Today was the first day of the on field drills at the NFL Combine, with the O-Linemen , Tight Ends and Special Teams players participating in drills. Here at JBB we are going to breakdown all the action and important storylines each and every day of the Combine.
In today’s NFL, offensive lineman are almost as important as the quarterback they are protecting. Today the best O-Line prospects were on display and quite some of them put on a show. There is a three player race for best prospect; Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson and Taylor Lewan.
Those three players stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the prospects, with their athleticism. Matthews looked like he had the best technique on the ‘kick slide’ drill (most important drill for OTs), with Lewan looking a little better than Robinson. Lewan and Robinson opened eyes with 4.87 and 4.92 40 yd dash times respectively. Coming into the Combine Matthews was viewed as the top OT but Robinson and Lewan closed the gap with their performances today.
Along with the players we knew would perform well, there were a few surprises. The two players that impressed me the most were Seantrel Henderson and Joel Bitonio. Henderson has legit first round talent but off field issues and inconsistent tape have hurt his draft stock. His performance at the combine today will make teams consider if despite his past, he is still a player worth taking early in the draft. Bitonio is a lesser known guy but had a great performance today in the 40 running a 4.97 and the 3 cone drill with a 7.37 time. With their performances today they have definitely moved up draft boards.
With surprises always come disappointments, today’s biggest disappointment was Cyrus Kouandjiu from Alabama. Kouandjiu started the season at the top of draft boards but he struggled this season and slowly fell down draft boards. Today he just did not look to be in the same class of athlete as the top Lineman as evidenced by his 5.59 40 yd dash time and in the position specific drills he looked stiff and a step slow. He is really going to have to impress at his pro day to regain top prospect status he once had but right now he is quickly falling down the ranks.
Like the O-Lineman, Tight Ends are becoming more and more athletic. With the emergence of players like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, teams are always on the look out for a Tight End to create matchup problems for the defense. Eric Ebron is the premier athletic Tight End in this year’s class and he showed that in his workouts right away.
Ebron started his combine off impressively by doing 24 reps in the bench press and running a 4.50 40 yd dash. However after his second attempt at the 4o he seemed to injure his knee and did not take part in the rest of the TE drills. Hopefully this knee injury is not serious and he is able to compete at his pro day. If he is unable to compete in his pro day it will all but stop the talks of him being a top 10 pick.
A.C. Johnson from Tennessee St really showed out impressively today as he ran a 4.50 40 yd dash, fastest of all TE. He also had the best broad jump of TEs at 10.8 ft. Other than the athletic drills, he showed soft hands and ran decent routes. Johnson is a smaller TE at only 6′ 2″ tall but he could be used as a player who splits out wide and can make plays in space. He is a player to keep watch on as he has all the physical tools to be an impact TE.
Watching the TEs workout was somewhat disappointing in general because the top names either did not work out or could not work out 100%. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron and Troy Niklas were all limited at the workouts this afternoon. I was really excited to watch Ebron and Sefarian-Jenkins compete head to head for the top TE spot. Hopefully these players will get healthy and they are able to show everything they are capable of before the NFL Draft.
All in all today was a relatively uneventful combine day, as O-Lineman and TE are generally the least explosive athletes. Today was important as we got to see who is the cream of the crop at the OT position. Tomorrow the QBs, WRs and RBs take the field to show off their athleticism. Stay tuned with JBB as we will have the full breakdown of the top performers and disappointments of each position at the NFL Combine.