By Steven Weldon
The NFL Draft Combine is, as many performance tests, an inexact science. The exact science part is the measurable aspect of their athleticism, as the potential-draftees test their speed, strength, endurance, and brainpower in the litany of tests. The negative prefix 'in-' refers to the fact that you can not use only these statistics gathered in one weekend to decide whom to take with your many selections in the upcoming NFL Draft.
However, teams press on, hoping that by using the tests, they can understand a player inside and out and assign each player a 'combine grade' before slapping their name on the draft board.
On the first full day of Combine action, the running backs, offensive linemen, kickers, and punters tested their abilities.
For the skill position players, this is an integral chance to shine against fellow players and have a nice measuring stick. Of the players in the running back category, it seems only one player is projected to go first round. Josh Jacobs, of Alabama, did not participate in any of the drills. This is a common theme with players who are already projected highly, as they do not want to exert themselves unnecessarily. While he was attending for interviews, and likely the Wonderlic test, it was likely he knew of his draft stock and decided to err on the side of caution. Meanwhile, his teammate, Damien Harris, arrived with something to prove. It was all for naught though, as Damien's numbers were not up to par with his peers.
A couple of backs that may have raised their draft stock were Justice Hill, of Oklahoma State, and Ryquell Armstead, of Temple. Hill's speed of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash was impressive but he is still projected to be a special teams player. Armstead finished second in the 40 with a 4.45, and then finished in the top 10 of RB in the bench press, hitting 22 repetitions on the bench. Washington's Myles Gaskin was largely unimpressive, but like I said earlier, it's an inexact science.
One of the most important positions in football is the offensive line, and while it's not sexy, a great line can make a good team a great team. Case in point; the Indianapolis Colts' Quenton Nelson would have had more attention if he was holding the ball for the majority of the time. Instead, he finally allowed Andrew Luck the time to throw and helped lead the Colts to the playoffs this past season.
A lineman who may have improved his draft stock was Garrett Bradbury, of North Carolina State. Bradbury ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash, hit 34 reps on the bench press, reached a 31-inch vertical, and then shined in 3 cone and 20-yard shuttle drills. He's a bit short for his position, but there are plenty of cases just like him in the NFL today. Watch for him on draft night.
On Saturday, March 2nd, the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends will display their athleticism. Let's see who shows out.
Check out the NFL Draft Combine March 1st-4th on NFL Network.