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NFL Combine Wrap Up: Who is Rising? Who Surprised? And Who Solidified Their Stock?

NFL Combine Wrap Up: Who is Rising? Who Solidified Their Stock? Plus Our Overall Takeaways

The NFL Combine is in the books, and it proved to be the fastest Combine in the books. After a year off due to the pandemic, the NFL hosted the Combine in prime time for the first time ever. Members of The 33rd Team were in attendance for the Combine all week, and we bring you our overall takeaways here.

Players Continuing To Rise:

UTSA CB Tariq Woolen

Tariq Woolen has had one of the best pre-draft processes when it comes to cornerbacks. He had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, where he had the fastest MPH ever recorded at the Senior Bowl. He followed it up with a very strong combine performance. He ran a 4.26, and had a 42 in. vertical jump. This is an impressive feat, especially considering he is 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds.

Montana State LB Troy Andersen

Troy Andersen woke up any doubters this pre-draft process. The Montana State prospect had a fantastic combine. He ran a 4.42 40, which was fastest among all LBs at the combine. He also had the fifth best broad jump (10’8) among LBs. This was another great event for Andersen, who had a very good week at the Senior Bowl as well.

Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II

There may not be a player who has helped themselves more this pre-draft process than Jermaine Johnson II. Johnson ran a 4.58 at the combine, which was T-7th best among EDGE defenders. Even more impressive was his 10 yard split. His 1.55 10 yard split was really great to see and it’ll help his stock tremendously. He was by far the best defensive player at the Senior Bowl and this was another strong event for him.

UConn DL Travis Jones

Yes, Jordan Davis is a freak, and he deserves the attention he is getting. However, Travis Jones deserves some recognition as well. Travis Jones weighs 325 lbs, and he ran a 4.92 40 at the combine. That was fourth fastest among IDL, and it is a very impressive time for a guy that big. He also had a solid broad jump and vertical jump. This was a very important event for Jones, and he did a great job.

Minnesota EDGE Boye Mafe

For weeks there have been rumors that Boye Mafe was going to have a very impressive combine, and he did not disappoint. He ran the fourth fastest 40 yard dash (4.53) among EDGE defenders, and had a 38 inch vertical. That was T-2nd best among EDGE defenders. He was also T-4th among EDGE defenders in the broad jump with a 10’5. He is another player who had a strong Senior Bowl week and he followed it up with a strong combine, which will definitely help his stock.

Georgia EDGE Travon Walker

There has been some debate whether Travon Walker is an EDGE or a DT, however, there is nothing to debate about his athletic ability. At 272 lbs, Travon Walker had one of the most impressive combine performances out of everyone. He ran a 4.51 40 yard dash, which was third best among EDGE defenders. He had a very impressive 3 cone drill performance, coming in at 6.89. That was 2nd best among EDGE, only behind Aidan Hutchinson. He also performed well for his other drills as well. This week definitely helped his draft stock.

North Dakota State WR Christian Watson

Christian Watson was the most impressive receiver at the Senior Bowl, and he followed it up with an impressive showing at the Combine. He ran a 4.36 at 6-foot-4. That was sixth fastest among receivers, and he is significantly taller than the receivers who had better times than him. He also posted an impressive 38.5 in vert, and an 11’4 broad jump. His broad jump was the best among all wide receivers. Christian Watson has gone from a late round sleeper to a potential early day two pick due to his pre-draft process. 

Memphis WR Calvin Austin III

Calvin Austin III is one of the fastest receivers in this year’s class and he proved that this week. He ran a 4.32 40 yard dash, which ranked third among receivers. He also jumped an impressive 39 inches in the vertical jump. This was third best among receivers. For receivers, he had the second best broad jump (11’4”). He also had the best 3 cone drill (6.65), and 20 yard shuttle (4.07), among wide receivers. This was a very impressive showing for him and this will continue to help his stock. He is another player who had a strong Senior Bowl week. Austin has done a great job in the pre draft process.

Baylor DS JT Woods

JT Woods was a late add to the Senior Bowl, and he had an impressive showing when he arrived in Mobile. He followed that up with an impressive Combine performance. The Baylor product finished the day with the second fastest 40 time among safeties (4.36), only trailing Maryland’s Nick Cross. He also impressed in the vertical jump, coming away with the highest vertical among safeties (39.5). He also had the fourth farthest broad jump among safeties (10’8”). JT Woods is a name to watch, and should not be surprising to hear his name a lot more as we get closer to the draft.

Combine Measurements That Will Make Us Turn the Tape Back On:

With the 2022 rendition of the NFL Combine now in the books, teams now return home to compile the information gained on the attending prospects. While some teams may give additional weight to certain drills, measurements, or personality traits, every team is looking to match that data to the film reports they’ve worked on throughout the season. Here are the combine measurements that would send a team back to the tape to re-evaluate. 

Penn State LB Brandon Smith, UTSA CB Tariq Woolen, Georgia DT Jordan Davis

For these three prospects, there is no one measurement that could cause a team to salivate – it’s all of them. Woolen’s 4.26-second forty and 6’4 frame is well-noted, but Brandon Smith similarly blew away the LB field with a 4.52-second forty and 128-inch broad at 250 pounds. Don’t forget Jordan Davis, already one of the biggest players the NFL has seen running a 1.68-second 10-yard-split and broad jumping 123 inches. There’s explosive, and then there’s out-jumping Deebo Samuel and AJ Brown at 341 pounds. 

Maryland TE Chigoziem Okonkwo

Early Thursday, Okonkwo was in trouble. Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, he was one of the smallest TEs in the league and figured to miss the positional benchmarks set by many teams. Given only a single season of standout receiving production, he was at risk of falling out of the draft entirely. That almost certainly won’t happen after his 4.52-second forty and 35.5-inch vertical jump. While he may be small, Okonkwo also figures to be one of the fastest TEs in the league and a candidate to trouble LBs in space. Teams will definitely return to his film to evaluate whether his technique is something they can develop into a matchup nightmare. 

Virginia TE Jelani Woods

On the other end of the TE spectrum we find Virginia’s own Jelani Woods. With similar production over his four years to Okonkwo, the first thing that will stand out about Woods is his sheer size. At 6-foot-7, 253 pounds with 34.5-inch arms, he’s immediately bigger than all NFL DBs and most LBs. His 24 bench reps are close to average for the position, but the strength required to hit that mark given his ludicrously long arms is special. It may not be the deepest TE class, but there are definitely noteworthy players included – and we didn’t even mention Woods’ 4.61-second forty. 

LSU DT Neil Farrell Jr

For every player who climbs above the averages at their position, another must fall under. Unfortunately, Farrell falls into this category. Despite measuring in with near-ideal size at 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, he might have been better off taking the rest of the weekend off. A 21.5-inch vertical is one of the worst scores seen since Orlando Brown Jr, although even Brown’s famously bad Combine managed a three-cone time over half a second faster than Farrell’s 8.41. As a space-eating defensive tackle, Farrell won’t get out in space frequently but teams will need to take another hard look at whether he has the mental processing to compensate for poor athleticism. 

Notre Dame RB Kyren Williams

The RBs were flying this week. By @MathBomb’s excellent Relative Athletic Score, a whopping 13 RBs measured in the top quarter of prospects by size and athleticism. Kyren Williams was not that. He always figured to be small, with a 5-foot-9, 199-pound listed size fairly close to what he was measured at. However, the new information gained at the Combine doesn’t paint a flattering picture. 28.6-inch arms are some of the smallest measured, while every drill was mediocre at best – a 4.65-second forty, 32-inch vert, and 116-inch broad jump. At those numbers, he’ll have to show league-defining vision, processing, and toughness just to get drafted. 

Montana State LB Troy Anderson, North Dakota State WR Christian Watson, Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning

When evaluating smaller-school prospects, the biggest question is always the projection to NFL-caliber competition. Anderson and Watson were able to simply run past FCS opponents, but playing against hordes of SEC-groomed players is a different game – making hard data on their athleticism especially important. At least for this weekend, those fears have been quelled. Anderson showed the explosiveness and pure speed with a 128-inch broad and 4.42-second forty to be that sideline-to-sideline LB that teams crave. Watson has been whispered about for weeks due to his speed, but a 136-inch broad and 38.5-inch vert raise his ceiling even more if he can increase his consistency of ball tracking and hand strength. Finally, Penning has been throwing guys around in the MVC but a 7.25-second three-cone beat out the times of Mark Andrews, Dalvin Cook, and Dante Fowler. When matched with a 111-inch broad jump and 4.89-second forty, he may jump into the top half of the first round.

Players Who Solidified Their Stock

Georgia DL Jordan Davis 

Entering the weekend, many questions surrounded Davis’ athleticism and ability to contribute on all three downs, considering his massive size at 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds. Davis not only answered those questions but completely stole the show when it was his turn to test. While weighing in at 341 pounds, Davis ran a 4.78 forty yard dash, second among all DL, only behind teammate Devonte Wyatt. He also jumped 32 inches in the vertical jump, good for second best at the position, and broad jumped 123 inches, which was the best. 

Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner 

“Sauce” Gardner was extremely productive in college and clearly impressive on film, in terms of his length, fluidity, and physicality. He confirmed all of these at the combine and may have cemented himself as the top corner off of the board. At 6026, Gardner measured 33 ½ inch arms and ran a 4.41 forty yard dash. He also looked very comfortable moving and flipping his hips during the fieldwork portion of the workout. 

Notre Dame DS Kyle Hamilton 

Hamilton came into his workout as the consensus top safety in the class and to some, the top overall player. He certainly showed off his freakishness, as he measured in at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds while still managing to jump an impressive 38 inches in the vertical jump and 131 inches in the broad jump, confirming his high-level explosiveness. Hamilton only ran 4.59 in the forty which may have been a bit of a disappointment in some eyes, but considering his weight and ability to cover ground on tape, the number is not an issue. 

Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson 

Hutchinson, who will likely hear his name called within the top two picks come April, was also very impressive during his workout. He measured at a very tall 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, displaying the thick build that he possesses. He ran a respectable 4.74, and even more importantly, he had a 1.62 10 yard split. His explosiveness was also shown as he had a 36 inch vertical jump, 117 inch broad jump, 4.15 shuttle, and a blazing 6.73 3-cone. 

Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux 

Not many people question Thibodeaux’s athleticism, as more questions surround his character, but he answered both this weekend. Thibodeaux interviewed well at the podium in front of the media and ran a very quick 4.54 forty with a 1.59 10 yard split. He also benched 27 reps of 225, which is very impressive considering his long 33 ⅛ inch arms. 

Georgia DL Devonte Wyatt 

Like his fellow Georgia teammates, who collectively dominated the combine, Wyatt also tested very well. While also big in size, he is very small next to Jordan Davis, but Wyatt is considered the ultra-athletic one out of the duo. Wyatt’s 4.77 forty, best in the class, confirmed the athleticism that he shows on tape, specifically a play from this year’s SEC championship where he ran step for step with Bryce Young and chased him down for a tackle and forced fumble. Wyatt’s athleticism and size combination give many people hope that he could develop into a legit three-down defender, which is great news for his draft stock. 

Michigan DS Daxton Hill

Hill is another player that tested very well and confirmed his draft position as a late first-round, early second round player. Outside of what exact position he is best fit for in the league, Hill has not been heavily talked about, as there are not many concerns. He is an instinctual and very versatile player, but is also very athletic, as he ran 4.38 in the forty, 6.57 in the 3 cone, and ran a 4.06 shuttle. 

Florida CB Kaiir Elam 

Jockeying for a spot in this deep and talented cornerback class is difficult but Elam created some room for himself over the weekend. On tape, his size and physicality are evident, but some questions about his deep speed and fluidity still loomed. He answered many of those concerns with his performance as he ran a very fast 4.39 forty and measured in at 6014 and 191 pounds.

Boston College iOL Zion Johnson 

Johnson had an excellent senior bowl and was a riser from that event. With his name on the edge of the first round, his combine performance likely confirmed his position as the top guard available in this draft class. His explosiveness and raw strength were shown this weekend, as he benched 32 reps of 225, vertical jumped 32 inches, and posted an impressive 3 cone of 7.38 seconds. 

Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson 

The competition for the top receiver is still very much up for debate and will vary across teams’ big boards, but Garrett Wilson’s combine performance certainly helped his case. While he is considered the “safest” of the prospects, due to his high level COD and route running, Wilson shut down any doubts of his overall speed and athleticism. He ran a very fast 4.38 forty yard dash and jumped 36 inches in the vertical. 

NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu 

While Evan Neal’s physique may have been the talk of Indy, Ekwonu did his best to sway the attention back to him, as he is still competing for the top tackle spot in this draft class. Ekwonu is nasty and powerful on film, but he also showed how well he can move as a big man during his workout. He ran a forty yard dash in 4.93 seconds, with a 10 yard split of 1.76. Cross also measured having 34 inch arms and had a wingspan of 84 ¼ inches, answering any doubts over his arm length to play OT at the next level. 

Mississippi State OT Charles Cross 

Cross has been considered the third wheel in a two-player race for the top tackles spot but he is likely closer to Ekwonu and Neal than many think. Cross’s game is simple, as he is athletic and very smooth in pass protection. He has been and projects to be a very effective blindside blocker, which is invaluable. Cross showed off the athleticism and arm length that he displays on tape with a forty time of 4.95 and a broad jump of 112 inches, in addition to his 34 ½ inch arms. 

Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning 

Attention around Penning started well before the senior bowl but his name and draft stock exploded after the event. Penning is a nasty run blocker and has a lengthy build, as his combine performance confirmed his draft status as one of the top tackles and a likely, late first or early second round pick. Penning’s freaky athleticism and size combination was on display, as the 6-foot-7, 325-pounder ran a 4.89 forty yard dash, second among all OL, and a 3 cone of 7.25, which was best in the class.

Overall Takeaways + Pro Days to Watch:

This year’s NFL combine held an impressive group of athletes. Coming into the combine scouts knew that there was high athleticism and agility among this year’s class. The prospects especially brought speed, 31 of the athletes ran a sub 4.4 40 yard dash. In the last four combines, only 12, 13, 12, and 7 athletes accomplished this task dating back to 2017, respectively. This year the 2nd fastest time ever recorded at a combine was run by Kalon Barnes. The speed this group of prospects offers is unmatched by recent draft classes. 

 

Although we saw some great performances this past week there are still a group of prospects that are going to utilize pro days as an opportunity to show off their skills. These players will need to have big pro days in order to answer some questions from NFL teams and prove themselves. Some of the key players who will need to perform well at their pro day include Matt Corral (3/24), George Karlaftis (3/29), Jaquan Brisker (TBD), Justyn Ross (3/17) and Derek Stingley (4/6). Most of these players had lingering injuries or decided to wait until their pro day to test. The next month will continue the draft process and the next step in learning more about these players and their abilities.

This year’s combine may have been the last one we see in Indianapolis. The NFL combine has been held here since 1987. This has generally been on a year to year contract to keep the combine in Indianapolis and in the past there has been some talk about relocating the event. With no contract set in stone for 2023 we may see a change in location. Adam Schefter tweeted on March 4, 2022 that next year the combine may be held in Dallas, Los Angeles, or Indianapolis. The tweet also mentioned that a source said “decisions to be made soon”. Indianapolis has been preferred to host the combine because of the central location for teams to gather. It also offers convenience with a large convention center that has a walking path directly to the stadium and hotels surrounding it. It will be interesting to see where the combine takes place next year.