The combine isn’t as important to NFL teams as it is to fans watching at home in terms of evaluating talent, but it certainly can help solidify how teams feel about players heading into the draft.
The combine can also torpedo stock on some rare occasions — just ask Orlando Brown.
For the purposes of this list, we’re looking at 10 offensive prospects who crushed the combine. They showed off elite athleticism, power and explosion that further illustrate why, in most cases, teams will be itching to take them early in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.
These players absolutely boosted their stock at the combine.
Nick Chubb, running back, Georgia
If it weren’t for the exploits of one Saquon Barkley (more on him later), Chubb would have been the guy everyone was talking about after Friday’s workouts. He’s nearly the same size as Barkley, coming in at 5-foot-11 and 228 pounds, and what he did one year removed from major reconstructive knee surgery was nothing short of astonishing.
Chubb ran a very respectable 4.52-second 40, which is darn good for a physical, punishing runner like him. He also put up top-five marks on the bench (29 reps at 225 pounds), the vertical (38.5 inches), and the broad jump (128 inches). This mixture of raw power, speed and explosion is going to get Chubb drafted early this April.
On top of his raw physical abilities, of course Chubb also has the production to show he’s a top-end running back, having totaled 5,130 yards and 48 touchdowns the past four years at Georgia. He’s the type of bell-cow back that teams would love to add, and his combine performance only adds to that allure.
Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA
Heading into Friday’s on-field work at Lucas Oil Stadium, we noted that there wasn’t a consensus about where Miller should be selected this April. The reason for this is that Miller has struggled with consistency on the edge — sometimes he looks like a sure-fire first-rounder, while other times he gets absolutely abused.
It’s an issue of technique and functional strength, but NFL teams have ways of helping young, athletic players get stronger and more anchored. Based on the way Miller performed on Friday, there’s a good chance teams picking in the bottom half of the first round will be thinking long and hard about rolling the dice.
Miller showed off some tremendous explosion, setting a new combine record for offensive tackles with a broad jump of 10-foot-1. He also jumped 31.5 inches in the vertical and posted the third-best 40 time of any offensive lineman (4.95 seconds). And when you consider Miller is nearly 6-foot-9 and has the long arms teams covet on the edge, he’s one of the most intriguing players coming into the draft.
Will Hernandez, offensive guard, UTEP
Whereas Miller is all length and athleticism, Hernandez is a Grade A powerhouse. The offensive guard lit up opposing defenders during Senior Bowl week, really putting his name out there as a top offensive line prospect this year.
He’s a prototypical road grader. Coming in at 6-foot-2 and an absurd 348 pounds, this young man is indomitable inside. He put up 37 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, topping all offensive linemen this year, and looked great during the field drills. An agile big man, he moves his feet very well, has great hips and explodes off the line. He got out of the gate very quickly on his 40, going the first 10 yards in 1.76 seconds.
Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
We’ve been itching to watch this young man show off his athletic abilities on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium since the college football season ended. He has a prototypical No. 1 receiver physique, coming in at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds. He also put up tremendous numbers at Southern Methodist the past few years, racking up 195 catches for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns.
The big thing we wanted to see from Sutton at the combine was whether he is quick enough and fast enough to get off the line and beat top defensive backs. Well, he didn’t post a top 40 time, but considering his size his 4.54-second mark was more than adequate. Sutton also posted a 35.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4 broad jump, which is why he’s so darn good at making plays on the ball over receivers.
But better than all that, Sutton posted a 6.57 in the three-cone drill and 4.11 in the short shuttle, which are absolutely mind-boggling numbers for a player of his height and weight. He’s going to get some serious consideration in the middle of the first round in April, and we’d be shocked if he made it out of Round 1.
Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
The dude has a legitimate cannon for a right arm. We knew this before the combine began, but my goodness the juxtaposition of Josh Allen and all other quarterbacks on the field Saturday was a stark reminder he’s on another level. The nearly 70-yard bomb he uncorked during the deep passing drills was a sight to behold, and it had NFL folks buzzing.
Before that performance, one combine coach said some pretty outlandish things about Allen’s arm strength that seemed over the top. Perhaps in hindsight, he was spot on.
What’s even more impressive is that Allen clearly has done some solid work on his mechanics that shows he might actually be able to be more accurate in the NFL than he was at Wyoming. In particular, his accuracy on intermediate passes, and passes to the outside, really stood out on a day where other quarterbacks were spotty at best. The buzz surrounding Allen only got more intense after Saturday’s performance. He’ll be in play for the top pick of the draft, of that there is no doubt.
D.J. Chark, wide receiver, LSU
Like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry before him, LSU receiver D.J. Chark could find himself putting up jaw-dropping numbers in the NFL despite coming from an offense in college that couldn’t pass the ball to save itself.
A tall, lanky kid at 6-foot-3 and 199 pounds, Chark blew the hinges off the combine. He posted the fastest 40 time of anyone at the combine so far, with an official time of 4.34 seconds. He also posted a 40-inch vertical and 129 inch broad jump. This outstanding burst, combined with his elite deep speed, makes him a very intriguing deep threat at the NFL level.
Mike Gesicki, tight end, Penn State
Any time you put up numbers that have people comparing you to Vernon Davis, you’ve made a seriously positive impression. That’s what Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki did on Saturday, absolutely blowing up the combine and setting himself apart as the physical freak among tight ends this year.
He’s not a small guy, coming in at 6-foot-5 and nearly 250 pounds. But Gesicki put up numbers you’d expect to see from a much smaller man. He ran the 40 in 4.54 seconds, put up 22 reps on the bench, went 129 inches on the broad jump, 6.76 seconds in the three-cone drill, 4.10 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.33 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle — top-five marks among tight ends in every one of those drills.
Even better, Gesicki looked smooth running routes and catching passes. He’s been a very productive player for the Nittany Lions the past two years, catching 105 passes for 1,243 yards and 14 touchdowns. Given the way he performed Saturday, he might have vaulted into the conversation as a late first-round pick.
Kalen Ballage, running back, Arizona State
After watching him tear up the Senior Bowl, we were very interested to see how this Arizona State running back would test on the field this weekend. Well, Ballage did not disappoint.
He’s a big back, coming in at 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds. So it was very impressive to see Ballage run the 40 in 4.46 seconds, good for third place among running backs at this year’s combine. Additionally, Ballage posted nice marks in the broad jump (122 inches) and three-cone drill (6.91 seconds), showcasing his ability to explode, change direction and move his feet quickly.
A player who was not utilized a ton at Arizona State, Ballage is an intriguing back who combines excellent size, speed and agility. He’ll likely be an early Day 3 pick, and that makes him a candidate to become one of the biggest steals of the upcoming draft.
D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
One of our favorite receivers heading into the combine, thanks to his ability to rack up yards after the catch, Moore opened up a lot of eyes Saturday in Indianapolis.
He posted a 4.42-second 40 time, which was good for fifth among receivers. That’s very important, because there were questions about his deep speed. Moore also posted top-five marks in the vertical (39.5 9 inches), broad jump (132 inches) and the two shuttle drills.
For fans of advanced metrics, Moore’s SPARQ score tested in the 97th percentile of NFL receivers. This freakish athleticism, combined with his ability to produce on the field — catching 80 passes to set a school record while going for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns last year, despite some serious quarterback issues at Maryland — will get Moore drafted in Round 1.
Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
As if this kid needed any more hype.
Need it or not, he got it on Friday by putting up some patently absurd numbers. Barkley is not a small back. In fact, he’s downright huge but in the most athletic way possible, measuring in at 6-foot, 233 pounds. He looks lean, and he moves in ways you’d expect from a small back.
Even better than his 4.40-second 40, his 29 bench press reps or his freakish 41-inch vertical, Barkley shined in the field during all the drills. He’s the most naturally gifted running back we’ve seen entering the NFL in some time. Everything he does looks effortless, including catching the ball. He makes some receivers envious the way his soft hands receive passes, and he’s already a polished route runner compared to many of them, too.
Based on the way Barkley performed at the combine, he’s absolutely in play for the No. 1 overall pick. And there’s no chance he makes it out of the top 5.