NFL scouting combine: John Ross stole the show on Saturday, plus more of the latest updates, news, 40-yard dash times and rumors from Indianapolis.
John Ross stole the show at the NFL combine on Saturday, when the electrifying Washington WR ran a 4.22 40-yard-dash, officially breaking Chris Johnson's record. (But sadly, he won't get an island because he was wearing Nike instead of Adidas). Plus, the quarterbacks worked out, defensive linemen and linebackers talked to the media and more news and updates from Indianapolis. Check back here throughout the day for the latest happenings.
INDIANAPOLIS — So, John Ross may not be the new owner of his own island. Silver lining: Assuming teams are even remotely comfortable with his medical history, Ross may have locked himself into Round 1 with a dazzling, record-breaking display—before he cramped up—at Saturday’s workout.
Let’s start with the island. An Adidas promotion for this week’s combine promised a private island to the prospect who broke Chris Johnson’s record 4.24 40-yard-dash time. Ross’s official time of 4.22 did just that, but he wore Nike for his 40, which made him ineligible to win anyway, per the terms and conditions laid out by Adidas. (Afterward, when asked why he didn't run in Adidas, he said, "I can't swim that well. And I don't own a boat.")
Well, he might not swim well, but Ross can fly.
“I was gifted with speed,” Ross said earlier this week, “so I just use it best as I can.”
His burst, before and after the catch, may be his top selling point as a prospect. That wasn’t all he showed on Saturday, though. Ross also topped 11 feet on his broad jump and posted a 36.5” vertical.
Ross’s size (5’ 10”, 188 lbs.) points toward an NFL future in the slot, but his speed would be useful on the outside, too—how well he deals with physical NFL cornerbacks will determine exactly how useful. None of these details counts as a new development from Saturday’s action, because Ross showed time and again during his days at Washington how dangerous of a playmaker he can be. He should be able to produce right away as a rookie, within reason.
That is…if he’s healthy. His combine workout ended when he cramped up late in his 40 run—it’s hard to tell, but he actually looked as if he pulled up just a bit toward the end (of an unofficial 4.22!), before hobbling away from the finish line. Per the NFL Network’s Kim Jones, Ross will attempt all drills at next week’s Washington March 11 Pro Day.
Two days later, Ross will go under the knife to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. For now, he expects to be ready for the regular season, but he stands to miss important practice time post-draft.
Ross already had medical issues in his history before news of the shoulder surgery came to light. He tore a meniscus and required microfracture surgery after the 2014 season, then tore his ACL and redshirted in 2015.
“Knees are stable,” said Ross on Friday, when asked about his combine medical checks. “Didn’t hear nothing negative back from the knees. Everything went good, as I expected.”
What happens off the field at the combine usually is more important that what happens on it, so the actual medical results will help determine Ross’s draft status. The next player who admits, during his combine presser, to a series of terrible medical exams will be the first. Some teams are bound to be more concerned with Ross’s knees and shoulder than others.
There is almost no debating the talent. Ross is a threat to burn a defense deep on any given snap, and he’s electrifying as a catch-and-run talent, as well.
He reiterated those traits Saturday, in eye-popping fashion.
INDIANAPOLIS — This is what Houston coach Bill O’Brien had to say about the combine’s QB drills: “For me personally, the most important parts of the combine are the interviews at night and the medical reports.”
The quarterback workouts hardly count as a be-all, end-all for prospects at the game’s most important position. They do have their value, if kept in perspective, though.
How’d it go Saturday? A recap of how the top prospects fared, plus notes on a couple others who may have helped themselves a bit:
Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Watson should not be a team’s No. 1 QB because of how he performed Saturday. If he was in that spot (or close to that spot), though, his sharp effort during the quarterback workout should lock him in there.
In large part due to his extensive experience, Watson will be viewed—and deserves to be viewed—as the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class. The combine atmosphere is an odd one: high stakes, but in a mostly empty stadium with no defense on the field and throwing to unfamiliar receivers. It can rattle prospects. No problems there for Watson.
His footwork was clean, which is really the main thing scouts and coaches track here, especially given how many of these quarterbacks are coming from shotgun-heavy/spread systems. Can they handle 3-, 5- and 7-step drops? Watson did, getting his passes out in rhythm. He also ran 40 times of 4.68 and 4.67, right with Patrick Mahomes and Joshua Dobbs—plenty fast enough to help Watson’s claim as an athletic QB.
The workout was almost all positives for Watson.
Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
Yes, apparently we are going by Mitchell now instead of Mitch, per the QB’s request. He can call himself whatever he wants if he turns out to be a franchise-changing quarterback. And Saturday was a strong showing for him, too.
He was in the second group of the day, alongside Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Like Watson, his footwork was impressive... and that’s a big deal for Trubisky, because his footwork tended to be all over the map as a college QB.
Obviously, all of these prospects are working on their games between when their college seasons end and when they arrive in Indianapolis. If there is an area in which they need work, what NFL personnel want to see are those improvements occurring naturally. When a player is thinking too much about what he has to do, it shows. (This happened to Virginia Tech QB Jerod Evans a bit Saturday.) Trubisky showed none of that choppiness.
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Even against air (i.e. no defense), Mahomes is a lot of fun to watch. He can sling the ball with what looks like minimal effort, the way you’d skip a pebble across a pond. When his receivers were running go routes, Mahomes was flicking the ball 50-plus yards with ease.
It’s a little unorthodox, as is the majority of his game—the challenge will be in figuring out if his unique style is translatable to the next level or a complete Achilles’ heel. Mahomes’ baseball background (his dad, Pat, was an MLB pitcher) has given him an arm motion that doesn’t match the over-the-top style other prospects try to harness. Mahomes’ is more of a sidearm or 3/4 delivery. It works. Or, at least, has so far.
Mahomes also may have benefited slightly from the alphabetical order of this year’s QB crop. He followed Colorado’s Sefo Liufau in drills, and the arm strength gap between Liufau and Mahomes is striking, in Mahomes’ favor.
His 6’ 2” height measurement earlier this week and 4.8 40 time might be minor issues, but despite his athleticism he’s not a dual-threat QB. He uses his escapability to set up throws, rather than scrambles.
Brad Kaaya, Miami
The Saturday workout started like gangbusters for Kaaya, then progressively faded. Still, all in all, it was a strong morning for the Miami QB, who was part of the first group on the field.
What really works in Kaaya’s favor, and what showed up in workouts, is that he is mechanical in his drops and footwork. No matter the depth of drop, Kaaya is pinpoint in hitting his marks. His experience in a pro-style is an obvious advantage to him—look no further than the myriad coaches and GM who spoke this week of evaluating quarterbacks without that background.
Kaaya’s accuracy woes, combined with that lack of WR familiarity, caught up to him in later drills. He missed three straight out routes and was scattershot on curls. His arm’s also not up to the caliber of some others in this class, so his tendency to float passes stuck out a bit, too.
The clinical work from the pocket was a clear plus, though. It doesn’t mask the issues Kaaya had vs. pressure in college, but there is obviously a baseline from which to work.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs started 35 games for Tennessee and participated in the Senior Bowl, so at some point the fact that he’s still such an enigma works against him. If he hasn’t taken those substantial, consistent strides by now, is he going to be able to do so in the NFL?
However, in a still-unsettled QB class, Dobbs could sneak up higher in the draft than most people expect, and it’s days like Saturday that show why.
Dobbs ran a 40 of 4.64, behind only Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight (4.54) among the QB group. And he was efficient with his motion at the top of his drops, hitting his spot and gunning it. On those drops, by the way: Dobbs’ huge strides took him back a good 1-2 yards deeper than the other QBs on the five-steps. That may not mean a whole lot, but a) such coverage could, in theory, leave him more pocket to step into, and b) he didn’t look clunky in those motions.
Dobbs is going to hear his name called at some point on draft weekend. Still hard to figure out exactly how early.
DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
This was a day that mostly worked to confirm everything already on the books on Kizer, for better or worse.
He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds—that drill isn’t all that useful for QBs in general, but given that Kizer is a 6’ 3”, 233-pounder, that’s a good time. It was well right in line with last year’s group of Carson Wentz (4.77), Jared Goff (4.82) and Paxton Lynch (4.86). Kizer’s not a burner, but he moves well for his size. He had eight rushing TDs in 2016 and 10 in ’15.
So, no stunner from the 40. There also wasn’t anything unusual in his throwing drills, for better or worse. He can drive the ball deep and puts a lot zip on the ball; he’s inaccurate in intermediate windows and his footwork can be hit or miss. That all was there on the Lucas Oil Stadium field.
INDIANAPOLIS — Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett is not a lock to go No. 1 overall at next month’s draft, but he is the clear favorite to land that honor. And he has a two-pronged plan to make it happen.
“Dominate here,” Garrett said during his combine press conference Saturday, “and not make any more crazy videos.”
To make sure that everyone is caught up ... in a video last month, Garrett (jokingly?) pleaded with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett to pull off a major draft-day coup to land that top selection. “I’m speaking to you Jerry, Mr. Garrett, make it happen,” Garrett said. “Dak Prescott is leading our team right now. I need you to take Tony Romo, take a couple picks, give them to Cleveland so you can pick me up. Please. I would love to play in Dallas.”
The Browns still hold that top spot, for the time being. Asked what he’ll tell their staff when he meets with them this week, Garrett said, a smile on his face, “I’m sorry.”
”Me just being who I am, just joking around, lighthearted, I don’t mean to offend anybody,” Garrett said. ”I’ll crack a joke every now and then, but I’ll play for anybody.”
Not to be outdone, the potential QB1 in this year’s quarterback class, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, made a similar tongue-in-cheek plea to the Cowboys as he accepted the Davey O’Brien Award in February.
For what it’s worth, Browns GM Sashi Brown brushed both videos off this week.
“I don’t think you can take some of this stuff too serious,” Brown said. “We’re realistic about where are as a brand and a roster. More importantly, I think these are young men who are eager to play in the NFL. They want to go different places, perhaps, but I think more important is you just can’t take it too seriously ...
“Some of the representatives of the players called to explain some of the comments, and I explained to those guys at the time that we don’t take it too serious. You look forward to having an opportunity to meet them. They’re both high-character young men. Move forward, mange yourself with class and go from there. I think there’s some lessons all around to be learned.”
And that’s enough of that. Neither Garrett’s Cowboys call-out, nor his admission in December that he’d “like not to go anywhere cold” as a pro, will move the needle enough to bump him from the No. 1 spot.
He has been at the top of draft boards for months because of his potential, and he can nail down his position there in the coming weeks.
“Gotta be a game-changer [to go No. 1], gotta be able to turn the tide of the game at any given time,” Garrett said. “Somebody who, when it’s third-and-15, maybe it’s the fourth quarter and we need a stop to get the ball back, they put you in and say you’re the guy. That’s how good you have to be.
“I’ve been in those situations before and I’ve made those plays.”
Garrett remained planted atop the 2017 prospects list despite a disappointing statistical season (33 tackles, 8.5 sacks) that was hindered by an ankle injury.
“I started getting better a couple games into it, and then had somebody crash into me in practice and so it kind of took me downhill again,” Garrett said. ”I wasn’t myself throughout the whole season.”
He’s healthy again now, at least enough to take part in this week’s workouts—the defensive linemen and linebackers will be on the field Sunday. Garrett measured in at 6’ 4” and 272 lbs., then tossed up 33 reps on the bench press.
His athletic-testing times will be of great interest, because he is viewed as such a physical freak, especially for a defensive lineman. As for the occasional criticisms that he doesn’t go full-bore on every snap?
“Really don’t listen to it,” Garrett said. “I know I’m getting after the ball when I can. Sometimes I’m not 100% when I’m out there, but I’m trying to get after the passer, trying to run down the back, do what I can to make a play. Nobody’s 100% every play—eight, nine plays down a drive. Sometimes you do look back on it and say, ’dang, I could have gave more effort there or I loafed a little,’ but you work on those things.”
This is a big week for Garrett, as it is for all 330 players invited to Indianapolis. If he meets expectations in workouts (and if the Browns accept his apology), there won’t be much standing between him and the first pick on April 27.
“I feel like I’m the best player in the draft,” Garrett said. “I feel I’ll prove that [Saturday] and [Sunday].”
INDIANAPOLIS — In a rather unprecedented turn of combine events, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster was sent home early, following an alleged run-in with a hospital employee on Friday.
The MMQB’s Robert Klemko provided more details Saturday morning:
Foster grew impatient with long line for exams... pulled the 'do you know who I am?' card.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) March 4, 2017
Foster warned the man that he'd put hands on him, and the employee said, simply, Do it.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) March 4, 2017
Foster posted a video to Instagram on Saturday morning, in which he said, per al.com, “Nothing happened. ... Talk to Tim (Williams), talk to Ryan (Anderson), talk to Dalvin (Tomlinson). Them boys know. They were there.”
Anderson would not go into many details, during his Saturday afternoon press conference, but he did say he felt “like it was blown out of proportion.”
All combine participants are subject to extensive testing before they participate in the physical drills. That can involve each team’s doctors checking out a player, plus MRIs and X-rays at a local facility. The entire process can take up several hours, the exact length of time commitment linked to how concerned teams are over a player’s history.
Foster recently had rotator cuff surgery and was not scheduled to participate in the bench press or drills here, so he fell under the umbrella of those with injury red flags. Now, there’s another potential issue.
“Reuben’s one of those guys who’s hard-working, humble, respectful,” Tomlinson said. “I don’t know everything that happened over there at the hospital—I was still coming back and forth from X-rays, so I don’t really know what happened. I have to speak to Reuben later on today.”
Tomlinson added that he would give Foster a call, “if I get an opportunity. I’m just going to ask him how he’s feeling, ask him everything that happened, check up on him and make sure he’s all good.”
The next chance for Foster to be in the spotlight will be next Wednesday, at Alabama’s Pro Day. He still will not be able to work out, post-surgery, but he may meet the media after missing Saturday’s linebacker session in Indianapolis.
“Very surprising, disappointing, but it happens,” said another of Foster’s ex-Alabama teammates, potential top-five pick Jonathan Allen.
Foster, shoulder issue and all, entered the combine as the presumed top linebacker prospect and an early first-round option himself. Friday’s incident should not send his stock plummeting, if the initial reactions to it hold. But it’s an unusual situation, to say the least.
INDIANAPOLIS — Frankly, Davis Webb sounds a little tired of the talk about him as a potential “sleeper” QB in this year’s draft class. He was the guy Patrick Mahomes nabbed the starting job from at Texas Tech, then the guy who replaced Jared Goff at Cal.
He’s convinced he can just be the guy.
“I’m not overlooked by NFL teams,” Webb said Friday. “That’s the only thing I really care about. It’s just you guys [in the media] who are doing that.”
If Webb is being held under the radar at all, by teams or media, there may be a two-part explanation.
1.) He wasn’t a full-time starter until last season at Cal—he split time with Baker Mayfield and Mahomes at Texas Tech in 2013 and ’14, respectively, then threw just 22 passes in 2015 as Mahomes grabbed the QB1 job.
2.) He has to fight the stigma which comes with playing in not one, but two systems (Texas Tech’s and Cal’s) that typically are frowned upon by scouts, because of how steep the learning curve from those programs to NFL offenses have proven to be. Goff’s rookie struggles, for one, need no introduction.
“Obviously, I can be more efficient mechanically,” Webb said. “And coming from my system and my offense, there’s obviously some changes that need to happen. ...
“Try to be more efficient mechanically, try to be under center, work [on] 3-, 5-, 7-step drops. Every time I walk into an interview, coaches say they’re impressed with my football IQ. I’m a hard-working individual and I think that’s what separates me.”
To help him, Webb has turned to former Seattle quarterback and Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn, as he trains with Proactive Sports Performance in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“He’s a great quarterback mind, played in the league, had coaching stops along the way, so he’s been a great asset,” Webb said. “Every time I bring his name up in the coaches’ room, everyone’s eyes kind of light up because I’m speaking their language and Coach Zorn has taught me.”
Those meetings, and the related work diagramming plays on the whiteboard, are crucial for any QB draft hopefuls. They’re even more important for quarterbacks coming from extreme spread offenses, like Cal’s, that incorporate a lot of quick, first-read throws.
Can Webb find his reads out of a more traditional scheme? Can he do so while learning how to play from under center?
“Once [teams] see my football knowledge—and they have because it’s my second time around—I think they’re impressed with my IQ and the foundation I have,” said Webb, that “second time” comment referencing his week spent meeting with coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl. “It’s just a different way of doing things, the philosophies at Cal and Texas Tech. But once I get on the board and show them what I know, I think they’re impressed.”
The quick scouting report: Webb checked in at 6’ 5”, 229 lbs., this week—exactly the type of size NFL teams tend to covet in their QBs. He also throws as effective a deep ball as just about any other quarterback in this class, so the arm is there. Everything else, like his footwork and ability to read defenses and accuracy, are where Webb has to show progress if he is to project as a future starter.
“That’s what this whole process is about,” Webb said. “It’s about getting you ready for the NFL. Coach Zorn and I have been doing everything from talking about huddles to talking about ... the verbiage of plays and the defenses. So I feel great. I have a great foundation. Just looking forward to showing teams like I have in the past couple nights.”
There is work left to do. Whether he agrees with the perception or not, Webb sits behind at least Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky in this class’s anticipated QB pecking order.
But it’s been a topsy-turvy trip to this point for Webb anyway, from the Texas Tech QB battles to the pressure of replacing Goff. Why make it easy now?
“I’ve always been 6’ 5”, 230 pounds, and can throw the ball better than anybody,” Webb said. “So I’ve always believed in myself and I’ll continue to do that.”