NFL Combine Risers and Fallers
You’re always going to have takeaways when watching an event like the NFL Combine. While some will be heavily influenced by the measurements and metrics, others will be influenced by the media broadcast that may or may not have an agenda. Then there’s another group that just wants to watch the players movements on the field, while surrounded by his peers at the position.
Are any of them wrong for liking what they like? No, but I will say this… If metrics and measurements were a fail-safe plan, stat-heads and analytics junkies would never be wrong. If the media was right all the time, we’d pass closer attention. If our eyes always led us in the right direction, scouts wouldn’t miss in their evaluations. You see, it’s a combination of everything. Today, we’re covering what happened in the Combine, talking about the risers and fallers in the event from every standpoint, though I’ll give you my take on each player.
Mike Gesicki (TE – Penn State)
Some will say that Saquon Barkley should be in this portion of the list, but let’s be real, he couldn’t move up any more than he already was. Instead, it’s his teammate who dominated the tight end drills from start to finish. He recorded the second-most bench press reps, the highest vertical (more than three inches than the next closest tight end), the longest broad jump (by six inches), and the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends. He’s someone everyone seems to like from an athletic and tape standpoint, so this definitely raised his stock to the point where he may be considered as the first tight end off the board.
Christian Kirk (WR – Texas A&M)
Among the smoothest players at the Combine was Kirk, who ran through drills seemingly effortless. He was among the fastest wide receivers while running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and recorded 20 bench press reps, which was more than all but two wide receivers. Why do those things matter so much? Well, because Kirk is a slot possession receiver with sure hands and knowing that he can run that speed out of the slot, as well as have the strength to break some tackles, it definitely raises some eyebrows. While I already had him as a late second-round pick before the Combine, it’s unlikely that he finds his way into the first-round.
Nick Chubb (RB – Georgia)
He’s someone who surprised me more than most, simply because I didn’t expect him to run as fast as he did. While watching his tape, his speed was the one concern that stood out to me, wondering if he had the speed to get to the edge in the NFL. After running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, call me impressed. There were 25 running backs who took place in the 40, and there were just five running backs who ran a faster time than him. In fact, he outpaced his teammate Sony Michel, something nobody expected. Not just that, but his 20-yard shuttle was essentially the same time that Saquon Barkley posted, he benched the same amount of reps as Barkley (29), and he posted the fourth-highest vertical among running backs. If Chubb is, in fact, over his knee injury that he suffered in 2015, he’s going to shoot up draft boards.
Rashaad Penny (RB – San Diego State)
Whew. This is the Combine performance that I’d say some are overreacting to. Penny is a solid prospect in terms of what he can do with the ball in his hands, but just because he posted good measurables, it doesn’t erase what we saw on tape. He’s got massive concerns when it comes to his pass protection and has decent hands, though not spectacular. Some have started to place him in the first-round conversation because of his 4.46-second 40-yard dash at 220 pounds, but again, the problem never lied with the ball in his hands. Penny can absolutely be a player in this league, but incomplete running backs like him don’t get selected in the first-round.
D.J. Moore (WR – Maryland)
He’s another player who surprised me in the 40-yard dash, simply because I didn’t think Moore was a 4.42-second player on tape. But that’s where we have to admit that sometimes our eyes lie to us and accept things as they are. Is Moore going to be confused for DeSean Jackson on the field? No, but it’s good to know he’s got that speed available. Moore is the type of player you can move all over the field, though I’d love to see him in a slot role as he’s someone who doesn’t mind going over the middle of the field. He also measured in at 6-feet-tall, which was taller than his listed 5-foot-11 throughout college. Moore also posted the second-highest vertical jump (39.5 inches) and the longest broad jump (11’0″) among wide receivers. He’s someone who’s likely moved into the high second-round conversation.
D.J. Chark (WR – LSU)
He’s obviously a name that came up quite a bit in the broadcast due to his 4.34-second 40-yard dash, which was the fastest among wide receivers. It’s tough to say that this is something we didn’t know about Chark, though. Can he be a weapon in the right offense? Yes, though it’s unlikely he becomes an every-week fantasy starter, as he’s just not that player. He’s 6-3 and just 199 pounds (lanky), doesn’t play above the rim, and isn’t a natural hands catcher. Because of that, it’s safe to say his stock didn’t rise too far with me based on his Combine performance.
Jordan Lasley (WR – UCLA)
It was a day to forget for Lasley, who disappointed pretty much everywhere, and particularly where it mattered most – on the field. His off-the-field measurables were mediocre, but once the gauntlet started, Lasley looked lost, double-catching almost every ball, while completely dropping others. That continued into the quarterback drills where Lasley’s only job was to run a route and catch the football. We mustn’t forget that it’s just one day, but among his peers, Lasley looked completely outclassed and definitely hurt his draft stock.
Lamar Jackson (QB – Louisville)
He’s someone that a lot of people were excited to see at the Combine, but that led to nothing but disappointment. Not only did Jackson not run the 40-yard dash (what might be his best strength), but he failed to showoff anything with his arm. He appeared to be aiming the ball rather than just letting it rip. Not only was he inaccurate, but he didn’t put the zip on the ball that we know he can. Oddly enough, he was completely outshined by Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who performed in the same group. If there’s anything positive to be taken away from Jackson’s day, it’s that he didn’t throw alongside the Baker Mayfield/Josh Rosen group. That would’ve made him look even worse. Still, Jackson has plenty to prove at Louisville’s pro day on March 29th.
Auden Tate (WR – Florida State)
We all knew that Tate wasn’t going to run a fast 40-yard dash, but running a time of 4.68 seconds was not supposed to be in the cards. He was the second-slowest wide receiver of the 37 who participated in the drill. In the end, it’s what I saw on the tape with Tate – he’s always making contested catches, rarely getting separation in his routes. There are very redeeming qualities to his game, but running that slow is far from ideal. At 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds, he’s not going to be completely removed from draft boards, but he’s likely to have slid down due to his 40-time.
Mark Walton (RB – Miami)
There should be an asterisk next to Walton’s name, simply because he may not have been completely ready to partake in the Combine. If you didn’t know, Walton missed essentially the entire 2017 season with an ankle injury, one that he was just recently cleared from. He’s just 5-foot-9 and 202 pounds, so seeing him run a 4.60-second 40-yard dash and a 31.5-inch vertical is disappointing. He’s not going to break a whole lot of tackles, either, which is why you’d like to see a little more speed to his game. He is, however, one of the best pass-blocking running backs in this draft, so he shouldn’t be ignored. It’s very possible that he just wasn’t able to prepare for the Combine as much as others. He’s someone to watch for during Miami’s pro day on March 28th.
Calvin Ridley (WR – Alabama)
If you know and follow me, you know that even putting Ridley on this list irritates me, but I promised to give you the risers and fallers from all different angles. Those who follow SPARQ athlete scores, they buried Ridley after the Combine. Not because of his 4.43-second 40-yard dash – which was the sixth-fastest time among wide receivers – but for his lack of vertical and broad jump. Did we really expect Ridley to sky over defenders to make catches? If you did, you’re doing it wrong. While watching Ridley run the routes in the on-field drills, hall of fame wide receivers Michael Irvin and Steve Smith gushed over Ridley, saying he’ll be a star in this league. Ridley is the perfect example of media, numbers, and film guys going to war over a player. My money is on Ridley becoming a very successful wide receiver in the NFL, but hey, that’s just my eyes talking. If you believe in SPARQ scores, you’d better go out and get some Stephen Hill and Christine Michael shares before they really take off. Ok, I’m done.