The first day of field drills for the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books. This is the part of the combine that fans get to see, and its important part. How teams evaluate prospects behind the scenes in medical evaluations and in interviews will certainly weigh in their grades. But how they perform in the measurable events and field drills can lend a great deal of context to tape study and help refine grades.
The first day of field work saw the offensive linemen, running backs, and specialists (punters, kickers, and long-snappers) competing. Which prospects helped themselves, which need to make up ground over the final part of the draft process, and which prospects might have put themselves on the New York Giants radar?
Garret Bradbury (OC, NC State) - 4.92s 40 yard dash, 34 bench press reps. Bradbury came into the weekend as my top center prospect, and so far he’s confirmed that. His measurables confirmed the athleticism we saw on tape, while his 34 reps on the bench press offered reassurance about his strength. He has the feet to excel in a zone scheme and should have the versatility to execute power concepts.
Andre Dillard (OT, Washington State) - We all knew that Dillard was going to test well this weekend. He is one of the most athletic linemen to come out this year, with foot speed and fluidity evident on tape. But the question with Dillard was whether or not he would be able to show NFL footwork. He did well pulling and and in kick-slide
Nate Davis (OG, Charlotte) - This is one of the best parts of the Combine, the players who come in with little buzz but flash when put on the same stage as big school prospects. Davis only ran a 5.24 second 40, but he showed good footwork and smooth athleticism in the field drills. He’s workout is going to make scouts go to the film.
Iosua Opeta (OG, Weber State) - Another small school lineman who made noise for himself. Opeta had a solid 5.02 second 40 yard dash and looked as good as many big school prospects in field drills. He played both guard and tackle in college, but will likely be a guard at the next level. People will be looking for tape of him.
Dalton Risner (OT, Kansas State) - The question regarding Risner was whether or not he would be a tackle at the next level. He showed he had the length with 34 inch warms, and he showed well in drills. His kick-slide wasn’t perfect, but it was good and he showed that he should at least be given a chance to compete for an offensive tackle job.
Jawaan Taylor (OT, Florida) - Taylor weighed in well at Indy, but didn’t run the 40-yard dash, and concerns were quickly raised that he was trying to perform through an injury. If so, his “grit” will get teams’ attention, and his workout was still good. He moved well in the field drills, and his mirror drill was one of the highlights of the OL workouts. He drew Risner as the “rabbit”, who brought his trademark intensity to the drill, pushing Taylor as hard as he could. Injured or not, the big tackle from Florida kept up, looking smooth and with great lateral agility in the process.
Jonah Williams (OT, Alabama) - Thursday I wrote that Williams’ stock might have taken a hit after weigh-ins, with his measurements doing little to sway teams that do not think he has the length to be an offensive tackle at the next level. Friday he showed that he absolutely has the feet and technique to remain on the edge. His feet are excellent, consistently smooth, controlled, and balanced. Likewise, his kickslide drill showed his upside at tackle, with the best technique of the day.
Erik McCoy (OC, Texas A&M) - McCoy has been somewhat overlooked in the interior offensive line conversation, but that probably came to an end in Indy. McCoy clocked the fastest time on the 40 yard dash at 4.89 seconds, and looked very good in the field drills. He will have to contend with Bradbury and Elgton Jenkins at the center position, but he raised his profile Friday.
Justice Hill (RB, Oklahoma State) - This is not a fast running back class, so when Hill turned a 4.40 second 40 yard dash, it looked like blazing speed. Add that to his 40 inch vertical leap and powerful running style, he has people’s attention. He is below 200 pounds, but will receive a long look from teams trying to find the next Philip Lindsay.
Ryquell Armstead (RB, Temple) - When it comes to the running back position, there are a bunch of ways to succeed. But there is always a role for a big, powerful direct runner. Armstead was a straight forward “Temple Tough” runner in college, taking the fight to defenders. Armstead finished Friday with the best speed score (a measure combining speed and size) of running backs at the combine. That’s good news for a player who will want to market his power as a north-south runner.
Miles Sanders (Penn State) - Nobody ever wants to follow up a fantastic act. Miles Sanders has the misfortune of being a running back from Penn State who had to follow Saquon Barkley’s performance in the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. Sanders had himself a solid day, runnin a good 4.45 second 40 yard dash, while looking smooth and fluid in the field drills, as well as catching the ball well in receiving drills. In a good but unspectacular running back class, Sanders helped himself Friday.
Greg Little (OT, Mississippi) - Little passed the eye test in weigh-ins, with the size and length the NFL loves to see. But when it comes to on-field drills, he showed problems. He labored in nearly every drill, showing sloppy technique and footwork throughout. He and Jonah Williams are opposite sides of the coin, and it will be interesting to see what teams prefer: Little’s measureables or Williams’ technique?
Tyler Roemer (OT, San Diego State) - Roemer played well for the Aztecs in 2018, but left the team as a redshirt sophomore after being indefinitely suspended. He needed a good combine to help teams feel better about his maturity level — or at least convince them to take a chance. He did not appear to be the same athlete in drills as he was during the season, laboring with sloppy footwork and technique.
Elijah Holyfield (RB, Georgia) - Nobody was expecting Holyfield to run fast. However, his 4.79 and 4.81 second 40 yard dashes likely raise some concerns. Unlike Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel, Holyfield is not a home-run threat, instead being Georgia’s “battering ram”. He is a pure power runner who consistently looks to finish his runs with his footprints on defenders’ shells. But while there’s a place for that, his speed will move him down teams’ draft boards.