The defensive players went through their paces this weekend and wrapped up the NFL Combine. I watched it all (mostly) and have the following notes to share (in no particular order)…
-- I did not see the Nebraska Defensive Tackle Davis brothers (twins) blowing up the Combine results among the defensive tackles.
Khalil Davis had the best 40-time among the 300+ pound DL prospects (4.75) and logged the best 10-yard split as well (1.66).
Carlos Davis hit a 4.82 and a 1.67 10-yard split.
They also were near the top of the bench press numbers among the 300+ pound DL prospects.
Those are amazing numbers from 300+ pounders, and now I go back to the lab on them – I didn’t see much from them in my Combine previews. They had Aaron Donald like speed, but nowhere near the college production (no DT ever has).
-- There has been a Derrick Brown v. Javon Kinlaw v. Neville Gallimore debate as the first three/all 1st-round draft pick DTs.
Brown ran well for his size here. Gallimore showed he was very fast for his size, but not the big agility. Kinlaw didn’t get measured in anything. Leaving the Combine, I think Kinlaw may have moved into the top slot for the NFL…somewhat by attrition, and there is a ton of love for him. Him not participating allows teams to make up their own fantasy/pie-in-the-sky numbers on him, for now. We’ll see what Kinlaw does at his Pro Day.
-- A big loser from the Combine at DE/EDGE…Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa. I thought he was one of the 10 or so best prospects at this Combine, but he is set for a major fall from grace after posting a 5.04 40-time.
A winner at the EDGE was Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, who I thought could be the main pass rush option for those not getting Chase Young, and his 7.00 three-cone time helped keep that narrative going. He did not run an official 40-time. If Weaver runs a sub-4.60 40-time at his Pro Day, then he’ll lock down the #2 spot among the edge rushers potentially.
Really, the big winner among the EDGE rushers…was Chase Young, because no EDGE/DE prospect here really had ‘wow’ numbers that made people scramble to do second looks. Young is far and away the best in class as a pass rusher, and there is little/no competition to him – making Young even more valuable.
Could Young be the best prospect in the draft? I get that argument, but quarterback is still everything in the NFL.
-- The only DL prospect to run a sub-7.00 three-cone? North Dakota State’s Derrick Tuszka…a 251-pound DE/EDGE rusher. He had 19.0 TFLs and 13.5 sacks in 2019 for the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
-- Based on my sense of conversations/buzz from Indy…Oklahoma LB is going top 10-15, not later 1st-round as you usually see him go in Mock Drafts. He’s more beloved by teams than the Devin’s (Bush and White) from last year. He may be the most beloved prospect, as a person/leader than any player at the Combine/in the draft.
If the Panthers do not trade their #7 pick, do not rule out Matt Rhule replacing Luke Kuechly right here with Murray.
-- Another linebacker that drew praise in his behind the scenes meetings and references…Miami, Fla. ILB prospect Shaquille Quarterman. I’ve been a fan, and he’s starting to get some play as one of the better ILB prospects after Kenneth Murray.
-- LB Isaiah Simmons ran a 4.39 40-time and everyone went nuts, rightfully so. For his size, 239 pounds, to run that fast is something, but don’t overlook a 39” vertical and 11’0” broad jump – he’s in the ‘freak’ territory for sure. He will not last past pick #5 in the draft.
-- LB prospect Colorado Davion Taylor sent people back to re-scout him with a 4.49 40-time and 6.96 three-cone with a 21 bench press…a speedy OLB or possibly an ILB convert at some point?
-- The CB prospects seem to run faster and faster as a whole, which makes sense because just about every position group is getting faster/more athletic every year. The speedy CB prospects are like the speedy WR prospects…just because you run fast, doesn’t mean you have the quickness, make up speed, smarts to cover (or hands and routes) to be great at your position – but the speed times help judge/break ties or write some guys off with bad times.
With that said…the top two CB prospects in order going in, for me, are the same order going out – #1 C.J. Henderson and #2 Jeff Okudah. I’ve been a Henderson over Okudah guy since summer 2019…I’m a huge fan of Henderson. The entire media has sided with Okudah, per usual, with no dissent, because ‘Ohio State’…and he’s good, but seriously…he’s not 100% to 0% better than CJH. How is that possible judging art this early with two great portraits to consider?
Okudah is really good, I’m not knocking him…but how there is not some dissent on these two over which one is best shows just how idiotic the NFL scouting/analysis is. Can we have just one major voice have the guts to rate/fight for Henderson over Okudah? Nope. Not among the mainstream. Why? Because they have no idea what they are talking about on any prospects. They do no work beyond looking at 30 second highlights and seeing where the consensus is and fleeing to it for safety/sounding smart – they are cheating off their neighbors test because they definitely don’t know the answers, and their neighbor might not either but they know for sure they do not have a real studied answer -- so why not hope their neighbor knows.
Both Okudah and Henderson had great Combines/did nothing to hurt themselves. Two things I would point out…
1) They are about the same size/speed as each other, but note that Henderson benched a fantastic (for his size/position) 20 reps. Okudah with a more CB-typical/low 11 reps. That’s quite a differentiator…in Henderson’s favor…judging between them. Not the end all, but it catches my attention for sure.
2) Okudah came in with very small 8.5” hands. Not great for turnover creation, in theory…especially if he goes to a cold weather team. Henderson with a smaller/but better 9.0” measurement.
I’m still with Henderson over Okudah…the Combine only enhanced that. We’ll see what our computer models say ahead.
Getting these corner evaluations right, properly identifying the true shutdown corners – it matters in dynasty/fantasy projections when we consider their impact to an overall DST and opposing WRs they are likely to face, the impact to the WR’s scoring upside/potential in their future matchups.
Jalen Ramsey or Marcus Lattimore or Stephon Gilmore, etc. – they matter, and you don’t want your WR having to face them 2x a year. Let’s say C.J. Henderson is the next great, and he goes to Seattle…then SEA and LAR from the AFC West have shutdown corners for Christian Kirk and Deebo Samuel 4x a year, potentially. If Henderson goes to the Jets…then NE, BUF (White), and NYJ might all have top shutdown corners for Miami’s top WR to face 5-6x a year (for fantasy). The high-end CBs matter in fantasy projections.
-- Two of my favorite under-the-radar CB prospects held up well through the Combine, but had a couple concerning measurements…
Nebraska CB Lamar Jackson, the 6’2”/208 big corner, ran a solid 4.58 (for his size) but then I saw his 10 reps on the bench and it made me worry – that he’s not taking this as seriously as he should. Jackson could be a nice developmental corner or fallback to a safety, but 10 bench reps tells me he’s not ‘wanting it’ bad enough (or some other issue afoot).
My late-breaking new fave, Florida Int’l CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver, only came in at 6’0” (I thought he’d be 6’1”+) but did run a nice 4.48 40-time.
-- Utah CB prospect Javelin Guidry got my attention, and not just because of the 4.29 40-time, although that don’t hurt!
I preview graded Guidry as a D+…talented, quick but too small to be taken too seriously. Well, a couple good things come of that at the Combine…
He ran the 4.29…so, we’re talking ‘not just quick’ but really quick/fast potentially.
I thought he was around 5’8”/185, but he came in at 5’9”/191…every little bit helps.
But take that bigger/thicker size, with high-end speed, and consider 21 bench reps in that package – he’s taking his body seriously. He's ready to fight in the NFL.
-- Two of the best safety prospects in the draft are coming from NOT-D1 ranks, two guys we preview graded very highly delivered at the Combine…
Most people were onto Lenoir-Rhyne College’s Kyle Dugger from the Senior Bowl…and he lit up the Combine measurements at 217 pounds running a 4.49 40-time with a 42” vertical and a nice 11’2” broad jump. High-end numbers at that size. He’s a top 30-50 prospect.
Southern Illinois’s Jeremy Chinn was rated just behind Dugger among the top safeties for me, but the mainstream was a bit asleep on him – asleep no more. Chinn may have jumped into the top 3 safety conversation coming in at 6’3”/221, running a 4.45 40-time, with 20 bench reps and a 41” vertical, and a whopping 11’6” broad jump. Super high-end for Chinn.
These two guys are bargain versions of those teams who cannot get LSU’s Grant Delpit (who didn’t do anything at the Combine and didn’t need to). They should both be ranked ahead of Xavier McKinney, but because neither went to ‘Alabama’, they won’t…and it will cost them millions upfront, potentially. That’s the part of this business, this dereliction of duty that makes me sick – the lazy LSU/Alabama/Ohio State boost ratings and the ignoring of a guy like Jeremy Chinn…it will cost Chinn hundred’s of thousands of dollars if not millions in his first contract. All because of bad, lazy scouting and the fawning, unstudied football media echo chamber.
-- Two safeties not mentioned as top 3 guys, typically…and one of them not top 10-15, that I like – they did pretty well for themselves at the Combine.
Antoine Winfield Jr. is a top 5 safety prospect for most analysts, and he ran a 4.45 40-time to help keep his place secure.
One of my favorite safety prospects was a little off the grid, but maybe not any more…Auburn’s Daniel Thomas ran a 4.51 40-time and posted 24 reps on the bench with a 37” vertical – all nice at 5’10”/215. All I know is – that dude can play, and now he has measurables to back up his NFL viability.
-- A safety prospect I never liked as much as some outlets did, Notre Dame’s Jalen Elliott, likely ended his NFL journey here at the Combine – a 4.8+ 40-time is NFL death in the draft. He’s undraftable and a future XFL’er, if that league makes it past another year.
Wrap up comments…
-- What a crazy (good) 2020 draft class…some of the best prospects, best athletes at the top of the class I’ve ever seen. Think about it…
QB: Joe Burrow destroyed college football like no one ever has.
RB: Jonathan Taylor is one of the best built RB prospects I’ve seen in years.
WR: Chase Claypool is a total freak athlete for his size.
OL = There’s 2-3-4 OL prospects that would be #1 overall picks in drafts but this class is so loaded they’ll go top 10 with top 1 abilities, potentially. I mean, what Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs did at the Combine is surreal.
EDGE = Chase Young may be the best pass rusher in years and years. A #1 pick potential.
ILB = Kenneth Murray may be the best ILB prospect in years.
OLB = Isaiah Simmons is like a better Jamie Collins freak show athlete entering the league…an OLB, EDGE, SAF do-it-all prospect.
CB = C.J. Henderson and Jeff Okudah are two of maybe 3-4 shutdown corners available.
SAF = Grant Delpit might be the best safety I’ve seen in years…and Jeremy Chinn is stunning in size/athleticism.
The real let down position is tight end and edge rushers (after Young), other than that, it’s a pretty stacked draft class.
There are not just 1-2 elite players in this draft…there are like 5-6-7-8-9-10 of them, possibly more. It’s a surge of talent pressing into the league – and that is going to shake up expected production from existing players in the NFL. We’re another 2-3 years from ‘too much’ talent in the league, in certain positions – I’ve been saying for years the league should expand by two teams to accommodate it.
For Dynasty/Fantasy…it’s going to require much study and good investigation to pick through the talent, and more importantly – who is going to get a chance to play/produce…and who is buried by the mounting talent pipeline. RB Jonathan Taylor has been my jam for two years, but what if he’s drafted Tennessee behind Derrick Henry or onto the Rams as the takeover for Todd Gurley down the road (if Gurley still there)? Derrick Henry came in and was immediately behind Demarco Murray and took 2+ seasons to ‘happen’.
What an offseason this is going to be to figure out how to play 2020 and beyond.