INDIANAPOLIS – It was time for the offensive players to shine on Saturday with one of the most highly touted days of workouts featuring the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Follow along as I take you through my Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
8 AM – It's the final day of media sessions for these NFL prospects – offensive linemen and running backs met with reporters in the morning.
Offensive lineman Asim Richards from the University of North Carolina is a Philly kid. He attended The Haverford School, where he was a two-sport athlete in football and basketball before heading to Chapel Hill to play four years in the ACC.
Richards confirmed he grew up an Eagles fan and said it was exciting to see his hometown team in the Super Bowl. He also said that he spends time watching the Eagles' offensive line tape and can take learning points from all of the guys up front – specifically noting their explosiveness as a trait he wants to emulate.
Penn State offensive lineman Juice Scruggs started 12 games at center in 2022. I asked him if there's an NFL offensive lineman that he watches closely, and he showed immediate excitement, responding: "Jason Kelce."
"He is, in my opinion, the greatest center in the game right now," Scruggs said. "And just watching him play every game – he doesn't take plays off, he goes hard, and he's super fast, and that's somebody I try to be like."
Scruggs is an Ohio native, like Kelce, and said if ever given the opportunity to meet him, it would be an honor.
"He's a professional. Coming in this league, you gotta try to figure out what to do, what not to do – so I just think if you model after him, you'll be alright for sure," Scruggs said.
Oklahoma has produced offensive linemen who've gone on to have highly productive NFL careers, including Eagles All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson. When tackle Anton Harrison committed to Sooner Nation, he knew the high expectations for that position, calling Oklahoma "OL U" (Offensive Line University).
"You know that track record they put out, and you want to be the next one on the list," Harrison said. "Coming out every Saturday with that Sooner on your chest, knowing that you got a long list of players that's looking at you, cheering you on every Saturday."
Harrison said Lane Johnson is a tackle he's looked up to. "He's one of them guys who always comes back to Oklahoma, who's always trying to help us," Harrison reflected. "Every Spring Ball he's there, watching, giving tips."
Harrison said that he's even worked out with Johnson's personal trainer a few times and takes a lot from the four-time Pro Bowler's game. Kansas State defensive linemen Felix Anudike-Uzomah told reporters at the Combine earlier in the week that Harrison was the best offensive tackle he went against this season, and he's the best tackle in the 2023 draft class.
1 PM – Workouts began for quarterbacks and wide receivers. Both positions work together, so they were divided into two sections: eight quarterbacks and 26 wide receivers in the first group followed by seven quarterbacks and 24 wide receivers in the second.
My focus was on the receivers in this workout. It's difficult to watch both the quarterback throw and the route the receiver runs simultaneously. Three receivers who had strong workouts included Kayshon Boutte (LSU), Tank Dell (Houston), and Demario Douglas (Liberty).
There was a break between groups so the next set of players could warm up which meant it was coffee time. We had a long night ahead of us, so I deemed it a necessity. Caffeine has been the name of the game throughout Combine week.
The second group put on a show – perhaps the best workout of any position group so far. This combination of wide receivers was clean, crisp, professional, and electric. They showed blazing speed, sharp route-running, and excellent ball skills.
Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba's workout piqued curiosity as he appeared in just three games in the 2022 college football season due to injury, so an opportunity to finally see him play ball again drew the attention of many. On Saturday night, he opted out of the 40-yard dash, but the rest of his workout was nearly flawless; he made the exercises look effortless. His pair of gauntlet drills were remarkably smooth, and he showed off his athleticism, play-making ability, and variety in route-running. In addition, his 3-cone drill result of 6.57 seconds and 3.93 20-yard shuttle were the best times of all Combine participants this year.
Oklahoma's Marvin Mims Jr. and Purdue's Charlie Jones also turned in excellent workouts.
Quarterbacks Anthony Richardson (Florida) and C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) also shined, giving these pass-catchers the best opportunities to make plays on the ball.
Richardson's measurables opened eyes coming in at 6-foot-4 1/4 and 244 pounds. He is the biggest quarterback in Indianapolis, but also the most athletic as he led the group in the 40-yard dash (4.43), vertical jump (40.5"), and broad jump (10'9"). His vertical was the highest a quarterback has ever jumped at the Combine.
It would be easy to provide a lengthy list of players who had elite results at Lucas Oil Stadium – this group was special.
The tight ends were the grand finale for the night, and they performed well. There was certainly camaraderie amongst this group as they cheered for each other and seemed to be enjoying the experience.
Top performances were delivered by Cincinnati's Josh Whyle, Iowa's Sam LaPorta, and Miami's Will Mallory.
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert was in the house, too. He was on the field as a guest broadcaster for the tight end workout, appearing on NFL+. He said it was an opportunity he saw as a good fit to both watch the tight ends while also working on his broadcasting and interview skills.
I spoke with him afterwards and he was impressed with the group, "The tight end position is in good hands."
Goedert was in these prospects' shoes five years ago. I asked what advice he would offer them: "Don't let anything, whether it was good or bad, really affect you going forward. Any opportunity you have to impress a team when you get with a certain team, take advantage of that, because they're not going to come back and look at the Combine and say, 'Oh, he caught this ball, or didn't catch that ball.' When you get the opportunity to go out on a field, make the most of those."
Three nights of workouts are complete, one more to go. The offensive line and running backs will take the field on Sunday afternoon to put an exclamation point on an amazing week. Be sure to check out our new episode of the Journey To The Draft podcast – Fran Duffy and I break down the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. Here's to one final day of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine!