Shaquem Griffin wowed everyone at the NFL combine. Then he wowed them again. The linebacker from the University of Central Florida, whose left hand was amputated when he was four due to a congenital condition, was a late invite to the event despite earning AAC defensive player of the year and Peach Bowl defensive MVP honors. On Saturday, he stole the show by putting on a prosthetic left hand and bench pressing 225 lbs. 20 times to the astonishment and adulation of anyone watching. His goal was six reps; his previous personal best was 11. “I felt the energy from everybody," Griffin said afterward. "My adrenaline was going through the roof.” It was amazing.
Then Griffin came back Sunday and ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker since 2003, at 4.38 seconds. The sprint made Pete Carroll double-take while Antonio Brown tweeted "sheeeeeeeeeesh" and Richard Sherman claimed if Griffin "doesn’t get drafted in the first two days the system is broken."
Productive in college and the star of the combine. To get a sense of what comes next for Griffin, I solicited the informed opinions of a few MMQB writers. Here's what they had to say about where Griffin's draft stock now sits.
ALBERT BREER: A college scouting director told me on Sunday that he thinks Griffin leaves here a fourth-rounder, and I ran that by a couple other scouts and they agreed. To start, he can be a strong special teamer, and developmental linebacker, with a chance to grow into more. And of course, there are still questions (e.g. could he block well enough to play on the punt team?) that teams won’t have real answers to before draft day.
JONATHAN JONES: Fifth round to a team that doesn't have an immediate need at linebacker. He's likely going to get on the field as a special teamer in his first year with the insane athleticism he continued to showcase this weekend. I'm sure I'm not alone here, but I'll say Seattle (where his twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, plays corner).
PETER KING: Late third/early fourth. He can be the best special-teams player on any team early, and maybe have a pass-rushing or sub-package role right away.
CONOR ORR: I think Griffin will be a 5-6 round pick and would fit best with a team that is comfortable subbing frequently and playing a certain type of matchup defense. Mike Pettine in Green Bay and Matt Patricia in Detroit seem interesting to me. Seahawks GM John Schneider relayed a conversation with an NFL elder he had at the combine about Griffin. The gist: The person told Schneider that he’d met legendary UCLA coach John Wooden in the past, and Griffin was up there in terms of inspiration.
JENNY VRENTAS: Early Day 3 pick. Teams see him as a core special teams player who can have a role in defensive sub packages, with potential to develop into a starter at weakside linebacker. Something else to like about him: He was the player leader for his undefeated UCF team, so he's a guy teams want to have in their locker room.
Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet?Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.
Want to learn more about Shaquem Griffin? Check out Andy Staples’s profile of the inspirational UCF linebacker on SI TV.
NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King packs his Monday column with Josh Rosen info and other notes from the weekend ... Andy Benoit updates the 2018 free agency tracker ... Albert Breer files an up-to-the-minute combine notebook ... As Robert Klemko explains, the toughest question prospects face at the combine isn't about themselves ... and more.
1. A couple other items from the weekend in Indianapolis, featuring players we'll be talking about plenty over the next two months:
a) Josh Allen helped himself the most out of the QBs working out Saturday, topping many of the physical tests, throwing a gasp-inducing bomb, and holding his own on the more timing-based throws. Lamar Jackson threw but did not run the 40-yard dash (or compete in any other field drills), while Sam Darnold took the opposite route, waiting until his pro day to show off his arm. In total, it seems the consensus around the Flawed Five is just as muddled as it was a week ago. Still plenty of time for them to sort themselves out.
b) Whichever team opts to take running back Saquon Barkley rather than gamble on a QB won't be criticized. With a 4.40 40-yard time at 233 pounds, and a clean on-field performance catching and running, the Penn State product emerged as the biggest can't-miss candidate in this year's crop.
2. Robert Quinn is going to be a Dolphin. The two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher was traded from the Rams for a mid-round pick. Quinn was an elite disruptor early in his career and had success again in 2017 following back surgery and a shift to outside linebacker.
3. Few athletes in this year's draft will be able to top defensive back Joe Este—who adopted his sister's children a year and a half ago—for motivation. “When I see their pictures, I know I have to work as hard as I can every day,” he said. “Because if I fail, then they fail. I refuse to let them fail. A lot of people gave up on them. I refuse to give up on them." Ron Higgins gathers the full story.
4. After a case of the yips ended his baseball career, Hayden Hurst is trying his hand at tight end.
5. "If the good Lord decides tomorrow's my day, hey, I'm going out with a fish in one hand and a cup of beer in the other." —Jim Kelly
6. The biggest bummer of a story from the combine: Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, a potential first-round pick, was sent home after medical testing revealed a heart condition, the extent of which is still unknown.
7. A local group that includes NASCAR drivers is reportedly putting together a bid for the Carolina Panthers.
8. Defensive endBradley Chubb to the Colts at No. 3 overall makes a whole lot of sense.
9. At least one QB might try another position: University of South Florida QB Quinton Flowerssaid half of the teams he interviewed with would consider using him as a running back.
10. As the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Saturday was the one-year anniversary of Colin Kaepernick's current free agency.
Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage?Let us know here.
What would be harder to snap, a pizza or a feather? SB Nation asked an expert.
Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at firstname.lastname@example.org