Movers and shakers: Prospect stock watch following the NFL scouting combine

Detroit News

For as much as there’s an unwritten warning label attached to the NFL’s scouting combine — pleading to not let the athletic testing overshadow what a prospect has put on tape in the past three or four seasons — there’s part of us that simply can’t help ourselves.

With each incoming draft class getting bigger, faster and stronger, we’re left to pick our jaws off the floor as new positional standards are seemingly set annually. And while fewer and fewer top prospects are choosing to fully participate in the event’s slate of drills, those who are taking part are a reminder there’s more raw athletic talent available than ever.

Within that, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to assess the winners and losers of the Combine, at least without full understanding of how a player performed through his private interviews with teams or what concerns may have popped up during the week’s comprehensive medical testing.

Still, that won’t stop us from trying to add some context to the week that was in Indianapolis, with a stock report from the festivities.

Stock up

▶ Quarterbacks: Without question, the talk of the town was Anthony Richardson. Whatever perceived division there was about his status as a top prospect evaporated in Indianapolis. Even prior to dominating the athletic testing component of the event, he reportedly impressed multiple teams during the interview process, solidifying his status as a likely top-10 — and potentially top-5 — pick.

In the drills, Richardson reset the bar for the position with record-breaking explosion and elite speed and agility. He also showcased a rocket arm, effortlessly flicking the ball 70 yards down the field with touch. He couldn’t erase questions about his accuracy in this setting, but teams will line up for a chance to draft and develop him.

In addition to Richardson, Will Levis kept his name in the mix to be a top-10 pick, showcasing his NFL-ready arm strength, while C.J. Stroud displayed his silky-smooth mechanics during the throwing session.

▶ Running backs: The two guys who entered the week on the top of most prospect rankings only solidified those perceptions. Texas standout Bijan Robinson proved to have elite speed, acceleration and explosion, while Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs was even faster in the 40-yard dash, officially clocking in at 4.36 seconds.

A pair of potential Day 2 picks only helped their cases, as well. Illinois’ Chase Brown, coming off a season where he racked up 1,883 yards from scrimmage, posted elite numbers in the vertical and broad jumps, as well as the 40. UCLA rusher Zach Charbonnet nearly matched the top performers and had a particularly impressive 10-yard split, which points to his ability to hit the hole hard.

▶ Tight ends: Coming back from a season-ending knee injury, Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave showed no residual issues with elite speed and explosion numbers at 6-foot-6, 253 pounds. Only Old Dominion’s Zack Kuntz, another big-bodied prospect (6-foot-7, 255 pounds), had a better overall performance. The former Penn State recruit will have evaluators going back to study his film more closely after crushing every drill, including the 3-cone and short shuttle.

A half-dozen other tight ends performed very well, including Michigan’s Luke Schoonmaker and Iowa’s Sam LaPorta, building on Iowa’s reputation as TE U, but no one helped themselves more in Indianapolis than Georgia’s Darnell Washington. Already benefiting from his reputation as an NFL-ready blocker, he showed untapped receiving potential with his speed, quickness and work in the pass-catching drills after weighing in at 264 pounds.

▶ Wide receivers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who missed most of last season because of hamstring issues, didn’t run the 40, but reminded everyone why he was formerly viewed as a top-10 pick with impressive agility numbers and picturesque route running in the receiving drills.

Zay Flowers also looked sharp in the positional drills, displaying the burst out of breaks and vacuuming in balls away from his frame, which made him a nearly impossible cover at Boston College. He further bolstered his resume with a 4.42 time in the 40 and a 10-foot-7 vertical leap.

Rashee Rice, Cedric Tillman, Jalin Hyatt and Marvin Mims Jr. all kept themselves in the mix to be top-50 picks, with top-tier testing numbers.

▶ Offensive line: Three offensive tackles projected to go in the first round: Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison, all validated those credentials. But, so did BYU’s Blake Freeland, who should be able to thrive in a zone-blocking scheme with his athleticism.

Among the interior options, Jon Gaines II and Sidy Sow paced the group. At 303 pounds, Gaines will face questions about whether he can hold up against NFL defensive linemen, but he rubber-stamped his college film, where he helped pave the way for Charbonnet at UCLA.

Sow, the Eastern Michigan product, will need some development to adjust to an NFL scheme, particularly as a run blocker, but evaluators have to love the athleticism he packs into his 323-pound body.

▶ Defensive line: Will Anderson, in contention to be the first non-QB drafted, didn’t have to do much at the combine, and his 4.60 didn’t do anything to diminish opinions of the high-floor, high-ceiling edge rusher.

Other likely first-rounders Lukas Van Ness and Nolan Smith had impressive showings, while Notre Dame’s all-time sack leader, Isaiah Foskey, reminded observers he deserves to be in that conversation with the top pass rushers, as well.

With the interior pieces, Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton continued his positive pre-draft process, building on a strong showing at the Senior Bowl with impressive athletic testing that should have him coming off the board on the draft’s second day.

▶ Linebackers: Trenton Simpson did nothing to shake the belief he’s the most-talented linebacker in this class with a blazing 4.43 40-yard dash. He also put up a solid 25 reps on the bench press. He might not be the biggest option at the position, but teams will be content with that strength and speed combination at 235 pounds.

From the perspective of the combine, Iowa’s Jack Campbell was even more impressive. Although he sometimes looks stiff on film, there was no sign of that negative quality in Indianapolis, where he posted elite explosion and agility numbers to go with an above-average 40 time, while weighing in at a sturdy 249 pounds.

▶ Defensive backs: Like the tight ends, there are too many good performances from the cornerback group to list. Projected first-rounders Christian Gonzalez, Joey Porter Jr. and Cam Smith all tested extremely well, but it was Maryland’s Deonte Banks, with a 42-inch vertical leap and 4.35 second 40-yard dash who likely did the most to help his draft stock from that top group.

From a pure speed perspective, no one was faster at the combine than Michigan’s D.J. Turner. A versatile defensive back for the Wolverines, he looks destined to be a nickelback at the next level.

At safety, Illinois playmaker Sydney Brown exhibited elite speed and explosion, despite a stocky 5-foot-10, 211-pound frame. He confirmed he’s a Day-2 talent.

Stock down

▶ Quarterbacks: No quarterback truly hurt themselves at the combine, although it was disappointing to not see Alabama’s Bryce Young compete in any of the drills, including throwing the ball. As expected, he measured in around at 5-foot-10. More importantly, he weighed 204 pounds, equal to Russell Wilson when he was entering the league. Was it artificial water weight for Young? Maybe.

It will be interesting to see if he weighs in again at his pro day, when he’s expected to work out for evaluators. Regardless, he’s still likely QB1 on most draft boards.

▶ Running backs: Although the all-important 10-yard split was solid, Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh posted a pedestrian 4.62 time in the 40. He limited the damage with a solid showing in the pass-catching portion of the event, building on his potential as a receiver after hauling in 42 balls for the Bulldogs last season.

▶ Tight ends: It feels unfair to say Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer’s stock is down, because he actually had a solid combine, but when compared to some of the other top prospects at the position, he didn’t stack up, athletically.

Mayer’s athletic profile compares closely to Eric Ebron in 2018, although the Notre Dame product is a much more polished blocker. Mayer is a safe pick for a team needing a No. 1 tight end. He will likely be productive in all facets of the position, but maybe doesn’t possess the ceiling of some of the other guys in this class.

▶ Wide receivers: Jordan Addison might still be the first receiver selected, but he didn’t lock down that spot with his combine showing. He weighed just 171 pounds, posted average numbers in the drills and pulled out of the event with a minor back injury.

Additionally, LSU’s Kayshon Boutte, who saw his per-reception production dip all three seasons at LSU, was among the worst testers at this position.

▶ Offensive line: There were some surprising height/weight measurements that will cause evaluators to pause. For example, Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz came in nearly 20 pounds lighter than his listed weight and Skoronski had 32 1/4-inch arms, well below what teams desire at offensive tackle. Maybe neither metric will end up mattering in the end, but teams are generally skeptical of chasing exceptions to rules.

Speaking of size, Ohio State’s Dawand Jones is a monster at 6-foot-8, 374 pounds, but is he too big? He only chose to run the 40, which was a peculiar decision, and he didn’t run it particularly well. He also lumbered through the positional drills, in stark contrast to the fluidity of teammate Paris Johnson Jr., who is in contention to be the first offensive lineman drafted.

▶ Defensive line: Speaking of exceptions to the rules, Calijah Kancey is a freakish, 280-pound athlete like another former Pitt defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. But Kancey’s arms measured under 31 inches, something that almost always points to struggles at the next level.

Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Jalen Carter, even it has nothing to do with his physical skill set. The ultra-talented Georgia defender had to leave the combine to address a pair of arrest warrants stemming from a fatal car accident earlier this offseason. He’s accused of racing and driving recklessly. Regardless of the outcome here, it will force teams to dig deeper into his character before investing a top-10 pick.

Finally, among the edge rushers, Andre Carter II from Army only did the vertical and broad jumps, but posted below-average results in each. That’s following a steep decline in production from his breakout season in 2021.

▶ Linebackers: With Simpson, Campbell and Auburn’s Owen Pappoe demolishing the drills, Alabama’s Henry To’o To’o posted average metrics, backing up his “steady but unspectacular” scouting report from’s Lance Zierlein.

Still, To’o To’o tested better than Indiana’s Cam Jones, who isn’t big enough at 226 pounds to reliably play the run and doesn’t appear to be athletic enough to be a quality coverage option.

▶ Defensive backs: Emmanuel Forbes and Clark Phillips III were two of college football’s top playmakers, but both left the combine with questions about their ability to immediately contribute at the next level.

Forbes, who already had concerns about his tackling ability, didn’t alleviate those after weighing in at 166 pounds. As for Phillips, his small frame (5-foot-9, 184 pounds), average athletic testing and shorter arms probably locks him into a nickelback role at the next level. His tape and demeanor should prevent him from sliding too far in the draft.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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