The start of NFL Scouting Combine workouts kicked off Thursday, and there was an absolute show put on inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Day 1 featured tight ends, quarterbacks and wide receivers with various athletic testing conducted as well as on-field drills. If no one knew better, it was actually a track meet with multiple receivers running sub 4.4 times in the 40, while tight ends and quarterbacks also ran fast. However, the Combine is more than one event, so here is a look at the athletes that showed out the most on the first day.
Dulcich has been atop the list of tight ends on many draft boards. This is largely due to his vertical separation and ability to work the seam, as displayed during his UCLA career. He backed up his tape with strong athletic testing, including a 4.61 40-yard dash. His on-field drills were also superior, where he worked the blocking and pass-catching drills with ease.
Jelani Woods, Tight End, Virginia
Woods arrived at the Combine with a considerable buzz thanks to his large frame that measured out at 6-foot-7 and 259 pounds. Seldom do athletes of that height prove to be fast and/or fluid in their movements. Woods pushed back against the notion with an impressive 4.61 40-yard dash and crisp routes during passing drills.
Woods was asked why he compares himself to Marcedes Lewis and he said, "For me, I looked at a lot of his games when he was with Jacksonville. We have the same body type, the same frame, kind of look the same, so I tried to study his techniques when he was coming out and when he was at UCLA. Take what I can and make it into my own. Now at Green Bay, to me, he's an excellent blocker. I try to emulate that as well and try to marry it to my game."
No tight end helped themselves more than Okonkwo as he clocked a positional best 4.52 40-yard dash. While there wasn't much talk surrounding Okonkwo before the Combine, his show of athleticism will garner him the attention he deserves.
Cole Kelley, Quarterback, Southeastern Louisiana
Throwing on air at the Combine can be a controversial discussion in the draft world. Some feel it means little, while others say the ability to spin the ball with touch needed on some routes is on display and should be evaluated. Whatever anyone believes, Kelley showed off an impressive arm on Day 1, including touch and strength on the go-route, where he was praised by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network. With his stature at over 6-foot-7, Kelley may find himself a roster spot at the next level.
Willis backed up a strong week in Mobile with another in Indianapolis. It was said that teams were pleased with his acumen and people skills in the interviews, and they surely were pleased with his game after Thursday night. Although Willis did not run, he participated in on-field drills where his live arm quite literally came to life. The touch and velocity that can be seen on tape and in person were again on display. With his ability to stretch the field with his legs and arm, many will look back on his competitions over the past few weeks and consider him a winner out of all quarterbacks.
Willis was asked if the Pittsburgh Steelers would be a good fit for him and he said, "I'm not sure. I don't know enough about their offense. I met the coaches and I really can get behind that. They're good people. All these coaches have information they can pass on to me and help me get better. I wouldn't have a clue."
He was also asked about what type of offense would fit him best and he added, "One that scores points. That's all I've got for that one."
Many expected Wilson's teammate Chris Olave to be the blazer of the Buckeyes duo that tore up secondaries during their time in Columbus. And while he did not disappoint with an impressive sub-4.4 time in the 40, Wilson blew everyone away with his 4.38 40-yard dash. Many figured he would run in the 4.5 range due to his game being built off routes and nuance. To run that fast and show his silky movement in the pass-catching drills, Wilson may push towards his Pro Day with even more talk as the best wide receiver in the class.
When asked about Olave and if they feed off each other and compete, Wilson said, "Yeah, most definitely. Being the competitors we are, we definitely compete at everything we do. We're always pushing each other to be better and be the best. So we definitely do. We've had a great friendship. Coming in, being a freshman, having him as a sophomore, he had done everything I was hoping to do. So it was awesome seeing that."
Watson left Mobile as one of the winners of Senior Bowl week thanks to his rare combination of twitch in his lower half while being 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds. On tape, Watson is as complete a receiver as there is in this class and wins in multiple ways. With back-to-back strong performances at the two biggest pre-draft evaluation processes, look for a strong Pro Day to potentially propel Watson to the first round.
Asked about what areas of his game he feels like he can develop the most, Watson said, "Two points I've been trying to grow and continue to get better at throughout this process and throughout college as well has always been my speed at the top of my routes. I'm a fast guy vertically; just being able to incorporate that into the intermediate routes. Then obviously catching is something I always try to improve on, eliminating focus and concentration drops and just being able to make plays."