The NFL Scouting Combine has seen some impressive feats of athletic ability. It really is too bad that the track record of combine heroes is littered with Sunday failures. The optimist in me says that this year will be different. Scouting departments are continuing to sharpen their processes and use the Combine only as a way to confirm what they saw on tape. That being said, the excitement stemming from this year’s version of the “Underwear Olympics” might be too overwhelming to rule out potential draft malpractice.
This year’s All Combine Team goes by position to recognize the truly remarkable athletes based on their performance in Indianapolis. Think of it as a time capsule of sorts. Some day in the distant future, we will look back upon this and get a hearty belly laugh. Maybe there’s even a chance that some of these prospects will make me look halfway smart down the road.
Quarterback: Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati)
Not only did Ridder impress with a 4.52 40-yard dash, but the 6′ 3″ signal caller that led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff has seemingly improved along every pre-draft juncture. Ridder also did well with a 10′ 7″ broad jump, 36″ vertical jump, 7.15-second 3-cone drill, and 4.29-second 20-yard shuttle. Except for one incredible deep pass by Malik Willis, Ridder was the quarterback who created the most buzz in Indy.
Running Back: Breece Hall (Iowa State)
We can give Kenneth Walker an honorable mention here, but Breece Hall blew everyone away this year. He proclaimed himself to be the best running back in this class before the Combine and removed any shadow of a doubt with a blistering 4.39 40-yard dash, 40″ vertical jump, and 10′ 6″ broad jump at 217 pounds. Combined with his ridiculous production in Ames over three seasons, Hall solidified himself as the next great blue-chip ball carrier to hit the NFL.
Wide Receiver: Christian Watson (NDSU)
Not many people had Christian Watson on their radar leading up to the Senior Bowl, but he was such a standout in Mobile that the analysts in attendance couldn’t help but move him up in their rankings for this class. Watson is a lanky 6′ 4″ and 208 pounds with huge 10 1/8″ hands. The first shoe to drop was a ridiculous 11′ 4″ broad jump, followed by a 38 1/2″ vertical jump. Tall receivers who can also jump are coveted weapons in the NFL, especially in the red zone. Then Watson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. The fifth-year senior still has a ways to go in polishing his receiving acumen. With elite physical gifts like he has, he can still make incredible plays in the NFL in the meantime.
Tight End: Chig Okonkwo (Maryland)
I’ll be honest, Okonkwo was not on my radar as far as tight ends I would draft in my dynasty rookie draft. After many of the top prospects decided not to participate in the 40-yard dash and other drills, it was the young Terrapin’s time to shine. Okonkwo has decent size, at 6′ 2 1/2″ and 238 pounds. He carries his frame well and exploded in the two workouts he did. Okonkwo’s 4.52-second 40 was easily the fastest of the tight ends to run. His 35 1/2″ vertical jump was second only to Isaiah Likely’s 36″ leap. Okonkwo also looked smooth and fast in positional drills. He certainly helped his draft stock in Indy.
Offensive Line: Trevor Penning (Northern Iowa)
The offensive line group set a record with 12 prospects running faster than 5.00 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Penning was 0.01 seconds from the fastest, at 4.89 seconds. Penning, who measured at 6′ 7″ and 325 pounds, also recorded the fastest three-cone time among offensive linemen at 7.25 seconds. This shows off his balance, flexibility, and mobility when run blocking. Northern Iowa is turning into a nice hotbed for athletic linemen, with Penning following in the footsteps of Spencer Brown of the Buffalo Bills.
Interior Defensive Line: Jordan Davis (Georgia)
What a performance! The largest defensive player at the Combine, measuring at 6′ 6″ and 341 pounds, Davis was impressive at every drill he participated in. His other measurables were equally absurd. 10 3/4″ hands and 34″ arms are gigantic, even for an NFL defensive lineman. There were plenty of questions leading into the Combine about Davis’ athleticism. They now have been thoroughly debunked. Davis broke Twitter with the 4.78 40-yard dash that included a cat-like 1.68-second 10-yard split off the line. Davis then set the broad jump record for 300-plus pound participants with a 10′ 3″ leap. He also threw in a 32″ vertical jump that made us question the life’s work of Sir Isaac Newton. Jordan Davis recorded the second-highest relative athletic score (RAS) in Combine history, behind only Megatron himself, Calvin Johnson. I still haven’t fully processed how impressive this performance was.
Edge Rusher: Travon Walker (Georgia)
It was a tough call, but Walker gets the nod over Minnesota’s Boye Mafe by a slim margin. Walker measured at 6′ 5″ and 272 pounds, with 10 3/4″ hands and ridiculous 35 1/2″ arms. He then went on to put forth a 9.99 RAS, which puts him in the company of Jevon Kearse, Myles Garrett, and Mario Williams at his position. Walker’s 4.51-second 40 was simply terrifying. He also added a 10′ 3″ broad jump and 35 1/2″ vertical jump to showcase his explosiveness. His balance and agility were also on display with a 4.32-second shuttle, fourth-best among edge rushers.
Linebacker: Channing Tindall (Georgia)
The national champion Bulldogs kept their parade going all the way to Indy, with one player after another putting on a show at the Combine. Honorable mention to Alabama’s Christian Harris, but Tindall was on another rung of the ladder. At 6′ 2″ and 230 pounds, Tindall ran a 4.47 40-yard dash (third-best among linebackers). He then proceeded to blow everyone away with a 42″ vertical jump, tied with cornerback Tariq Woolen for best among all participants. He rounded out his week in Indy with a solid 10′ 9″ broad jump.
Cornerback: Tariq Woolen (UTSA)
It was very tough not to give this to the prospect who ran the fastest 40-yard dash in Combine history for a defensive player, Kalon Barnes (4.23), but that was the only event he participated in. Woolen came in with his own scorching 40 at 4.26 seconds. He also tied Channing Tindall for the highest vertical jump of the week at 42″. What is even more impressive about his workout is that Woolen is 6′ 4″ tall and weighs 205. His 40 was the fastest in Combine history for a prospect over 200 pounds.
Safety: Nick Cross (Maryland)
That makes two Terrapins in the All-Combine team. Cross came in at 6′ 0″ and 212 pounds but stood out in the drills. His 4.34 40-yard dash was the fastest among safeties at the Combine. He combined that speed with great explosiveness, with a 37″ vertical jump (fourth-best) and 10′ 10″ broad jump (third-best). NFL teams are on notice with Cross as a potential steal in the draft, now that he has showcased elite athletic traits that are very desirable at the next level.
Specialist: Matt Araiza (San Diego State)
I couldn’t round out an All-Combine team without mentioning the clinic put forth by punter Matt Araiza. Araiza put on a punting show with excellent distance control and accuracy. He also showed off his athleticism, with a 4.68-second time in the 40, 32″ vertical jump, and 10′ 1″ broad jump. Don’t be shocked one bit if Araiza is drafted in the third or fourth round of the NFL draft. He is being touted as a generational punting prospect.
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