Thursday at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine brought us the first interview sessions with the players, as the running backs and offensive linemen took to the podiums here at the Indiana Convention Center. It also revealed several coveted official measurements for some notable prospects.
Before those came out, the final wave of coaches and GMs held their press conferences. Raiders coach Jon Gruden was up first, and the mediagenic coach did not disappoint.
Gruden emphatically stated that Derek Carr is the team’s franchise quarterback. When asked to elaborate on his first time declaring it, he doubled down: “Yeah, he is our franchise quarterback, yes. Try to make that clear.”
This came after he fielded several questions about Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, who is often speculated to be of keen interest to Gruden and the Raiders. “Chucky” did say he believes that Murray is serious about sticking to football and isn’t worried about his lack of height.
About that height…
Murray officially measured at just over 5-foot-10 and a beefier-than-expected 207 pounds. One of the ways the Heisman winner can mitigate concerns about his height is with his hand size, and Murray checked that box with 9.5-inch hands.
Nearly everyone I’ve talked to, from two GMs to agents to fellow draft media members, believes Murray will last past the top 5 picks. The talk about Arizona taking him at No. 1 and dumping Josh Rosen is almost universally viewed as speculative hogwash, however. It’s fun to talk about but about as pragmatically realistic as growing hair on a bowling ball.
Back to Gruden and the Raiders for a second…
Let you in on a secret. Everyone goes crazy whenever Gruden mentions Murray, but the #Raiders like Haskins better. Not that I think it matters.— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) February 28, 2019
After talking to some folks, I believe this 100 percent.
The announcement that Jason Witten was (mercifully) leaving Monday Night Football was met with unanimous praise. As for him returning to the Cowboys for $5M in 2019? One staffer from an NFC East rival told me, “Good luck with that, getting older and poorer.”
My ideal replacement for Witten in the booth? If it’s a former player, I prefer either Kurt Warner or Joe Thomas. But the best professional broadcaster for the job is Charles Davis.
Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler is a big one. How big? How about Kawhi Leonard big…
Hakeem Butler vs Kawhi Leonard— Mark Dulgerian (@MarkDulgerianOS) February 28, 2019
HB Ht: 6' 5 3/8"
KL Ht: 6' 6"
HB Wt: 227
KL Wt: 227
HB Wing: 7' 0"
KL Wing: 7' 3"
HB Hand: 10 6/8"
KL Hand: 11 1/4"
The biggest player here in both height and weight is Ferris State offensive tackle Devon Johnson. He quickly became one of my favorite players as I stood with him through his 20-minute interview. Johnson started exactly one football game in high school but still managed to get a scholarship to one of the premier D-II programs. He was good enough right away that he was All-American as a freshman. Oh yeah, he played volleyball (my sport!) in high school. Imagine having a 6-foot-7, 338-pound guy on the other side of the net…
Alabama DT Quinnen Williams is not working out because of a broken finger. He is universally considered a lock to be a top-3 pick, so it's not a big deal.
Ole Miss wideout D.K. Metcalf weighed in at 228 pounds with a ridiculously shredded physique. He made Gruden quip, “He’s the biggest wideout I’ve ever seen. Who is going to tackle him?” Good question, coach…
The most common refrain from the running backs in the media sessions was how often they were asked by teams about their pass protection skills. Credit to Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, who said he thrived in it despite being a smaller back (he’s 5-8 but 206 pounds). And he’s right, too.
One player I’m consistently told the draft media is higher on than the NFL will be: Alabama LB Mack Wilson
The flip side, a player the NFL likes more than the draft media consensus: NC State OL Garrett Bradbury
One of the quietly disappointing measurements belongs to Georga TE Isaac Nauta. He measured just 6-3 and 244 pounds, with an arm length under 32 inches. Nauta will need to perform great in the speed and agility drills to salvage draft stock because at that size, he’s too small for most offenses to be more than a situational backup if he’s not a dynamic mover.
I asked one Detroit Lions staffer about the common sight of LSU CB Greedy Williams as the team’s first-round pick in mock drafts. His answer was curtly dismissive, “Our cornerbacks need to tackle.” Ouch.
Expect the Houston Texans to address cornerback early in the draft, and also in free agency. It doesn’t seem like anyone expects Kareem Jackson to be back, and he’s more of a safety these days anyway. Two different Texans sources told me they believe the Kevin Johnson era is over.
The Cleveland Browns would like to bring WR Breshad Perriman back after his impressive career reclamation in the second half of last season. But he (read: his representation) might be overvaluing himself, to his own detriment. Don’t be surprised if there is an eerie replay of the Terrelle Pryor situation here and Perriman winds up outside of Cleveland for less money than he could have signed for with the Browns already.
There are a lot of whispers about the Jaguars shopping RB Leonard Fournette and the Chiefs looking to move EDGE Justin Houston. I don’t know how valid either is but both are hot enough topics that there is at least something smoldering to make the smoke.