The NFL offseason features the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which ended one week ago. What were some of the biggest stories from the four days of athlete workouts?
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Isaiah Simmons Made The Biggest Jump Of Any Defensive Player
It is true that Isaiah Simmons won’t be the first defensive player taken in the 2020 NFL Draft – that will be Chase Young, the edge rusher from Ohio State – but he might have jumped past every other defensive player on the board in this draft. Simmons is a 238-pound athlete who just ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine. Casual sports fans and casual NFL observers might not appreciate how amazing that truly is. That is elite speed for a relatively heavy athlete. One would generally expect a 40-yard dash time under 4.4 seconds from a light wide receiver or cornerback who weighs 195 pounds, but Simmons – despite carrying the extra pounds in a muscular body of a player who has played some linebacker at Clemson – was able to fly to a 4.39.
There is a statistic called “speed score,” a mathematical formula which measures speed relative to height (Simmons is 6-3) and weight. Given Simmons’ comparatively taller height and larger weight, his 40-yard dash time gave him a speed score of 128.2. The people who tabulate and measure the speed score statistic will tell you that 110 is a great score and 120 is an elite, top-tier score. Simmons very nearly graded out at 130. That tells you how much of an athletic freak he is. He could easily go to the Detroit Lions at No. 3. He amazed a lot of people at the combine and surely made himself a ton of money.
Tristan Wirfs Made The Biggest Jump Of Any Offensive Player
The offensive lineman from Iowa also made himself quite a lot of money at the combine. Wirfs is a big, farm-grown offensive lineman and pass protector, but he ran a 4.85 40-yard dash at the combine and had a vertical jump of over 36 inches. The 4.85 time is eye-popping for an offensive lineman or any lineman at all. Wirfs stunned a lot of scouts and executives with that time… and yet that might not have been the best and most impressive workout performance for him in Indianapolis. His most impressive combine feat was his vertical jump, which beat out a number of the highly-ranked wide receivers and cornerbacks on the draft board. Wirfs is the dynamic physical specimen on the offensive side of the ball which Simmons proved to be on the defensive side of the ball. It will be extremely difficult for the teams in the top 10 to pass on him. He is probably the odds-on favorite right now to be taken at No. 4 by the New York Giants, who need to give Daniel Jones an elite protector on their offensive line. Simmons going at No. 3 to Detroit and Wirfs going at No. 4 to the Giants both make a lot of sense at this point. Their combine workouts definitely increased the size of their respective NFL paychecks.
Injuries Suffered For Combine Players
It is a nightmare for players to have to deal with injuries when they are trying to prove themselves to various NFL teams and their scouting departments. Yet, a number of high-profile players are in this unenviable position. Linebacker Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma injured himself in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His status is uncertain in the near future, and teams might naturally back away from him on draft day as a result. It is hard to gauge how his stock will be affected, but the news cannot be good.
Colorado Buffaloes receiver Laviksa Shenault was allowed to run one 40-yard dash at the combine – he clocked in at 4.58 in the 40 – but Shenault was not allowed to participate in the various other workout drills and physical measurement tests due to an internal muscle core injury near the pubic bone which will require surgery. Shenault’s draft status certainly will not be helped by that particular piece of news. He is almost certain to move down the draft board. Whoever gets him will have to trust that he can and will become a fully restored physical product.
Jeff Okudah, listed by many as the top cornerback on the board, fell on his head and neck when performing a combine drill and did not complete all of the drills he set out to perform. Yet, his injuries do not appear to be structural or significant, and he was able to do some more workouts at the combine. The Shenault injury is a lot more likely to lead to an erosion of draft status. The Okudah draft question isn’t as grim; many expect Okudah to still be picked in the top 10 of the draft.
The aforementioned Patrick Queen, who has impressed scouts in Indianapolis, did pull up at the end of his 40-yard dash, but the LSU linebacker didn’t suffer an injury which is nearly as significant as the ones endured by Shenault or Kenneth Murray.
Wisconsin Running Back Makes His Mark
The running back spot is always a big question mark for NFL teams at the combine and then at the draft. There is and has been a huge debate among NFL experts in recent years: Should teams take quality running backs early in the draft, or is this a position where one should look for a bargain value and try to plug a decent running back into a system for a maximum return on a modest investment?
For anyone who thinks a quality running back needs to be taken early in the draft, Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin might have left the strongest and most favorable impression. He is 226 pounds, but he showed elite speed in the 40-yard draft at this event in Indianapolis.
Due to Taylor’s 40-yard dash time, he could now be viewed by analysts as the top running back in the NFL Draft if not in the top two, alongside J.K. Dobbins of Ohio State, who played twice against Taylor and Wisconsin in the just-concluded college football regular season of 2019.
Taylor, upon entering the NFL Combine, was perceived by many analysts as a second round draft pick, but because of his 40-yard dash time, he now is a player who could realistically get his name called by Roger Goodell on the first night. D’Andre Swift of Georgia, for purposes of comparison, ran a 4.48 40-yard dash while Dobbins chose not to work out at the NFL Combine.
Taylor posted a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10’3″ mark in the broad jump. If any running back made a big upward move in the draft due to his combine performance, it’s Taylor of Wisconsin.