2018 NFL Scouting Combine: Day Two Notes

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DAY TWO of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, and with it came a great deal of information on the 2018 NFL Draft’s pass throwers and pass catchers. From the quarterbacks to the wide receivers and tight ends, today was quite a day for pass-first coaches. 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 3, the second day of the 2018 Scouting Combine.

Quarterbacks

If you are not careful, history will repeat itself right before your eyes. It appears that may be happening with Wyoming QB Josh Allen and NFL evaluators who want to see something that is not there. Don’t get us wrong, Allen has a first round grade from us, and is a fine quarterback, but something seemed…off about the reactions to his workout today.

Athletically, Allen excelled, running a very solid 4.75 in the 40-yard dash (behind only South Florida’s Quinton Flowers and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, who both project as passers who would need to rely on their legs at the next level). Allen also posted a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a 119-inch broad jump; both numbers were tops among quarterbacks. The odd part came when the quarterbacks were throwing deep balls, and Allen started launching 70-yard bombs. Although each of the passes traveled at least 60 yards in the air, the timing was way off, causing receivers to adjust and alter their path to make the play.

No matter – after Allen’s final deep ball, the coaches and scouts started clapping and cheering. Longtime NFL executive Gil Brandt tweeted it was the first crowd eruption of the 2018 Combine. This comes a week after Mike Mayock was quoted as saying Allen has the biggest arm since Jamarcus Russell. We forget that, for as much as coaches and (to a lesser extent) scouts are paid to evaluate players, they are fans of the game at the end of the day. Otherwise, they likely would not be doing what they are doing. These evaluators are enjoying watching Allen because he has a tremendous arm, whether or not it translates to success in the NFL.

Unfortunately, it only takes one team to get wrapped up in him to make him an early first round pick. Not to say that Allen will not be a successful quarterback, but basing a favorable evaluation of him on his ability to throw 70-yard teardrops is just asking to set a franchise back five years. It is talk reminiscent of the arguments made to draft Jamarcus Russell and Kyle Boller early. These arguments should have gone the way of Russell and Boller – out of the league – but it appears coaches and scouts are letting their inner appreciation for outstanding football talent cloud their judgment of a quarterback prospect…again.

It was disappointing that Louisville QB Lamar Jackson did not run the 40 yard dash. I would have loved to have seen how fast he could blaze down the track, but he probably made the right decision. From the standpoint of athleticism, the Heisman winner has nothing to prove.

Speaking of athletic quarterbacks, we already mentioned Quinton Flowers’ top-of-the-class 40 time of 4.63. What is baffling for Flowers is that he also recorded a 4.57 second 20-yard shuttle, which was worst of all quarterbacks, while running a best-in-class 6.81 seconds in the 3-cone drill. It is tough to say if Flowers will stick as a quarterback, or if he would be better served by a move to running back with his size and rushing ability.

Baker Mayfield ran a 4.84 second 40-yard dash, which was probably to be expected. He is not a speedster by any stretch of the imagination. He neither helped nor hurt himself with his Combine performance, but some of his comments during the Combine have raised eyebrows. My personal favorite is his assertion that he is the best quarterback to turn around the Cleveland Browns franchise – it is clear that he would bring a swagger to Cleveland that the team has not had since…wait…Johnny Manziel. Never mind.

Of course, this is not to seriously make the Mayfield-Manziel comp. It is lazy and does neither one justice. Mayfield probably has a little Case Keenum in him, a little Russell Wilson in him, and maybe even a little Chase Daniel in him, too. There is no perfect comp for him at the next level because his game is as unique as it is new-age. Then again, he could be the next Fran Tarkenton.

Regardless of how he grades out, Mayfield may have hurt his draft stock when he stated that he did not want to sit as a backup in his first year, likely turning off teams who might have considered bringing him in as an “heir apparent” to a quarterback like Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady (to name a few possibilities).

One player whose draft stock is shooting up after a terrific day? Lousiana State’s Danny Etling is rising. He ran a cool 4.76 in the 40-yard dash, best for fourth among QBs. In the broad jump, he was third behind Allen and Nebraska’s Tanner Lee with a 114-inch leap.

Most importantly, he looked extraordinarily good throwing the football, proving that he belongs on draft boards. While Etling is no first round pick, he gave evaluators every reason to call his name at some point during the draft with a strong performance today.

Wide receivers

There was no bigger question mark than the one after Florida receiver Antonio Callaway’s name going into today. For the most part, he answered the questions. Callaway, who was a central part of the Gator offense in 2015 and 2016, ran into some off-the-field troubles in 2017, including a case that involved credit card fraud. He ended up being kicked off the team This week, we were looking for Callaway to accept responsibility for what he did, instead of pointing fingers, and then go on to crush it on the field. He did just that.

Callaway made it clear that he was to blame for Florida coach Jim McElwain’s firing, and he further acknowledged that he made a mistake. That was encouraging. Also encouraging was his blistering 4.41 second time in the 40-yard dash – good for third-best among receivers. Callaway may have put himself back on a lot of teams’ draft boards after his performance both on and off the field in Indianapolis.

Coming out of the Combine, the wide receiver in the best position is Louisiana State’s D.J. Chark. In the 40 yard dash, Chark led the way among receivers with a 4.34 second time. He hit the highest vertical jump among receivers at 40 inches, and he managed fourth overall in the broad jump at 129 inches. Chark, at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, is an athletic specimen who could be a very solid No. 2 at the next level.

The draft’s best receivers all had relatively good days. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley overcame a few false starts to run an impressive 4.43 second 40-yard dash (though his 110-inch broad jump was extraordinarily bad). Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame was similarly fast at 4.48 seconds (he also showed surprising strength with 20 reps on the bench press, good for fourth overall in the WR group), and Southern Methodist’s Courtland Sutton’s best performances of the day came in the agility drills, where the big-bodied target finished third, fourth, and second in the 3-cone, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle respectively.

Maryland wideout D.J. Moore was also very impressive. His 4.42 second 40-yard dash was up there with the best times among receivers, and he was a top performer in a number of other events. Moore posted a 39.5-inch vertical jump, second only to that of Chark, and he led the pack with a 132-inch broad jump. He was also third in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttles. At the weigh in, Moore broke 6-feet, checking in taller than some expected him to be. He is skyrocketing up draft boards.

On the flip side, some wide receivers did not help themselves. Indiana WR Simmie Cobbs is an example – he struggled in the 40-yard dash, running a 4.64, and he had the worst vertical jump of all of the receivers at 30 inches. Other wideouts like Florida State’s Auden Tate and South Dakota State’s Jake Wieneke had some trouble, too.

Tight end

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki is going to be a very good NFL player. At the Combine, he showed why. Gesicki ran a 4.54 40-yard dash – for a man his size at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, that is a blazing fast time. He was tied for first among tight ends with this time. Gesicki also finished second among tight ends with 22 bench press reps, behind only South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert.

Gesicki’s most impressive feat, may have been his broad jump of 129 inches, which beat Vernon Davis’ legendary Combine figure from 2006 and placed him first among tight ends by at least half a foot. Or maybe it was his 41-inch vertical jump, also best among tight ends. Gesicki also placed first in the 3-cone, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Needless to say, Gesicki will enter the NFL as one of the league’s most athletic tight ends as soon as he is drafted.

Tied for first with Gesicki in the 40-yard dash was North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels, who was one of our “Five Most Bill Belichick Players in the 2018 NFL Draft” for his versatility. He can play running back, fullback, H-back, wingback, tight end, or, with this 40 time, slot receiver. Samuels showcased great explosiveness with a 121-inch broad jump, placing third among tight ends (second, if you don’t count Gesicki’s unfair and not-human jump).

Another player who had a fine day worthy of highlighting was Tyler Conklin from Central Michigan. He did not overwhelm in any event, but he was routinely near the top in almost every category, placing in the Top 5 in the bench press, broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. Conklin is a bit on the shorter side for modern day tight ends at 6-foot-3, but he proved that he is athletic enough to still make an impact. He has some wiggle to him.

Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews (4.67) and South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst (4.67) ran what they had to run to keep their draft stocks stable. Each one projects as a solid tight end at the next level, and both could hear their names called on Day Two.

Miscellaneous

If you want to be inspired, watch Central Florida’s Shaquem Griffin knock out 20 reps on the bench press with only one hand. While some players make excuses for their poor performances in certain events at the Combine, Griffin clearly has a winner’s mentality. It would be difficult to see this kid not willing his way to some degree of success at the next level, and I sure don’t want to bet against someone with this level of determination. You go, Shaquem.

 

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