INDIANAPOLIS - It was a little faster Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine as the wide receivers and tight ends ran the 40-yard dash then went through position drills. This was also a day circled on the calendar by many as the top quarterbacks in the draft threw in front of a full complement of decision-makers around the league. Here's a look at the prospects who stood out.
QB Josh Allen: After a difficult junior season followed by struggles at the Senior Bowl, Allen displayed the skills at the Combine that are making NFL decision-makers salivate. His arm strength was far superior to anyone in attendance and Allen was accurate throughout his passing workout. There were a few occasions when his timing was off, which is to be expected throwing to brand new pass catchers, yet for the most part, Allen did not have receivers working hard to catch the ball and dropped it in the pass-catching radius. While no one is doing cartwheels over Allen's workout, it is definitely big a step in the right direction for a signal-caller whose accuracy has been maligned the past eight months.
WR Calvin Ridley: The Crimson Tide junior ran the 40-yard dash in the low 4.4 seconds, a solid time. He then looked spectacular during drills. Ridley ran scissor-sharp routes, changing direction on a dime without losing momentum, and caught everything in sight. Ridley played to his speed and looked smooth running all the routes. There's some concern that Ridley, who measured 6-0 and 189 pounds, may struggle to get off press coverage at the next level. It should be noted the junior completed 15 reps on the bench press.
WR DaeSean Hamilton: After outstanding performances at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Hamilton bypassed running the 40 but participated in position drills. And once again scouts raved about his performance. Hamilton looked fluid and ran terrific routes throughout the session. He displayed great balance and body control, catching everything thrown in his direction. Speed is still a question and the answer will come during Penn State Pro Day which takes place March 20. He'll move into the draft's second day if he runs well.
WR DJ Chark: Chark was the fastest receiver (4.32 seconds in the 40), jumped higher than any wideout (40-inch vertical), and also posted a vertical jump of 10-9, which was the fourth best at the position. During drills, he looked fluid and showed dependable hands. His testing numbers along with the receiving skill he's shown the past two years is proof Chark comes with terrific upside as LSU receivers are almost always better in the NFL than they were in college.
WR Antonio Callaway: Eyebrows were raised after Callaway declared for the draft despite being sidelined last season with a host of significant legal issues. Off-the-field issues aside, Callaway displayed next-level receiver skills during his Combine workout. He started the day by running 40-yard dash times which ranged between 4.38 and 4.42 seconds. Callaway was cat quick running routes, showed terrific sharpness into breaks, and caught the ball very well. He has the physical ability to line up as a third receiver for an NFL team but does he have the maturity to stay out of trouble? That's the great unknown heading toward April.
WR D.J. Moore: Moore was one of the better-kept secrets at the receiver position but the word is out after Saturday. Moore checked all the boxes at the Combine starting with his testing results. The junior timed as fast as 4.41 seconds in the 40, touched 39.5 inches in the vertical jump, then reached 11 feet in the broad jump. During the pass-catching session, Moore was exceptional and solidified himself as a second-round pick.
QB Mike White: With everyone focused on the four big-named signal-callers, White is often left behind and does not receive the credit he's due. That will change after this weekend. White has next-level size and the arm strength to play on Sunday. During the Combine, he showed he has the accuracy to make an NFL roster as well. White displayed excellent timing, ball placement, and rarely had receivers adjusting for errant passes. He's a terrific developmental prospect with starting potential.
WR Christian Kirk: Kirk timed in the mid-4.4s in the 40 then caught the ball extremely well during drills. He ran sharp routes and practiced with great balance. He played faster than his time in the 40 throughout the session and displayed great quickness. Kirk has established himself as a top-45 selection and could sneak into the late part of the first round.
TE Ian Thomas: Thomas continues to impress NFL scouts and once again showed up for the big event. He ran a solid 40 time of 4.73 seconds after weighing in at 259 pounds. During pass-catching drills, the Hoosier senior looked fluid and very smooth, snatching everything thrown in his direction. What makes this story so unreal is Thomas was completely ignored by scouts entering the season after catching just three passes in 2016. He was productive this past season, had a terrific week of practice at the Senior Bowl, looks the part at the Combine, and is now on the cusp of being selected in the second round of the NFL Draft.
- Tony Pauline
- I think it would be tough to say anyone had a better workout on Saturday than Mike Gesicki, the tight end from Penn State. Checking in at 247 pounds, a below-average weight for the position, the senior Nittany Lion posted gaudy test scores.
Only 14 tight ends drafted in the last decade have run a faster time in the 40-yard dash time (4.55 seconds). Only two have posted a better 3-cone drill time (6.76), with just three running a better short shuttle (4.10) during that same time frame. Only nine tight ends selected have posted a better broad jump (129 inches), with just three posting a better vertical (41.5 inches). Simply put, it was an outstanding workout.
- Not to be forgotten, Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin also posted a very respectable number in the vertical jump, reaching 38 inches, which reaches the 90th percentile of all tight ends selected in the draft over the last 10 years. Conklin is a former college basketball player who is a bit on the shorter side but projects as a "move" tight end at the next level who can line up in a number of areas as a potential matchup problem for a defense.
- In my opinion, the best workout from the receivers belonged to Moore, the Philadelphia native out of the University of Maryland. Tony mentioned the exact numbers above, but keep in mind that the junior did all that after weighing in at 210 pounds, a good weight for a 6-0 receiver. Moore is built like a running back, tested like a great athlete, and performed well in drills on Saturday morning.
- Tony also mentioned Chark's blazing 40-yard dash time. The unofficial time was impressive, but the laser-timed 4.34 has particular significance as well. Only seven receivers who were drafted in the last decade have bested that mark - four of them were chosen in the first round (Brandin Cooks, Phillip Dorsett, Will Fuller, and John Ross) and another in the second day (Curtis Samuel). Speed kills in the NFL, and Chark certainly proved he has the wheels to be considered a top-end deep threat at the next level.
- Another receiver who really impressed me with his workout was SMU's Courtland Sutton. The best raw number was the 3-cone drill (6.57), a mark beaten by only four receivers drafted since 2007. Three of those four weighed less than 195 pounds as Sutton weighed in at 218!
- Missouri receiver J'Mon Moore didn't run a blazing 40-yard dash time (4.60), but the rest of his numbers were very impressive, something I expected from the talented Tiger. Like Sutton, his 3-cone time (6.56) was very, very strong with just three wideouts besting that being drafted in the last decade. His 4.04 in short shuttle also placed in the 90th percentile of receivers taken in that range, while his jumps (120 inches in the broad and 38 in the vertical) proved to be impressive considering his 207-pound frame. Moore is a talented athlete who needs to refine his route-running abilities and cut out some of the "focus" drops in all levels of the field.
- Lastly, he is a bit unassuming, but Texas Tech receiver Dylan Cantrell (who some analysts thought would be a future tight end in the pros) posted an outstanding athletic workout on Saturday. At 226 pounds, Cantrell ran a 6.56 3-cone time, which is one of the top weight-adjusted 3-cones I've ever recorded, and the best at the receiver position. The short shuttle (4.03), broad jump (130 inches) and vertical jump (38.5 inches) were all big-time numbers as well for a man his size. He'll be viewed now as one of the top pure athletes in the receiver position.
- Fran Duffy