Josh Norris

All Star Circuit

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2017 NFL Combine Takeaways

Monday, March 06, 2017


The Combine is a meaningful piece in the evaluation process. Embrace it. Even if you do not factor the athletic numbers into your report, I guarantee you will go back and check out Obi Melifonwu,  Zay Jones and Jordan Willis for a second or third time, or nail down a first exposure of  George Kittle and Robert Davis. Forcing second looks, especially for those of us that cannot possibly evaluate 300 prospects fairly, is a positive exercise.


However, the Combine results should be used in evaluations. Hopefully what is written below highlights this tool that is underappreciated or misapplied by many.


I will be embedding some great graphs and tables from Marcus Armstrong’s site Mockdraftable, a resource that compiled copious amounts of Combine data dating back to 1999. It is the best way to package a prospect’s athletic fingerprint into an easily relatable visual. A larger web is not necessarily better as prospects win in different ways, and some prospects who shine in certain areas can specialize.


I’ll also be linking to Zach Whitman’s composite score page at 3sigmaathlete.com. These scores adjust athletic results for weight, which is imperative. A 7.27 3-cone for a 275 lbs edge rusher is very different than a 7.27 3-cone for a 245 lbs edge rusher.


My takeaways….


Thresholds and Measurements


Some of the most important measurements have already been recorded prior to prospects touching the field in Lucas Oil Stadium. Heights, weights, hand size, arm length and wingspans can all be important for this reason: thresholds.


My perception of minimums and thresholds changed after reading this piece. If it needed to be funneled into a single line, one stands out: “Big picture wise, you want to play with the odds, not against the odds.” In this case, the odds mean siding with prospects who possess the measurements that are successful in a specific scheme deployed by the team.


This is the longest group of defensive backs I can remember. 14 of 37 listed corners possessed 32-plus inch arms and 15 of 24 safeties are blessed with the same trait. I’m guessing that percentage is far above the annual average. Teams like the Panthers and the Seahawks want their outside corners to possess this kind of length, so the pool of talent might be larger this year than others. More on the cornerback class later.


Arm length and weight matter for offensive tackles, or so says this anonymous NFL OL coach. "It's pretty hard to be 295 to 305 (pounds) and make it anymore in the league as a starter,” he said. This quote was directed at Antonio Garcia, who weighed 293 pounds with 32.5-inch arms at the Senior Bowl. Then, at the Combine, he showed up at 302 pounds with 33.5-inch arms (by the way, top tackle Garett Bolles weighed in at 297 pounds). Sure, he still fits under that 305-pound mark the position coach mentioned, but it goes to show how much these frames can change in a matter of weeks. Also, plenty of NFL offensive linemen took exception to that weight range mentioned, saying a number of successful NFL linemen play in or under that range.


This leads to the final point… arm lengths. The differences between Senior Bowl measurements and Combine measurements were noticeable and even drastic in some situations despite the fact that the same people did the measuring in both instances. Perhaps it leads to teams to using wingspan for length rather than arm length, since it is a much more consistent measurement.


On Second Thought


Let’s have a talk about Dalvin Cook. Practically everyone loves Dalvin Cook’s game. I ranked him as the top running back alongside Leonard Fournette. Cook’s composite score places him in the 9th percentile in terms of athleticism among running backs since 1999. Zach Whitman points out no first round running back below the 10th percentile has been drafted in the first round. Am I saying Dalvin is not talented? No. I’m saying this should be taken under consideration when reviewing his evaluation. Teams will combine this with his medical and character/medicals. Identifying non-NFL athletes can be just as important as identifying good ones. You tell me, can you fully trust a running back in the first round that is less athletic than 91 percent of other running backs entering the NFL since 1999? This could be remedied with improved Pro Day results.


The running back discussion took an interesting turn with Cook’s results and Leonard Fournette not posting a full workout. It gets even more unpredictable when joe Mixon might be the most talented running back, and Alvin Kamara being mentioned as a first round talent.


I was shocked by Charles Harris’ NFL Combine. He appeared to be one of the most explosive first step pass rushers in this draft, but 1.65 10 yard splits and poor agility scores are troublesome. Harris tested in the 9th percentile among edge rushers. That is beyond bad. I still appreciate his initial three steps and deploying a counter off of that if necessary.


On the other hand, Jordan Willis tested like a freak. We all saw how athletic he is in a straight line, but he rarely made the most of that advantageous position, taking far too many steps upfield and running around the pocket rather than turning the corner once at quarterback depth. His agility scores state otherwise. Perhaps his flexibility is fixed. If so, he is a first round pick. A Danielle Hunter comp seems logical.


Randomness


This is the year to draft defensive backs and tight ends, not offensive line and interior defensive linemen…. In the last two years 176 tight ends produced athletic profiles. Just 4 of 176 tight ends tested over the 70th percentile. Seven of the 11 tight ends who tested in full at the 2017 NFL Combine topped the 70th percentile. In fact, five placed in at least the 82nd percentile. That is bonkers, and this might concern free agent tight ends…. Evan Engram posted an outstanding workout and I love his game, but he is not an easy fit for every NFL team like O.J> Howard and David Njoku are… Look at Christian McCaffrey go through pass catching drills. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who lists him as the top back in this draft… As much as Dalvin Cook’s testing was criticized, Jamaal Williams scored even worse… Many view Pat Elflein as the top center in this class. 98% of offensive linemen since 1999 produced a better athletic score than Elflein…. Teez Tabor ran a 4.63 forty. In a class with length, size, speed and agility? That’s bad timing. His complete athletic profile was poor. With those numbers popping up on his player card in comparison to others at his position, I would be shocked to see him in the first round… It is unreal that John Ross still has this level of explosion after multiple surgeries on both knees plus an upcoming shoulder procedure.


Web of Truth


Prior to the NFL Combine I viewed Zay Jones as the top slot prospect. Now I wonder if he will be limited to the slot. He will be a top 50 selection.



So many keep trying to anoint the next Deone Bucannon (I think his style is more of a talking piece in the media than inside the NFL) Some viewed Jaquiski Tartt as a possibility. Even if we don’t have a 3-cone or shuttle time, RayShawn Jenkins would be my nomination.




Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris


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