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Thursday, March 22, 2018

10 biggest takeaways from the NFL Combine

Saquon Barkley

The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis has concluded, leaving teams with a much better idea about draft prospects. Some players excelled in drills and interviews, while others had more mixed results. There was a lot to be learned from this year’s crop of players. Here are ten big developments from the Combine.

1) Saquon Barkley set himself apart

It looks as if there is now a very real chance that Barkley could become the first running back to go first overall since Ki-Jana Carter, another Penn State back, in 1995. Barkley dominated his Combine workout with a 4.40 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical, and now looks like a very real option for the Browns at No. 1. He was already the top running back in the class and viewed as a potential top pick, but we’ve gone from talking about top three to top overall.

2) Shaquem Griffin showed why he should be taken seriously

Yes, it’s worth pumping the brakes on Shaquem Griffin. Even now the UCF linebacker still likely a day three prospect. He won’t go in the first round, or the second, and probably not even the third. Still, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, put up 20 reps at the bench press, and oh, by the way, did it all with one hand. He’s a great, great story, and teams looking for a potential diamond in the rough during the mid-to-late rounds of the draft would do well to look his way.

3) The quarterback class still lacks that slam-dunk prospect…

For the second year in a row, there isn’t really that one elite quarterback prospect that makes everyone sit up and take notice. Baker Mayfield has the accomplished collegiate career. Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Josh Rosen all have the physical tools to varying degrees. None, however, has that perfect combination of skill and character that completely sets them apart from their rivals. Just ask the Browns, who may go a different route at No. 1 due to the lack of a clear top QB, though they always have the fourth pick to fall back on if they do decide to go for a quarterback.

4) …but Baker Mayfield isn’t backing down from the challenge

Not to say that any of the big four quarterbacks are lacking in confidence, but none were able to match Mayfield’s, who bordered on cocky when speaking to media at the Combine. The former Oklahoma QB embraced the challenge of turning around the Browns, he called himself the most accurate and best quarterback in the class, and he generally went through the Combine with what will look like confidence or arrogance, depending on what you want to see. Some teams will definitely like the self-assuredness; it may pay off for him.

5) Lamar Jackson is still a quarterback, but how good of one?

There was a lot of talk out of nowhere about Lamar Jackson the wide receiver, which was pretty quickly put down by the player himself once everyone convened in Indianapolis. That was one question answered, but many remain around the former Heisman Trophy winner. He didn’t do any of the physical tests, choosing instead to throw, where he displayed good, but inconsistent physical tools. His pro day will show a lot more. But for now, Jackson remains arguably the biggest enigma of the quarterback class.

6) Josh Allen may have the best arm of any quarterback

If it’s physical ability you’re looking for, Allen stood out at the Combine. As far as arm strength, he looked the best of the top quarterbacks who threw, which does admittedly exclude Sam Darnold. The view on Allen probably depends on what you’re looking for. At the moment, he isn’t the best quarterback in the class, and his college career at Wyoming was promising but inconsistent. That said, he can throw the ball hard and far, and that could be enough to tempt someone into taking him very high, even if he has questions about his accuracy.

7) It’s a solid year for offensive linemen

Not every offensive lineman had a good day at the Combine, but several put up very encouraging performances that they’ll only benefit from. Quenton Nelson, a potential top-five pick, did nothing to dissuade teams in need from looking in his direction, with the Notre Dame guard not disappointing. Iowa center James Daniels looks like a first-round pick after a strong Combine, while UCLA tackle Kolton Miller set a Combine record for broad jump at 10-foot-one. The top of this class is very talented.

8) The wide receiver class is deep, but not particularly top-heavy

If you’re a team seeking a high-quality wide receiver, this was not the Combine for you. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, considered the consensus No. 1, did not have a terribly impressive Combine, and at this point he’ll just hope that he can find himself somewhere in the teens. Christian Kirk of Texas A&M might be the only other receiver that goes in the first round. Depth is where this receiver class will shine, but the elite-level talents are absent.

9) Combine medical tests can reveal some scary, yet important things

It happens every so often — a seemingly healthy collegiate athlete comes to the NFL Combine and gets an unexpectedly frightening medical diagnosis. That’s what happened to Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst, whose routine testing turned up a less-than-routine heart condition. This has happened before, but it’s never any less scary. You have to wonder how many of these tests turn up things that these players never would have known about otherwise. Hurst, after all, played at a big program at Michigan and was treated by top doctors, yet his condition still went undetected.

10) Bradley Chubb could be the NFL’s next defensive star

The North Carolina State star is the top pass-rusher in this year’s draft, and he’s openly said that he tries to emulate NFL stars like Khalil Mack and Von Miller. If he comes close to either, some NFL team will have a star on their hands. Chubb posted a 4.65 40 time and a 36-inch vertical, adding 24 bench press reps. He has done everything he possibly can to make himself a top-five pick at minimum, and he might be the safest defensive pick in the entire draft.

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