The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. There are always some surprises and disappointments, and this year was no different. There were records set, near records set, and some very surprising numbers posted by entire position groups this year. Here is a run down on some of the notable performances this year in Indianapolis.
Starting at the top, Texas AM's Myles Garrett put on a show. Simply put, he is a freak. He checked in at 6'4 272lbs with 35.25" arms, then clocked a 4.64 40 and had a vertical leap of 41". He tested out well in every category, and looked fluid in drills. Garrett was already the heavy favorite for the top overall spot, but he removed any doubt after this. He will be the #1 pick on draft day.
Washington WR John Ross set a new combine record in the 40 yard dash. His 4.22 timing beat Chris Johnson's 4.24. With Corey Davis recovering from a minor surgery and Mike Williams opting not to run, Ross was the highest ranked WR to run, and he did not disappoint. He was expected to run fast, but to set a new record is obviously tremendous. Ross is electric, and it wouldn't surprise if he pushes for top ten consideration on draft day with so many teams craving more speed.
The top two events to showcase your talents before the draft are the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Three players that aced the Senior Bowl were hoping to take that momentum into this weekend, and further climb draft boards. WR Zay Jones (East Carolina), LB Haason Reddick (Temple), and S Obi Melofonwu (UConn) did just that. Everyone knew Jones was smooth on the field, but proving your physical skills amongst everyone else can carry a lot of weight as well. He ran a 4.45 40 at 6'2 201 and was very fluid in drills. He's a natural at the position and may have made himself a second round pick in April. Reddick was miscast as a defensive linemen in drills, but his 4.52 40 was still the fastest among true linebackers(similarly, Michigan's Jabril Peppers was miscast as a linebacker and clocked a 4.46, but will play safety in the NFL). Verifying his speed and athleticism in Indy may have pushed him into the mid first round. Melifonwu's performance rivals Garrett's for the best overall performance this weekend. At 6'4 224lbs, he ran the fastest 40(4.40), had the highest vertical(44"), and the best broad jump(141", second best all time at the combine). The size, speed, and explosiveness is freakish and he has the on field production to go with it. In a deep safety draft, Melifonwu has made himself some serious money in the post season, and is locked in a second round selection, and could push his way into the first round when all is said and done.
The tight end crop this year has been considered a strong point for the 2017 draft, and it did not disappoint. OJ Howard (Alabama) cemented his status as the draft's top tight end, checking in at 6'6 251lbs and running a 4.51 40, and flashing explosion in the rest of the drills. David Njoku (Miami) had a solid 40 time at 4.64, but showed tremendous explosion with a 37.5" vertical, as well as a 133" broad jump. Njoku also checked in at 6'4 246lbs with extremely long 35.25" arms. Evan Engram (Ole Miss) made his presence felt with a 4.42 40 at 6'3 234, running away with the best time at the position. He's not an inline presence, but he's going to cause serious match up problems. Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech) is another receiving presence despite his 6'6 257lb frame, and he's going to be another matchup problem in the passing game. He ran a 4.57 40, while also standing out with a 39" vertical and 134" broad jump. George Kittle (Iowa) was the biggest surprise among tight ends. He's been considered one of the better blockers and more technically sound performers at the position, but he flashed some serious athleticism and explosion this weekend. He clocked a 4.52 40 at 247lbs and also had a 132" broad jump. He's going to make people re-consider his potential as one of the best dual threat tight end prospects in this draft.
Ohio State WR Curtis Samuel may have been the talk of the position had it not been for John Ross breaking the 40 record. Lauded for his ability as a movable piece that can lineup in the backfield, slot, and out wide, Samuel blazed a 4.31 40 proving he has the big play ability to really cause problems in space. He should have locked up a second round selection, and is one of the biggest playmakers available at the WR spot for the 2017 draft.
TCU OT Aviante Collins comes from a family full of track stars, so his 4.81 40 at 295lbs shouldn't come as a surprise. Surprise or not though, that time is very impressive. It was a full .14 faster than the next best linemen. That speed is obvious on film, as he is fluid and athletic in games as well. The big knocks are his bulk and strength. Coming in at 295 is a positive, and he put up 34 reps on the bench press. Collins is still a project and will need time to further bulk up and get more functional strength, but the athleticism is off the charts. In a weak year for offensive tackles, Collins may have pushed himself into the middle rounds for a zone blocking scheme.
Kansas State DE Jordan Willis was a potential day two pick based on his career in Manhattan. He was always viewed as long, relentless, and powerful, but there were some questions about how explosive he was as an athlete. He answered all questions in a big way in Indianapolis. At 6'4 255lbs, Willis ran the fastest 40 for true defensive linemen(4.53), with the fastest 10 yard split at 1.54. That explosion also carried over to the vertical jump, where his 39" vertical was second best, behind only Myles Garrett. Willis workout should ease concerns about his pass rush potential, and do not be surprised to see him push for top 40 consideration when all is said and done.
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley has taken a backseat to his teammate Marshon Lattimore, but his performance at the combine allowed him to make a name for himself. At 6' 195 with long arms(33") for the position, Conley ran a 4.44 40 and jumped 37" vertically. More impressive was how fluid he was in drills, showing the fluidity to standout as a cover man. Conley is part of a deep corner class, and his performance may have pushed him into the first round.
USC CB Adoree' Jackson is one of the draft's top playmakers, but he needed to impress to distinguish himself as a defender and to verify his actual size. Measuring in at 5'10 186 doesn't jump out, but that puts him into average size category, instead of undersized, which is an important distinction. Jackson also clocked a 4.42 40, but most impressive was his work in drills. He was as fluid as any defensive back in position drills, and looks like he has himself knocking on day one consideration after his performance.
There were a few people that did hurt their stock at the combine, to varying degrees. Florida CB Teez Tabor is not lacking for confidence, stating he was the best player in the draft. While an underwhelming combine performance may not necessarily impact the actual on field product, he sure did not look like the best corner in the draft, let alone the best player overall. His 4.62 40, nine reps on the bench, and 31" vertical were all well below average. Add in some previous off the field concerns, and Tabor could be in for a draft day slide. Once considered a potential top 15 pick, Tabor may have fallen out of the first round completely now.
A pair of Alabama defenders had their draft stock affected negatively this weekend. Once a potential top overall pick candidate, DT Jonathan Allen did not stand out in any drill or event in Indianapolis. He numbers were not poor, just average across the board. His 286lb weigh in is a concern for a guy who was considered a tweener at 295. There is also some concern that he has arthritis in his shoulder, although Allen claims it will not be a problem until his playing days are over. All of that adds up to him not going #1 overall, and sliding outside of the top five most likely. LB Reuben Foster was not expected to work out at the combine but managed to hurt his stock anyway. Foster was sent home from the event after an altercation during the medical evaluations. The details of that may not become public and we may not know how much it affects his stock, but it definitely did not help his case.
USC offensive linemen did not fare well at the event. OT Chad Wheeler, OT Zach Banner, and OG Damien Mama had some of the worst performances among the linemen. Wheeler and Banner were once possibly late second day prospects, and have certainly fallen out. Wheeler was expected to have a solid showing in athleticism drills, and he clocked a 5.48 40, with a 1.89 10 yard split, some of the worst for offensive tackles. Banner was 353lbs and clocked a 5.58 40, with a 1.92 split. Mama had the NFL Network's Rich Eisen thinking he could run a faster 40. Mama clocked a 5.84 showing, the worst at the combine, as well as a combine worst 10 yard split of 1.95. All three also looked clumsy in position drills. All three look like day three picks at best, with Mama and Wheeler potentially looking at going undrafted.