We all should be taking in the glorious week-long event that is the NFL combine right now, but COVID-19 had other plans. So we won't have winners and losers from the NFL's yearly athletic job interview in early March. [tears]
To honor the 2021 combine that never was, let's envision the prospects who would've resembled last year's big winners at the same position.
2020 combine winner: OT Tristan Wirfs
Wirfs had one of the best combine performances ever. Given his size 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, he was an athletic marvel, running a 4.85, jumping 36 1/2-inches in the vertical and flashing a 121-inch broad jump, all of which indicated historic levels of explosiveness at the tackle position. He also timed in the 71st percentile in the three-cone drill.
2021 prospect: Oregon OT Penei Sewell
Sewell looks like he's in the top 1% of the top 1% of the top 1% genetically. He moves like an undersized center but is listed at 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, and he plays to every ounce of that weight in the power department. In space, say, on a screen, Sewell is a raging bull and often runs with ball carriers down the field.
Like Wirfs, Sewell would've measured in exquisitely then effortlessly rocked every workout. Despite opting out, Sewell has been a fixture in the top 10 of mock drafts, and no one would fault the Bengals for picking him at No. 5 overall. I'm sad we won't get to see Sewell blow the roof off Lucas Oil Stadium at the combine.
2020 winner: WR Chase Claypool
Claypool went from a mid-round prospect with minimal buzz to a second-round selection to a super-productive rookie for the Steelers, and his rise can be traced back to a prolific combine performance. At 6-4 and 238 pounds -- Megatron-like -- Claypool ran 4.42 and had a 40 1/2-inch vertical. That is an insane size/speed/explosiveness combination.
His broad jump was even in the 83rd percentile at the position. In a league littered with small and quick separators, Claypool stood out at the combine and as a rookie as a big and fast rebounder.
2021 prospect: Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry
Terry's listed at 6-4 and 210 pounds, so not exactly in Claypool territory in the weight department. But Terry can absolutely fly, we just didn't get to see it often at Florida State because his time spent in Tallahassee was marred by a coaching change, iffy-at-best quarterback play, and typically horrific blocking.
We did see one flash from the tall speedster in 2020, like his nine-grab, 146-yard, one-touchdown effort against Notre Dame. In 2019, Terry averaged 20.1 yards per grab on 51 catches. Had he gotten the opportunity to run in Indy, we would've seen a time in the low 4.4s, which would've drastically boosted his stock after a mostly disappointing final season with the Seminoles.
2020 winner: RB A.J. Dillon
From his time pulverizing his way through the ACC at Boston College, most of us expected a good combine workout from Dillon. No one expected 4.53 at a super-stocky 6-0 and 247 pounds along with a 41-inch vertical and a broad jump in the 97th percentile at the position over the past 21 years.
The performance catapulted the ox into the second round -- No. 62 overall. While we didn't see much of Dillon in Green Bay in Year 1, outside of an awesome 124-yard, two-score performance during a snowy, late-December game in Lambeau, expect him to shoulder feature-back duties for the Packers in 2021. And linebackers better be ready to tackle a souped-up SUV, because Dillon is large and hyper explosive for his size.
2021 prospect: Alabama RB Najee Harris
Harris is listed at 6-1 and 230 pounds, not quite as thick as Dillon. However, Harris cuts off blocks like a scatback, makes hurdling defenders seem as easy as a stiff arm, and has deceptive speed down the field for a back his size.
While the 40-yard dash may not have been his thing at the combine, I suspect Harris would've crushed the leaping drills and even a lightning-quick three-cone (relative to his size) wouldn't have surprised me whatsoever.
2020 winner: S/LB Isaiah Simmons
Simmons may have been the biggest winner at the combine, although we all were prepared for a freak-of-nature-type workout from the Clemson star. At 6-4 and 238 pounds -- same as Claypool -- he ran 4.39 and had a 39-inch vertical and a broad jump in the 98th percentile at the linebacker position. Oh, and his arms were over 33 inches, which is essentially offensive tackle length.
While he had a steep learning curve in a more structured role with the Cardinals than he had with the Tigers in college, Simmons hit his stride late in the season and, physically, is the prototype for the "big nickel" position in today's NFL.
2021 winner: Notre Dame S/LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Owusu-Koramoah is 6-1 and 215 pounds. Not of Simmonsian stature. Yet, like with Simmons, we aren't sure if Owusu-Koramoah is a safety or a linebacker. And after decades of the "tweener" label carrying a negative connotation, it's now a positive on a draft profile.
On the field, "JOKer" is as more fluid and springy than any linebacker I've ever scouted. No joke. The closest linebacker to him in terms of twitch, explosion, and unadulterated speed is probably Reuben Foster. Even if JOKer measured in a little shorter and was right in the 210-215 range on the scale in Indy, his workout would've cemented him in the top 20, if not higher. He's that rare of an athlete and plays with outstanding instincts as a run stuffer. Most importantly, he makes ridiculous plays in coverage look routine.
2020 winner: LB Willie Gay
Gay was somewhat of an enigma entering the 2020 combine because of our limited exposure to him in college. At Mississippi State in 2019, he only played five games and was suspended for the remaining eight. He did look like a size/speed specimen on the limited film available, and boy was he ever.
At 6-1 and 243 pounds, Gay ran a blistering 4.46 with a 39 1/2-inch vertical along with a 136-inch broad jump that placed him in the 99th percentile among linebackers at the combine since 1999. Unreal stuff at that height-and-weight combination. He ultimately went in Round 2 -- No. 63 overall -- to the Chiefs but unfortunately his rookie season was marred by injury.
2021 prospect: Kentucky LB Jamin Davis
Davis is 6-4 and 234 pounds but looks significantly faster and more fluid than most linebackers his size. In 2020, he had 102 total tackles, three picks, four tackles for loss, and two pass breakups. He was everywhere for the Wildcats.
While not the compact specimen Gay was, Davis had the type of under-the-radar reputation and speed on film to fly up boards after what would've likely been an explosive combine workout.