Impressions from Day Two at the 2020 NFL Combine which saw the running backs and offensive linemen workout.
– Strong group overall, which was as expected headed into the week. I doubted Jonathan Taylor’s overall athleticism in my scouting report but he proved those doubts wrong and showed off his high school/track speed. Fantastic numbers, highlighted by a 4.39 40 – the fastest of the group despite weighing in at 226 pounds – with a solid 36 inch vert and 10’3″ broad. He also caught the ball cleanly and away from his body.
Someone I’m gonna have to go back and check out. But given that profile with his size and ridiculous production, if he’s there at #49 to Pittsburgh – and after today, there’s surely no guarantee of that – you have to think the Steelers will have some level of interest. Moreso than any other back in this class.
– Cam Akers from Florida State put together a strong day too. Great feet, he killed it in the “Duce Staley” drill where the players jumped over the bags, and caught the ball well in drills. Had an impressive one-handed snag in the flat early on. 4.47 40 is excellent.
– AJ Dillon out of BC is certainly a freak. 247 pounds but pulled off a 4.53 40, 41 inch vert, 10’11” broad and 23 reps on the bar. Athletic profile most don’t have.
– Very few players from this group felt like a disappointment. Utah’s Zack Moss ran poorly, in the 4.7’s, but apparently pushed through a hamstring injury. Is that an excuse? Hopefully he can run at his Pro Day and we’ll find out.
– Couple of small backs you’d expect to catch the ball well struggled a bit. Talking about Baylor’s JaMycal Hasty and Arizona’s JJ Taylor. At least two drops for both of them going through drills and neither ran well. 4.55 and 4.61 respectively.
– Looking for a small school sleeper? Check out Illinois State’s James Robinson. I know I need to. Highly productive at the FCS level who didn’t run fast, a 4.64 at 219 pounds, but a 40 inch vert and 10’5″ broad. Those explosion numbers are impressive.
– An excellent group, as we all anticipated headed into Friday. Steelers won’t be in play for any of these guys, all first rounders, but take your pick between Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson and Andrew Thomas, or Louisville’s Mehki Becton. Becton ran 5.10 at 357 pounds while Wirfs monster lower half generated a ton of power for his broad (10’5″) and vert (36.5). The latter is a Combine record for the hog mollies up front. Wirfs’ 4.85 40 (1.69 split) actually felt like he had a second gear 20 yards in. Absurd for a linemen.
Josh Jones out of Houston is likely to be a first rounder while I can see UConn’s Matt Peart sneaking in or at worst, going early in the second round.
– South Carolina State’s Alex Taylor is a mountain of a man at over 6’8, the tallest play at Indy, and ran well at 5.09. But he has to have the thinnest ankles, a super lanky frame, and showed some tightness in his hips/ankles going through drills. An interesting prospect but definitely a project who isn’t NFL ready. I’m not even sure what kind of NFL comparison to make. King Dunlap, maybe?
– Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland had an awesome today. Impressive athletic scores across the board. Second fastest 40 at 4.93 (1.73 ten split) with 30 reps on the bar, 30 inches in the vert, and a 4.46/7.26 in the short shuttle/three cone. Those agility drills were both best of the offensive line. Looked very fluid and controlled in drills. Tier 2 tackle but for teams who miss out in the first round, maybe ones who look at QBs or WRs early, Cleveland will be in play.
– Charlie Heck out of UNC with just a rock solid day. Big lower half and though not a great athlete, his steps eat up a lot of ground and he’ll win with his overall size (6’7, 311) and length (34 1/8 inch arms) to ride defenders up the arc. Son of Chiefs’ OL coach Andy Heck so he’s technically sound.
Interior Offensive Line
– The main focus of need for Pittsburgh. Similar to the Senior Bowl, Temple’s Matt Hennessy continues to impress me. Smooth, fluid athlete who plays with a good base and bend as shown in the wave drill that shows change of direction ability. I liked that his hands didn’t flail in the drill. Kept them high, inside, whereas with some guys, they’re all over the place because they’re working so hard in the drill. Hennessy makes it look easy.
He also did well in the shuttle drills with a 4.60 and 7.45 in the short shuttle and three cone. Definitely on my radar for Pittsburgh though I don’t think he falls out of Day Two.
– Similar for Oregon’s Shane Lemieux. Didn’t test quite as well as Hennessy but he’s known for his physical demeanor as the Ducks’ left guard for nearly 40 games.
– Bummed about a couple of the LSU guys. Lloyd Cushenberry came up lame with a hamstring pull on his second 40 run while Damien Lewis rolled an ankle early in drills. Both didn’t finish the day. Give them a lot of credit. They haven’t stopped working since the summer. Went through the entire, National Championship season with the Tigers, then competed in the Senior Bowl a week later, followed up by pre-draft training and now the Combine. Their bodies have been through a lot and I have to tip my cap for their competitiveness. Lewis is a little small for Pittsburgh but Cushenberry is a strong fit.
– Nice day overall for Jon Runyan Jr. Liked the power on his punch and tested as an above average athlete. 1.79 ten split, 5.08 40, with a 4.69 short shuttle and 7.57 three cone. The latter ranked third among all offensive linemen. His versatility is a calling card. Ditto with the other Duck working out, Calvin Throckmorton, who had a decent day.
– Nick Harris is vertically challenged, just peeking over six foot, but he sure moves well. Plus plus athlete. Probably not a fit for Pittsburgh but in a zone heavy scheme, he could compete for a role.
– Last note. Didn’t like the changes made to this year’s event. The drills were really hard to evaluate. Don’t understand why the TEs were on the blocking sled and the linemen weren’t. There were hardly any drills where they even had bags for them to hit. The fold block drill they’ve run for years didn’t have any bags this year. I want to see (and hear) how these guys hit a target, how they use their leverage, how they place their hands, how they drive their feet. You lose all of that.
I was ok with some of the changes, getting rid of the “rabbit” was a smart idea (why make someone working in their biggest job interview run around and tire himself out?) but overall, things were worse. The “screen” drill is one of the dumbest ones I’ve seen. Learn nothing from it.