Every day is important during the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, but Saturday is particularly exciting. Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends will be hitting the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to show off their speed, agility, explosion and skill.
Of course, the main attraction is this year’s crop of quarterbacks. But in today’s NFL you need dynamic receiving threats to get anywhere, too.
So, who will we be watching Saturday at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine? These players are at the top of the list.
Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
This young man looks the part of an NFL No. 1 receiver. On Thursday he measured in at 6-foot-3 3/8 and 218 pounds, which is similar to the size of Clemson’s Mike Williams, selected No. 7 overall last year. Sutton also has some serious production under his belt at the collegiate level, having caught 195 passes for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns at Southern Methodist.
Even better, Sutton has a knack for converting 50-50 balls, which means he’s very good at beating defenders on contested passes. He has the look of a red-zone monster and could go very early in the draft.
The big issue here is that Sutton isn’t viewed as particularly quick or fast. Obviously he can dispel some of that by running fast on Saturday. A strong combine could make him one of the top draft risers, while a sub-par showing will likely lock him into Round 2 as a possession receiver.
Dallas Goedert, tight end, South Dakota State
Let’s be honest. Until guys on television started talking about Dallas Goedert, those of us who don’t study film for a living were like, “who?”
But now that our eyes have found this small-school prospect, he sure looks like exactly the type of pass-catching tight end that can dominate at the NFL level. He’s well over 6-foot-4 and weighs almost 260 pounds, has huge hands (10 inches) and an incredible wingspan (over 80 inches). Better still, Goedert carries his bulk extremely well and runs like a receiver (watch his incredible highlights here).
It’s going to be really interesting to see how Goedert matches up from a physical standpoint to the other tight ends in this year’s draft. A big combine and strong pro day will likely move him into the discussion as a Round 1 prospect.
Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and squawks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
Josh Rosen has the size NFL teams want from a pocket passer (6-foot-4 and 226 pounds), has a long history of making huge plays when the pressure is on (like this) and, while he doesn’t have a Josh Allen-sized arm, can make any throw he needs to make.
The biggest knocks on Rosen revolve around his character and the fact that he’s not as mobile as some of the other top quarterbacks coming into the league in 2018. One thing Rosen can do that should count as a plus in his favor is actually throw on Saturday — the opposite of what his peer Sam Darnold has decided to do.
Of course, showing he’s no Joe Flacco would also help. So it’s going to be fun watching Rosen run, even if it really doesn’t matter all that much how “fast” he is.
Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
While Rosen doesn’t need to run fast on Saturday, the same cannot be said for Calvin Ridley. The Alabama product showed up to Indianapolis a very slim 189 pounds on his 6-foot frame. In recent history, guys his size don’t get drafted in the first round unless they can smoke the track.
We know that Ridley is an exceptional route runner and can catch anything that’s thrown his way. He’s likely going to be a nightmare at the NFL level as a slot specialist. But if he can run under 4.4 seconds in the 40, then he’ll cement himself as a first-round guy who has home-run potential.
If Ridley doesn’t run particularly fast there’s a good chance he’ll wind up being selected on Day 2, which is fine but would be a big disappointment.
Hayden Hurst, tight end, South Carolina
Some analysts love Hayden Hurst and think he’s going to be the best tight end in this year’s draft class. Others think he might have already reached his ceiling, especially given the fact he’s going to be 25 years old when the 2018 NFL season begins.
So, it’s important for this South Carolina product to show he’s more than just a productive player with hands of glue.
As we’ve mentioned a few times already, speed is so important in today’s NFL. Linebackers and safeties are as fast as receivers oftentimes, so in order to really separate yourself at this level you must be able to literally separate on the field of play. If Hurst proves he’s more than a possession tight end by running fast and showing some burst, then he will give talent evaluators plenty to think about early in the draft.
Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
We all get it. Mayfield isn’t tall. He is just over 6-foot, which is a huge negative most of the time for NFL teams, who prefer guys who have no trouble seeing over the top of the behemoth offensive lines at this level.
But just ask the Houston Texans how awesome it was to have the 6-foot-7 Brock Osweiler under center. He got the ball batted down an incredible amount of times for a man of his stature. Conversely, Mayfield hardly ever had his passes batted at Oklahoma.
So, his height is going to be talked about a lot. That’s a given. But we’ll be tuning in to watch this ultimate competitor do everything in his power to make that a non-factor for teams that are evaluating top quarterbacks. He has all the other attributes you’re looking for in a quarterback and put up legendary passing stats the past two years for the Sooners.
Don’t count Mayfield out. If you do, prepare to be embarrassed.
Christian Kirk, wide receiver, Texas A&M
There’s no consensus about Christian Kirk’s value in the upcoming draft. He’s not a big guy, much like Calvin Ridley, measuring in at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. He has exceptional quickness, which should be highlighted when he runs through his three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
But many feel he’s much more shifty than fast. Heck, that’s not a terrible thing. Just look at what guys like Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have been able to do with that type of skill set. However, if he doesn’t run very fast then Kirk will likely relegate himself to being selected in the middle of Round 2 or later.
Mark Andrews, tight end, Oklahoma
Entering the 2017 season, Mark Andrews had the look of a guy who’d be taken very early in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s a natural receiver, has excellent size at 6-foot-5 and just under 260 pounds and caught 112 passes the past three years for Oklahoma.
However, despite the fact that Andrews did have his best season as a collegiate player in 2017, catching 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns, he looked like he lost a step compared to his sophomore campaign. If those fears are realized when Andrews runs at the combine, then it’s highly unlikely any NFL teams will see him as more than a second-round talent.
Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
In the past, quarterbacks have done just fine by opting out of the throwing portion of the combine. Darnold is going to throw, but he’ll wait until his pro day to do it, where everything will be tailored to his liking. He’ll be throwing to guys he knows and trusts, and there shouldn’t be any issues.
But in a year like this one, where his peers will be throwing and are out to prove they aren’t afraid of any challenge, it’s going to be interesting to see if this decision means anything in the long run.
Physically, Darnold has all the tools. He doesn’t have a rocket arm but has intangibles that cannot be measured. He constantly came from behind at USC and showed that he his capable of shrugging off mistakes like they never happened.
D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
D.J. Moore is an extremely intriguing prospect. He’s not tall, coming in at 6-foot, but isn’t slight, at 210 pounds. He’s a solid dude and put up outstanding production last year at Maryland, catching 80 passes to set a school record while going for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns, despite the program’s debacle at quarterback.
Moore is extremely quick and has great hands. He, like some of the other “top” receivers this year, doesn’t have the type of frame teams look for on the outside. So, he could be viewed as a slot specialist at the next level.
However, if he can show some blazing speed and explosion during the drills on Saturday, perhaps that perception will change somewhat. After all, fellow Terp Stefon Diggs has a similar build and frame, and he’s done pretty darn well for the Minnesota Vikings.
Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
Everyone wants to compare Josh Allen to Carson Wentz. And honestly, it’s hard not to do just that. They are both around the same size, both have big arms and both have the athletic ability to evade pressure and deliver strikes down the field, if not take off and run for first downs.
We fully expect Allen to look like a prototypical NFL passer during every portion of the combine, minus perhaps the most important one for quarterbacks — throwing the ball. There are times when Allen puts the ball on an absolute dime, with velocity you just cannot teach (like this).
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said that Allen has the biggest arm he’s seen since JaMarcus Rusell, which isn’t exactly a name you want to be associated with. Muddying up the water a bit more, Allen can be wildly erratic, and when he’s off he’s off by a heck of a lot. So, if he does ultimately choose to throw Saturday, it’s going to be a wild ride.
James Washington, wide receiver, Oklahoma State
It’s pretty fascinating to me that James Washington doesn’t get more love from those who get paid to pontificate about the draft. All he did at Oklahoma State is average 19.8 yards per catch, reeling in 226 career receptions for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Washington was constantly getting behind college cornerbacks and catching long bombs for scores (like this). Yet if you read some of the scouting reports on this young man, you find notes about how he’ll struggle against press coverage, that he doesn’t have good footwork and that he’s not necessarily quick out of the gates.
So, it’s going to be very telling to see what kind of numbers Washington puts up on Saturday when it’s his turn to shine. No doubt, he’s got a healthy chip on his shoulder, which he’ll likely carry with him into the NFL next season.
Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
There are two things Lamar Jackson needs to do on Saturday. The first almost certainly won’t happen — he should refuse to run the 40 just to prove he’s not a stinking wide receiver. Everyone wants to see how fast he is, just because of pure sensationalism. He’ll likely run, but he shouldn’t.
The second thing Jackson needs to do is throw, and throw with confidence. He has a bloody spectacular arm and can place the ball in a bucket on long throws. But where he needs to show some improvement is placement on intermediate throws and to the sideline on out routes.
Just for pure enjoyment, it’s going to be fun watching Jackson jump out of the gym. He’s a truly electric athlete who is absolutely a quarterback, regardless of what some in the NFL community may think.