Yesterday was an exciting day at the 2017 NFL Combine. A deep group of wide receiver prospects went through testing, as did a deeper group of tight ends. The Eagles' need for a boost in the passing game is well known, so close attention was needed yesterday. There was quite a bit to keep an eye on.
- Obviously it's hard not to think about John Ross. The wide receiver out of Washington was already among many people's top receivers after putting up 1150 yards this season and scoring a touchdown on a ridiculous 21% of his 81 catches. John Ross may have vaulted his already strong stock into fantasy land when he not only broad jumped over 11 feet, but broke Chris Johnson's eight year old forty yard dash record. Thinking about John Ross' 4.22 forty makes my hamstrings hurt and it is truly difficult to comprehend that speed. Unfortunately, Ross looked gimpy after running and injuries are easily the biggest concern with him. Hopefully he can overcome his injury history because god knows he is talented.
- While Ross' 4.22 is stunning, Curtis Samuel running a 4.31 at eight pounds heavier is pretty damn impressive. Samuel was a dual purpose player at Ohio State and while I prefer him being handed the football as a running back, he has the tools to be an outstanding wide receiver. Samuel's speed and route running are beyond pro-ready and he will be an exciting player to see at the next level.
- A guy who had an incredibly surprising combine was Zay Jones. Jones, the NCAA record holder for single season receptions and career receptions, did not look like a great athlete while at ECU. ECU used him as an extension of the run game often, force feeding him dink and dunk passes to move the offense along. Because of this, and his quarterback potentially under throwing lots of passes, it was hard to see Jones separate and in the open field. While I am still skeptical considering how good Jones did at the combine, it warrants a second look.
- A later round player I am getting excited about is NIU's Kenny Golladay. Golladay spent two years at University of North Dakota before transferring to the FBS level. After a year of sitting out, Golladay posted two straight 1,000+ yard seasons. At 6'4" and 218 pounds with big hands, Golladay has an impressive, well built frame. He did a great job at NIU making contested grabs and after a 4.5 second forty yard dash, 10 foot broad, 35.5" vertical and 4.15 second shuttle at his size, it is hard not to get excited about him as a late round option in this offense.
- Eight tight ends ran a 4.65 40 yard dash or faster. The volume of athletic specimen's at the tight end position this year is overwhelming. OJ Howard, Bucky Hodges, David Njuko, George Kittle and Evan Engram are all freakish pieces to add to an offense. Most impressive was a 234 pound Evan Engram running a 4.42 forty yard dash and posting incredibly impressive jump numbers. Engram is a bit smaller for a tight end, so he could see a move to being a dynamic slot receiver or H-Back. Consider this: Engram weighs 10 pounds more than Josh Gordon did coming into the draft and ran a full 10th of a second faster... While the Eagles don't need a tight end, the depth in this class should mean they take a chance on one in the middle rounds regardless.
Today is my favorite day of the draft. With front seven players going through workouts and drills, it means the best athletes on the planet get to show off their abilities.This is as deep a class for front seven players as I can remember and lots of them are outstanding athletes. It is hard not to be excited.
- These defensive linemen have some potentially elite athletes among them. Myles Garret is an obvious name and one to keep a close watch on, but Tim Williams, Solomon Thomas, Takkarist McKinley, Jaleel Johnson and Malik McDowell are all special from an ability standpoint. Being able to quantify that today is exciting.
- Some guys who have some questions about their athleticism also have a chance to prove doubters wrong. Carl Lawson is one of my favorite players in the class but may be on the athletic line separating good defensive prospects from great ones. Similarly, Derek Barnett and Jon Allen have the production to excite fans, but how good of athletes are they?
- With the Eagles needing a boost to their pass rushers and likely needing a new starting defensive tackle for next year, it will be important to keep a close eye on a lot of these players. Carlos Watkins, DeAngelo Brown, Nazair Jones and Vincent Taylor are just a few players who could be potential additions to the Eagles defensive line this offseason.
- Another underrated need will be linebacker. With Mychal Kendricks likely on the outs, the Eagles might dip their toe into the linebacker pool this draft to replace him. There are a lot of intriguing players who should be available past the first round. Kendell Beckwith, Duke Riley, Anthony Walker, Jalen Reeves Maybin, Jarrad Davis and the list goes on. There are some very good athletes in this group, so keeping an eye on these guys will be important.
- In terms of predictions, it is hard not to see Myles Garret running sub 4.65, Takkarist McKinley running sub 4.6 and Solomon Thomas absolutely tearing up the jump drills. This is as exciting a group of athletes at the defensive line in recent memory, so it would be a shame to miss the show they're bound to put on today.