The NFL Combine is here! It’s an exciting time and it’s right about that time to really kick into Draft season if you’ve been holding out in an attempt to recover from the Super Bowl. Sunday marked the official start to what I call T-shirt and shorts season, with quarterbacks and pass catchers arriving at Indianapolis. Yesterday they were measured and today they’ll receiver medical exams as more position groups start to flood the city.
With NFL Scouting Combine officially kicking off today, here’s a complete breakdown of the schedule for the week: pic.twitter.com/6RGX6ot0Uj— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) February 24, 2020
Here are some things I noticed as I pored over the results.
1. Thaddeus Moss is short.
The former LSU Tiger was being touted by some as an early Day 2 pick at the culmination of the National Title game, which always looked a little rich. He’s a strong blocker and provides reliable hands, but he’s a cleanup receiver who made hay on a historic offense last season. Word is he may run in the 4.8 range for the 40, but measuring in at 6’1” could hurt him even more as that’s near the bottom of what NFL teams consider acceptable from a tight end.
If Pat Shurmur can look past that, he could be a Day 3 option if the Broncos want options for life after Jeff Heuerman and his $4.3 million cap number.
2. Two quarterbacks came in with hand concerns.
There’s always jokes about this part of the measurement, but one big reason NFL teams care about hand size for prospects is how it could impact their ability to protect and throw a ball at the next level. So it’s notable that both Princeton’s Kevin Davidson and Georgia’s Jake Fromm had smaller hands than what evaluators consider the bare minimum.
3. K.J. Hamler is tiny.
The Nittany Lion’s size has been a huge red flag hanging over him and may put a bit of a glass ceiling on his draft stock. He spent his years in State College listed at 5’9 but measured in at 5’8 and weighing 178 lbs with 30 6/8 arms. All three figures are beneath the 25th percentile for NFL evaluator’s baseline measurables.
None of this is surprising, mind you, but as I wrote about in my Pre-Combine Receiver Rankings, Hamler’s size is a huge concern because it directly hurts his strengths as a downfield threat.
The Nittany Lion has a smaller catch radius than the rest of the receivers I studied. Add to that how often he relies on catching the ball with his body, and it’s hard to imagine him being a real option in contested situations. Worse yet, he doesn’t show a lot of ability to high point or go after throws in the air, which will hurt the biggest asset he brings to the table.
4. Henry Ruggs has baseball mitts for hands.
While quarterback hand sizes can become a little overblown, it’s pretty obvious how such a measurement could matter for a wide receiver. I suspect this won’t be the first time we talk about Ruggs this week as he’s also expected to run a sub 4.3 40 and could break the Combine record set by John Ross.
5. Brandon Aiyuk is a pterodactyl.
Aiyuk is a bit of an odd prospect in this deep class because he was a one-year wonder at Arizona State after coming out of JUCO. In 2018 he wasn’t given a ton of attention by his quarterback with the Patriots’ N’Keal Harry on the Sun Devil’s roster. This year he broke out with almost 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns on 65 catches. He’s a dangerous threat after the catch with his acceleration, but there are some questions as to how he’ll fare against the press.
One thing that won’t be a question is his body type.
Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk is 5-11 and has a wingspan 2" longer than the 6-5 Collin Johnson. Freaky build— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 24, 2020
6. Laviska Shenault is shorter than expected.
The former Colorado Buffalo was listed as 6’2 and some said he’d measure at 6’3 leading up to the Combine. Instead of gaining an inch on the way to Indiana, he lost one. He also weighed in at close to 230 lbs, which makes sense because he’s such a force after the catch. In fact his numbers look very similar to the Titans’ A.J. Brown.
7. Tee Higgins wins the big receiver measurement contest.
If the Broncos decided to veer from expectations and build a twin tower type of receiver corps this offseason there are plenty of options to consider. Texas’ Collin Johnson, Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings, and others are all capable of playing bully ball with defensive backs. The premier talent when it comes to giants is undoubtedly Clemson’s Tee Higgins, however, and he showed just one reason why with his huge wingspan.
8. Jalen Reagor isn’t going to fall out of Day 1
It isn’t necessarily something from measurements yesterday, but the farther I’ve dug into this receiving class the more convinced I’ve become of this. I know The Draft Network still has the TCU Horned Frog sliding to the Broncos’ selection on Day 2 close to 50% of the time, but unless he bombs the workouts it just isn’t going to happen. He’s shown too many explosive plays and upside on tape for the entire league to pass him by.
Your Broncos’ Links
Since this hasn’t been done before, it’s hard to know how well this will work.
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If a team is going to give lip service to “keeping its own” guys, it should start with Simmons. It will take top-shelf money, but Simmons is a homegrown player who also happens to be one of the most active players in the community as well as one of the Broncos’ best players. The Broncos want to keep him and he wants to stay. The bottom line is it will be expensive, as in something in the neighborhood of the top contracts in the league for safeties — the top four each agreed to deals in the past year and each averages between $14 million and $14.6 million per year. That’s the market. And if the totals for the franchise tag come in as expected, then he should command around $14 million for the 2020 season. So the incentive for both sides to get something done long term is plain to see.
NFL Draft Links
Here is a full list of weigh-ins and measurables for all of the quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers on Monday.
”It’s because you look at all these [NFL draft prospects] over and over again and you’re trying grade them, stack them, separate one from the other,” former Titans general manager Floyd Reese said. “The best guys at doing it can describe what they mean, why one guy is different or why they remind them of somebody else. You hear it all and then you know right then exactly what they mean.”
There’s the report he wrote about the best corner he ever scouted, Champ Bailey, and the big hits and misses. A hit: He thought Iowa guard Marshal Yanda would be a higher-level player than most with a third-round grade. A miss: He didn’t think Cal cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha would be able to play in the NFL and Asomugha became a first-round pick by Oakland.
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15. DENVER BRONCOS – WR HENRY RUGGS III, ALABAMA More than just a deep threat, Ruggs brings legit 4.2 speed and strong route-running ability to the table as PFF’s fourth-ranked receiver in the class. Playing at Alabama limited Ruggs from seeing the football as much as other top receivers in this class, but don’t let his low market share keep you away. He’s a difference-maker at the position who should provide value as a big-play threat early in his career.
15. Denver Broncos: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia The Broncos ranked 25th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack metric in 2019, surrendering 41 sacks. While left tackle Garett Bolles wasn’t the sole reason for the team’s struggles in that area, he stuck out as a problem, drawing 17 penalty flags, second most in the league. By grabbing the reliable Thomas here, Denver would shore up what’s been a shaky position for them for too long. Thomas would give GM John Elway and new offensive line coach Mike Munchak an anchor to build around and provide second-year quarterback Drew Lock with some much-needed consistency on his blind side.
Broncos Jalen Reagor WR, TCU
While the sample size was limited, quarterback Drew Lock had some promising flashes as a rookie and general manager John Elway can take steps to build around him. With Courtland Sutton blossoming as the x-receiver and Noah Fant in place as a dynamic weapon at tight end, Denver can focus on adding more speed to the offense. Lock is a big-armed passer that had considerable success as a passer working the ball down the field. Jalen Reagor can help take advantage of Lock’s arm talent with his ability to get behind the secondary but also create offense for himself after the catch.
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Linebacker, edge rusher, nickelback, corner, safety — Clemson’s Swiss Army knife played all over the field for the Tigers. His best fit in the NFL won’t be determined for a while, but most any defense could use a player such as this somewhere.
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Again, we want to summarize our findings to a rule of thumb for the first round. For defensive players this is much easier, as there is only one position that one should shy away from with an early draft pick: Teams have been very bad at evaluating linebackers, hence it might be smart to show humility and not be too confident in one’s assessment on a supposedly talented prospect at this position. Drafting the players who are left on Day 2 isn’t expected to yield a significantly worse outcome.
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We’ve seen a lot of players in years past not receive an invitation to Indianapolis, but that hasn’t caused their pro aspirations to remain unfulfilled. Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay is a prime example of how a player persevered through being left out from the yearly spectacle, but he turned out to become a better player than most of the running backs that were drafted in 2018.
I have fought to advance athletes’ interests more than any other pursuit in my professional life. I held leadership roles in both the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). I believe deeply in the mission of unions and the many programs and resources they provide for players and their families. I know the solidarity of unions is what facilitated the benefits that players enjoy today. It is because of my appreciation for unions, and my reverence for the players who have sacrificed, that I am making this recommendation: America’s major professional sports unions should permanently decertify and operate as trade associations instead.
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