NFL Combine 2016: Grading the Most Notable Invitees
The football world just collected in Indianapolis for one week. The NFL Scouting Combine is the last big event before free agency, which is a quick flash before the draft cycle hits full force.
Some will tell you that the most important part of the combine is the medical evaluations, which is why the event was created in the first place. Others will tell you that it's the interview process, where every staff has a chance to pick the mind of a prospect about his past or just to try to figure out his personality.
There might even be a few people who tell you that the Underwear Olympics don't matter, but the fact that every NFL franchise is there taking handheld times is significant enough to prove the worth of on-field drills. Those three aspects together can alter a prospect's draft stock.
We'll take a look at how some of the biggest names in the 2016 class fared at Lucas Oil Stadium. To help illustrate how well players did in individual drills based on their positions, we'll include their percentiles from Mock Draftable, which has a historical database dating back to the 1999 combine. The players highlighted here are the top prospects on Play the Draft's big board, a site which accumulates a consensus ranking by way of a stock market-like game.
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
Not every participant at the NFL Scouting Combine participated in all of the drills. The first player on the majority of media draft boards is Laremy Tunsil, the bookend from Mississippi. As the perceived front-runner to go first overall, he elected to bypass the timed drills in Indianapolis after coming in at 6'5" with 34 ¼" arms.
In the non-timed drills, which were offensive line-specific, Tunsil looked like the dancing bear he was tabbed as in the SEC. The only negative for him during the entire week was when Robert Nkemdiche, his former teammate, told the media that he was in the hotel room when Nkmediche fell out of the window and caught his marijuana charge. There are now questions about that day in Georgia, but from a football perspective, the left tackle aced the test.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
Like Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell didn't do much at the combine. The receiver didn't run, but he did manage to do his vertical and broad jumps, which were measured at only 33" and 9'9", respectively. Those lackluster results might not matter after Treadwell is a full participant in Oxford for his pro day, but this week didn't help his stock any.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Myles Jack wasn't able to run or jump due to his ongoing recovery from his torn meniscus. He measured in at 6'1" and 245 pounds, which, if nothing else, means he's keeping in shape. No news came from Jack's combine, as the full weight of the linebacker's draft-day experience will ride on a healthy workout.
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Like Jack, Jaylon Smith is another injured linebacker. Unlike Jack, though, he doesn't seem to be on schedule to play in 2016, if he ever plays football again. He measured in at 6'2" and 223 pounds, about 20 pounds under his playing weight at Notre Dame. For example, Deion Jones, the LSU linebacker who is considered to be on the linebacker-safety threshold, was just one pound lighter than Smith.
David Chao, a former physician with the San Diego Chargers, noted a device on Smith's leg that helps him walk, which common for injuries where nerve damage is present. Albert Breer of NFL Network compared it to Marcus Lattimore's injury, the Heisman-contending running back who never saw the field in the NFL.
The severity of Smith's knee injury came to light in Indianapolis. The April recheck to make sure he's on a normal pace of recovery will be crucial to determine if Smith even gets drafted.
Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
- Height: 6'5"
- Weight: 269 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.86 seconds (45th percentile for defensive ends)
- Bench Press: 24 reps (50th percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 32" (33rd percentile)
- Broad Jump: 10'0" (78th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 6.89 seconds (94th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.21 seconds (90th percentile)
Joey Bosa, a pass-rusher from Ohio State, was never tabbed as a premier athlete, as his approach to the position is based around length and technical ability. Nevertheless, he did well for himself, all things considered. He ran in the middle of the pack in the 40-yard dash, as well as benched the average mark. His jumps split between a very good broad and a below-average vertical, but the agility drills gave his combine performance character.
A sub-seven-second time in the three-cone drill is amazing for a defensive lineman, and his 4.21-second 20-yard shuttle was only a hair less impressive. Dropping down to 269 pounds after being listed at 278 pounds at Ohio State was interesting. We can say one thing for certain after this week: He's not the 289-pound J.J. Watt.
Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State
- Height: 6'1"
- Weight: 209 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.41 seconds (80th percentile for cornerbacks)
- Arm Length: 33 ⅜" (95th percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 41.5" (96th percentile)
- Broad Jump: 11'3" (99th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 6.94 seconds (51st percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 seconds (43rd percentile)
Depending on who you talk to, Jalen Ramsey might be the top overall player in this draft class. As a college track athlete, his lower-body-explosion numbers shouldn't be a surprise. He nearly cracked the 4.3-second range in the 40-yard dash and ranked in the 96th percentile or higher for cornerbacks in both jump categories.
Where he looked below average was in the agility section, between his three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. The combine confirmed who Ramsey is: a long cornerback with top-end speed. When Bosa runs a better three-cone drill than you, though, you can't claim there wasn't room for improvement.
Jared Goff, QB, California
- Height: 6'4"
- Weight: 215 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.82 seconds (53rd percentile for quarterbacks)
- Hand Size: 9" (5th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 7.17 seconds (40th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.47 seconds (20th percentile)
The combine is overrated from a quarterback perspective. Very little of the timed portion of the combine relates to the position.
Still, Jared Goff started the week off poorly when his hands measured only 9". Against Oregon in his freshman season, he was pulled after throwing seven balls for 11 yards in the rain. If he gets off the West Coast to a cold-weather city, will he struggle in the winter?
Citing sources, Charlie Campbell of Walter Football stated Goff's interview with the Cleveland Browns was "poor," while Carson Wentz was an "absolute stud." But combine rumors can be confusing, as Will Carroll, who is known for his injury analysis, refuted that Goff "solidified himself with Browns brass." Either way, the implication of Goff's small hands, a trait that only Tony Romo has seemed to overcome in the past two decades of NFL football, is worrisome.
DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
- Height: 6'7"
- Weight: 291 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 5.05 seconds (8th percentile for defensive ends)
- Arm Length: 34 ⅜" (78th percentile)
- Hand Size: 11 ¾" (99th percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 32" (33rd percentile)
- Broad Jump: 9'8" (60th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 7.51 seconds (14th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.47 seconds (35th percentile)
Though he didn't bench, DeForest Buckner's style of play reflected his measurables. He stands at 6'7" and 291 pounds with 34 ⅜" arms and record-tying 11 ¾" hands. After that, Buckner's numbers don't impress.
As a two-gap defender, he lines up over an offensive tackle, reacting to the lineman instead of the football. It's a run-first position of strength and length, not a defensive end position in the traditional sense, which revolves around pass-rushing and accumulating sacks. Buckner isn't going to be an edge defender at the next level, but we knew that coming into the week.
Buckner's frame needed to be right in Indianapolis, and it passed with flying colors.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
- Height: 6'5"
- Weight: 237 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.77 seconds (64th percentile for quarterbacks)
- Hand Size: 10" (73th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 6.86 seconds (87th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.15 seconds (84th percentile)
In the agility drills, which can loosely be translated to footwork, Carson Wentz performed well. He also measured in at 6'5" and 237 pounds, looking like a traditional quarterback, a dying breed in college football.
Not much can be said about Wentz's performance, other than he looked good throwing in shorts and checked all of the boxes. It's hard for passers to rise in situations like this.
According to Charlie Campbell of Walter Football, a source with the Cleveland Browns, who own the second overall pick, called Wentz an "absolute stud." Prior to the combine, Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported the Browns were leaning toward drafting the North Dakota State product, so it appears as though Wentz did nothing at the combine to dissuade them from that position.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
- Height: 5'10"
- Weight: 204 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.50 seconds (45th percentile for cornerbacks)
- Arm Length: 30 ⅝" (20th percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 39" (82nd percentile)
- Broad Jump: 10'10" (94th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 3.98 seconds (87th percentile)
In the explosion drills and the 20-yard shuttle, Vernon Hargreaves looked like a top-end cornerback. Although he missed a three-cone attempt, it wasn't Hargreaves' biggest combine blemish. As feared, he measured in at 5'10". The history for small cornerbacks, or at least cornerbacks falling short of 5'11", is damning.
With a mid-level 40-yard dash, Hargreaves' combine is passable, especially considering he was carrying 204 pounds on a small frame, but it could have gone much better. Every staff in the league will scrutinize his height as they weigh whether to draft him.
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
- Height: 6'6"
- Weight: 312 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 5.20 seconds (65th percentile for offensive tackles)
- Arm Length: 35 ⅝" (91st percentile)
- Hand Size: 10 ⅝" (83rd percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 8.03 seconds (26th percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.90 seconds (21st percentile)
Ronnie Stanley made the choice not to participate in the bench press with his nearly 36" arms. Juxtaposed to Laremy Tunsil in non-timed drills, the reality of the offensive line class was sinking in: Tunsil was the clear-cut top bookend prospect.
In the agility drills, Stanley, whose draft stock is built around raw, unrefined ability, failed. He essentially scored in the bottom quarter of offensive tackles in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, historically.
Luckily, Stanley measured in with a big frame and big hands. Functional strength means more at the offensive line position than numbers on turf, but it's hard to claim that the Notre Dame left tackle did well for himself.
A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
- Height: 6'4"
- Weight: 307 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 5.20 seconds (25th percentile for defensive tackles)
- Bench Press: 22 reps (12th percentile)
- Arm Length: 34 ½" (84th percentile)
- Hand Size: 10 ½" (81st percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 26" (10th percentile)
- Broad Jump: 8'10" (54th percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 7.80 seconds (42nd percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.74 seconds (29th percentile)
Like DeForest Buckner, the NFL will look at A'Shawn Robinson as a 5-technique 3-4 defensive end. There was potential for him as a nose tackle or nose guard, but those opportunities might have vanished after the combine.
His lower-body-explosion drills weren't good enough to stick on as a nose guard, as he only jumped 26" in the vertical. His agility drills, including a 4.74-second 20-yard shuttle and his 5.20-second 40-yard dash, don't indicate a one-gap penetrator or 4-3 nose tackle.
Robinson is a big man, but it's hard to call him athletic at this point. That would be a lie, at least on paper. His blocked field goal against LSU now looks like more of an outlier than the norm.
Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
- Height: 6'2"
- Weight: 251 pounds
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.80 seconds (62nd percentile for defensive ends)
- Bench Press: 25 reps (60th percentile)
- Arm Length: 33" (21st percentile)
- Hand Size: 10 ¾" (95th percentile)
- Vertical Jump: 35" (72nd percentile)
- Broad Jump: 10'1" (83rd percentile)
- Three-Cone Drill: 7.21 seconds (52nd percentile)
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.35 seconds (66th percentile)
I don't think anyone expected Noah Spence to run a 4.80-second 40-yard dash. The former Ohio State Buckeye was supposed to be in the running for being the top pass-rusher off the board with his former teammate Joey Bosa.
Teams that are looking for the next Von Miller will have to keep looking.
Undersized at 6'2" and 251 pounds, his long-speed score just wasn't enough. He did fairly well in the jumps, but it was nothing to write home about. His agility drills were slightly above average, but when you account for his size, none of that compensates for his disappointing 40-yard dash.
Kimberly Jones of NFL Network relayed what one source told her about Spence's buzz: "Perhaps now we can stop the narrative that he's going to be a first-round pick."