Glory goes to the emboldened few who rise to every challenge. The NFL Scouting Combine is an athletic audition of sorts for a part in the most-watched program in American television: professional football. Every show needs its stars, but we don’t hear much about the actors who fell short of the mark. Who were the prospects in Indianapolis who might need to take their talents “off-Broadway?” It isn’t the end of the road for the disappointments from the Combine, but they might need to scratch and claw even harder to make it big. The road to NFL stardom is littered with flame-outs who never broke free of taking gigs singing in dive bars. We can’t write these guys off completely, but one padless workout cost them a whole lot of money.
Kyren Williams (RB -Notre Dame)
There was a droning hive of dynasty nuts that were goo-goo-gaga over Williams. He did demonstrate great ability in the receiving game and as a pass protector for the Fighting Irish. The needling questions were surrounding his size, speed, and overall athleticism. Even a decent showing in Indy would have kept the beat marching on. The first blow hit when Williams measured in at 194 pounds. It isn’t common for running backs in the NFL to have much staying power at under 200 pounds without some unique athletic traits. Williams proceeded to run the slowest 40-yard dash among all running backs who participated (4.65 seconds). His broad jump was well under 10 feet and his vertical jump was 32″, both demonstrating a lack of lower-body explosiveness.
It isn’t a death sentence for Williams to NFL scouts, but what could have been a Day 2 pick is almost assuredly going to slip into Day 3. For fantasy purposes, everyone is abandoning ship. Many dynasty analysts had Williams solidly as the RB4 in this class. He is now in a complete value free fall, dropping completely out of some managers’ rookie draft lists. I hesitate to renounce all of my Kyren Williams affinity, for he is still pretty good at football. He is, however, going to be a player who is very hard to justify as a desired target player.
David Bell (WR – Purdue)
Let me preface this by stating that I did not move Bell down in my rankings one bit. For those who were alarmed that Bell did not pop up as a premium athlete at wide receiver, it is apparent that they don’t watch game film. The Purdue receiver has decent size, at 6-1 and 212 pounds. He did not have a workout in Indy that looked good at all, compared to the historically-fast group of wide receivers around him. Bell’s 4.65-second 40 was tied for the second slowest among all wide receivers. He also logged a 9′ 10″ broad jump, which was five inches less than 341-pound Jordan Davis.
Bell’s stock falling from this Combine performance has more to do with the spectacular results of his peers than with his own lackluster showing. It remains to be seen if NFL scouting departments will see past his athletic shortcomings to pull the trigger on Bell at the face value of his college resume and fantastic film reel. He is still an elite route runner with very good hands and football intelligence. His athletic profile is not unlike mega-star receivers Cooper Kupp and Jerry Rice. Where he lands in the draft might not be more than an inconsequential prelude to a successful NFL career.
Kenyon Green (G – Texas A&M)
Versatility plays a huge part of the NFL Draft stock for offensive linemen, especially those who hope to be selected in the top half of the first round. Green played both guard and tackle with relative success in the rugged SEC conference. I have serious doubts about his chances to play tackle at the professional level after his performance at the Combine. Playing tackle in the NFL is a thankless job, dueling with ruthless edge rushers every single play. It requires a good amount of strength and hip flexibility. Even at 6-4, 323 pounds, Green could only hoist 20 reps on the bench press. His next test was the broad jump, where aspiring tackles can display their lower body explosiveness and flexibility. Green only jumped 8′ 6″ and landed near the bottom of all offensive linemen who participated. His vertical jump was also 26″, which fell well short of the athletic explosiveness shown by the other offensive linemen with first-round hopes.
Green is still slated to be a first round pick, but is on much shakier footing in a very deep class of players who dwell in the trenches. Today’s NFL requires a great deal of athleticism on the interior, so a good number of NFL teams have likely moved Green down on their boards. Green, along with any other poor performers from the Combine, is still considered to have value at the next level. One single day of testing, working out, and running drills cannot replace the immense amount of work that NFL franchises put into scouting these players. It still comes down to picking the right player at the right time and putting them in the right situation to develop into their best potential as a professional.
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