- The NFL combine won't make or break a prospect's draft chances, but it can enhance—or taint—their résumés. NFL scouts talk about the players who helped and hurt themselves in Indy this year.
Now that all the 40-yard dashes and three-cone drills have been run (even Rich Eisen’s) and all the team interviews have been conducted, let’s take a look back at the players who helped or hurt themselves at the NFL combine.
Actually, it’s more of a look at who enhanced or dinged their résumés. Most of a player’s draft stock will be made up of what they did on film in their college careers. They’re not going to change that at the combine. What can be slightly altered is whether or not what players do (or say) in Indianapolis matches up with that film.
After talking to NFL scouts and executives, here are the notable players that resonated with them in Indianapolis.
Players who helped themselves
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: Bolles had a lot of questions to answer after running into trouble as a teenager and only playing one year of major college football. “He came across differently than expected, more intelligent,” said one scout. “The concerns about his past, if he presented himself to other teams like he did to us, I think he really helped himself.”
Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn: The huge safety (6' 4", 224 pounds) continued a very impressive off-season. “Basically from the start of the bowl season through the combine, really finished strong,” said one scout. He ran a 4.40 in the 40, and was great in the vertical and broad jumps. “I think he moves well enough and showed enough range, he showed that he could be an interchangeable safety,” said another scout. “Maybe a nickel linebacker, but I think his home position would be a safety.”
Haason Reddick, DE, Temple: Reddick played in a three-point stance for the Owls during the season, but he was put at middle linebacker at the Senior Bowl, where he also took some reps outside. Athletic combine tests showed it’s not a fluke that he can play on his feet. “He probably projects to be a [weakside linebacker], but just the fact that he showed the flexibility and his pass-rush ability, he showed really good versatility,” said one executive.
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina: Jones had a really strong Senior Bowl and a good combine. “He’s got very good size (6' 2", 201), really good hands, didn’t think he played to the speed that he ran at the combine [4.45 in the 40-yard dash] but it makes you take another look,” said one scout.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: One of the top quarterback prospects of the draft, Watson wowed with his workout, but many expected that. “Everybody that’s been to Clemson says, ‘That’s him,’” said a scout. “On air [with no defense on the field], he is amazing, looks like a Hall of Famer, is accurate, light touch, looks effortless. And that’s what he did. He looked like a top-five, first pick type player.”
Tyus Bowser, LB, Houston: Bowser continued his climb up draft boards with a workout that wowed the scouts. “Fast, fluid and athletic in the workout,” said one executive.
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: “Explosive and fluid,” was how one scout described the workout of a player who came late to the game but who most teams are projecting to be a good pro. His workout shows he can be athletic enough to play outside in a 3–4 front.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado: Witherspoon certainly has the coveted size at corner (6' 3", 198 pounds) and he answered any questions about his athletic ability with a 4.45 in the 40, 40.5 vertical jump and 10' 7" broad jump.
Players who hurt themselves
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida: After a very good career for the Gators, running a 4.62 40 really opened up a lot of eyes among scouts…and not in a good way. “Didn't run well or look very fluid in drills, and the interviews didn't go great either,” said one scout. Before the season, there was talk he could be a top-15 pick. Now he may not even go in the first round. “The other kid from Florida [Quincy Wilson] didn’t help himself either with a time [4.54] that was also slower than expected,” said another scout.
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: Foster became the talk of the combine when he was sent home from Indy after an incident at the hospital. “People that were there were saying that it’s long days, the trainer is freaking tired, the player is tired, maybe the trainer egged him on with his tone, but from the player’s side, just do what’s asked of you,” said a scout. “That the kid went off on him, that was uncalled for. It will be interesting to see how much that hurts him. It wasn’t smart considering he also has some character stuff.”
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech: Despite catching 79 passes for 1,094 yards and seven touchdowns last season, Ford did not impress at Lucas Oil Stadium with a subpar 40 time (4.61) and workout. “He didn’t run well and struggled to catch the ball,” one scout said.