In what was perhaps the most intriguing and newsworthy session of the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends took the field on Day 3 from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
With Cal's Jared Goff, North Dakota State's Carson Wentz and Memphis' Paxton Lynch all battling to be the first signal-caller off the board in April, their every move was under intense scrutiny from their 40-yard-dash times to their performances in the throwing drills.
It can be argued that Goff had a slight lead over the field entering the day due to his prolific college career, and that gap may have widened because of his strong showing.
The talented passer finished the 40 in a solid 4.82 seconds officially, and he showed good burst, as seen in this video courtesy of NFL Network:
Where the Cal product truly thrived, though, was when he was given the opportunity to sling the football around.
Per NFL Network, draft analyst Mike Mayock has no doubt that he is more NFL-ready than any other quarterback in the 2016 class:
It was easy to see why Saturday, as he showed the type of anticipation and synergy with his receivers that is needed to succeed in the NFL:
After watching Goff throw, Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports was among those who were extremely impressed with his mechanics:
Early impression of QB throwing sessions: Jared Goff throws with such nice rhythm. Very fluid. Connor Cook had long first step on drops ...— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) February 27, 2016
Many expected Wentz to blow his top quarterback competition out of the water athletically due to his rushing prowess at North Dakota State, and while he did perform well in that regard, it wasn't a runaway.
Wentz had an official 40-yard-dash time of 4.77 seconds, which was the fastest among the "big three" signal-callers, as seen in this video:
He also did 118 inches in the broad jump and 30.5 inches in the vertical, which were solid but not as eye-popping as some may have anticipated.
Per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, that was enough to deduce that Wentz doesn't quite compare to some of the top athletes at the quarterback position in the NFL currently:
So we can stop comparing Carson Wentz to Andrew Luck and Cam Newton athletically now?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 27, 2016
One person who may have put himself in that conversation, though, was Lynch. While his 40-yard-dash time of 4.86 seconds wasn't overly impressive, he showed off in a big way in some of the other drills.
As pointed out by Chris Burke of SI.com, the 40 is far from the be-all, end-all when it comes to quarterbacks:
Straight line 40 speed is a grain-of-salt measurement for QBs. Can they escape? Can they move within the pocket?— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) February 27, 2016
Lynch's broad jump of 118 inches matched Wentz's, while his 36-inch vertical was at an entirely different level and even bested that of Carolina Panthers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton, according to Will Brinson of CBS Sports.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver and former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor knows a thing or two about athletic players under center, and he liked what he saw out of Lynch:
Paxton Lynch gonna be nice! Watch— Terrelle Pryor (@TerrellePryor) February 27, 2016
Wentz and Lynch both showed off their arms in positional drills as well, and Wentz seemed to have the better day in that regard.
As seen in this video, Wentz displayed remarkable touch when pushing the ball down the field:
His workout was praised by ESPN's Todd McShay, who loved the anticipation that the FCS product showed on the field:
Carson Wentz really impressing with timing and ball placement.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 27, 2016
Lynch was no slouch either, though, as he also uncorked some great deep balls, such as this one:
While Goff, Wentz and Lynch stole headlines, they were far from the only intriguing quarterbacks who took the field Saturday.
Ohio State's Cardale Jones, Oregon's Vernon Adams Jr., Michigan State's Connor Cook, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Penn State's Christian Hackenberg were just a few of the signal-callers who looked to boost their stock ahead of the draft as well.
Jones looked great in his workout, although his day ended in disappointment when an apparent hamstring injury forced him to cut it short, per NFL.com's Kimberly Jones.
The former national championship-winning quarterback ran the 40 in 4.81 seconds, which is no small feat for someone with a 6'5", 253-pound frame:
The big man appeared to pull up lame near the end of his second 40 attempt, which prompted Pro Football Talk to ponder the risk-reward factor of the combine:
Cardale Jones injury is another reason why the top prospects should simply say after their last college game, "See you at the draft."— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 27, 2016
Although the injury is undoubtedly a major negative, Jones may still have done himself a service Saturday by excelling prior to the unfortunate incident.
He matched Lynch with a 36-inch vertical, which put him in some elite company among quarterbacks in recent years, per College Football 24/7:
Cardale Jones with a 36-inch vertical, tied for 11th best among QBs since 2006. Others with 36"— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 27, 2016
While he didn't get the opportunity to throw due to his hamstring, there is optimism that he'll be good to go for his March 11 pro day.
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, George Whitfield of the Whitfield Athletix Quarterback Academy expects Jones to heal up over the next couple of weeks:
George Whitfield to me on Cardale Jones: “I think if he's smart about his therapy over the next 2 wks” he'll be good for his Pro Day Mar. 11— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 27, 2016
He also believes Jones is in a class of his own when it comes to arm strength:
While still working on Cardale Jones’ consistency G. Whitfield told me he believes CJ ‘has the most powerful arm I’ve seen in t/ last 5 yrs"— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 27, 2016
Another quarterback who acquitted himself well was Cook. The former Spartan was among the fastest signal-callers with a 40 time of 4.79 seconds, and he was strong in the throwing drills as well.
As seen in this video, he showed off some laser accuracy on cross-field throws toward the sideline:
Also, according to Scott Petrak of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, his deep routes were on point when compared to his peers:
MSU QB Connor Cook threw few of best deep balls of group. Perfect 40-yard go route to outside shoulder. 2 great throws on45-yard post-corner— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) February 27, 2016
Cook even received a ringing endorsement from former MSU teammate and current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard:
TRUST ME Connor Cook is the REAL DEAL !!!!! GREAT TEAM GUY.. And he is a WINNER!!!!!— Darqueze Dennard (@DDennard21) February 27, 2016
Former Florida and Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel entered the combine with little fanfare, but he may have pushed himself from likely undrafted status into the late-round conversation.
In addition to a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, which was tops among quarterbacks by more than two-tenths of a second over TCU's Trevone Boykin, his broad jump of 122 inches was No. 1 as well:
Top QB broad jumps:— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 27, 2016
GOLD: Jeff Driskel, 10-2
SILVER (tied): Paxton Lynch, Carson Wentz, 9-10
BRONZE: Josh Woodrum, 9-9#NFLCombine
On the wide receiver side of things, a number of pass-catchers had the opportunity to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack in what looks to be a competitive class without any elite prospects at the top.
Notre Dame's Will Fuller did his best to change that perception Saturday, though, as he enjoyed a fantastic day that featured the fastest 40-yard dash by any receiver.
He officially clocked in at 4.32 seconds, and as seen in this video, he did it with a nearly effortless burst that should translate well to the NFL:
Per ESPN Stats & Info, his 40-yard-dash showing was among the best at the combine over the past decade:
Will Fuller, Scouts Inc.’s No. 2 WR prospect, ran a 4.32 for the 40 at the #Combine, tied for 6th-fastest by a WR since 2006— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 27, 2016
He ran so well, in fact, that Mayock compared him to Denver Broncos Pro Bowl wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders:
Will Fuller of Notre Dame with 4.33u 40. "Reminds me of Emmanuel Sanders. That's freakin flying." -- Mayock— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) February 27, 2016
The biggest knock on Fuller coming out of college is the notion that he has suspect hands, but he rose to the occasion Saturday by catching every pass thrown his way in the gauntlet drill.
He excelled in all areas to the point that Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports 1 is among those who have no doubt he'll produce in the NFL:
Will Fuller will not be a bust. #irish— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) February 27, 2016
While Fuller was tops in the 40, TCU's Kolby Listenbee came close with an official time of 4.39 seconds, shown by this video via the NFL's official Twitter account:
Although many expected Listenbee to dominate the 40-yard dash due to his track background, his performance was made even more impressive by the fact that he just recently began training again after being injured, per Bill Jones of CBS 11 in Dallas:
Turns out TCU WR Kolby Listenbee runs official 4.35...only running full speed last 10 days or so...great speed https://t.co/OsjWuTUAOl— Bill Jones (@CBS11BillJones) February 27, 2016
Nagging injuries held the Arlington, Texas, native to just 30 receptions for 597 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season, but he likely opened some eyes Saturday.
In fact, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports could see Listenbee squeezing his way into the third-round conversation:
Listenbee is going to be drafted higher than most think IMO. Borderline top-100 prospect. #Speeeeeeed— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 27, 2016
According to Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, Listenbee's ball skills have as much to do with that possibility as his wheels:
TCU WR Kolby Listenbee's speed is obvious and he showed that today, but even more impressive his how he tracks the ball down the field— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) February 27, 2016
Both Fuller and Listenbee displayed blazing speed, but the biggest story of the day with regard to the receivers was their relatively unimpressive 40 times overall.
Outside of the top two, nobody ran faster than a 4.42, which led to a jab from Broncos two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris:
Some slow Wrs coming in the league today lol— Chris Harris (@ChrisHarrisJr) February 27, 2016
The numbers actually seemed to back up Harris' opinion, as the average 40 time among receivers Saturday was the worst at the combine in five years, per NFL.com's Bucky Brooks:
Interesting nugget from NFL Media research: pic.twitter.com/LtldxppOrP— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 27, 2016
Even so, TCU's Josh Doctson may have put himself in the first-round conversation based on his overall workout. In addition to a solid 40 time of 4.50 seconds, he was tops in the vertical jump (41 inches) and second in the broad jump (131 inches).
As seen in this Vine, Doctson also displayed some fantastic hands when taking part in positional drills:
ESPN's Matt Bowen was thoroughly impressed with what he brought to the table:
TCU WR Josh Doctson (6-2, 202): 4.5 40, 41" vertical jump, 10'11" broad jump + he stood out in positional drills. Great workout.— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) February 27, 2016
Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell is widely regarded as the best player at his position in the 2016 draft class, and while he opted against taking part in the 40-yard dash, he showed off his pass-catching skills Saturday.
The former Rebels star made a number of excellent grabs at the combine, including this picture-perfect sideline reception:
He impressed those in attendance, as a wide receivers coach compared him to one of the NFL's best, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
Talked to a WRs coach on his way back from the workouts. On Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell: "He's a lot like Dez Bryant."— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) February 27, 2016
Even Treadwell's competition at the collegiate level offered a glowing endorsement of the 6'2", 221-pound wideout, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun:
The SEC cornerbacks at combine this week certainly don't have any skepticism about Miss WR Laquon Treadwell. Raving about him.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) February 27, 2016
Baylor's Corey Coleman also refrained from running the 40-yard dash, but according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the potential first-round pick posted great numbers in some of the other drills:
#Baylor WR Corey Coleman had a 40.5-inch vertical and 10'9" broad jump… 2 months after surgery. And he'll re-jump at his pro day. Not bad.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2016
Ohio State's Braxton Miller was among the most intriguing prospects entering the day, since he played just one year of college ball at receiver after making the switch from quarterback.
He did well to run a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, which would have been first among quarterbacks and put him just outside of the top 10 receivers:
Miller also busted out a 123-inch broad jump, which backed up the notion that he is among the best all-around athletes in the draft:
While it can be argued that this year's quarterback crop doesn't compare to last year's, which featured Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, and this year's receivers can't compare to 2014's, which featured Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, plenty of talent was on display Saturday.
Even if the top-level stars may not be there in the class of 2016, there is a great deal of depth and the potential for some steals on Day 2 and Day 3.
Although the combine is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to evaluating prospects, there is no question that several players helped themselves significantly in Indianapolis, and many others at least solidified what teams already felt about them.
*All combine stats courtesy of NFL.com's combine tracker unless otherwise noted
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