Welcome to one of the best times of the year. Glad you could join us. Today kicks off the testing portion of the 2019 NFL Combine. Throughout the morning and afternoon, three groups will workout: offensive linemen, running back, and specialists.
Even though these aren’t positions with giant needs, some of the highlights and players to note.
– We all know the Pittsburgh Steelers like their backs big. Heck, check out the sizes on their roster right now.
Steelers sure like their backs big. All the RBs on their roster right now (Bell & Ridley set to hit free agency).
Bell: 6'1 225
Ridley: 5'11 220
Conner: 6'1 233
Samuels: 6'0 225
Edmunds: 6'2 223
Webb: 5'11 200
M. Williams: 6'3 220
Definitely have a "type."
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) February 22, 2019
Five of the seven at least six-foot, all of them at least 5’11, and six of them listed at 220+ pounds. So when you’re looking for a back who could become this team’s #3, a clear need on this team, look for the players towering over the rest.
– Some names who fit the bill: Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, Michigan State’s L.J. Scott, and Pitt’s Qadree Allison. Those are the three at the top of my list. Kansas State’s Alex Barnes fits that bill too (6’0/3 226) and put up the best bench by a back this last decade, repping 34 times yesterday.
Scott is the player I’ve studied the most. Natural hands, excellent in pass protection. Someone I think capable of making an impact in Year One. His speed isn’t great and I’m curious how he tests in the 40 time and agility drills.
– Smaller backs but also great pass protectors include Miami (FL)’s Travis Homer and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams.
– The best back here by most accounts is Josh Jacobs, who could put in a Derrick Henry like performance, testing really well despite a big body (Jacobs is about 25 pounds lighter, to be clear, but still a mountain of a dude).
– Elijah Hoyfield out of Georgia has gotten a lot of hype by draftniks who should also have an encouraging workout. Myles Gaskin impressed some by cracking the 200 barrier, weighing in at 205 pounds. He’s expected to run in the 4.4’s.
– Benny Snell (Kentucky) and Dexter Williams (Notre Dame) are two players I haven’t dedicated studying but have watched their games and come away impressed. Feels like the Wildcats have 20 prospects at Indy this year.
– For the old-school fans out here, only one fullback got the invite. That’s Wisconsin’s Alec Ingold who weighed in at 6’0/6 242 pounds. Not just a blocker though, he scored 21 touchdowns as a Badger, often used in a short-yardage role.
– In terms of drills, always interested in seeing how these guys catch the football. Most of these guys didn’t do a lot of it in college. They should’ve been working on it leading up to the Combine but still, let’s see who’s a natural and who isn’t. Who fights the football, double-catches, and can track the football vertically on their wheel/seam routes.
– Obviously, the Steelers aren’t expected to address this position until maybe Day Three. It’s good to know who the top names are if you end up playing against them.
Jonah Williams’ length shouldn’t worry anyone. Hailing from Alabama, Measured in at 33 5/8 inches which sure, isn’t elite, but the league is littered with examples of players similar or shorter with plenty of NFL success (David Bakhtiari, Mitchell Schwartz). He may be the first linemen off the board.
If he’s not, then look towards Florida’s Jawaan Taylor. Big, mobile, he has a combination of athleticism and strength. Reports indicated weight concerns with him so it was great to see a slimmer version of himself at 312 pounds.
– Some other first round possibilities include: Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard, and NC State’s Garrett Bradbury. Bradbury is the type of dude the Patriots will take with the last pick of the first round and start him for the next ten years. Dillard impressed well at the Senior Bowl coming from WSU’s pass-heavy scheme while Lindstrom is a big dude with a strong anchor.
– Even though he won’t end up in a Steelers’ uniform, there’s few players I’m excited to watch work out more than USC tackle Chuma Edoga. Similar to Chukwuma Okorafor, Edoga played soccer growing up, though Edoga came to football earlier than Okorafor. Great Senior Bowl week, natural mover with a good strike. Came in on the short side at under 6’4 but his length is excellent. 34 3/4 inch vines.
– As I mentioned in my mock draft, South Carolina’s Zach Bailey reminds me, on paper at least, of former Steelers’ 5th round draft pick Wesley Johnson. Similar measurables.
Johnson: 6’5 297, 33 1/8 inch arms
Bailey: 6’5 299, 33 inch arms
Versatile too. Bailey saw starts at center, right tackle, and left guard. Could see him as a 7th round pick.
– What to watch for in these drills? Watch out for the guys who cheat the drill. Try to flip their hips before the coach instructs them too. Guys who don’t “chase the rabbit” in the mirror drill, staying in their little box without truly staying in front of the “rusher.” Who has the conditoning to finish out an exhausting day and process? Who looks just as strong at the end of drills as they did at the beginning?