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Five Things We Learned From the NFL Combine

Big takeaways from a week in Indianapolis.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018 NFL Combine now in the books, there is a lot of information to lay out and analyze. There were a handful of incredibly impressive performances and some disappointing things as well. Here are some major takeaways.

  1. Saquon Barkley is the real deal: While Saquon Barkley’s career at Penn State was more than indicative of his talent, he locked in the perception of his talent with an absolutely unreal combine. Barkley ran a blazing 4.4 second 40 yard dash, jumped out of the gym with a 41” vertical and did all this while measuring at at over 230 pounds. Barkley then went on to look outstanding in the receiving drills and blow everyone away in interviews. While the Browns need to draft a quarterback high, Barkley will at least make them think about taking him with their first pick and that is a massive achievement.
  2. This linebacker class is loaded with athletes: Good news for Eagles fans! The perception of this linebacker class was already favorable heading into this weekend. After linebackers took to the field on Sunday, that perception is unlikely to change. The probably top two linebackers; Roquan Smith (UGA) and Tremaine Edmunds (VA Tech), both ran incredibly well and looked good in drills. Leighton Vander Esch, a fast riser out of Boise State, had an incredible all around combine while weighing in at 256 pounds. Another pleasant occurrence was Shaquem Griffin (UCF) lighting up the combine. The one-handed linebacker did not even get a combine invite until late but embarrassed those in charge of invitations when he put up 20 reps on the bench press and ran a mind-blowing 4.38 40 yard dash at 227 pounds. There is absolutely a place for Griffin on an NFL team and he should be a contributor sooner than not.
  3. Courtland Sutton is the best of this wide receiver class: This draft has been tough to parse out in terms of wide receivers. Plenty of people have liked Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) as their top guy, or James Washington (OK State), or Calvin Ridley (Alabama) but in a tightly graded group; Courtland Sutton asserted himself as the top guy this weekend. Sutton measured in at 6’3”, 218 with long arms and big hands. Then he proceeded destroy the combine with incredible agility scores, a good broad jump and a respectable 40 yard dash. While the rest of the top receivers had average or below average days, Sutton confirmed a lot of the dominance that he put on tape the last few years. While it is to be seen if the NFL reacts that way, Sutton has definitely made me readjust how I see the top guys.
  4. There is a wealth of offensive linemen this year: Offensive line day was pretty eye opening. Not just because of athletic tests but also because of the drills and buzz around these players. First of all, the interior line class is incredibly impressive. While Quenton Nelson is a deserving headliner; Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn round out the top of an outstanding guard class. Then you have center prospects like Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), James Daniel (Iowa), Billy Price (Ohio State) and Mason Cole (Michigan) who are all very impressive. Among the tackles, guys like Connor Williams (Texas) and Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) are obvious choices at the top of the class, but an incredible combine performance from Pitt’s Brian O’Neil should catapult the former tight end into top 50 consideration. Then guys like Kolton Miller (UCLA) put on a show. While Orlando Brown lost himself a lot of money at the combine, a lot of guys put in performances that will fill in the gap.
  5. The Eagles should dip into this defensive line class: The Eagles are reported to be considering moving on from Vinny Curry and Chris Long could possibly retire after this season. After watching the defensive line workouts, I think the Eagles could stand to add some highly selected talent to their already deep offensive line. Brandon Graham is awesome, of course, and Derek Barnett is a set for a breakout season, but you can never have too many good pass rushers. Guys like Harold Landry and Josh Sweat will be available later in the first round or maybe even early in day two for the Eagles to target. Lorenzo Carter is a project player with a lot of talent that I am sure the Eagles would be interested. Also, and here is a little nugget, sources say the Eagles are enamored by Tulane’s Ade Aruna. The senior prospect had an outstanding combine and apparently impressed Eagles coaches in drills and interviews. Something to keep an eye on going forward.