The first two days of the 2018 NFL Combine are in the books and the offensive players have left Indianapolis to prepare for their various pro days.
This year’s combine has seen a few, but not many, truly stand-out performances, but there were more than a few players who certainly helped themselves (and a couple who definitely did not.)
Representatives for the New York Giants were obvious all over the TV feed, which prospects might have distinguished themselves to them?
Saquon Barkley (Penn State) - We all knew that Barkley was a mutant (and I mean that in the best possible way), but there’s a difference between knowing and seeing. Barkely put down a historic workout that showed his complete range of skills, and established a one of the highest speed scores (124.3) in recent memory
Note: “Speed Score” is a method of balancing speed with size. Former Giants Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown had two of the highest scores of the last twenty years, and Barkley beat both of them.
Rashad Penny (San Diego State) - Penny surprised many by finishing third in this year’s Speed Score rankings. Combined with his prototypical size and four-down versatility (he contributed as a runner, receiver, and kick returner), and incredible production (most combined yards in FBS in 2017), Penny made himself some money this weekend.
Bo Scarbrough (Alabama) - Scarbrough was thought to be just another bruising power back, but showed himself to be an impressive athlete. While many of the running backs did about what we thought they would, Scarbrough exceeded expectations in just about every event.
Kalen Ballage (Arizona State) - While all the running back group was overshadowed by Barkley’s monstrous workout, Ballage did show off an intriguing blend of size and athleticism on the field. He struggled with maintaining his balance through contact on tape, but his size, speed, and receiving ability will be noticed by some team.
James Daniels (Iowa) - Daniels was generating a buzz as the Combine approached, and he capitalized on his chance Friday. He showed off nearly flawless movement skills in drills and looked the part of a high-level starting center.
Conner Williams (Texas) - Williams had a down 2017 season, starting poorly then losing most of the rest of the season to injury. He needed to come in and show that he has the athleticism to be an offensive tackle in the NFL, and he did that. Some teams might have concerns about his 33-inch arms, but he showed the feet to be a tackle.
D.J. Chark (LSU) - Chark was the star of the wide receiver workouts. Not only did he have a great workout with the fastest 40 time, highest vertical, and fourth-longest broad jump, but he also looked natural and smooth catching passes. Everyone knew he was a great athlete, but he needed to show off his fundamental skills as a pass catcher after inconsistent quarterbacking at LSU, and he did that Saturday.
Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) - Kirk is a smaller receiver who might be pigeonholed as a slot receiver at the next level, but he proved that he has the ability to be a playmaker at the next level. He caught the ball well and showed plenty of quickness in drills.
Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame) - St. Brown and Chark have remarkably similar stories. Both are tall, long receivers who needed to prove their speed and show that they were held back by poor quarterbacking. Like Chark, St. Brown also showed off good hands and smooth athleticism that will get him noticed by the NFL.
D.J. Moore (Maryland) - Moore’s name has been generating a buzz over recent weeks, and he might have worked his way into the first round. He was a great “RAC” (run after catch) player in college and proved to be one of the most explosive receivers in this draft class.
Mike Gesicki (Penn State) - Gesicki surprised everyone with how athletic he was on Saturday. He posted, by far, the fastest 40 time of any true tight end (Jaylen Samuels tied his 4.54, but he is a running back who was listed as a tight end), looked good in field drills. There are a few tight ends with claim to the top of the depth chart, and this workout might just get Gesicki some separation.
Austin Allen (Arkansas) - While all eyes were on Josh Allen, Austin Allen quietly acquitted himself very well. He showed off solid arm strength, a smooth throwing motion, and good accuracy and placement. He took a pounding in college, but he might have earned himself a shot somewhere.
Tanner Lee (Nebraska) - Lee had issues in college which resulted in a transfer from Tulane to Nebraska. He is a natural thrower with effortless arm strength and made some impressive throws Saturday. He struggled at both Tulane and Nebraska with deciphering defenses, but his size and arm strength will at least earn him a camp invite and perhaps with pro coaching he could blossom.
I don’t like to harp on “losers” from the combine, and generally I prefer to look for players to help themselves. However, there are instances where players have disappointing performances that either completely contradict their tape or something else happens that torpedoes their stock.
Sony Michel (Georgia) - It’s tough to call Michel a “loser” in his workout, but it was somewhat disappointing. He was, perhaps, expected to be quicker, faster than he measured. It shouldn’t impact his stock much, if at all.
Orlando Brown (Oklahoma) - If there was one true lose in the first two days of the combine, it was probably Orlando Brown of Oklahoma. Brown was a consistent first round prospect based on his size and ability to dominate collage competition. His 14 reps on the bench press was stunningly bad, as was his 5.85 second 40 yard dash. Though he shows light (if not always good) feet on tape, his on-field drills were rough. He came off well in his TV interview and will still get a shot, but Brown can’t be happy with his performance.
Billy Price (Ohio State) - Part of James Daniels being a winner was Price being injured before he even got a chance to take the field. Price, who was expected to challenge 40 reps on the bench press, suffered a partial pectoral tear on his third rep. It’s believed that he should be healthy in time for the 2018 season, and he is a well coached “plug and play” player, so missing the rest of the draft process shouldn’t effect him too much. However, losing his claim to the “top center” spot certainly counts as a loss.