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2020 NFL Combine Preview: Day 1 (QB/TE/WR)


Here it is. The 2020 NFL Combine. Indianapolis. The capital of Hype Country. And the first group of prospects are a couple of hours away from hitting the field!

Disclaimer number one: Teams value combine medicals and interviews over the workout. Athleticism can be evaluated on tape, perhaps even more accurately as they’re playing the game. What they’re thinking during a specific play, however, is much harder to get a grasp on.

Disclaimer number two: for a majority of these prospects, this is simply a box to tick and nothing more should be made of it. Isaiah Simmons is an outstanding athlete. We don’t need his future freakish combine numbers to tell us that. It’s a big reason why we’re seeing top-end prospects hold-out from the on-field workouts, understandably so.

Disclaimer number three (regarding WRs and RBs): a 4.5s 40-yard dash is fast, even 4.6 for certain players. Plenty fast enough. Anything lower than that is bonus speed. Great bonus speed, but bonus speed nonetheless.

This article has two goals: pointing out where your eyes should be as we go through the combine evaluation process, as well as where they shouldn’t be. Not every workout at the combine means the same for every position, and not every measurement should be interpreted similarly. Data collected at the combine doesn’t mean much when isolated from the tape. A 280lb edge rusher shouldn’t be evaluated to the same standards as a 240lb edge rusher. Their game isn’t the same and they win in different manners.

Use the tape to point you to what you should pay attention to during the combine. And vice-versa if you find anomalies during the combine. Some players show traits that don’t pop up on tape. If people watched D.K. Metcalf‘s games at Ole Miss, they wouldn’t have expected a fast 3-Cone and thus wouldn’t have made as much of a deal out of it. It’s not a part of his game, and it hasn’t been in his rookie season.

I’ll break down every position group, which workouts matter and which don’t, as well as what I hope to see from certain prospects. You’ll also find my “best performance” predictions for certain measurables per position.

You can refer to this piece as a guide throughout the week as positional groups take turns hitting the field, at the 2020 NFL Combine.

Click here to read my 2020 NFL Combine Day 2 Preview (RB/OL).

2020 NFL Combine Preview: Day 1 (QB/TE/WR)

Click here to view my Top-100 2020 NFL Draft Big Board


Embed from Getty Images

QBFavoriteDark HorseHonorable Mentions
40 Yard DashJalen HurtsCole McDonaldJustin Herbert

As mentioned above, there are a lot of positions for whom the measurable workouts of the Combine are irrelevant. I believe QBs fall into this category. To put it in basic terms, you just want the prospect to not suck athletically. And even then, we’ve seen prospects reach Hall of Fame status without being premiere athletes (looking at you, Tom Brady). Regardless, I threw down some predictions on the 40-yard dash for quarterbacks. Because let’s face it, it’s fun to watch these guys sprint over 40 yards for the last time in their careers (for the most of them).

Unsurprisingly, I believe Jalen Hurts should run the fastest 40. Furthermore, he should work out at the top of the group, considering his style of play. Cole McDonald showcases some speed on tape, so his run will be worth keeping an eye on. And finally, I put Herbert as my honorable mention as his athleticism deserves a spot in this table. It’s not often you see a 6 foot 6, 236 lb run the way he did in the Rose Bowl (he was probably in the low 220s).

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On-field workouts

There are a number of things to consider in the non-measurable workout, despite the quarterbacks working out without pads and against air. We can evaluate and compare mechanics: from footwork on dropbacks, mobility and comfort on rollouts, to the upper body mechanics and how in sync the upper half is with the feet. Here is what I am looking for from this class of quarterbacks.

  • Joe Burrow isn’t participating in the workout. His biggest task will be in the interview room, breaking down what made the switch turn on between his junior to senior season and more.
  • It’s ironic the two quarterbacks with the most riding on the combine won’t be on the field. Tua will also have important work in the film room with teams. But a lot of his “performance” relies on reports he can’t control: the medicals on the status of his hip.
  • Justin Herbert‘s athleticism isn’t in question. I want to see him let the arm go in a pressured evaluation context with all 32 teams staring at him. He needs to drive the ball with accuracy and consistency, sling it and play loose. There’s too much holding back on tape, and that’s when the accuracy drops and the inconsistency kicks in. I’ll also be keeping an eye on his throws off-platform.
  • Love’s athleticism is off the charts. Confidence and arm talent are outstanding. There isn’t much Love can do for his stock on the field in Indy. His biggest task will be winning teams over in the film room and talking through some questionable decision making on tape.
  • Eason’s athleticism isn’t a question mark, I believe it’s just not there. I really want to see him throw on the move and watch him throw in simulated pocket movement situations. He should wow a lot of people with his arm when throwing on-platform.
  • Fromm and Hurts should have no problem winning teams over in the film room. Great characters, leaders and football IQ. Fromm can answer a lot of questions regarding his arm strength. If he can drive the ball with a quick and clean release, he could improve his stock.

Tight Ends

Embed from Getty Images

TEFavoriteDark HorseHonorable Mentions
40 Yard DashHunter BryantJosiah DeguaraBrycen Hopkins
Vertical JumpBrycen Hopkins

If there is one skill position for which the combine workouts “matter” the most, it’s the tight end position. In the pass-heavy league that the NFL is becoming, athleticism at the tight end position is growing in value. We are shifting away from the era of double-trouble in-line blocking tight ends as teams tend to bring in an extra tackle or tight ends with pure blocking expertise to fill that role. All while flexing tight ends in the slot at Y, to create mismatches over the middle and up the seams. Tight ends with that rare dual-threat ability like George Kittle are becoming a scarce resource.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say that tight ends flashing their athleticism at the combine, do tend to translate well into receiving threats at the next level. Some drills that I hold in high regards when the tape backs it up are the weight-adjusted 40-yard time, broad and vertical jumps, the on-field route-running drills.

Here are some of the top 20 speed scores over the last 20 combines: Vernon Davis, Ben Watson, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Jared Cook, George Kittle.

Player previews

  • Hunter Bryant is the perfect flex-TE for the NFL. He’ll be drafted as a future primary weapon at Y for the team that drafts him. He should tear up every drill thrown at him.
  • Brycen Hopkins is described as a tremendous athlete by his former QB David Blough, and it shows on tape. A lot of the value in his evaluation is based on the athletic traits and flexibility on film. He looks explosive. I think he’s the favorite to jump the highest on the vertical jump out of the TE class.
  • Cole Kmet already won the weigh-ins by checking in at 262 lbs when he was initially listed at 235. Kmet isn’t a freakish athlete on film but is really good at what he does. He’s a threat working the seams, with safe hands. His official size adds a lot of value to what we’ve seen. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s as fluid as during the season during the on-field workout, assuming he’s above his in-season playing weight. A true TE-1 candidate.
  • If you watch any of Adam Trautman’s games at Dayton, he looks like a hell of an athlete compared to the level of competition. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl as well. It’ll be interesting to compare him to the rest of the class athletically, on an unbiased stage.
  • Josiah Deguara should generate a good amount of buzz at the combine. He looks like a great athlete, with some burst to him. I believe I’m higher than consensus on Deguara as I think his skill-set should translate well to the next level. He’s currently TE-6 on my board, scratching the door of my top 100. The Cincinnati Bearcats have a nice pedigree of tight ends entering the NFL too…

Wide Receivers

Embed from Getty Images

WRFavoriteDark HorseHonorable Mentions
40 Yard DashHenry RuggsDevin DuvernayK.J. Hamler Jalen Reagor
Broad JumpJalen ReagorLaviska ShenaultQuintez Cephus
Vertical JumpHenry RuggsAaron ParkerCeeDee Lamb

I’ll start with the fun bit, who I think can kill the 40-yard dash. It doesn’t take a genius to say that Henry Ruggs is the favorite. Even if he doesn’t run in the high 4.1s, that’s high 4.1 play speed if I’ve ever seen it. We put expectations so high on Ruggs, that if he runs in the low 4.3s or high 4.2s people will somehow be disappointed. He’s freakishly fast and we won’t need some combine number to tell us that.

But there are a good number of other receivers that can break the meter on the dash. The first that comes to my mind is Devin Duvernay. The Texas WR is a former track star and I believe he can hit the 4.3s. K.J. Hamler is a speed threat and has displayed it at Penn State in the multitude of ways they’ve used him. Jalen Reagor is another candidate to run in the 4.3s, he’s an athlete with both outstanding speed and quickness. The 40 won’t be the only measurable drill Reagor tears up. Aiyuk should run well, so should Shenault for his size. It’s also fun to be surprised by some prospects on the 40, so I’ll let the rest of the class do the talking!

Player previews

If there’s one position that tends to get overhyped at the Combine it’s this one. It’s also a ridiculous position to rank, as we basically group 3-4 different positions/playing-styles into one group. K.J. Hamler and Laviska Shenault Jr. should never be compared to Michael Pittman. They’re completely different players filling entirely different roles on an offense. Therefore, while you watch the WR groups work out, it’s important to keep in mind: what role each prospect projects into at the next level, how they win on film and then get an idea of what to expect and look for at the Combine. Let’s preview what to expect (and not) from some receivers at the combine:

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  • Jerry Jeudy is a tremendous athlete and it should show. His 40 time doesn’t matter, his play speed is clearly superior. I think he’ll run in the 4.4s and won’t worry if he’s in the 4.5s. He should put on a clinic during the on-field drills. I’ll be keeping an eye on how natural his hand positioning looks on the gauntlet, he has some concentration drops sprinkled throughout his tape but nothing major from my perspective.
  • The same can be said about CeeDee Lamb‘s 40, despite him being slower than Jeudy. He’s instinctive enough of a route runner to create separation. He’s a candidate to leap among the top of the class on the vertical jump. Watch CeeDee and Jeudy for the entertainment, they should put on a show.
  • Jalen Reagor is out of this world as an athlete. Not only should he fly on the 40, but I think he’ll kill the broad jump as a former long jump track star. He’s so explosive, the vertical jump should be outstanding as well. His routes will be crisp during the workout. He should gain some buzz coming out of Indy.
  • Hamler checked in pretty small at 178 lbs. He should tear up the agility drills at that weight, and from the change of direction ability showed on tape. It’ll be fun to see him workout on the field.
  • Tee Higgins is where it gets tricky. We can’t expect Higgins to burn at the 40, but a 4.5 would be plenty fast enough. He’s not a change of direction guy, so don’t expect amazing numbers on the 3-cone. What I do want to evaluate is how well he gets in and out of breaks during the workout and his stride length variation. He should leap well on the vert.
  • Shenault is an ATHLETE. And he checked in at 227. He’s so explosive, I think he’ll test out really well throughout the workouts for his size. I do think he’s a very raw route runner, so his on-field workout should be interesting.
  • Quintez Cephus is a name you probably haven’t heard much. He’s been working out with D.K. Metcalf in preparation for the combine, and their athleticism is somewhat comparable. If Cephus posted a similar photo to the one D.K. posted last February, his buzz would have probably taken off too. I think he’ll test out well and should get on a lot of people’s radars. He currently stands at WR-17 on my board, but I haven’t finished his evaluation.
  • Antonio Gandy-Golden is a jump-ball threat. He looks very athletic on tape, his leaping ability will be important. He outjumped a lot of inferior competition at Liberty.
  • Michael Pittman, Collin Johnson, Chase Claypool are guys I’ll be looking for similar things from. They’re not burners and aren’t particularly impressive with quickness (Johnson looks agile with his feet for his size). I’m interested in seeing how they test out athletically and how well they break during the workout. I think Pittman is the most refined route runner of the three, with Johnson closely behind. The combine is great to separate these types of clusters.
  • Malcolm Perry is the wild card of this WR class. The Navy QB is making the switch to slot WR at the next level. He’s quick and explosive, he should be fun to watch. It’ll be interesting to see how his route running improved since the East-West Shrine in January.

There are so many more prospects to discuss as we head into day 1, but so little time to do so. Let’s watch these guys put on a show and breakdown some takeaways post-Indy!

Click here to read my two-round 2020 NFL Mock Draft

About Selyan Lonqueux

Junior NFL Draft analyst, and aspiring football coach. Active Wide Receiver across the pond, in Europe. The truth lies in the tape, the whole tape and nothing but the tape.

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