Combine 2018 Preview

The combine is currently underway in Indianapolis and the combine is a great tool for scouts to learn more about every prospect entering the NFL draft. Many borderline or ‘under the radar’ players have parlayed phenomenal scouting combine results into high draft picks and big contracts. And many have hurt their stock with poor showings. I think it is important to use the combine as a tool, some players show poorly and are just great NFL players. And some show awesome, then never amount to anything in the NFL. I want to emphasize a few players that I am really going to be watching over the next 4-5 days. 

Quarterbacks

Josh Rosen is basically locked in as the consensus top prospect but several other QBs are projected to go in the first round and a great showing at the combine could greatly help their draft stock. 

Sam Darnold from USC was thought to be possibly the top QB before 2017 and a turnover, inconsistent season raised some doubts. Darnold is phenomenal throwing on the run and has pocket presence along with above average ball placement. Unfortunately he is not throwing at the combine but the interview and film sessions are equally as important at the top of this draft class.  

Baker Mayfield won the Heisman and showed immense growth this past season as a quarterback. The drills will be critical to show how Baker’s amazing athleticism translates in the 3, 5, and 7 foot drops with throws. And the interview process will be important as his maturity came into question several times this year. 

Josh Allen is polarizing- you either love him or hate him it seems- but the NFL caliber arm has never come into question. Josh really needs to impress in drills and look the part of a ‘big-time’ QB to really cement a first round pick in the NFL draft. Breaking down film and the interview process will likely work in his favor as  he has shown mentally he is ready to be an NFL quarterback. 

The one with possibly the most to gain is Lamar Jackson, the Louisville QB with crazy college statistics running and passing. The traditional QB drills will be critical to show that he belongs as a NFL quarterback and silence the critics. Sitting down and breaking down film along with the interview will go a long way toward locking him in as a first round pick. 

Running Backs

The top two running backs Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice likely cannot do anything to hurt their stock but there is a pack of talented young backs behind that is deep and many will make a difference in the NFL for years to come. 

Nick Chubb, nobody thought this could even be a question two years ago, but Chubb will be under the microscope more than most. He is a very talented back and the three cone drill will be an important one for him as well as the 40 yard dash. I do believe he will show that he is the 3rd or 4th best back in the class with a strong showing and a possible early-mid second round pick. 

Royce Freeman was productive at Oregon and has shown ability to be a good running back, possessing ideal size and strength, but an impressive showing at the combine is critical. Ability to catch the ball and display his quickness will be important for Royce or he risks falling far in this class despite being so productive in college.

John Kelly from Tennessee has a buzz growing as the offseason progresses and the combine could vault him even higher up in the process. Kelly didn’t have many opportunities to showcase what he could do with a full workload but was brilliant in opportunities he did get. The combine should showcase his quickness, power, and speed and a great showing could bring his stock up into the day 2 range for the draft. 

Mark Walton has an opportunity to standout in this packed class- another back gaining buzz as the draft nears. Walton displayed great vision and quickness at the NCAA level and a strong showing at the combine could also launch him into day 2 draft consideration. Walton is one I will be watching closer, the 40 yard dash and the weigh-in will be critical as Walton could stock up some to handle the NFL game. 

Wide Receivers 

James Washington, Courtland Sutton, and Calvin Ridley will likely occupy the top 3 WR spots and be the first 3 drafted, the combine may help one stand out for a certain team but I fully expect the trio to all test well and not hurt their stock. The rest of the class isn’t as deep as RB but there is some potential stars. 

Simmie Cobbs Jr. has the opportunity to become a house hold name with a strong showing at the combine. Cobbs has the whole package as a receiver and was saddled at the NCAA level by an anemic offense and poor team. Cobbs destroyed the few top corners he faced and the combine will give him a stage to show the NFL what he can do and catapult him up draft boards. 

Auden Tate showed immense potential at Florida State and inconsistent QB play hampered his production in 2017- the combine will offer Auden the chance to show his immense athleticism and ability to be a huge mismatch at the NFL level. The drills will offer him a chance to show what he can do and help his draft stock in this class, a strong showing in route running along with his freakish athletic skillset could lock him in as a day 2 pick. 

Overshadowed at Oklahoma State and a little older, Marcell Ateman has the opportunity to show off his skill set at the combine and gain draft capitol. Ateman was productive opposite James Washington- displaying solid route running, strength, and ability to get the ball at 6’4” in contested situations. Ateman should show impressively and overcome a forgettable Senior Bowl showing. 

DJ Moore has been gaining buzz as well and the NFL combine will provide him a venue to introduce himself after playing his NCAA ball at Maryland in a forgettable offense. Moore displayed speed and ability to run clean, sharp routes. A great showing at the combine is likely, and landing on a team that will help Moore refine his game will lead to NFL success. 

Tight Ends

Not regarded as strong of a TE class as last seasons, this year could still produce a few good NFL tight ends and the combine will could shift any of the top 5 prospects a round or two in any direction. Mark Andrews is widely considered the top prospect but a few I am really watching closely. 

Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State is one that impressed me on film and I believe the combine will jackrabbit him over Andrews to be the first TE selected. Goedert showed WR catching ability and made some phenomenal catches but was not asked to pass block despite possessing size to be a good blocking TE. The combine will show his unique skill set and lock Dallas into the first two rounds of the draft consideration. 

Mike Gesicki possesses similar size and the pass-catching chops that Mr. Goedert has, and was a constant mismatch at the collegiate level. Gesicki posted solid numbers and has athletic ability that should translate to a great showing at the combine and solidifying him as day 2 pick and a solid NFL career. 

These are a few I am really watching and ones that I believe will be helped by the combine process. Many others will show greatly or poorly and affect draft stock. In closing- it’s always important to remember that this is a showing of physical abilities and often the game tape will tell you all you need to know about most prospects. I wish all the prospects good luck this weekend!