NFL Draft

2017 NFL Combine Day One: What To Watch For

What a time to be alive. Welcome to the 2017 NFL Combine, kicking off this morning on NFL Network and running through Monday. Today begins with the offensive line and running backs going through tests and on-field drills. Here’s a few things to watch for from each.

Offensive Line

– I know the Pittsburgh Steelers will have minimal interest in the line, we haven’t done a single profile on one yet, but it’s the majority group today and it’s important to still know who these guys are. Maybe you’ll see them on the other sideline come Sundays.

– Utah’s Garett Bolles might be *the* name to keep an eye on. He’s considered one of the best tackles in this year’s class and Rotoworld’s Josh Norris think he may set records in the agility drills, the short shuttle and three cone.The records, held by Jason Kelce, are 4.14 and 7.22 respectively, so keep those in mind.

Daniel Brunskill is an interesting case study. A tight end at SDSU who is now converting to offensive tackle, he came into the Combine weighing in at 273 pounds. He’ll obviously continue to have to add weight and it’s tough to project what kind of athlete he’ll be knowing he’s got another 30 pounds to go. But at 6’5 with nearly 34 inch arms, he’s a project worth undertaking.

– Little biased here but one of the smallest school kids at the Combine is Indiana (PA)’s Ethan Cooper, a short drive away from my hometown and playing in the same conference – the PSAC – as my school. Cooper has played guard and tackle in college though at 6’2, it’s almost certain teams will view him as an interior player in the NFL. Let’s see if he rises to the moment.

Julie’n Davenport is another interesting prospect, from the way his name is spelled to his body type. Big, long frame, weighing in at 6’6/6 with 36 1/2 inch arms. He held his own at the Senior Bowl. Let’s see how he’s able to sink his hips and get low while mirroring.

– Indiana’s Dan Feeney is regarded as a run blocker first but at Mobile, I saw him show the ability to move in space. I think that will be on display here and he’ll walk away as one of the better guards of this class. 6’4 305 with nearly 33 1/2 inch arms.

Will Holden (Vanderbilt) was a late call-up to the Senior Bowl and had a strong Thursday practice. He’s got a great frame and I’m excited to see how he moves laterally in kickslide drills. Holden weighed in at 6’7/3 311 with over 33 inch arms and 10 inch hands.

– Think Taylor Moton will continue to impress. Dropped about 10 pounds from the Senior Bowl to the Combine. He’s got great feet and flexibility and the ability to open his hips on zone runs. Still a massive dude, coming in at 6’5/3 319 pounds and 34 1/8 inch arms. Dude checks all the boxes.

– I wasn’t impressed with Justin Senior’s week at Mobile though Mike Mayock – who probably watched him closer than I and, of course, knows infinitely more, said he got better throughout. This is an important day for him, probably more than everyone else. Does he have the feet to play tackle?

– If the Steelers have interest in a tackle, it might be Arkansas’ Dan Skipper. He’s got the whole Villanueva/Mihalik vibe going on, listed at 6’9/5 309, though ask him and he’s convinced he’s an even 6’10. Don’t know much about him but he’ll be fun to watch. Not too many guys looking like that strolling through Indy.

– I gotta admit I know nothing about William & Mary’s Jerry Ugokwe but he looks good getting off the bus. 6’7/2 321 pounds with 35+ inch arms. Obviously, he and Mike Tomlin share the same school so maybe they can swap campus stories.

Running Backs

– Saw some bad press coming Corey Clement’s way for on and off the field concerns. He’ll have the chance to show he’s a team guy talking to coaches and GMs and on the field, I think he’ll show off the great feet he has in small spaces. Ideal one-cut runner.

– Hard not to root for the little guys like Tarik Cohen from an equally small school, North Carolina A&T. Not even 5’7 but somehow has the second biggest hands of the group, 10 1/8. Here’s to hoping he runs fast and looks good out of the backfield. He’ll have to in order to get drafted in the late rounds.

– NC State’s Matthew Dayes doesn’t have power and I don’t think his 40 time will be that great but he could look good in the agility drills. His quick feet and change of direction is how he wins.

– Steelers have shown some interest in Texas’ D’Onta Freeman and at 233 pounds, he fits the profile of what the team looks for. He should turn in a strong 40 time, maybe in the high 4.4’s, which will help confirm his draft stock.

Kareem Hunt’s weight has bounced around and I want to see his 10 split and 40 time. One of mine and other’s sleeper picks in a Marina Trench deep running back class. I think he’ll look good catching passes and running routes too.

– USF’s Marlon Mack is someone our Josh Carney was really high on and should test well in this environment. Think he’ll touch the high 4.4’s.

Christian McCaffery has had a rough start to the Combine. Been criticized for coming in lighter than anticipated at 202 pounds with only nine inch hands. It’s just the bench press and in 24 hours, you’ll probably forget all about it, but ten reps won’t help his situation.

– Local name for all of you in the Western PA and West Virginia era. Rushel Shell. He’s well traveled and was one of the nation’s top recruits coming out of high school. Squatty size at under 5’10 and 227 pounds.

– Some fullback love. Florida State’s Freddie Stevenson is regarded as a good athlete who should look fluid in drills.

– BYU’s Jamaal Williams has love in some draft media circles as the do-everything player. Big guy with good feet and impressive burst. I could see the Steelers paying close attention to him.

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