The 2017 NFL Combine is in the books. It’s a moment the players began preparing for the second their collegiate careers ended. It’s an event teams send huge staff’s to attend. Every drill is recorded. Every thought captured. Old school guys use spiral bound notebooks while modern attendees have apps to record their live observations. After tons of video and untold cups of coffee however, what does it all mean?
The combine is a big part of the NFL Draft process. Simply put the players get a chance, in front of the public, to directly affect their draft stock without teams having to view them through the lens of their old college team or the hype of the local media/fan base. It’s raw.
Over the days invariably a few players stand out. Below are the ones that caught my eye.
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson – 6’2″ 221 lbs, 4.66 40 yd dash, 32.5″ vert, 119″ broad – showed accuracy, rhythm, touch and the ability to shine under pressure as he was obviously enjoying himself. Nitpicking here but he did miss on a few deep balls. Also acing the interviews Watson checks off all the boxes for NFL teams in need of a QB.
Connecticut S Obi Melifonwu – 6’4″ 224 lbs, 4.40 40 yd dash, 44″ vert, 141″ broad – is a huge DB who has CB skills. The Seattle Seahawks were a focused lot whenever Obi was in action as the Connecticut standout fits their preferred DB profile perfectly. Tall, long, fast, physical and having the ability to play either safety or corner Melifonwu turned heads at the combine after a stellar collegiate career. This could be one of those elite players that got passed over by quite a few teams before some lucky club makes the right call.
LSU RB Leonard Fournette – 6’0″ 240lbs, 4.51 40 yd dash, 28.5″ vert – is a big man who can move with urgency and enjoys contact. The quickness with which this LSU RB gets to his next gear is incredible to watch. He gets to the edge and the second level with some serious giddy-up creating excellent angles for him to engage opponents. It’s not just his size that leads to a ton of broken tacklers strewn in his wake. His size/speed/quickness combination allows him to put defenders on their heels at which time he takes full advantage of the situation. More impressive in person Fournette also nailed interviews and solidified his draft stock.
Ohio State WR/RB Curtis Samuel – 5’11” 196 lbs, 4.31 40 yd dash – showed why he will be a weapon be it from the slot, the backfield or on special teams. A “space” player, teams that are creative offensively will zero in on this versatile chess piece. If your team wants him be aware he just got more expensive.
Ole Miss TE Evan Engram – 6’3″ 234 lbs, 4.42 40 yd dash, 36″ vert, 6.92 sec 3 cone, 4.23 sec 20 yd shuttle – when it’s becoming known as the “year of the explosive tight ends” and you post the best 40 time of the lot you get noticed. Sporting comparisons to Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed and toting a solid collegiate production stat sheet Engram just pushed himself into the top tier of a very deep group of tight ends.
Penn State WR Chris Godwin – 6’1″ 209 lbs, 4.42 40 yd dash, 19 reps bench, 126″ broad, 4 sec 20 yd shuttle – showed that his steady ascension up draft boards that started with his bowl game performances and culminated with a fantastic combine is just like the player himself, the real deal. Production, measurables, wow interviews … this kid just checked all the boxes.
Temple LB Haason Reddick – 6’1″ 237 lbs, 4.52 40 yd dash, 36.5″ vert, 133″ broad – let his athleticism shine at the combine and looked good doing it. When you add his Indy drills and interviews with his college production you get an elite prospect spotlight. Injuries are the red flag here but with his talent level the drop won’t be far.
Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett – 6’4″ 272 lbs, 4.64 40 yd dash, 33 reps, 41″ vert, 128″ broad – made it very hard for teams to not select him with the first overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. Garrett aced the measurables, killed it in drills and knocked it out of the park in interviews. His college production is top drawer. Sign him now Cleveland. Trading this pick away would be a bad thing. A very bad thing.
UCLA CB Fabian Moreau – 6’0″ 206 lbs, 4.35 40 yd dash, 38″ vert, 136″ broad – looked every bit the former running back and future NFL defensive nightmare. Big, strong and competitive the sub-4.4 40 put scouts and teams on notice that if you want this guy shutting down one 1/2 of your field you better be in possession of an early pick.
Washington WR John Ross – 5’11” 188 lbs, 4.22 40 yd dash (Nike cleats), 133″ broad – turned up the heat as he blazed in his only 40 yard try. Position drills were another chance to shine as Ross showed excellent hands, hips and mental focus. Injury history is the only red flag and one that is bound to be overlooked by more than one first round team salivating at the thought of what having elite speed could do for their offense.
The combine is a great spectacle. Athletic skills are on full display and it’s impressive. At the end of the day however it’s important to remember the combine isn’t the real game. 40 yard dash speed isn’t football speed. Having a ripped body isn’t what got DT Bob Lilly into the Hall of Fame and being able to throw a ball through a brick wall isn’t what got Tom Brady his Super Bowl rings. It’s the combine. Another piece in the NFL Draft puzzle.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over