2022 NFL Combine Day Four On-Field/Measurables: Reactions to the DB, ST Group
Just a quick reaction from day four of the Combine measurements and drills, in somewhat random order of my notes:
Another day of times that defy all prior scouting logic…but they seem to be real. Let’s dive into my notes on the CBs first, followed by the safeties, and then the special teams guys (and we need to talk about them)...
To talk about the CB group, my first takeaway thought is…if a corner can run with a 4.5s 40-time or faster and have a decent or better three-cone/agility at 180+ pounds…then you have my (scouting) attention.
In 2020 (the last Combine), 25 corners weighed 180 or more pounds and ran a 4.59 or better 40-time.
In 2022, 31 of the 38 CB prospect participants fit in that basket. Of the seven that didn’t, 6 of them just didn’t run the 40 to find out.
In 2020, at the Combine, three CBs ran faster than a 4.40 40-time (regardless of weight)…running in the 4.3s, 4.2s.
In 2022, 10 CB prospects beat the 4.40 mark.
I’d like to delineate the CB group more based on three-cone thrown in there as well, but only one CB prospect graced us with running the three-cone…and the judges for that were probably delighted that someone wanted to do it and rewarded him with a mind-blowing 6.48 time.
40-time is not everything for a cornerback. The three 2020 CB prospects who ran under 4.40…Javaris Davis, Javelin Guidry, and C.J. Henderson. Henderson is a high 1st-round pick who has ‘acted’ his way to being given up (right now) and the other guys didn’t get drafted…but Guidry is starting to show some competence.
In 2019, four CB prospects achieved a 40-time under 4.40…Jamel Dean, Mark Fields, Kendall Sheffield, Greedy Williams. And what I can tell you about that group is you couldn’t care less about them, but Dean is pretty solid/good and might be a Pro Bowl player in the future.
Seven CBs (2019 + 2020) beat a 4.40 40-time in the previous Combines. One CB is ‘making it’ pretty well (Dean) and one guy is great, but throwing his career away (Henderson)…so, right now, out of 7 ‘fast guy’ corners from recent Combines, six of them are about useless to their teams. Maybe just five of them to be generous…but that’s still above 50% ‘failure’. Statistically speaking, great 40-time doesn’t equal success…it more portends no real ROI, in this current era.
So, with that said…why is everyone on the NFL Network losing their mind about the 40-times of these CBs again? The more or equally critical measurement is overall size and the agility times, and 10/20-yard times mixed together…but the NFL Network ignorantly ignores the three-cone, and thus the college prospects just blow it off…which is sad, because that number means more than the 40-time to me.
I now have to hope a lot of these guys do the three-cone at their Pro Day (with favorable-to-them timers) to get some idea of the overall package…meaning, in the end, scouting CBs is more about the tape…and the Combine more for ruling out guys based on too slow or unagile…and ‘fast’ doesn’t really matter, you just don’t want ‘slow’.
So, instead of ogling the 40-times, or we’d be here forever, I’m just going to hit notes on some of my CBs of interest…some of the commentary with little to do about the 40-time!
-- Clemson CB Andrew Booth is my top-rated CB from my Combine preview tape, and he didn’t get to workout here because he got hurt prepping for this event. I’m sure he’d run a capable to good to great 40-time, so I’m not ready to change my opinion yet…but we’ll see what the computer thinks of all this in a few weeks when we start debuting all the positional computer model grades.
-- If Booth is gonna get bumped for any CB, for #1 CB…for me, it would likely be for Cincy CB Sauce Gardner…and I already hate typing/calling a grown man ‘Sauce’, but…hey…at least it’s not ‘Jackrabbit’.
Gardner’s 4.41 40-time with long arms (#1 wingspan at 79.4”) and supreme confidence…it all made him the obvious top ‘winner’ of the media hype/buzz from this event…that’s true from what I see in the media and confirmed from my gut feel/what behind-the-scenes scouting people are talking about or bringing up.
There are two CBs mentioned most to me post-Combine, and ‘Sauce’ is one of them…and he’s gonna go top 10, if not top 5 overall now…and Xavier Cromartie had him #2 overall on his post-Combine mock today. We’ll see where Ross Jacobs lands him in his post-Combine mock this week.
-- I love Houston CB Marcus Jones, but he didn’t do any of the times/measurements, etc., so he’s still a tape scouting projection – my #2 graded pre-Combine CB…but he’s going to lose ground now with the cluster of CBs also running fast, and doing so at a much bigger size. Jones could’ve run a 4.33 here (let’s say) and it wouldn’t have stood out like it would have 2-3-4 years ago.
Jones is fast + talented in coverage…but is too small (5’8”/174) to get any real life draft heat. He’s a draft day sleeper for sure. I have said – he’s Tyreek Hill playing cornerback…complete with being maybe the most dangerous return man here.
-- If ‘Sauce’ won the Combine hype generation, then Sam Houston State CB Zyon McCollum was the runner up. I mean, the measurables are insane…
4.33 40-time, 39.5” vertical (#2 among CBs), an 11’0” broad (#1 among CBs)
He was the only CB to register a short-shuttle and three-cone and ‘wow’…3.94 shuttle and 6.48 three-cone is inhuman.
-- Auburn’s Roger McCreary was a top CB for many to start the draft season (back in January) but he’s slowly been fading since and his 4.50 40-time (now ‘average’) here and his 5’11”/190 size (now seen as ‘smaller’) didn’t help light the fuse on more draft heat. He’s falling from a top 50 pick to #51-100+.
-- There’s a draft hype war with Derek Stingley…he’s a pre-made top guy because of his recognizable last name, SEC affiliation, and overall solid play – but with his absence here, it allowed other ‘loves’ to be discovered for the analysts.
Stingley probably lost his mainstream ‘top guy’ CB spot to ‘Sauce’ but he’ll still go top 15-20 most likely. He had his spot reserved by the early rankings that are almost always way off/wrong from the mainstream – from the same people who pushed Spencer Rattler as the next big franchise QB this past summer…(in case you needed a reminder on how bad they are at ‘seeing’ anything early stages).
-- Good thing Tennessee CB Alontae Taylor has such a nice mentor in former UT DB, NFLer, now TV analyst Charles Davis.
Davis went on about how he was assigned Taylor by UT in a mentor program for the football players, and then boasted on his character, football IQ, personality, and abilities. Daniel Jeremiah said something like – I think Taylor can move to safety…which is a dismissal statement on a corner, not a compliment. Davis then chimed in agreeing with that statement.
You want to be pushed as a cornerback in the NFL Draft, NOT a safety…and if Taylor’s mentor is just going to rollover on that…not helpful, dude. Not helpful.
Where’s Willie McGinest to lie for you/hype you up when you need him (like he did covering for Thibodeaux the day before)?
-- The other athletic star of the CB show was UTSA CB Tariq Woolen…a 6’4”/205 and ran a 4.26 (fastest 40-time) with a 42” vertical (best among CBs). He didn’t do the three-cone, which held the full explosion hype down a tick.
Still…that speed at 6’4” with a 79” wingspan. I don’t know how you keep him out of the 1st-round of this draft.
After the corners did their thing, the safeties were tasked with following it…which seemed like poor planning, because the safeties are not going to run as fast as corners, and safety is one of the most generic/lower paid positions in the league…and not key like cornerback.
Regardless of all that, the safeties were very fast…a bunch of times in the 4.3s, which is a befitting way to end the 2022 Combine – more record ‘fast’ performances.
-- Toledo Tycen Anderson was the first safety to run and he didn’t disappoint…a 4.36 40-time (2nd-best) and 6.64 three-cone (2nd-best). Only Dax Hill ran a better three-cone, but Hill is also 18 pounds lighter. Big day for Anderson to get draft momentum.
-- Penn State’s Jaquan Brisker was solid, under the new world order of everyone running in the 4.3s…just a simple 4.49 for Brisker with the 2nd-best (among SAF) 22 bench reps. Xavier Cromartie is a big fan of Brisker. I like him…but I see many others to like better, and most available at a cheaper draft price. But he’s an NFL-talent for sure.
-- Georgia’s Lewis Cine is one of my favorite SAF prospects, and a 4.37 40-time with a best in SAF class 11’1 broad jump, which is ‘sweet’.
-- Maryland’s Nick Cross is another favorite of mine, from my Combine previews…but I did not see a 4.34 40-time coming. That's a big time for him – he may have moved into being a top 50 pick…at 212 pounds.
-- Which leads us to Notre Dame’s overhyped SAF Kyle Hamilton…I’ve been trying to warn everyone. It’s not that Hamilton is terrible, it’s just there are so many equal/better safeties that don’t have the Notre Dame rub/bump.
A 4.59 40-time is not great for a safety before the turbocharged era, now it’s a turtle-like speed.
Whatever team wastes a 1st-round pick on Hamilton is a bad NFL personnel department, and a bad business group. You don’t pick safeties top 20-30 in the NFL…it’s minimizing the power of manipulating (in your favor) the salary cap – safety is a lower paid position some team will give a top 10 pick/payroll slot to. There’s probably, at least, five SAF prospects better than Hamilton…most/all of them available after the 1st-round.
Kyle Hamilton and Kayvon Thibodeaux are the two ‘if your team picks them top 10/20…they’re bad at personnel’ picks I see standing out most glaringly in 2022.
-- I thought Michigan’s Dax Hill would make a good CB prospect, and his 4.28 40-time with a 6.57 three-cone doesn’t make me think any less of that concept. He probably got himself into the 1st-round with this Combine.
-- And then there’s the guy who might be (will be) the best safety out of all these guys, Baylor’s Jalen Pitre. A great player on tape…the best SAF on tape and running a 6.74 three-cone and 4.18 shuttle here only helps his cause.
We need to talk about some of the special team’s guys here, because this is one of the best classes of talent among the kicker/punter group there’s ever been, potentially. And, yes, they set 40-time records as a group too…
-- Just to mention it for those who hadn’t really caught it…the San Diego State punter Matt Araiza is probably the best punter prospect in the history of the NFL. Xavier Cromartie putting him into his top 100 prospects early on…he’s not joking. I wouldn’t be shocked if Araiza went in the 2nd-round, he’s that good.
You think the 40-times are insane, you think Jordan Davis is a freak…Araiza is one of the handful of freaks (of talent) out there for this draft.
I’ve, personally, never seen a punter with the power and accuracy of Araiza. It’s all legit. I would consider taking him top 50, he changes the game that much.
-- There’s also a potential ‘next Evan McPherson’ at kicker at this year’s Combine as well…
LSU’s Cade York hit 15-of-19 FGs in his college career…a 6’1”/206 kicker with a big leg like McPherson; he reminds me so much of McPherson watching his workouts.
-- One other kicker I wanted to mention, after watching his and workouts…Oklahoma’s Gabe Brkic. 6’1”/201 and he hit 10-of-14 of 50+ yard FGs in his career. In 2019, he hit 17-of-17 on all FG attempts but then fell to 76.9% exactly the last two seasons on all FG-attempts. He’s a quality alternative to those teams in need, and they miss out on York.