pounds, while he also posted a 36.5” vertical jump and 10’5” broad jump. He was not as impressive in the on-field drills, in which he seemed to be going half-speed at times, but he did not have any issues with catching the football in his hands.
Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, who projects as the No. 4 wideout in this year’s draft class, also elevated his draft stock Saturday. Known more for his size and strength than his athleticism, the 6’2”, 217-pound receiver ended up being one of the day’s most explosive receivers as he ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, vertically jumped 42” and broad jumped 10’3”.
Missouri/Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham is the draft’s biggest wild card. He has an ugly history of off-field issues that will likely take him off many teams’ boards altogether, but also has outstanding tools that would otherwise make him a first-round pick if not for his behavioral issues. He put those tools on display Saturday. At 6’5” and 237 pounds, Green-Beckham ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash while he consistently ran fluid routes and caught passes in his hands in the on-field drills.
Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett won’t be a first-round pick because he is only 5’10” and 182 pounds, but he projects as a great value pick on Day 2 in a loaded receiving class. Already known to be a terrific route runner, which he displayed in his on-field drills Saturday, Lockett defied expectations by running a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, making him the fifth-fastest receiver at the event. Lockett also posted a 35.5” vertical jump and 10’1” broad jump.
USC’s Nelson Agholor got the day off to a good start by running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, while he also looked very good catching the ball and running routes in on-field drills. He was unable to fully complete the on-field drills, however, because he suffered a discolated finger, according to NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones.
One top receiver prospect who did not have a good performance Saturday was Michigan’s Devin Funchess. Funchess ran a 4.70-second 40-yard dash—the slowest of anyone in the wide receiver group—and had numerous drops in the on-field drills. He has the size of a hybrid wide receiver/tight end at 6’4” and 232 pounds and performed much better in the vertical jump (38.5”), but he did not have the combine showing he needed to establish himself as a first-round pick.
While the top receivers looked like the top prospects they are Saturday, there were some sleeper prospects as well who put up some big numbers.
UAB’s J.J. Nelson was the fastest wide receiver of the day, with a 4.28-second 40-yard dash, while he also ran terrific routes and caught the ball impressively in on-field drills. The problem for Nelson, however, is that the 5’10” receiver weighed in at just 156 pounds earlier this week, making him the smallest player at the combine by a full 20 pounds, and very likely too small to play in the NFL.
Georgia’s Chris Conley had the eye-popping numbers of the day, as he not only ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash but also recorded a 45-inch vertical jump and 11’7” broad jump, both bests among all receivers. That said, he never had huge production at Georgia and struggled to catch the football throughout the day’s on-field drills.
Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller is the biggest receiver at the combine, at 6’6” and 238 pounds, and he also proved on Saturday that he is a fantastic athlete. By running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 37” vertical jump and 10’5” broad jump, Waller made it clear that he has rare explosiveness for a man of his size.
Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston throw the ball well
There’s not much reason to put significant stock in a quarterback throwing passes to unfamiliar receivers against no coverage and no pressure. Nonetheless, it was a certainly appreciated move to see the top two quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston, participate in full workouts Saturday.
It was evident, even from mostly paying attention to the wide receivers during passing drills, that Winston and Mariota were the two best passers on the field. Each of them consistently threw the ball with zip and accuracy to all levels.
Ultimately, Saturday’s combine results should not have any affect on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ decision of whether to draft Winston or Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick, as both players threw the ball well.
Mariota had a much better performance in the athletic testing: Mariota had a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, 36” vertical jump and 10’1” broad jump, while Winston was near the bottom of the quarterback group in each drill as he had a 4.97 40, 28.5” vertical jump and 8’7” broad jump. That said, it was already well-known that while Mariota is a true dual-threat quarterback, Winston is a more traditional pocket passer.
Mariota’s athleticism and ability to run the ball is one reason a team could favor him over Winston, but it’s not as if the combine was needed to prove that as an advantage for Mariota.
The No. 3 quarterback in the draft, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, also had a strong showing Saturday. In addition to throwing the ball well on the field, he put up some outstanding numbers in testing. He completed the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds, and had a 20-yard shuttle of 3.98 seconds that was not only the best among quarterbacks since 2006, but also would have been the second-best time for running backs since 2006, according to Rotoworld’s Josh Norris.
Running backs underwhelm
While the wide receiver workouts were full of stars and the top quarterbacks did what they needed to, there was not a great deal to get excited about with the running back session Saturday afternoon.
The standout of the group was Northern Iowa’s David Johnson, who ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash while he also, according to his own Twitter account, had a 41.5” vertical jump and 10’7” broad jump. Those are outstanding numbers for a 6’1”, 224-pound running back who has great size but is also well-known for his ability to catch the ball downfield.
Surprisingly, the fastest running back of the day was Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, who completed the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. A 6’0”, 208-pound back who was highly productive for the Spartans and shows that he can bounce off contact, Langford never looked quite that fast on tape but likely pushed himself into the third round with his fast time.
The top running back prospect among those who participated Saturday, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash. That is a pedestrian time for Gordon, but perhaps more importantly, he addressed questions about his hands with a good day catching the ball in on-field drills. An explosive back at 6’1” and 215 pounds who makes defenders miss in space, Gordon might not have helped his stock at the combine, but it shouldn’t have fallen either.
Defensive front seven bench press: Vic Beasley continues to stand out
Coming into the combine, the biggest concerns with Clemson defensive end/outside linebacker Vic Beasley were whether he has the size and strength to be more than a situational pass-rusher in the NFL.
He answered the size question Friday when he measured in at 246 pounds, 11 pounds above his listed weight at Clemson. Then, on Saturday, he showed off his strength when he put up 35 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press, tying him for the most among all defensive linemen.
Beasley has limited length, with 32 1/2” arms, so that gives him an advantage over many other players in the bench press. Nonetheless, Beasley’s bench press number far exceeded expectations and makes it clear that Beasley has been working very hard to bulk up in preparation for the combine. If Beasley tests well on the field Monday, he could solidify himself as a top-15 draft pick.
Tying Beasley at 35 repetitions on Saturday was Deon Simon, a 6’4”, 321-pound defensive tackle from Northwestern State, a Football Championship Subdivision program in Louisiana.
Ten total defensive linemen had 30 or more repetitions in the bench press, including Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright (34), Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton (34) and Florida State defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (32). There is typically an inverse relationship between arm length and bench press repetitions, so two of the most impressive performances were those of Fresno State defensive tackle Tyeler Davison, who posted 32 repetitions with 34” arms, and Tennessee-Chattanooga defensive tackle Derrick Lott, who put up 30 reps with 33 5/8” arms.
Another impressive number Saturday came from Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory. One day after making negative headlines for weighing at just 235 pounds, Gregory had a solid performance in the bench press, putting up 24 repetitions, which is a very good number for an undersized edge defender with 34” arms.
Among some of the other top defensive front seven prospects, Oklahoma nose tackle Jordan Phillips had 28 repetitions (with 34 3/4” arms), Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman had 27 reps (31 7/8” arms), Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown had 26 reps (32 1/2” arms), UCLA’s Owamagbe Odighizuwa had 25 reps (33 3/4” arms), Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead had 24 reps (33” arms), Missouri defensive end Shane Ray had 21 reps (33 1/8” arms) and Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. had 19 reps (33 3/4” arms).
USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, Kentucky edge defender Alvin Dupree and Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman were among the defensive linemen who did not participate in the bench press.
All of this year’s combine measurements and results can be found in this spreadsheet by NEPatriotsDraft’s Mike Loyko.