Another NFL Combine has come and gone, and now attention turns to free agency and the Draft. Some prospects did not perform as well as they hoped, but here are 10 players who helped themselves over the past week.
10. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Playing for an FCS school, Chinn was often the best player on the field, not to mention the most athletic. He was a solid producer during his college career, and entered the pre-Draft process as a Day 3 sleeper. He’s now square on NFL teams’ radars after measuring in at 6’3″ 221lbs, great size for a hybrid safety/linebacker.
But even more impressive than his frame was his performance during the on-field testing. His 4.41-second 40-yard dash was tied for third-fastest among all safeties. His 41″ vertical jump was tied for second. He lead all safeties in the broad jump with a mark of 138. He’s a work in progress as far as field awareness and football IQ, but Chinn has rare physical gifts which could very well make him a Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft.
9. Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah
Guidry was rarely talked about prior to the Combine, and he’s still likely to be a Day 3 selection, but being one of only two players to run a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash is impressive. NFL teams are always looking for fast cornerbacks, and even though Guidry is undersized (5’9″ 191lbs) and underdeveloped, he’s athletic enough for a team to take a risk on. Had Guidry ran in the 4.5’s, he may not have even been drafted. Now, he could be a 4th or 5th-rounder.
8. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
This running back class lacks a talent on the level of Saquon Barkley, but there will be plenty of starting-caliber players taken on Day 2, and Akers is one of them. His 40 time of 4.47 seconds placed him fifth among RBs. The rest of Akers’ athletic testing wasn’t too noteworthy, but during the RB drills, he looked extremely smooth and agile.
A few hours in a controlled environment doesn’t outweigh three years of film, but Akers’ performance in Indianapolis matches his game tape for the Seminoles. He’s not the biggest, nor the most explosive, but he has high all-around potential, and will make a team quite happy in the middle of the NFL Draft.
7. Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
With good production and good size (6’3″ 247lbs), Harrison looks like a future NFL starter on paper. But there were concerns about his athleticism, which would limit his NFL ceiling. Harrison laid those concerns to rest with a good all-around performance in the athletic drills.
40-yard dash: 4.66 – T – 15th
Vertical jump: 36″ – 8th
Broad jump – 122″ – T – 9th
Shuttle – 4.32 – T – 9th
3-Cone – 6.83 – 1st
Aside from his group-leading 3-cone time, Harrison’s rankings aren’t all that impressive, but in a vacuum they are very solid for the position. He did more than enough to prove he has the athleticism to be a good NFL player, and should be a Day 2 pick.
6. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Taylor was always likely to be the first RB taken this year; he has great size and incredible production. But when he placed in the top five in the shuttle and 3-cone drills, after running the fastest 40 time (4.39) of all backs, Taylor cemented his status as a first-round pick. His massive collegiate workload is a concern, but Taylor has the size, power, explosiveness, and vision to find immediate success wherever he ends up.
5. Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State
This offensive tackle class is absolutely loaded, and the position group dominated Combine headlines. Boise State has produced NFL talent on the OL for years now, and Cleveland is the next man up. At 6’6″ 311lbs, Cleveland has a solid frame, although his arms are a bit shorter than ideal length at 33 3/8.
Cleveland’s biggest flaw is his lack of strength, but his athleticism is top-tier, and he was able to show that off in a truly excellent performance for an OL. Here are his drills ranks:
40-yard dash: 4.93 – 3rd
Vertical jump: 30″ – T – 10th
Broad jump – 111″ – 7th
Shuttle – 4.46 – 1st
3-cone – 7.26 – 1st
Cleveland’s shuttle time is the second-fastest among all OL since 2000, and his 3-cone ranks third. Super-athletic lineman don’t always work out, but they’re a safer bet than stiff ones. Cleveland may not be an instant starter, but his elite athleticism has put him firmly in the second-round discussion, and he could go even higher than that.
4. C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
LSU’s Kristian Fulton was widely considered to be the second-best CB prospect in this class prior to the Combine, but Henderson may have just passed him up. Fulton’s 40 time of 4.46 was just fine, but Henderson ran a 4.39, tied for second to only Guidry among CBs.
His vertical of 37.5″ was also tied for third. Of course, the Combine isn’t everything, but Henderson’s film is quite good, and it’s clear he has the physical tools to function at a high level in the pros. Fulton and Henderson are similar prospects as far as stock, and when two players are close, the better athlete is almost always taken first.
3. Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Perhaps this class’s biggest boom-or-bust prospect, Becton weighed in at a monstrous 6’7″ 364lbs, measured with just 17% body fat, then went out an ran a 5.11 40-yard dash. That’s the fastest time ever recorded for a player over 350lbs. Becton unfortunately did not participate in any other drills, but he did what he needed to do.
Teams will be enamored by his physical gifts and off-the-charts potential, even though his film isn’t as good as the other top OL prospects in this class, and he doesn’t have anywhere close to the same experience or performance in pass protection.
To call Becton a project would be an understatement, but the possible reward is tantalizing, and he could easily be a top-10 pick because of it.
2. Isaiah Simmons, Defender, Clemson
Everyone knew Simmons would perform well at the Combine, and he did not disappoint. At 6’4″ 238lbs, Simmons went 4.39 in the 40, 39″ in the vertical, and 132″ in the broad, numbers which ranked first, tied for third, and second among linebackers, and second, third, and fourth among safeties.
His size, athleticism, and skill at multiple positions is unheard of. The closest comparison to Simmons is the Los Angeles Chargers Derwin James, but even that’s a bit of stretch. Simmons has an excellent chance to be chosen in the top 10 and could even be the first defensive player drafted after Chase Young, as high as third overall.
1. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
While Becton was breaking records for his weight class, Wirfs was breaking records for the OL position as a whole. Despite his obvious athletic ability and prowess at right tackle on film, some pundits have suggested that Wirfs move inside to guard at the next level.
He measured 6’5″ 320lbs, with 34″ arms, which should eliminate the guard talk. But it was his on-field testing that stole the show. Wirfs began with a 36.5″ vertical, two inches better than the second-best OL. It also happens to be the highest vertical ever recorded for an OL. He then added a 121″ broad jump, tied for best all-time. He had solid shuttle and 3-cone times, but his 40-yard dash was the talk of the Combine. He ran it in 4.85 seconds, easily besting this OL class, and placing third all-time.
Athletic testing does not make a prospect, but Wirfs’ film is great and he was already in the top tier of OT prospects this year. His NFL Combine performance may have pushed him to the very top, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up going fourth overall to the New York Giants.