The NFL Combine and Trades

 

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 Baker Mayfield
Photo courtesy Creative Commons. Gathered by Maddie Killian.

The NFL combine was from March 2-5. The combine invites players from college to come participate with other athletes to show what you got in front of NFL scouts and organizations. It gives the players to upgrade their draft stock, but sometimes it also hurts your draft stock if you don’t put up the numbers scouts are looking for. The defensive backs had a lot of winners from the combine.

 

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Shaquem Griffin

Photo courtesy Creative Commons. Gathered by Maddie Killian.

Jaire Alexander, Louisville. Somewhat of a forgotten man due to an injury in 2017, Alexander is a lockdown cornerback who hits like a safety and has ball skills. He ran 4.38, one of the fastest times among the cornerback group. He also had a 35-inch vertical. His agility drill times were bonkers. In the short shuttle 3.98. In the three cone he ran 6.71. Those are first round cornerback numbers maybe even Top 10 numbers, and he has the film to match. Those numbers were out the roof.  

Isaiah Oliver, Colorado. At 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds with mammoth 33 4/8″ arms, Oliver flew to a 4.50 in the 40, certainly impressive for a bigger cornerback. He has the size and athletic makeup to be a No. 1 outside corner in the NFL for a team.  

Derwin James, Florida State. Unsurprisingly, James destroyed the combine. At nearly 6-2 and 215 pounds, the do it all secondary member ran 4.47 in the 40, almost jumped out of Lucas Oil Stadium with a 40-inch vertical and had an 11-foot broad jump. 

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Saquon Barkley Photo courtesy Creative Commons. Gathered by Maddie Killian.

If you ask any general manager or scout about what two players stood out the most, they would say Shaquem Griffin and Saquon Barkley. Griffin, who had his hand amputated as a young child, won everyone over when he put up 20 bench press reps on Saturday with a prosthetic hand. Then he ran the fastest 40-yard dash we’ve seen from a linebacker since 2003, with a 4.38. Griffin’s second attempt was much slower at 4.58, but he was experiencing some cramping and wasn’t hydrated as well. He still went ahead and finished all the linebacker drills for the day. “He has one hand and should still be drafted on day one.” -Chris Carroll.  Which shows his dedication to the game.  

 

On Thursday, Barkley bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times, tied for the most by any running back here. Browns tackle Joe Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler, only benched it 28 times at the 2007 combine. Then on Friday, Barkley’s 10-yard split was a blazing 1.54 seconds. That was one hundredth of a second better than Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s 1.55 in 2008. In the 40-yard dash, Barkley recorded a time of 4.40 seconds, the second-best time among the running backs. Devin Hester, known as one of the fastest kick returners in NFL history, had a time of 4.43 in 2006. Finally, Barkley’s vertical jump came in at 41 inches, the best at the combine so far. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had a vertical of 38 ½ inches in 2011. “There hasn’t been another running back like this since Barry Sanders.”-Will Callahan 

Josh Rosen

Photo courtesy Creative Commons. Gathered by Maddie Killian.

 

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This class of wide receivers seems to be stacked. Receivers who are enough for a first round pick won`t be taken until maybe the 4th or 5th round. Calvin Ridley ran a fast 40 time at the NFL Scouting Combine but didn’t do as well in the jumps and the three-cone time. He looked good in the field work. The most common name that came up as the top receiver was Ridley. The talented junior gets a lot of praise for his route-running, quickness, and generally having good hands. Ridley had 55 catches for 967 yards with four touchdowns for 2017, but his production was held back by Alabama featuring its ground attack while using a running quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who has severe passing limitations. “I truly believe that Calvin Ridley will be a bust.”- Kagen Gilliand. 

In 2017, Courtland Sutton totaled 68 catches for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns. He played well for SMU and continued to be a dynamic point-scoring threat. Sutton wisely decided to skip his final year of eligibility to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Sutton has good hands, height, body control, and leaping ability. He is a dangerous red-zone target. Running well in pre-draft workouts will be important for him, and his combine 40 time was solid, but not electrifying. Sutton could stand to be more physical with cornerbacks in the NFL.  

Roquan Smith

Photo courtesy Creative Commons. Gathered by Maddie Killiangoat

 

Equanimeous St. Brown had 33 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. Throughout the season, St. Brown got open through his excellent route-running while also seeing a lot of double teams, but the immense struggles of Notre Dame’s quarterback play and passing offense limited St. Brown. At the NFL Scouting Combine, St. Brown helped himself with an impressive 40 time for a big receiver.   

Sam Darnold could be the safest quarterback prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. He didn’t throw at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he interviewed well with teams showing good recall and football IQ. In 2017, Darnold completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers. fumbles were an issue beyond the interceptions. Darnold also made some beautiful anticipatory throws with excellent accuracy in just about every game. Darnold needs to improve his decision-making, eye movement, and confidence. He admitted that confidence was an issue for him in 2017. “If I have the first pick and I`m the browns, I’m taking Barkley with the first pick and Sam Darnold with the fourth pick.” -Radi Krastev 

Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it. Rosen’s tight spiral helps him to get his passes through small windows and beat good coverage. He has serious arm talent along with field vision and pocket presence. Rosen also worked under center, which has been rare to see with college quarterbacks in recent years. Teams also have some concerns about his intangibles and durability. They question his conduct off the field and worry about him being too much of a partier. His leadership skills and being a good teammate are areas of concern across the league.  Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it. Rosen’s tight spiral helps him to get his passes through small windows and beat good coverage. He has serious arm talent along with field vision and pocket presence. Rosen also worked under center, which has been rare to see with college quarterbacks in recent years. Teams also have some concerns about his intangibles and durability. They question his conduct off the field and worry about him being too much of a partier. His leadership skills and being a good teammate are areas of concern across the league. However, he interviewed well at the combine, showing good play recall and football IQ. In 2017, Rosen completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,717 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He left UCLA’s game against Washington with an undisclosed injury and missed the contest against Utah with a concussion. After returning to the field, Rosen played well, including throwing for over 400 yards against USC. He was pulled early in the regular-season finale against California and missed UCLA’s bowl game. 

That’s just the combine and the interesting players that participated. Now come the trades. The Colts were always going to be likely to trade out of the third spot, given the presence of Andrew Luck and the likelihood that another team would want to move up for one of the quarterback prospects in this year’s draft. The dream would have been a haul with multiple first-round picks, but unless the Colts were willing to wait until the draft and run the risk of not getting an offer at all, this was the next-best thing. Indy moves down three spots in the first round, which isn’t much given that it should be in the market for a player like Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who could still be there at No. 6. Derwin James the Florida State safety could be a homerun pick. In return, the Colts get three second-round picks, two this year and one in 2019. The problem is that the Jets are presumably trading up to grab a specific quarterback and can’t do that at three. There’s certainly a chance that the Jets end up with their pick of the passers if Nelson, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and NC State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb come off the board with the top two picks, but free agency suggests that the Browns are going to take a quarterback first. There’s certainly a chance the Giants take a passer with the second overall pick, too.  

Jared Veldheer, it’s no surprise that the Cardinals wanted to move him, in lieu of paying him nearly $7 million this upcoming season, although it would have been far more helpful if Arizona had been able to move his salary before free agency. At the same time, the Cardinals were able to pick up a sixth-round pick for a player they likely had little intention of keeping on their roster. Veldheer is a curious fit for the Broncos, who already invested a first-round pick on left tackle Garett Bolles and gave Menelik Watson a three-year, $18.4-million deal before last season. Watson wasn’t very good but given that he hadn’t been impressive with the Raiders, that shouldn’t have been an enormous surprise. Watson remains a major injury risk, he has played just 34 games over five pro seasons, and he went down after seven games with a foot injury, but Veldheer is years removed from his peak as a useful tackle. The Broncos could cut Watson or renegotiate Veldheer’s deal but committing to either right tackle seems like a bad idea.

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