DAY ONE of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, and we learned a great deal more about the draft’s running backs and offensive linemen in one day than we have in the last two months. Throughout the day, we catalogued our thoughts on some of the prospects, and we have written them down here. Below, check out our notes on March 2, the first day of the 2018 Scouting Combine.
Going into the Combine, there was one player I was more looking forward to seeing than anyone else in the class: Georgia RB Nick Chubb. Once upon a time, Chubb was on top of the world, establishing himself as one of college football’s best backs as early as his freshman year – he made First Team All-SEC in his first campaign, despite playing just eight games. The next season, Chubb would sustain a major knee injury, which set him back. Some analysts and evaluators, myself admittedly included, watched as Chubb returned and had serious doubts that he could ever return to previous form.
Today, those fears were allayed. When Chubb was entering college, he participated in the Nike SPARQ Combine, where he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash and posted a 40.8-inch vertical jump. At the Scouting Combine, he ran a 4.52 40-yard dash and jumped 38.5 inches. He also tied for the lead in the bench press among running backs, with 29 reps. With almost four full years of tread on his tires and a gruesome knee injury in his recent past, he posted numbers similar to those of his freshman-to-be self, when he was dominating the competition. I was pleasantly impressed by Chubb today.
Another interesting visual was seeing the running back doing an interview with Sony Michel. Standing next to his backfield mate, Chubb’s chiseled build was a stark contrast to Michel’s wiry frame. There was no question going into the Combine that Chubb was a Day Two pick, and he remains as one, but he had a really good day for sure.
A second running back who was on our watch list was Nyheim Hines from North Carolina State. He did not disappoint, blazing his way to a 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash. His performance was best in class, establishing himself as the fastest straight-line sprinter in the running back group. Hines’ big day will get evaluators to go back to the tape on him, and what they will see is a speedy running back who averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the competitive ACC.
Nyheim Hines with a 4.39 (!!!) 40-yard dash pic.twitter.com/ohHmpG3YQg
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) March 2, 2018
Many thought that Hines declared too early, given that he had only been a full-time starter for one season. After his impressive showing at the Combine, however, it appears that Hines will end up getting drafted. Every team wants to be faster, and scooping up a player like this in the later rounds to add another dimension to the backfield is easy.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle was the incredible day that Northwestern RB Justin Jackson had. On film, he looks like a very average rusher who racked up numbers in college because of volume, but at the Combine, we saw something entirely different: Jackson’s agility is top of the line. He posted an 11.06 time in the 60-yard shuttle, besting all of his counterparts by at least half a second.
He also placed second in the 3-cone drill and tied for first in the 20-yard shuttle with great times. The player who bested Jackson in the 3-cone and tied with him in the shuttle was none other than Fordham’s Chase Edmonds, who also had a solid outing. For Jackson, however, seeing this aspect of his game was impressive and necessitates a return to the tape.
After the first day, one thing is abundantly clear: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley is in a class of his own. It’s actually not even close. His 40 time was second only to that of Hines, with an impressive 4.40. He was the top performer in the vertical jump, posting a first-in-class 41 inches, and he also bested the field in the bench press, tying with Chubb at 29 reps for the lead.
After having the best year of all of the running backs on film, he had the best performance of anyone at the Combine. Just as good as his numbers was his performance in drills; he looked like a natural receiver in the pass-catching portion of the day. If you can believe it, the comparisons to LaDainian Tomlinson may not even do Barkley justice at this point – he is a special player.
Barkley made it all look so easy as a receiver. pic.twitter.com/BvUBn9AeWB
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) March 3, 2018
For the most part, the running backs all did well. Georgia RB Sony Michel ran a bit slower than one would have liked at 4.54, but it likely will not affect his draft stock too much. I also would have like to see Ole Miss’ Jordan Wilkins run the 40, but he performed well in other areas. Additionally, Ronald Jones of Southern California injuring himself during the 40-yard dash was unfortunate, but it should not hurt his draft stock.
Only one player may have today ended any little hope he had of being drafted, and that was Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway. Already in draft limbo as a result of his poor on-field performance and a suspension from the team, Pettway had to prove at the Combine that he still had the athletic ability to be an NFL running back. He failed to do that. Pettway posted a disappointing 4.74 time in the 40-yard dash, missing a big opportunity to prove to scouts that he can still hack it. I would be surprised if he made a roster come the season opener.
Along with the running backs, offensive linemen had the opportunity to showcase their skills today, and one player stood out from the pack. It was certainly well known that Pittsburgh offensive tackle Brian O’Neill is very athletic, but his performance today still turned heads.
O’Neill was the fastest offensive lineman in Indianapolis, running 4.82 in the 40-yard dash, and he also may have been the most agile. His 7.14 time in the 3-cone drill was best for his position group. After today, O’Neill began to draw comparisons to Eagles OT Lane Johnson – if he can be like Johnson, O’Neill will start for a long time in the NFL.
The most impressive offensive lineman, however, may have been UCLA’s Kolton Miller. After checking in at a ridiculous 6-foot-9, 310 pounds, Miller still managed to breeze his way to a sub-5.0 40-yard dash at 4.95 seconds (third-best for offensive linemen). He posted the longest broad jump of all offensive linemen by over half a foot at 10 feet, one inch – this set a new record for broad jump by an offensive lineman. He also finished third in the 3-cone drill. Miller probably locked up at least a second round pick, but after today, he may well sneak into the first round.
UCLA OL Kolton Miller just set a broad jump OL record 😳pic.twitter.com/OSHwPlmRUH
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) March 2, 2018
Strength-wise, the guards had big days. Leading the way was UTEP’s Will Hernandez, whose 37 reps on the bench press put him in first place in the category. Right behind Hernandez, was Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, who tied for second with 35 reps.
It was Auburn OG Braden Smith who posted the same total as Nelson, which is good for his stock – Smith entered the day with little expectations, and he certainly put himself on scouts’ radars. As for Nelson, the most impressive part of his day came in positional drills, where he looked elite as usual.
Q Nelson lateral movement pic.twitter.com/cGhtq9pd2n
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) March 2, 2018
During the bench press, there was an unfortunate event: Ohio State center Billy Price suffered an injury that left him in “considerable pain,” per Ian Rapoport. It is tough to say how this will affect Price’s draft stock if it does not require surgery, but regardless this is sad to see for a prospect like Price who was one of Ohio State’s captains.
Ohio St offensive lineman Billy Price suffered a partially torn pec while doing the bench press yesterday, sources tell @TomPelissero and me. The MRI results came in this morning, and it’s not clear is surgery is required. Price is one of the draft’s top O-linemen.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 2, 2018
Speaking of unfortunate events, the entire Scouting Combine was an unfortunate event for Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown. To tell you all the truth, I am at a loss for words about Brown. We had him as our highest-graded offensive tackle, and while his performance at the Combine will not necessarily dissuade us from this opinion, he raised some serious red flags during an all-around bad day.
Man. I feel for Orlando Brown. This is tough to watch pic.twitter.com/98D4UCgV60
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) March 2, 2018
Perhaps the most egregious occurrence was his 40-yard dash time of 5.85 seconds, worst among all players. This is not just bad for 2018 – it is historically bad. In recent memory, you can count on one hand the number of players who have run a slower time. Brown also benched the fewest reps, 14, of any offensive lineman, and he was also last in the vertical jump (19.5 inches) and broad jump (82 inches – over 10 inches less than anyone else).
Being unathletic is one thing. Participating in the Scouting Combine when you know you are going to post numbers like these is another. Did he not know he was going to embarrass himself with this performance? Did he not care?
Some of the specialists ran 40-yard dashes, including Alabama punter J.K. Scott, who posted an impressive 4.83 second time. He will definitely run fake punts here and there at the next level with that kind of speed. Additionally, good for Tennessee kicker Trevor Daniel, who put up 23 reps on the bench press (better than a decent number of offensive linemen!). Lastly, wide receivers participated in the bench press today, and congratulations to West Virginia’s Ka’Raun White on his 24 reps, which bested all wideouts who tested.