If there’s one general note to take away from the NFL’s 2017 Combine – from a scouting perspective at least – it’s that this draft class sure seems promising. Cornerbacks, edge rushers, tight ends and running backs all didn’t disappoint. While we saw record-breaking performances and lots of top guys show up in a big way with some mind boggling numbers.
Teams seeking franchise quarterbacks and blindside protectors might not be fans of this 2017 class but with depth, raw upside, small school studs, and big name college players this Draft has it all and in spades.
That’s why it was time to dust off the old big board for an update while also giving some notes on the big winners, losers and everything else from the weirdest athletic ‘competition’ in all of sports.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Reddick is easily the biggest riser throughout the entirety of the draft circuit as he’s parlayed an eye-opening Senior Bowl display with a mind-blowing performance at the Combine testing at elite levels for a linebacker. Aside from his outstanding 4.52 40-yard dash he out jumped all but four wideouts in the broad jump including the 188-pound John Ross – remember what John Ross did in the Pac-12 championship to catch that touchdown over Chidobe Awuzie? That’s insane hops folks.
Reddick is the modern NFL linebacker to a T. As we featured in our last Big Board update Reddick can rush the passer, but also has range all over the field and the athletic traits to be a high-level player in coverage. It’s not out of the question for him to be the first (likely second) linebacker in the class and a first round pick seems like a lock at this point.
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
I mentioned Hodges as someone who had to show up big in Indy and boy did he ever. At 6-foot-6 and 257-pounds, the big target tight end tested like a wide receiver much like he plays, easing concerns on his blocking abilities. How would you like to defend a man that size who runs a 4.57 and can jump out the gym? As a big slot, flexed out wide, and especially in the red zone, he’ll be a matchup issue on a consistent basis.
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
In general, the tight end class really stood out with tons of winners, too many to mention all here, but Engram was really amazing. Much like Hodges, he’s a big wideout in many ways – more so than a tight end – and the testing proved that. At 6-foot-3 and 234-pounds after having dominated the SEC for years teams with a clear plan could take him in the top round. His 4.42 40-yard dash was outstanding.
O.J. Howard also deserves mention as his numbers were amongst the most impressive at any position. His 4.51 40 was the same as Leonard Fournette while weighing over 10 pounds more and being 6 inches taller. His stock has been rising more by the day since the draft process has begun.
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Bolles was expected to test well. But some of his numbers were beyond expectations vaulting the mercurial left tackles stock even higher. More impressive than the sub-five second 40, was an elite broad jump amongst the best by an offensive lineman in recent history. A big indicator of lower body power – Lane Johnson was a standout in 2013 with an 118-inch broad jump. He also was impressive in the lateral mobility drills.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
He might not be the biggest, but McCaffrey showed high-level athleticism at either wide receiver or running back. Yes, the 40 was under 4.5 proving his on field break away speed. But most impressive of all was his three-cone drill which was better than any WR or RB in the class. His short area quickness and change of direction skills make him a real stand out, especially as a weapon in the slot. He also showed natural hands and performed phenomenally in catching drills. First round or not the top 35 picks should have his name in it somewhere.
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
When you’re the consensus top prospect in the class it’s pretty hard to be a winner at the combine but Garrett was a straight out ‘freak’ in Indy destroying the testing. His 33 bench reps (36 actually, but three weren’t counted) with his 35 and 1/4 inch arms shouldn’t be humanly possible. He then obliterated the athletic tests in ways that make you say “this man was put on earth to play football.” The raw talent is just overwhelming. His 41 inch vertical at 272-pounds is only a half inch off of former NBA Dunk Champion Zach LaVine who weighed almost 100-pounds less. Wrap your minds around that for a second.
Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
The small school standout who’d already impressed at the Senior Bowl blew it up in Indy to becoming a serious consideration in the top two rounds. He showed power with 30 plus reps, then ran a 4.61 and tested well in the three-cone drill an important indicator of agility for edge rushers. Overall a great showing for a promising athlete at a premium position.
Not to the extent that Rivers did, but T.J Watt (who worked out with the linebackers) was impressive with high-level jumps and a great 6.79 three-cone a telling sign for a bendy pass rusher. The one-year starter at Wisconsin has upside, production, and now tested raw athleticism (not to mention pedigree) to get the NFL’s attention. The second round seems like a safe bet but the first isn’t out the question at this point.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
While McCaffrey and a few others showed up big amongst the running back group the consensus top two were mild disappointments. While most people have given Leonard Fournette mixed reviews for showing up big in Indianapolis, then running an incredible 4.51 (incredibly good, let’s be clear), and then an underwhelming vertical jump, Dalvin Cook stood out even more as a disappointment.
He showed good breakaway speed with his 40 but in all other areas, his tests were perplexing. Look we can debate the importance of a Vert for a running back – for context’s sake, David Johnson was amazing with 41.5 inch vertical but Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott were both in below average in the low 30’s – but at 210-pounds you’d expect much more out of Cook who’s been electric on tape but did barely better than Fournette. His change of direction in the three-cone was also amongst the worst in the class. So the question will be; did we all miss read his tape or did he not prepare for the Combine like a true pro should? Either answer doesn’t bode well. In a loaded and deep class, Cook falling out the top 20 picks no longer seems inconceivable.
Jalen ‘Teez’ Tabor, CB, Florida
In a loaded cornerback class with lots of prospects who have height and speed, Tabor had to keep up with the jones’. A 4.62 isn’t the way to do that. His below average jumps don’t bode well either. His instincts in coverage are great and maybe he wasn’t expected to light it up but that’s a poor showing that should see him lose significant ground to his competitors.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
With Corey Davis on the shelf due to injury, Williams had the top receiver spot in his grasp and he might have rested on his laurels. He skipped the 40-yard dash and was unimpressive in the jumping portion, a concern considering his on tape ability in contested situations. Sure, he’s big but compared to the much bigger tight ends in this class he was below average. He might still be the top receiver taken but that could be closer to pick 20-32 than 5-15 as most prognosticated going in.
Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Foster’s expulsion from the Combine might be nothing all considered. In a high-stress situation, he lost his cool, which isn’t great while you’re in the middle of the biggest job hiring process of your life. But all in all, it could be nothing.
However, his stock sure has lost some shine since the season’s end, after a shoulder injury and now his abrupt exit in Indy seem to have pushed him out of top 5 consideration.
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Compared to you and me, 286-pounds might seem big but for an interior defensive lineman in the NFL that’s light and Allen didn’t test like a 280-pound lineman much closer to an average 300-pounder. Not good for a player in consideration for a top-3 pick.
This doesn’t take away from two years of devastating tape in which he was arguably Alabama’s best player. But it’ll certainly make teams a bit queasy picking in the top-5. Fit and an arthritic shoulder are other factors that could push him closer to the 7-10 range than the originally anticipated top-5.
Malik McDowell similar to Allen profiles as a bit of an inside/outside linemen tweener, though he had much more to prove since his athleticism is his calling card. The tape at times flashes greatness but McDowell showed little of that in the Combine seeming fairly average. If teams are going to gamble on him in the first round they’ll need to see better than that at his pro day.
Obi Melifonwu, S, Uconn
Is it fair to say to someone who tested on the level of an Olympic athlete with incredible size “good job, that’s what we expected.” But that’s basically what’ I’m guilty of here. The Connecticut safety showed off outstanding athletic traits comparable to another former Husky who’s blown up in the NFL, Byron Jones. Obi at this point seems like a lock for the bottom half of round one. Few will be able to pass up such a talent, as he has the size to play in the box and the athleticism and range to be a free safety or even cornerback.
John Ross, WR, Washington
Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds is no more after Ross ran a blistering 4.22. More impressive, he accomplished that feat despite a torn labrum that he’ll have surgery on after the combine. Absolutely mind blowing.
Ross’ big question will be his injury history but few can pass up that speed. He’s also shown to have a resilient body bouncing back from a meniscus injury in both knees and a torn ACL that required microfracture surgery to put up 17 touchdowns in 2016.
Takkarist McKinley also ‘played’ injured with a shoulder injury. Despite that he still posted a respectable 24 reps on the bench press, especially considering his long arms, and then posted an outstanding 4.59 40. His jumps were also good. As expected McKinley can run and his dedication to go through everything was also impressive.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
Kamara put on a show. Though he sort of had to considering his lackluster production in his two seasons with the Vols. His 4.56 40 at 214-pounds is very solid, but he lit it up with the jumps showing elite lower body explosiveness, as prognosticated. Kamara’s hype train left the station a while ago, with these type of numbers it could land him in round one.
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Njoku on the surface might have disappointed in the 40. But a 4.64 at 246-pounds is just fine. Where he showed his ‘freak’ skills is in the jumping drills matching his red zone ability on tape. His broad jump was actually better than Kamara which I’m not sure many people realize. Given the different position and size, that’s fairly amazing. His vertical jump of 37.5 inches was tied for seventh best among all running backs, wideouts, and tight ends matching McCaffrey.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Lattimore has slowly crept into being the contender as the classes best cornerback and his combine performance has only consolidated that feeling. With good size, the former Buckeye ran a 4.36 and jumped out the stadium being a top performer in all the drills he participated in. Lattimore suffered a hip flexor injury that cut his combine short and injuries are his biggest concern but the upside can’t be disputed.
Fabian Moreau was also expected to run extremely fast and he didn’t disappoint with a 4.35. Marlon Humphrey, like Lattimore, consolidated his first round status with a 4.41 and good showing in other drills for his size.
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Used as an undersized defensive tackle at Stanford Thomas showed off great penetration skills from the interior and great athleticism. But he showed so well in Indy that he’s squashed some of his positional questions. At his size and with his athletic ability he can easily be a classic defensive end in a 4-3 front. At 273-pounds he tested like a linebacker a scary proposition for a man that plays with his tenacity.
Curtis Samuels, WR/RB, Ohio State
Receiver or running back – he participated with the wideout group – it doesn’t really matter. Samuels is a playmaker and he showed us why; because he’s an electric athlete with 4.31 speed.
Another Big Ten standout with versatility, Jabrill Peppers did what we expected testing like a cornerback at 213-pounds.
Time to go back to the tape
Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Obviously, there are several players that fit into this category but these guys in particular really stood out. Lamp’s arms tested out longer than they did at the Senior Bowl (a big win) throwing him back in the offensive tackle conversation and showing the athleticism to play the position too. That matches the tape.
Lamp’s arms tested out longer than they did at the Senior Bowl (a big win) throwing him back in the offensive tackle conversation and he showed the athleticism to play the position too. That matches the tape.
The strength on the bench press was a bit more surprising easing concerns about him converting to the interior at guard (center worries me less). That type of complete package would make him quite enticing, justifying some of the late first round talk for him.
Jordan Willis, EDGE, Kansas State
Willis has been extremely productive at KSU the past two seasons with 40.5 tackles for a loss and 26.5 sacks in his career. But his tape showed a player that mostly won off his first step and with some strength. Overall though he didn’t appear dynamic nor bendy, the more important trait in evaluating an edge rusher.
But his combine showing proves otherwise as he amazed in everything he did testing out with elite athletic traits. With a quarter of that production and the same athletic output, the NFL would have pushed him into round one, his stock couldn’t be more on fire right now.
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Godwin is a workmanlike receiver on tape who uses his size well and particularly stood out in the red zone and contested catch situations. However, he didn’t appear to have big time long-speed, at least not for the NFL standards.
That certainly didn’t appear to be the case in Indy where he ran a 4.42 40 at 209-pounds. The rest of his testing was also eye opening and given the closely grouped receivers in this class he could have really separated himself having shown a full package of skills.
The same could be said about Michigan’s Amara Darboh who’s even bigger than Godwin at 6-foot-2 and 214-pounds and ran a 4.45.
The state of Colorado is well represented in Indy
McCaffrey is, of course, a proud native son of Denver’s but he’s far from the only local product that showed up with a big performance at the NFL’s underwear Olympics.
This week there are lots of pro days happening locally so we’ll have more time to talk about many of the other lesser known prospects, but these two Colorado cornerbacks really stood out with special performances on the combine’s last day.
Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado
Awuzie has been a big time player for the Buffs even before the program got back to national prominence. However, some questions regarding his ability to guard speedsters down the sidelined arose late in the year especially in the bowl against James Washington.
With a 4.43 40 coming in at 6-foot and 202-pounds he should ease any such concerns. He also had an outstanding broad jump and showed the short area quickness that’s made him a phenom in the slot with a nice three-cone.
Awuzie has it all on top of some monstrous versatility that allows him to be a factor in the nickel where he’s active against the run and can even be a factor as a blitzer. With this corner class, the competition is steep but his resume should easily merit a top-50 selection at this point.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
With the height at 6-foot-3 and size at 198-pounds, it’s always been a bit of a draft mystery why Witherspoon (who we featured back in October) didn’t receive more hype after a spectacular 2016 season in which he led the nation with 23 passes defended, all while taking on some of the better receivers in the country including the above featured Ross and Darboh.
He won’t be a mystery man for much longer after having run a 4.45 40-yard dash and astonishing with a 40.5 inch vertical that match his ball skills and ability on contested catches on tape.
Witherspoon has seemingly an endless supply of raw talent and a package of skills that makes him very appealing for the modern NFL. He’ll have to improve his tackling but in the pre-draft process, no one’s worried about that. Top-50 and beyond is possible for him at this point as the athletic test match the tape and those who finally get to watching his film now should be quite impressed.
Big Board top 50
1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2. Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
4. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
5. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
6. Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
7. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
8. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
9. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
10. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
11. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
12. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
13. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
14. Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
15. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
16. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
17. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
18. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
19. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
20. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
21. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
22. David Njoku, TE, Miami
23. Budda Baker, FS, Washington
24. Jalen ‘Teez’ Tabor, CB, Florida
25. Tim Williams, OLB/EDGE, Alabama*
26. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
27. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
28. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
29. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
30. Ryan Ramczyk, LT, Wisconsin
31. Curtis Samuels, WR/RB, Ohio State
32. Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado
33. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma*
34. John Ross, WR, Washington
35. Jarrad Davis, OLB, Florida
36. Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
37. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
38. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
39. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
40. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
41. Obi Melifonwu, S, Uconn
42. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
43. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
44. Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
45. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
46. Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
47. Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama
48. Kevin King, DB, Washington
49. Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
50. Raekwon McMillan, ILB, Ohio Sate
Just missed the cut
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama*
Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
T.J. Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma*
ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan