Combine Preview: WR, TE

By Jared Stanger

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Groups 4, 5, and 6 of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine arrive in Indianapolis on March 1st, and will be comprised of the QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s. For purposes of a Seattle Seahawk draft blog, I won’t be talking about the QB’s.

Wide Receiver

After hosting 42 WR in 2016 and 45 in 2015; with 58 invited in 2017, what this class lacks in top end WR1’s, it might be trying to compensate for in volume. I hope the combine organizers have lined up additional throwing QB’s.

With 58 receivers participating, they are a plethora of pretty much every type of wideout imaginable. Tall ones, short ones, fast ones, slow ones, slot ones, outside ones.

Tall ones: Ricky Seals-Jones, Kenny Golladay, Bug Howard, Mike Williams, Corey Davis.

Short ones: Greg Ward, Jesus Wilson, Artavis Scott, Speedy Noil, Gabe Marks.

Fast ones: John Ross, Shelton Gibson, Curtis Samuel, Victor Bolden, Mack Hollins.

Slow ones: well, let’s not throw them under the bus. Even some of the slow ones are intriguing this year.

Slot ones: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Trent Taylor, Ryan Switzer, Fred Ross.

Outside ones: Chad Hansen, Chris Godwin, Juju Smith-Schuster, Taywan Taylor, Josh Reynolds.

Five per category with no repeats, and that’s not even half of this class. I mean, where do you even start to talk about this many WR?

In terms of pure SPARQ; I think Mack Hollins (if healthy) has a chance to put up testing somewhere around a Martavis Bryant or Tyrell Williams. I can’t wait to see UW’s John Ross test…would love to see him win the 40. I could see Cooper Kupp having an overall top-5 WR SPARQ score.

Historically, wide receiver SPARQ hasn’t been a strong predictor of Seattle’s interest in a player. Kenny Lawler ran a 4.63 forty, Chris Harper ran a 4.55, Kevin Norwood ran a 4.48 but didn’t show much in the vert, shuttle, or bench. But they also drafted SPARQ freak Kris Durham for pretty much ONLY that reason.

In a general sense, I’ve long been eyeing the 3rd round as the sweet spot this year, but my current sense is that the group of Kupp, Jones, Carlos Henderson, Taylor are looking strongly 2nd round guys.

I think Kupp will surprise people. I think Taywan is a fairly well-documented SPARQ’d up guy. I don’t have a great sense for where Zay is at purely physically…I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a combine like Jordan Matthews did a couple years ago when people thought Jordan was slow…I also wouldn’t be surprised if Zay is an average runner (I lean toward Zay being faster than expected).

In a Seattle sense, if there are questions about Tyler Lockett’s health, Jermaine Kearse’s rebound from a rough 2016, getting out a year ahead of Paul Richardson’s impending free agency year, or a combination of any-of-the-above; your first time to really consider WR is in the 2nd round with that group. So those are a handful of guys to watch for in the testing.

If Seattle is looking more towards filling a specific role, a couple things to watch for are: 1) special teamers, 2) big targets.

  1. Lockett’s timetable is a mystery, but even if he’s back fully for preseason I have to wonder if they look to lighten his load on special teams in order to allow him to focus more attention on being WR2. Carlos Henderson is the top WR kickoff returner in the combine (UNC running back TJ Logan is ahead of Carlos if including all positions). Isaiah McKenzie, Trent Taylor could be some names to watch as punt returners.
  2. During, and since, the 2016 season; Seattle has acquired some big-bodied WR slash TE types: 6’2″/225lb Jamel Johnson, 6’6″/230lb Tanner McEvoy, 6’5″/225lb Rodney Smith, 6’4″/218lb Marcus Lucas, 6’5″/220lb Chris Briggs. So, during the weigh-in, I will be interested to see names that pop at 6’2″-plus/220lbs-plus. Pre-emptively: Jerome Lane, Noah Brown, Juju, Seals-Jones, Golladay, Howard, Hollins. Slightly below those specs, but perhaps having the intended skillset: Darreus Rogers. Watch his gauntlet closely.

And, then, that big WR list will be blended with some of the small TE. Which leads us to…

Tight End

WHAT A FUN GROUP THIS WILL BE TO WATCH!!

Right off the top; David Njoku and OJ Howard should test insanely well. The big guy from Ashland, Adam Shaheen, has shown some crazy athleticism for 277 lbs on the limited tape I’ve seen of him. Jordan Leggett can move, Cole Hikutini is a great runner, Evan Engram, Gerald Everett, Eric Saubert…they just keep coming. Oh…I’ve seen Darrell Daniels run a 4.4 forty, so put him somewhere top 5 pure TE athlete in Indy.

Then, in terms of known quality blocking TE’s, would love to see some of these guys also test well athletically: George Kittle, Hayden Plinke, Mike Roberts.

If I put together a vertical short-stack at TE; I’d target one of these four in the round indicated:

3rd- Leggett
4th- Hikutini
5th- Roberts
6th- Plinke

With depth like this, it’s tough for me to see enough value to go TE in the first two rounds. Start in the 3rd (after addressing something more needy in the 1st-2nd).

Roberts is easily the best redzone threat in this class. The rest of my list are tied-2nd, or tied-7th in touchdowns by a TE in the country this year.

Redzone, redzone, redzone. All signs point toward improving redzone with another big body target (plus Luke Willson is probably walking).

Wide receivers and tight ends will take their field-testing on Saturday, March 4th.

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