NFL

Studs and Duds from the NFL Combine

Former Michigan linebacker Gabriel Peppers participates in on-field drills at the NFL Combine
Jabrill Peppers shows off his playmaking skills as a surprising winner of the NFL Combine.

As Jake pointed out in an earlier post we were in town to get a firsthand look at the NFL Combine. And while we may not have been able to see all the action in person, we were closer than most of the other bloggers so our opinions are better. Like everyone attempting to cash in on the NFL, here is my list of the best studs and duds from the NFL Combine.

Studs

1. Jabrill Peppers – Tweener – University of Michigan

Nobody knows exactly what position Peppers will play in the NFL. Linebacker? Nickel corner? Safety? He is the definition of a ‘tweener’ through and through. Scouts don’t know where to list him, and the NFL made him participate in linebacker drills if he wanted to do defensive back drills. Yes, he did two different positional drills at the NFL Combine.

And he did them well.

His 40 yard dash time was nice (4.46) but expected because of his return and running game that he showed at Michigan. His broad jump wasn’t too bad (10ft 8 inches) considering he’s under six feet tall.

But the most impressive thing was his attitude; he was out there having fun. In his interviews with NFL Network and his work with the other prospects and coaches, he was making the most of his time. There are a lot of holes in his overall ability. His success in college was primarily built around his speed and explosiveness, and while that may work when playing against Rutgers he’s going to run into some problems when most players in the NFL can match his speed. He’s late in coverage and has trouble with complex plays, but he’s a playmaker and an athlete. And because he’s personable people will naturally root for him. He showed his upside and that’s what the process is all about.

Now if only there was an owner who could match his exuberance.

2. Myles Garrett – Defense End – Texas A&M

Ok he is already projected to be the number one pick (unless the Browns decide to mess things up), and everyone knew he was good. But no one knew he would do that well.

According to NFL Research, his 10 yard split was faster than Devonta Freeman’s (1.63 seconds to 1.66 seconds) and he had a faster 40 yard dash than Jarvis Landry (4.64 seconds to 4.77 seconds).

His biggest knock is still his lack of production against top tier offensive linemen, and if his first move is stuffed then he sometimes struggles to get to the quarterback. But with his size, speed and intangibles he could become a franchise defensive end. Going into the Combine as the consensus first overall pick can be very challenging; the entire league is looking at you, and waiting for you, to mess up somewhere. According to sources, his interviews all went well and we could all see how well he did on the field.

Now it just depends on what happens in free agency, and whether or not the Browns, or whomever has the first overall pick (*cough* Patriots *cough*), will draft the best player available.

3. Joe Mixon – Running back – Oklahoma

Ok I get it. He attacked a woman at Oklahoma. That’s not good, and not good at all. It’s actually pretty fucked up. But instead of having to face the media and the infamous meetings with all 32 NFL clubs, and being asked incredibly tough questions like if his mother was a prostitute, Mixon is able to craft his own image with the help of professionals.

Without the off the field issues, Mixon would be considered a first round prospect. No major injury concerns (unlike Fournette and Cook) and he has explosive speed and size. But by not being invited to the combine, Mixon has essentially avoided all of the drama that would have followed throughout the entire combine. And now if a team wants to deal with this situation, he’ll be able to craft his message individually and not have to worry about a media blitz.

Make no mistake, Mixon will be drafted. Hell, he will probably be drafted in the third round. And because of his absence, he avoided probably the toughest test. If Manti T’eo was grilled over his fake girlfriend, can anyone imagine how ruthless (deservedly so) the teams and media would have been against Mixon? He made it unscathed and will survive until draft day.

Duds

1. Reuben Foster – Linebacker – Alabama

For how well Joe Mixon did in shaping his image, Reuben Foster did the opposite.

Foster had not planned to participate in any on the field drills at the Combine, but he was to meet with the media and the 32 clubs. But according to sources, Foster got into a heated argument with a worker at a hospital about how they were treating him, and then the NFL sent him home early from the Combine before he could even meet with the teams.

Physically and on the field he is a very good linebacker. Makes smart plays and doesn’t lose his composure. But now, the teams are going to have to look into all their tape and notes on him. They are going to have to investigate all of his character traits as if he is a mid round talent, instead of knowing exactly what they are getting with an early first round prospect. Many experts point out that this is his first real fuck up of his career. If he can survive this and accept responsibility and blame, then he should not be hurt too much. But if this gets out of control, then we could all see him fall on draft night.

2. Leonard Fournette – Running back – LSU

Overweight and slow.

Coming into the Combine, scouts were surprised to see him weighing in at a shocking 240 pounds. Following that, he put up pedestrian vertical jump and 40 yard dash figures; 28.5 inches and 4.51 seconds respectively. Some scouts claimed it was to his bigger size, and those numbers fit. But the question is whether or not 240 pounds is his playing weight.

And I get that when he played at LSU, he had some impressive runs. But he did spend nearly half of his junior season on the bench with an injury that he kept re-aggrivating, not to mention being involved in a pregame brawl with players from the University of Florida.

His upside is there; he’s a fast, physical back who can break into the second level. But that is usually a lot easier in college than in the NFL. But he does have definite downside as well. Pass protection was horrendous in college, and without the speed or quickness, defensive ends or blitzes will be able to fly past him with no problem. And players are faster and smarter and if he doesn’t have the speed or quickness, due to his size or other factors, then we will see him bogged down in the trenches, a la Trent Richardson.

3. Kevin – Contributor – Illegal Touching Podcast

While I could have used this spot to address another player who slipped, I think one of the biggest dud-performances was by our own Kevin during the bench press portion of the Combine. Open to the public, fans could watch some prospects performing the bench press and while we were in attendance we decided to watch this for a bit. The NFL ‘officials’ made it clear that people can cheer and help root for some of the players to keep going, after all impressing random fans is always a way to do more bench presses.

But when one prospect announced that he would be forgoing his bench press for medical reasons, Kevin decided to treat him to the same support his Bears fans treat Cutler; a healthy round of boos. Jake did cover this as well, but then an NFL official came over and chastised him to say the least. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I thought it was assumed that you can’t boo prospects at the combine. The lack of fans during the drills in Lucas Oil is a testament to the fact that the NFL does not want fans to influence how the prospects perform. Rookie move by a rookie.

Well there it is, don’t forget to tell me what I got wrong and who I whiffed on. Comment here or tweet back at us to let me know!

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