The recently-completed 2016 Scouting Combine is the closest will get to on-field football for quite some time. The “Under Armour Olympics” ain’t football, but that doesn’t mean it can’t provide us with fantasy insight in advance of dynasty league rookie drafts and the NFL’s annual player selection meeting.
While the 2016 draft class isn’t nearly as top-heavy at the quarterback position as last year’s crop, there are three signal-callers expected to go in the first round—and all three showed well at the Combine.
Jared Goff is widely considered the most ready-to-play member of the “big three”, and he did nothing at the Combine to change that perception. He was athletic enough in drills and showed well in the on-field passing drills, demonstrating the best rhythm of any of the throwers.
Carson Wentz posted top-three numbers in the 40 (second, 4.77), broad jump (second, 9-10), and three-cone (third, 6.86) drills, but that was expected given the amount of called running he did in college. He also displayed a storng arm and nice touch as well, prompting NFLN analyst Mike Mayock to say he’s a virtual lock for the top 10.
While Goff and Wentz—and not necessarily in that order—remain a solid one-two, Paxton Lynch continues to hang around in the third spot. He was perhaps a bit more athletic than expected, with a particularly impressive showing in both the vertical (36 inches, tied for first) and broad (9-10, tied for second) jumps. His deep throws were especially strong, but Mayock noted that his footwork needs improvement, perhaps because he didn’t take any snaps under center in college.
Among the rest of the quarterbacks, Cardale Jones flashed plenty of athleticism but suffered an apparent hamstring injury at the end of his second 40-yard dash (which he still finished in 4.85) and did not participate in any of the on-field throwing drills. Jeff Driskel also showed well by leading the position in both the broad jump (10-2) and 40-yard dash (4.56, more than two tenths of a second faster than any other quarterback).
Connor Cook posted strong marks in the 40 (4.79) and vertical jump (33 inches), but all the analysts could talk about was the fact that he wasn’t a team captain. So perhaps Cook’s most important work at the Combine came behind closed doors in the team interviews addressing that concern.
Most of the attention was centered on Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, and neither disappointed. Elliott posted a top-five time in the 40 (4.47) and showed enough as a receiver in on-field drills to confirm his potential as an every-down back. Henry’s 40 time of 4.54 was slightly slower but nonetheless impressive for a 6-3, 247-pound specimen, and those measurements make his top-five performances in the broad jump (10-10) and vertical (37 inches) that much more impressive. Henry also showed well in on-field drills, more than enough to remain in contention for a spot in the back of the first round or early on Day Two.
Few were familiar with Keith Marshall prior to Indy thanks to an injury-marred college career. However, a position-best 4.31 40 burst him onto the scene and he flashed strength as well with 25 reps on the bench—fourth among running backs. There is limited tape given his 149 touches over the past three seasons, but Marshall’s Combine showing definitely gets him a second look.
Other workout warriors among the running backs included Cal’s Daniel Lasco, who topped running backs in both the vertical (41.5 inches) and broad (11-3) jumps and posted top-five marks in the 40 (4.46) and 60-yard shuttle (11.31) as well; and San Jose State’s Tyler Ervin, who ranked second among running backs in the 40 (4.41), broad jump (10-10) and vertical (39.0). Both project as third-down backs in the NFL, a role that can prove valuable in today’s PPR-heavy fantasy world.
The word of the day for the receiver class was “slow”, as in the slowest average 40 time for the position since 2011. The group was so slow Broncos cornerback Chris Harris felt compelled to tweet “Some slow WRs coming into the league today LOL.”
Laquon Treadwell, widely considered the top receiver in this class, didn’t run the 40 and was below average in the jumps. But he wasn’t expected to wow with test scores, and he did participate in the on-field drills; it was there he flashed the hands that make him such a valued target, and analysts compared his skill set to Dez Bryant—not bad company.
Another possible first-rounder, Corey Coleman, also bowed out of the 40—in part because he’s barely two months removed from sports hernia surgery. That didn’t stop him from posting a 40.5 vertical or 10-9 broad jump, however, and Coleman also ranked a solid fifth among wideouts with 17 reps in the bench press.
Perhaps the day’s biggest winner was Will Fuller, who clocked a 4.32 40 to lead the group and rank sixth among all Combine wideouts since 2006. More importantly, Fuller—whose draft stock has been dinged because of questionable hands—caught everything thrown his way during drills. It may be enough to move Fuller to the top of Day Two or even the bottom of the first round.
Also helping his stock was Josh Docton, who was fast enough (4.50) but also won the vertical jump (41 inches) and was second in the broad jump (10-11). As if the hops aren’t enough to help him win contested balls, Doctson also flashed great hands during the on-field drills. He could wind up exiting the green room before Day One has concluded.
Sterling Shepard did nothing to remove his name from the upper echelon of the receiver ranks, with a solid 4.48 40, a position-best 41-inch vertical jump, and another position best with 20 reps in the bench press—more than several linemen. That’s especially impressive considering Shepard is 5-10, 194 pounds.
Tyler Boyd didn’t blow anyone away in the testing portion of the program, but he was fluid in on-field drills with crisp routes and soft hands and could sneak into the bottom of the first round. Tajae Sharpe had a similar showing, with great hands and precise routes; keep that in mind when his name is called on Day Three.
Kolby Listenbee wasn’t quite as fast as expected, but it’s hard to be disappointed with a 4.39. More importantly, Listenbee proved to be more than just a runner by tracking the deep ball extremely well during on-field drills. He won’t go off the board as high as fellow track stars Darrius Heyward-Bey, Troy Williamson or Ted Ginn—but he also won’t let as many home runs slip through his fingers.
Athletically—and to the surprise of no one—Braxton Miller stood out. The former quarterback took top honors in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle events, ranked third in the 3-cone drill, and finished fifth among wideouts with 17 reps in the bench press. Cal’s Trevor Davis also placed top-five in multiple events, including the 40 (3rd, 4.42), vertical (4th, 38.5 inches), 3-cone (2nd, 6.60), and 60-yard shuttle (2nd, 10.94).
Largely viewed as a weak class, the tight ends failed to disappoint by being every bit as disappointing as expected. The consensus top prospect, Hunter Henry, didn’t run or jump and after a poor showing in the on-field drills he probably was reconsidering showing up at all. Conversely Austin Hooper, the closest contender to Henry, performed well in both the blocking and catching drills. He also clocked a solid 4.72 40, fourth at the position, and was fourth in the bench press with 19 reps.
Jerell Adams posted the top 40 time (4.64) among tight ends, notable given his 6-5, 247 pound frame. His work in the on-field drills was spotty, but there’s always a team willing to take a chance on a big guy who runs fast.
While tight ends generally don’t contribute much fantasy-wise in their rookie campaign, David Morgan demonstrated he could find the field sooner rather than later as a combo tight end. He showed well in the blocking drills and put up a position-best 29 reps in the bench press—which would have put him in the top 10 among all offensive linemen. He ranked in the top five in the 3-cone (3rd, 6.93), 20-yard shuttle (1st, 4.19), and 60-yard shuttle (5th, 11.60) and acquitted himself well in the catching drills. His 5.02 40 didn’t wow anyone, but as a blocking tight end who can also catch he should be on your radar.
Considering he went to Harvard you have to assume Ben Braunecker rocked the Wonderlic. But he also posted top-five showings in every testing event, winning the 60-yard shuttle (11.32) while finishing second in the vertical (35.5), broad jump (10-1), 3-cone drill (6.90), and 20-yard shuttle (4.20); third in the bench press (20); and fifth in the 40 (4.73). Bet he aced his ACTs, too.