This week marks the 12th time I’ve traveled to Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine in one capacity or another. As such, I’ve learned to look for different things to focus upon during the interviews, workouts and interactions.
Here are 6 things I’ll be specifically looking for during the next few days at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.
Kyler Murray’s overall performance
The Oklahoma QB remains an enigmatic prospect with evaluators I’ve spoken with. Between his short stature, his one year of starting experience in a notoriously QB-friendly system and his potential fallback to a lucrative baseball career, it’s hard to peg down when and where Murray will go.
The Combine will clear up any question about his height and hand size, both of which are commonly guesstimated to be on the freakishly small size for NFL standards. His work in the interview rooms with teams will either mollify concerns about his dedication to football or exacerbate the fears that he might take his (base)ball and go away. No player has more riding on Indianapolis than Kyler Murray, and that’s not even counting any workout results.
Rashan Gary’s weight and disposition
Gary is expected to light up the Lucas Oil Field turf in his workout. Watching the defensive lineman play at Michigan the past three years, it would be stunning if he wasn’t one of the top athletic performers in every drill amongst the DL class. The bigger question for Gary, one he can clear up in Indy, is where the heck do you play him?
Gary cut weight in 2018 and was more of a perimeter-oriented rusher than he had been in his earlier Wolverine days. He was also less effective at getting to the passer. The lightning quickness that made him special when he attacked more inside isn’t as dynamic when facing tackles or chipping/chopping TEs. If he’s still in the 272 range (the weight his mother told the Big Drew and Jim Show on ESPN Radio in Grand Rapids, which also employs me) he played at in 2018, NFL teams will only see him as a DE. That hurts his value.
I’d love to see him at 280-290, a range which opens up alignment options. But he has to be willing to kick inside as well, something his mother was quite adamant he was not interested in doing.
Who separates at the top of the OT class
Right now there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut No. 1 offensive tackle. Some will tout Alabama’s Jonah Williams. Others lean to Jawaan Taylor from Florida, or Kansas State’s Dalton Risner or even Greg Little from Ole Miss.
One of the things I’ve gleaned from past Combines: OL athleticism matters, more so than most positions. If any of those prospects blow away the field with astonishing athletic prowess in the workouts, the talent ceiling is raised. It might not do anything for a floor and could raise expectations way too high (see: Kolton Miller last year), but average athletes almost never become above-average tackles. And teams that draft average (or worse) tackles in the top 60 picks tend to have some real problems.
The Andy Isabella show
During his engaging interview session at the Senior Bowl in Mobile last month, Isabella told those of us gathered around that he’s run a hand-timed 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. He declared his laser times are in the low 4.3 range. His high school track state championships in Ohio and his game film back up his jet-like speed.
I expect the UMass wideout to be the fastest man in Indy. At this point, he almost needs to be the fastest guy in Indy, however; the double-edged sword of expectations can scuttle a promising rise up draft boards if Isabella isn’t blazing past the rest of the WR group, a contingency not especially notable for speed this year. He should thrive in the agility drills too.
Who fails the drug test?
It happens every year. At least one player will test positive for a banned substance, typically marijuana but not always. It might be a diluted sample, too.
Invariably the player--and his agent, combatively--will effort to explain away the test. It’s a false positive. My client was in a room with the wrong people. I took a supplement in training and I didn’t know one of the ingredients. Rinse, repeat…
Here’s the hard truth: there is no excuse for a player testing positive for any banned substance at the Combine other than the player himself, or the agent taking his percentage, is a complete stone-cold idiot. Neither reflects well upon the player.
The unheralded RB who rises
I have a few candidates here in an underwhelming overall RB class. Size/speed ratio and performance in the explosive metrics (vertical, broad, bench) tend to produce draft media sensations. This is true of wide receivers as well, but I have a better feel at this point for the WR group than I do the RBs.
Can Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic show enough speed and agility to validate his incredibly fun game tape?
Will it be Memphis’ oddly prolific Darrell Henderson, who didn’t really show any special athletic traits but still averaged over 8 yards per carry?
Can Bryce Love recapture the fancy of a draft media group that promoted him as a potential 1st-round pick two years ago?
Georgia’s Elijah Holyfield? Karan Higdon from Michigan? Maybe Damien Harris of Alabama since his Crimson Tide teammate Josh Jacobs isn’t working out? We will see...