Combine preview

By Jared Stanger

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine starts a week from Wednesday in Indianapolis with weigh-ins for OL, RB, and ST. They will also be the first groups to conduct field testing on Friday. The successive order on the field goes:

Friday- OL, RB, ST
Saturday- QB, WR, TE
Sunday- DL, LB
Monday- CB, S

Offensive Line

In the offensive line groups, I don’t know that we will see much athleticism from the Centers. I think, in a general sense, the guards could have the best athletes out of all three spots. The interesting thing is gonna be the weird moment when Quenton Nelson doesn’t test very well. Better testers could include Braden Smith, Isaiah Wynn and Austin Corbett. I’ll be curious what Will Hernandez and Wyatt Teller post in the bench.

For the tackles, the one I feel safe in saying he should win the combine is Brian O’Neill. He could be Lane Johnson-esque. He has decent tape. A couple others that could test well that don’t have great tape: Rick Leonard and Greg Senat.

Guys that have good tape you hope simply hit passable benchmarks: Mike McGlinchey, Connor Williams, Tyrell Crosby, Martinas Rankin, Chukwuma Okorafor. Anything under 5.20s in the forty with a 9′ broad jump and/or a 30″ vert are very solid.

Running Back

There are three names I’m most curious to see test at RB: Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones, and Kalen Ballage. Ballage needs a good combine, Barkley doesn’t, and I’m dreading what a good combine will do for Jones.

The guy that I think will disappoint is Derrius Guice. I’ve read the reports that he’s running 4.49s in training, but I’ve watched some of his practice 40 reps and it doesn’t look 4.4. In general, I feel like LSU athletes are disappointing combine athletes.

And then the group that just needs to hit general benchmarks because their tape is good: Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman, Lavon Coleman. A forty in the 4.55-4.57s range from that group is fine.

Quarterback

Don’t worry about QB athleticism. Worry about their FBI. Period.

Wide Receiver

WR has a pretty wide spectrum of athlete type, so you can find a wide spectrum of results. You don’t mind a 4.55 from a 6’3″ outside WR, you don’t mind a bad vertical from a slot guy. You can use a WR to his best traits: agility, jumpballs, speed.

Known entity overall athletes include Braxton Berrios and Christian Kirk. I happen to know Dante Pettis is not recognized enough for his athleticism. I suspect DJ Moore and Cedrick Wilson are very high scorers. And then a guy like Robert Foster from Alabama HAS to be some kind of freak…what other reason would there be for a guy with 35 total receptions in 4 years be doing at the combine.

The speed I like best from this group is from Keke Coutee, and then DJ Chark could have a very fast time for his size.

Marcell Ateman was recently reported to be hitting upwards of 40″ in his vertical.

But I think the biggest combine winner at WR will be Courtland Sutton. He’s already high on most boards, but I feel like he’s not acknowledged enough for this athleticism.

Tightend

I don’t think this a tremendously athletic TE group. I think the two to keep an eye on are Ian Thomas and Jordan Akins. Akins might be the big winner.

Jaylen Samuels is listed as a TE for the combine, but his future position may be something else. But relative to these other, true TE he should test well.

The guys with solid tape that we just need to see hit benchmarks are Mark Andrews, Mike Gesicki, and Dallas Goedert. The latter may not do a full test battery until his pro day.

The big name at TE that I just don’t get is Hayden Hurst. He is overaged and looks to be someone that gets massively overdrafted.

Defensive Line

Josh Sweat is perhaps the best athlete in this combined DE/DT group (maybe one of the top 5 of any position). Other pretty well-known athletes: Vita Vea, Kentavius Street, Taven Bryan.

Out of the big boys, the next names after Vea that I’m interested in seeing are Tim Settle, Kahlil McKenzie, and Nathan Shepherd.

Off the edge, I think Duke Ejiofor could make a lot of money if he has the day that he’s hitting in training. My guess is that Rasheem Green surprises people and Arden Key disappoints people (another LSU guy lacking athleticism).

Linebacker

The big buzz is on Tremaine Edmunds and Leighton Vander Esch. I don’t think either look as athletic on tape as the reports from scouts (which may actually be from agents) are saying.

The two that I’m more interested in seeing are Shaquem Griffin and Lorenzo Carter. Griffin’s speed, even at his smaller size, pops off the screen. And Carter has put up big test numbers in the past.

Malik Jefferson is another that has put up big numbers in the past. He should win the combine from this group.

There is a whole collection of college DE that are testing at LB that I’m going into the Sunday field day with an open mind about: Uchenna Nwosu, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Kemoko Turay, Jeff Holland, Trevon Young, Marquis Haynes.

Cornerback

The buzz at CB seems to be Donte Jackson running in the 4.2’s. I just don’t get that excited about 175lb corners. In terms of just the combine, I think the Alabama trio (quartet if you think Minkah is a CB) are interesting names to watch test. Isaiah Oliver should test well, too.

After years of studying Seattle draft; I’m pretty particular about CB’s now. And the guy that I think fits Seattle best, and who could make the most money at the combine, is Isaac Yiadom. Right height/weight/length. Plus this:

Safety

Safety is always funny. It’s a hard position to study from TV tape, so you sometimes procrastinate doing it. So it becomes the last position you can get a true feel for in terms of the class as a whole. In the last few weeks I’ve really started to come around on this class of Safeties.

Minkah and Derwin at the top should have impressive Mondays. I tend to think Minkah has the better day of the two.

Jessie Bates is making a late rush towards the top of the draft. I think he’ll have a solid workout. My eyes have less problem with Deshon Elliott’s athleticism from his game tape than most others. These two (plus Jeremy Reaves who wasn’t invited to the combine) are the three to track.

And lastly there are a trio of DB’s testing with the Safeties that could represent similar prospects to Seattle as Mike Tyson was in 2017: safety that could play CB. That list is Siran Neal, Josh Kalu, Kameron Kelly. In fact, all have more experience at CB than Tyson did. Actually, add Jessie Bates to this group.

Advertisements

My game is Earl

By Jared Stanger

This offseason is poised to continue to be a massive transition for the Seattle Seahawks. We’ve already seen huge turnover on the coaching staff (which may not be done), and the player roster is coming. Tons of free agents, some cap cuts, some potential trades.

Perhaps the biggest potential trade coming could be looking to find draft picks for the biggest trade chip on the team: Earl Thomas. Earl has, through either an emotional outburst or calculated career positioning, expressed interest in playing for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s of an age where his body, and those of similar age group and contract status, has started breaking down.

Seattle as recently as 2017 floated the idea of trading a pro bowl player, and the hindsight of that non-trade is that the player got hurt and no longer carries near the same trade value. Seattle also has a recent example of extending a veteran secondary player with a very team-unfriendly contract, and then losing that player to injury.

The logic of my mind says let’s not risk either of those again. Let’s go full rebuild, and trade Earl while he still holds pretty high value, and then reapply those draftpicks to getting younger again.

Now, I’m not the type to suggest crazy moves without a chain of command type plan. So, this becomes a profile of the 2018 draft player that I would use to replace Earl. This is Jeremy Reaves.

First, the physical comparison. Earl came out of Texas at 5’10″/208lbs (played his rSoph year at 197lbs) with a 4.49s combine forty and a 4.37s pro day. Jeremy was measured at the Senior Bowl as 5’11″/204lbs. I will optimistically suggest Reaves could hit the 4.49s forty mark at his pro day. I say “pro day” because Reaves was weirdly not invited to Indy for the combine. More on that later.

On tape; there is no one else in this class whose game brings Earl to mind more than Reaves.

Reaves is a very solid hitter for his size. He’s also a very tactical hitter, and has a knack for putting helmet or shoulder on the football. Three examples:

Considered a PBU rather than a FF:

In Pete Carroll’s “all about the ball” mindset, Reaves has to be one of the players on his list with 3 INT, 8 PBU, and 3 FF for 2017.

Reaves is one of the best Safety tacklers I’ve watched this year. Both film and boxscore concur (104 tackles for the season).

I think the two things that differentiate a replacement level safety and a legit single-high stud are related: 1) ability to come from deep and make plays in the run-game.

2) ability to get from CF to either sideline in pass coverage.

There isn’t a ton of coverage assignments on the South Alabama tape I watched on Reaves from this year (although he did play CB in previous years). But I really appreciated this play from the Senior Bowl on a very good, very big TE:

The quick recap on Reaves film: very good tackler, very good hitter, very good speed, very good FBI. I wouldn’t put an elite/A+ stamp on any one trait, but it’s A/A- across the board.

The one elite trait I’ve found about Reaves is not something I can show with tape. It’s more intangible. But I feel very strongly that Reaves has it in the same way that I recently saw while scouting Kevin Byard when he came out of college.

Byard is another important comp for Reaves. Both come from small schools (Middle Tennessee and South Alabama). Both were not invited to the combine. Byard was a 3rd round pick, and that is where I expect Reaves eventually gets drafted (even though he is generally mocked MUCH later). In 2017 Byard led the NFL in INT and became a pro bowler for the first time. These are things that I see in Jeremy Reaves future.

Earl Thomas is a Hall of Fame player. You can’t replicate that. But if you can find a pro bowler, and in the third round no less, it at least lessens the dropoff as much as you’re probably going to in a generation.

So, if you ever feel concerned that I’m thinking of trading a HOF…just know that I’m also thinking about the next era of LOB, too. And it can be a bright future. I’m just trying to be a better mock drafter. My name is Jare.