Welcome to Day One of the 2020 NFL Combine. Day One for the on-field testing, anyway. The NFL is pushing on-field testing and workouts to primetime in the hope to get more eyes and ears on everything from the 40 to position-specific drills. Today, the wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks will be on the field in Indy. Here’s what I’m looking for.
– From a Steelers’ perspective, this workout won’t mean much. In general, the workouts mean less for this position than most of the others. 40 times mean little and even the on-field drills are on air, with new receivers, and there isn’t a whole lot to learn from. Always interested in seeing how smooth and fluid QBs looking taking drops from under center but teams are going to fall back on the tape to evaluate these guys.
– Even after the Senior Bowl, I still view Justin Herbert and Jordan Love fighting to be the next QB off the board behind Burrow and Tua. Giving Herbert the edge right now but this is another chance for them to compete on the same stage. You should get a good feel for the velocity Love has as a passer today.
– The only non FBS QB officially invited (there are QBs brought into Indy just to throw, for the record)? Princeton’s Kevin Davidson. Chance for a small school player to show what he’s got. NFL size at 6’4 224 who threw 20 touchdowns as a senior.
– Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts is a really impressive player and person. Betting he did well in the interview and on the board. Should run well, though I’m glad no team is silly enough to ask him to work out at another position, and he reminds me of a poor man’s Deshaun Watson. Not interested in the Steelers drafting a QB but I like him. Has the leadership and competitiveness the position demands.
– This class is absolutely loaded. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Want a burner? Check out Texas’ Devin Duvernay and TCU’s Jalen Reagor. A jump ball machine? Baylor’s Denzel Mims and Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden. How about a slot type? SMU’s James Proche fits the bill.
And the talent at the top is stupid good. The Alabama kids, Henry Ruggs (who says he can beat John Ross’ 4.22 40) and Jerry Jeudy along with Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
– Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings have rare body types. Jennings won’t run very well, probably somewhere in the low 4.6’s, but throw that number out the window. His tape is impressive as a nightmare for small, slot corners.
– When it comes to players who will get looks for their versatility and impact in the return game, keep an eye on Virginia’s Joe Reed and Memphis’ Antonio Gibson.
– Finally, Dave Bryan has offered a strong case for LSU’s Justin Jefferson. I’ll be watching his workout closely.
– And overall, from a drill perspective, it’s always interesting to see what guy can work through these drills without slowing down. Take the gauntlet drill. Which players fight the ball, slow down to catch it, get rattled after one drop and let the next one through their hands too? You find out who is natural at catching the ball, even if the drill itself doesn’t have a lot of direct, NFL correlation.
– Can someone separate themselves? Last, best chance to do it. It’s impossible to know who is even the #1 tight end to come off the board? Is it Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet? Dayton’s Adam Trautman? Someone else.
– Washington’s Hunter Bryant may have some of the best testing of the group but for Pittsburgh, his lack of height (just over 6’2) and only average length will certainly work against him.
– Thaddeus Moss has said he’s not working out at the Combine. Which might be a good thing because I’ve heard he was probably going to run in the 4.8’s. That lack of athleticism is really limiting. Moss cites LSU’s long season as the reason why he’s not participating but plenty of his teammates are, including a couple who immediately played in the Senior Bowl. So that excuse doesn’t fly with me. Disappointing he’s not out there competing.
Given this group, anyone who can break into the 4.6’s is probably doing well for themselves. Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins told me at the Senior Bowl he expects to run somewhere in that range.
– UCLA’s Devin Asiasi may have a sneaky strong workout and is someone we as Steelers’ fans probably aren’t talking about enough. I’m also interested in checking out USF’s Mitchell Wilcox. Finally, Arkansas’ CJ O’Grady has a chance for positive press. Athletic, productive player (33 catches through seven games in 2019) but was suspended and kicked off the team mid-way through. Interviews for him to answer those questions will be critical.