INDIANPOLIS— Five days in for me at the combine, here are my notes from Friday in Indianapolis…
• Word from the field was that Alabama WR Henry Ruggs was actually a little upset with the 4.27 he posted in the 40 on Thursday night. I’ve heard he expected to be a touch faster than that. The silver lining is that he can count this one as a win, regardless of whether or not he reached a goal or broke a record. There was some question about how players would handle the workouts being at night, and some players posted times a little less impressive than some expected. Both Texas’s Devin Duvernay (4.39) and TCU’s Jalen Raegor (4.47) were categorized with Ruggs coming into Indy. Ruggs separated himself once he got here. And now Ruggs stands to benefit, with teams starting to see players of his type a little more favorably, given the impact Tyreek Hill has had the last couple of years.
• Another guy with opportunity here was Oregon QB Justin Herbert. With LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa not throwing in Indy, the door opened for Herbert to make up a little ground. And while he remains a polarizing prospect, he did well with that chance. One QB coach who was in the stadium for the workout texted that Herbert “looked comfortable and relaxed throughout, showed touch and accuracy. Was particularly impressed with his deep balls—great trajectory and made it look easy. Throws a very catchable ball.” The flip side? There are teams that like Utah State’s Jordan Love more, feeling he’s a more natural athlete and thrower.
• Jalen Hurts has helped himself pretty consistently through the first six or so weeks of the draft process, and Thursday night gave him another checked box. I don’t know how high the Oklahoma star will go (Day 2?), but I do know that he’s done plenty to dispel the idea that he isn’t an NFL quarterback, since leaving Alabama after being beat out by Tagovailoa.
• Louisville OT Mekhi Becton checked in at 6' 7" and 364 pounds at weigh-ins, but here’s the really impressive number: I was told his body fat came in at 19% (agent Damarius Bilbo confirmed that for me). Any offensive lineman coming in under 20% is really, really good. Coming in under 20 at 364 pounds is obscene. And Becton has the athleticism to match. And things like this could break ties among the quartet of top tackles (Iowa’s Tristan Wirks, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas are the others).
• As for the drills, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb continues to distinguish himself, and I’ve heard some comps to Texans star DeAndre Hopkins of late. Lamb is in a battle with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, among others, to be the first receiver taken.
• It’ll be interesting to see how Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam’s 40 time (4.49) impacts his stock. Everyone knew he had freakish athleticism. Still, running in the 4.4s as a tight end is beyond impressive. The problem? His production hasn’t always matched his ability, and he has a rep for being a little soft, which will be tough to dispel in the run-up to the draft.
• We tend to downplay the testing (as we should), but at a tightly-contested position group, the numbers can make a difference. Along those lines, keep an eye on the running backs tonight. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Hellaire are jockeying for position.
• Coaches and scouts haven’t been much enthused by the new schedule. There’s too much downtime, and it’s inefficient in how interviews are spread throughout the day. Agents are worried about their players working out at night, too, after sitting around all day. But news that the ratings have more than doubled over last year, even if the numbers are still very modest, probably means that we aren’t going back. (Or that we’re going to L.A., where the time zone might make the whole scheduling part of this a little easier.)
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