Weâre finally getting into the meat of the 2017 NFL combine, and with it comes plenty of on-field activity. After a fairly slow day on Friday, Saturday featured tons of action.
The wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks all took the field and generated plenty of buzz, including a record-breaking performance from John Ross and a bunch of wildly athletic tight ends.
We saw some decent movement in the quarterback class on Saturday, and itâs safe to say that thereâs a âbig fourâ in place that features Patrick Mahomes along with Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer. Donât rule out Mahomes as the first quarterback drafted this year.
Letâs look at some winners and losers from Saturdayâs action in Indy.
John Ross: The Washington speedster is a no-brainer for this list after he spent the afternoon in Indianapolis for the fastest 40-yard dash time in combine history. Ross got out of the gate slow, limped to the finish with cramps and still ran an absurdly fast 4.22, the fastest electronic time in combine history.
Ross was already going to be a first-round pick if his medicals checked out in Indy and that was the case, according to what he told media on Friday. He promptly backed up that good news with an incredible effort in the 40.
Some teams, according to Dane Brugler, timed him below 4.2.
Text from a NFC team on John Ross' 40-yard dash. "We had 4.19 and 4.16"— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) March 4, 2017
Ross isnât just a speedster, though. Heâs not a big, physical possession guy, but he runs great routes, can take the top off the defense and is better in the red zone than people give him credit for. He will shake defenders in a bad way, and with his timing and medicals (assuming everything was fine) heâs going to flirt with becoming a top-15 pick.
Deshaun Watson: No one wants to give Watson his due when it comes to this draft, but that wasnât an option when it came to the on-field drills on Saturday. Watson ran quickly (4.66 in the 40), but it was the throwing session, a performance that caused NFL Networkâs David Carr to call it a âsneakily amazing day.â
Watch the video of his throws and you see a bunch of bucket tosses, along with very few misses. Mahomes inserted himself in the main group, and Mitchell Trubisky is probably the top quarterback on the list, but Watson did work to separate himself a little bit in Indy.
Asked scouts and coaches for a half-dozen NFL teams about QB throwing sessions. One strong consensus: Clemson's Deshaun Watson won this day.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 4, 2017
Media (like myself) invited inside to watch QB workouts are not allowed to tweet until after they end. Now that it has... wow #DeshaunWatson— Rob Rang (@RobRang) March 4, 2017
His footwork was outstanding on all of his throws and he nailed the deep balls. The concern with Watson is how heâll operate away from the Clemson offense. The concern should certainly not be about whether or not he can make the throws. He showed Saturday he can hit anything heâs asked to hit.
O.J. Howard: The big Alabama tight end never had the sort of production people hoped he would have while he was with the Crimson Tide, but his performance against Clemson in the 2015 title game showed what he could do when he was really featured.
And Howard showed at the combine just what an athletic freak he really is, running a 4.51 40 despite weighing 251 pounds. In other words, Howard ran as fast as LSU running back Leonard Fournette, despite weighing 10 pounds more than Fournette.
He also posted 22 reps on the bench press, a 30-inch vertical and a 10-foot-2 broad jump. Howard was already a lock to go in the first round, but thereâs a decent chance he could go in the top half of the round now.
He is big, strong, fast and capable of catching the football, and he just made himself a lot of money at the combine.
Zay Jones: The prolific East Carolina receiver has the production level of things nailed down easily, having put up huge numbers during his four years, with 499 catches and over 4,000 yards in his four seasons in Greenville. He performed well at the Senior Bowl and continued to escalate his postseason performance by showing up well at the combine.
Jones went sub 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, drawing a loud âNice!â from Mike Mayock on the NFL Network telecast.
Jones also posted a 4.01-second 20-yard shuttle time, an 11.17-second effort in the 60-yard shuttle, a 11-foot-1 broad jump and a 36.5-inch vertical jump. Jones isnât going to crack the first round, but heâs solidifying his status as a Day 2 draftee.
Evan Engram: Overshadowed a bit by Howard and Miamiâs David Njoku, Engram burst onto the scene at the combine and established himself as a potential first-round pick by posting some eye-popping numbers in Indy. Engram ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, which wouldâve been good for the fifth-best time amongst all wide receivers.
Heâs 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, pulled off a 36-inch vertical jump and looked outstanding in the receiving gauntlet.
Thereâs a decent chance Engram worked himself into the first round with the performance, but heâs not going to be there in the middle of the second round anymore.
The tight end group as a whole put up huge numbers and did good work for itself in Indy on Saturday.
The *average* 40 time for the entire group of tight ends (14 guys) that ran the 40 was 4.65.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 4, 2017
That is absurd.
Itâs arguably the best tight end group in history and thereâs a chance we see up to three guys go in the first round.
Reuben Foster: A presumptive pick in the top half of the first round and the best inside linebacker in the draft, involving medical personnel. , but having to leave the combine before working out isnât a good look.
âYâall, stop asking me what happened, for real,â Foster said in an Instagram video. âNothing happened.â
Foster also, which is something teams will probably be curious about.
DeShone Kizer: The Notre Dame quarterback saw a drop-off from 2015 to 2016, which is always a concern for teams interested an investment into a quarterback with a high pick. Red flags popped up again during his throwing session, which Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout watched from the field.
According to Rang, Kizer was âsporadicâ and displayed poor footwork:
There is no questioning Kizerâs arm talent. The ball comes out of his hand as impressively as any quarterback testing this year in Indianapolis. He looked off-balance dropping back, however, and was sporadic with the placement of his front foot when stepping into his throws. As a result, Kizer sprayed the ball, forcing his receivers to adjust, including on relatively simple curl routes to right side in which on three successive passes he threw a very high pass, a well-thrown ball that would have hit his receiver in the chest and a very low one.
Spraying the ball when not wearing pads is a big concern. Kizer did himself zero favors when it comes to trying to work his way into the first round of the draft.
Derek Barnett: The Tennessee defensive end is considered one of the best pass rushers in the draft along with Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas. But he wasnât able to showcase his physical talents at the combine because he got sick. Thatâs not anything against him, because sometimes in late February/early March there are just stomach bugs running around. You travel to a place with thousands of other people packed in and you can get sick. (I just got home from Indy and my entire family has a stomach bug. I feel your pain, Derek.)
Corey Davis: One of the top wide receivers in the draft, Davis was expected to have an opportunity to shine this postseason but saw that chance disappear when he was forced to skip all activities at the combine while recovering from ankle surgery. Davis also wonât be able to participate at Western Michiganâs pro day in March, which means teams are limited to just -- gasp! -- the tape on him in college. Thereâs plenty of production to evaluate, of course, but being injured at this stage is sub-optimal for trying to get drafted as high as possible.