Analysis | Who won at the NFL combine? These 10 players likely helped their stock.

Analysis | Who won at the NFL combine? These 10 players likely helped their stock.

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

So, how did you spend your weekend? If you are a top NFL prospect, you were probably poked, prodded and asked to run and jump in various ways.

Results from the NFL’s draft combine, which unfolded from Thursday to Sunday in Indianapolis, are hardly the only criteria teams use to decide whom to select come April. After all, how players performed in the fall — you know, in actual football games — still counts quite a bit.

However, once the calendar flips, most prospects who know they’re headed to the combine train intensively for it, because it provides an excellent opportunity to impress teams. Here are 10 players on the offensive side of the ball who likely did just that, and who might be rewarded with a higher draft slot than was in the cards before they got to Indy.

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

Heading into the combine, buzz was already growing that McCarthy could not only join the likes of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels in the first round but could get drafted closer to those quarterbacks — who might go 1-2-3 in some order — than previously anticipated. When that trio opted out of participating in drills in Indianapolis, the stage was set for McCarthy, and the fact that he strode right onto it bolstered perceptions that NFL front offices value his leadership qualities. McCarthy showed a live arm he did not always get to unleash with the Wolverines, in one test throwing with only slightly less velocity than howitzer-toting Tennessee product Joe Milton.

Michael Penix Jr., QB, Washington

Yes, hand size is still a trait for quarterbacks, and Penix landed in the top 10 all-time at his position with a 10.5-inch measurement. He also showed off an 81-inch wingspan, got a clean bill of health and reminded everyone he possesses an unusually strong arm, with the big mitt at the end of it gripping and zipping balls in beautifully tight spirals. All that may have helped get Penix’s draft stock back to the lofty heights it reached before somewhat shaky performances in the national championship game and at the Senior Bowl.

Sure, 165 pounds is alarmingly light for an NFL player, but hulking defenders can’t crush what they can’t catch, right? In hurtling his slender frame down the 40-yard course in an official time of 4.21 seconds, Worthy set a combine record that electrified the crowd at Lucas Oil Stadium. The display of speed makes for the kind of you-can’t-teach-that physical asset that gets guys drafted in the first round.

Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina

If the previous Xavier can’t count size among his assets, this one sure can, and the 221-pound Gamecocks star blistered the track in his own right (4.39 in the 40). Leggette, who was eighth in the nation last season with 1,255 receiving yards, also posted a top-six mark at the combine among wide receivers in the vertical jump (40 inches). There is a talented, crowded group at his position vying for the attention of front offices, but Legette’s combination of size, speed, explosiveness and recent production should help him stand out.

Isaac Guerendo, RB, Louisville; Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee

These two aren’t paired here just because they finished 1-2 among running backs in the 40, although the times posted by Guerendo (4.33) and Wright (4.38) will help their causes. They also both had to share backfield work in college, resulting in relatively modest production, and thus had a lot to gain from showing in Indianapolis they could pair elite athleticism with every-down size. In addition to their 40 times, Guerendo and Wright excelled in the vertical and broad jumps.

Theo Johnson, TE, Penn State

Even leaving aside a freshman season in which he was scarcely used, Johnson’s numbers over his final three years with the Nittany Lions — 73 catches for 882 yards and 12 touchdowns — don’t leap off the page. His 39.5-inch vertical jump at the combine, though, is another matter, as it placed him second among tight ends, as did his numbers in the broad jump (10 feet 5 inches) and the 40 (4.57 seconds), not to mention a best-in-class mark of 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle. Johnson did all this at 6-foot-6 and 259 pounds, giving him one of the best relative athletic scores of any tight end since 1987.

Tight ends who can run and jump are great, but the NFL still needs blockers at that position, as well. That’s the calling card of the 271-pound Reiman, who drew attention at the combine for treating a blocking sled as the most minor of inconveniences. A former walk-on who became a team captain, Reiman showed in Indy that he brings quite a bit more than just intangibles (1.55 seconds in the 10-yard split; 7.02 seconds in the three-cone; 10-1 in the broad jump).

Tanor Bortolini, C/G, Wisconsin

After topping all offensive linemen at the combine in the three-cone (7.16 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.28) while finishing second in the 40 (4.94) and third in the 10-yard split (1.69), Bortolini got the highest grade in athleticism from the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Not the highest grade among linemen, mind you, but among all players in Indianapolis, with his score of 99 tied only by Guerendo. Listed as a center at the combine, Bortolini’s three-cone time was the fastest ever for his position, topping the 7.22 posted in 2011 by future Philadelphia Eagles star Jason Kelce.

Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia

How did a player with just eight career starts help himself at a combine cut short when he injured a hamstring? For one, just by getting measured. Mims checked in at a mammoth 6-8 and 340 pounds, with an arm length of 36⅛ inches. Before getting hurt he ran the 40 in just 5.07 seconds. The ridiculously fast time for a man of his size, plus a mark of 9-3 in the broad jump, bolstered a tantalizing draft profile of someone whose limited action was just enough to show the makings of a dominant force.

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