The first day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine workouts is in the books and the NFL couldn’t have asked for a much more from their first Combine workout in prime time.
We came within .06 of a second of seeing a new 40-yard dash record and half an inch of seeing a new record for vertical leap. We didn’t get to see the top two quarterbacks work out, but we saw the rest of the class perform well enough to give the five or six quarterback-needy teams behind the New York Giants reason to want to trade up.
We also saw the wide receiver class absolutely live up to the hype as one of the best and deepest classes in a long time.
The Combine got off to a great start, and the ‘Chris and Joe Show’ offered our thoughts immediately following the workouts and you can find those below. Ed has been at the Combine this week, so don’t forget to check out the audio from the various press conferences.
So without further ado, let’s get to the winners from Thursday night.
The biggest new name
Fred The Sled
We saw several new drills this year at the Scouting Combine, but we also saw two new big pieces of equipment on the field: Two blocking sleds. One of the first position drills performed by the tight end groups was a blocking drill. Of course, Combine coverage being what it is, the sleds created the first controversy of the weekend.
That came about when NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah dubbed the blocking sled “Fred The Sled.” Rich Eisen, who traditionally anchors the Combine coverage, wasn’t a fan. It’s great to see the NFL trying to adapt the Combine, we’ll just have to see whether or not the name sticks.
This tight end class has desperately needed a prospect to step forward and claim the title of “TE1.” Brycen Hopkins from Purdue, Notre Dame’ Cole Kmet both had good days and confirmed their stats as top five tight ends in the draft, but two other tight ends stepped forward and had eye-opening workouts.
Adam Trautman (Dayton)
- The only guy who moved the sled
- Looked clean in positional drills
- 6.78 3 cone
- 34inch vertical
- 4.27 short shuttle
Trautman is a small-school prospect who has been on the fringes of the tight end conversation so far in the process. He distinguished himself as one of the few tight ends to win against Fred The Sled and put up an eye-popping three-cone time of 6.78 seconds. For reference, 5-foot-10, 196-pound Sterling Shepard did the 3-cone drill in 7.0 seconds, while Trautman weighed in at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds.
Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
- 6-foot 5, 258,
- 4.49 40 yard dash
Albert O (his last name is pronounced O-coo-WAY-boo-nham) was the most athletic tight end on the property Thursday night. While you could see his ability to stretch the field and attack the seam on tape, nobody saw a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash coming from him. That first run got everyone’s attention and his second run backed it up and proved that it wasn’t any kind of fluke. It still seems unlikely at this point that any tight end will be drafted in the first round, but Albert O sent scouts back to his tape.
NFL NextGenStats graded his workout a 99/100, one of the five highest grades in recent memory, along with Evan Engram, Noah Fant, Colby Fleener, and Vernon Davis.
If you had any questions as to the depth of talent in this wide receiver class, their workout had to have answered them. While there might have been a few disappointing (but not even necessarily bad) 40-yard dash times, this class was very good from A to Z. And not only are they athletic, they all caught the ball well.
Chase Claypool (Notre Dame)
- 4.42 at 6-4, 238
- 19 bench reps
- 40.5 inch vertical
- 126 inch broad
I’m going to take the “L” on this one. I was one of the people who saw Claypool’s 9-pound weight gain and thought that he might be leaning into the talk of a tight end conversion. Nope, he was just holding water. Claypool had a spectacular performance, dispelling any notion that he isn’t athletic enough to play wide receiver at the NFL level. Granted, we’re still waiting on his agility scores, the only height/weight/speed comparison we have for Claypool is Calvin Johnson. Nobody is saying that he’s that caliber of prospect, but Megatron is the only prospect we have seen be that fast and explosive at that size. And even if Claypool doesn’t have Johnson’s agility, D.K. Metcalf proved that a big, fast, explosive, powerful receiver can win without being able to corner well, as long as he’s used well.
Justin Jefferson (LSU)
- 4.43 40
- 33-inch arms
- 37.5 inch vertical
After all was said and done, this might have been the most important workout of the night. There was a lingering notion that Jefferson is a good, savvy receiver, but much more of a “possession” receiver at the NFL level. That he would have to rely on route running and ball skills to produce as a pro and he doesn’t have the athleticism to go out and beat NFL DBs. He proved that he is not a limited athlete at all, and combined with his stellar performance in 2019 puts him right in the thick of a fierce battle for the Top 5 of the receiver position.
Denzel Mims (Baylor)
- 6-3 receiver ran a 4.38
- Love 33 ⅞ inch arms
- 16 bench reps
- 38.5 inch vertical
Mims doesn’t have the route running acumen we like to see from prospects, but what he did at Baylor he did well. Mims excelled at stretching the field and making plays on the football with “freaky” ball skills. Mims’ workout likely put to rest any concerns that he might struggle translating to the NFL level. He’s got all the physical tools a coach can ask for, all they need to do is figure out how to use them.
Michael Pittman Jr. (USC)
- 6-4, 223
- 4.51 40-yard dash
- 36.5 inch vert, 10’1” broad
Yet ANOTHER big receiver who out-performed expectations, this was a statement workout from Pittman Jr. There were concerns that he was “just” a big physical receiver — a guy who can block on the perimeter and pick up tough catches in traffic. But he showed that he has legitimate speed at his size to go with punishing play strength. He’ll get compared with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Pittman Jr. has the athletic edge in those comparisons.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan)
- 6-2, 212
- 4.48 sec 40
- 44.5” vertical
- 11’7” broad
Peoples-Jones consistently flashed on tape, but inconsistent play from quarterback Shea Patterson held him back. And while he didn’t throw down an exciting 40 time, Peoples-Jones did come within a fingertip of breaking the Combine’s record for the vertical leap. His 44.5-inch vertical and 11’7” broad jump are eye-opening and suggest untapped explosiveness.
The quarterback class got a gift this week when it was announced that Joe Burrow would not be throwing, and Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t yet cleared to throw. With the two top passers in the class — and two of the best throwers to come out of college in recent memory — not working out, that opened the door for the rest of the class to strut its stuff.
Justin Herbert (Oregon)
- 4.68 40 time
- 35.5 inch vertical
- Pretty clean during throws
With Burrow and Tua not throwing, Herbert was the best quarterback on the property, and it wasn’t even really close. He showed great size and athleticism, and while he had a couple short passes get away from him, he was largely accurate and threw a catchable ball. As long as NFL teams are confident in Tua’s hip, Herbert has locked himself into QB3, and could even be QB2 if there is uncertainty regarding Tua’s future.
Jordan Love (Utah State)
- 4.74 40 time
- 35.5 vertical
- Flashed his arm strength
We all knew people would fall in love with Love once he got on the field. He showed off his athleticism in the measurable events and his arm strength in the position drills. In fact, if we just put together a clip of Daniel Jeremiah’s commentary throughout the night, we would probably have the soundtrack of a scout falling head-over-heels in love. Of course, the questions regarding Love can’t be answered in shorts and a tee shirt, throwing against air.
But what he was able to do, he did well on Thursday night.
Anthony Gordon (Washington State)
- Good arm
- Very impressive release
If you’re looking for a sleeper from this draft class, keep an eye on Anthony Gordon out of Washington State. Physically he isn’t noteworthy and is forgettable when compared with Herbert and Love. But Gordon has a live arm and the best release of any quarterback who threw Thursday night. It is quick, compact, endlessly repeatable, and lends itself to delivering an accurate, catchable ball. It was legitimately impressive to see how well Gordon recruited his lower body and how “snappy” (for want of a better word) his release was from the ground up.
Performer of the day
- Joe: Chase Claypool
- Chris: Albert O (It was Claypool, but I’m going with Albert O for variety)
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