The NFL Scouting Combine started as a way for teams to gather all the prospects in one location for a thorough medical evaluation. It’s evolved quite a bit since then, and while it’s still more about physicals and testing and less about football—it’s all we have in late winter, so we make a big deal out of it.
With that in mind it’s time to name our 2016 All-Combine Fantasy Team. While inclusion to this squad is based primarily on performance in the various athletic tests, it’s worth noting that some of last year’s members—notably Marcus Mariota and David Johnson—turned out to be pretty good football players as well.
QUARTERBACK - Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
The fast-rising FCS prospect was expected to test well, and he didn’t disappoint as he was the only quarterback to post top-five marks in three of the four events quarterbacks participated in. Wentz’s 6-5, 237-pound frame makes his marks in the 40 (4.77, tied for second), broad jump (9-10, tied for second), and 3-cone (6.86, third) that much more impressive, and is enough to give him the narrow nod over Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel, who paced the position in both the 40 (4.56) and broad jump (10-2).
RUNNING BACK - Dan Vitale, Northwestern
Projected as a fullback at the NFL, Vitale played “superback” at Northwestern and stood out across the board in Indy by ranking in the top five in five of the seven tests running backs competed in; he won the 20-yard shuttle (4.12), was second in the bench press (30 reps), claimed third in the vertical (38.5 inches) and 60-yard shuttle (11.36), and was fifth in the broad jump (10-3). Heck, his 3-cone (7.12, ninth) and 4.60 40 weren’t bad, either. At 6-1, 239 he’s a bit small for an NFL fullback/H-back role, but his versatility and obvious athleticism earmark him for special teams duty and his experience in the passing game (135-1,427-11 as a receiver in college) suggest potential as a Marcel Reece-type fullback in a West Coast system.
RUNNING BACK - Daniel Lasco, California
Eleven backs posted top-five marks in multiple tests and eight hit the leader board in three or more events, but only Vitale and Lasco placed in the top five in more than half of the seven tests backs participated in at the Combine. Not only did Lasco place fourth in the 40 (4.46) and second in the 60-yard shuttle (11.36), his vertical (41.5) was closer to the Combine record (Christine Michael, 43 inches) than it was to his second-place challenger in this year’s crop of running backs and his 11-3 broad jump set a new standard for backs at the Combine. Scouts are concerned his 6-0, 209-pound frame won’t hold up to feature-back duty, but his athleticism should at least get him a shot at a Sunday job.
Honorable mention to San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, who came in second in the 40 (4.41), vertical (39.0) and broad jump (10-10); West Virginia’s Wendell Smallwood, who won both the 3-cone (6.83) and 60-yard shuttle (11.14) drills; and to Keith Marshall, whose position-pacing 40 (4.31) sent scouts scurrying for what limited tape exists after an injury-marred career at Georgia.
WIDE RECEIVER - Josh Doctson, TCU
Doctson’s collegiate (and likely professional) success stems from his ability to win the contested catch, so his position-topping 41-inch vertical should come as no surprise. His explosion and burst were also on display in top-five finishes in the broad jump (10-11, second), 20-yard shuttle (4.08, third) and 60-yard shuttle (11.06, third)
WIDE RECEIVER - Trevor Davis, California
Known primarily for his prowess as a return man, Davis garnered further attention in Indy by placing top-five in four of the seven events: the 40 (4.42, third), vertical (38.5, fourth), 3-cone (6.60, second), and 60-yard shuttle (10.94, second).
WIDE RECEIVER - Braxton Miller, Ohio State
The athletic Miller transitioned from quarterback to receiver last week, and the athleticism that allowed such a move was on full display as he led all running backs in the 60-yard shuttle (10.84), placed second in the 20-yard shuttle (4.07), ranked third in the 3-cone drill (6.65), and tied for fifth with 17 reps on the bench press. While there’s still plenty for him to learn about playing wideout, there’s no questioning his ability.
Honorable mention to Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, who won both the bench press (20 reps) and vertical jump (41 inches); Auburn’s Ricardo Louis, who won the broad jump (11-0) and notched top-five marks in the bench press (18, third), 40 (4.43, fourth), and vertical (38.0, fifth); Arizona State’s DJ Foster, who won the 20-yard shuttle (4.07) and finished fourth among all wideouts in both the 3-cone (6.75) and 60-yard shuttle (11.12); and Baylor’s Corey Coleman, who posted top-five marks in the vertical (40.5, third), broad jump (10-9, fourth), and bench press (17, fifth).
TIGHT END - Ben Braunecker, Harvard
Athleticism abounded at the tight end position, where eight players scored top-five marks in at least three events. But Braunecker hit the leader board in every measured event, winning the 60-yard shuttle (11.32) and placing second in the 20-yard shuttle (4.20), 3-cone (6.90), broad jump (10-1), and vertical (35.5); by comparison, his bronze in the bench (20 reps) and fifth-place finish in the 40 (4.73) pale by comparison. With a ready-made nickname (“Bronk”) and Harvard smarts he has everything necessary to follow the path laid out by fellow alums Matt Birk, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Juszczyk.
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