No surprise, but Shaquem Griffin and Saquon Barkley are at the top of the winners’ list.
The 2018 NFL Combine is in the books, but before we move on to the draft, let’s take a look at what was a memorable few days in Indianapolis.
There were inspirational moments, like basically everything Shaquem Griffin did this year. There were incredible feats, like Saquon Barkley crushing every part of the combine. And there were some genuine surprises, such as Orlando Brown turning in one of the worst combine performances ever.
Here are the winners and losers from this year’s combine.
Shaquem Griffin was the best story of the entire combine
Griffin, a linebacker out of UCF, was the star of the 2018 combine. Griffin had his left hand amputated as a young child because of amniotic band syndrome, a rare congenital condition that causes excruciating pain. That didn’t stop him from putting up 20 bench press reps.
His bench press performance should have been hard to top, but not for Griffin. He followed that up with a 4.38 40-yard dash, which is the best time any linebacker since 2006.
Griffin was a late addition to the combine invitation list. He showed up in Indianapolis and won our hearts and boosted his stock dramatically. We’re wishing him all the best in the draft.
Saquon Barkley is worth a very high draft pick
Teams have changed the way they value running backs in the draft. But there are always exceptions, like Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, who were both selected with the No. 4 pick in the past two drafts. Barkley is the next running back who warrants that high of a pick.
How impressive was Barkley at the combine? This sums it up.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley at 2018 Combine:
– Stronger than Joe Thomas
– Quicker than DeSean Jackson
– Faster than Devin Hester
– Jumps higher than Julio [email protected] pic.twitter.com/usgR6vJvOn
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 2, 2018
Barkley looked so good that one NFL assistant coach said he would be willing to punch himself in the nuts “many, many, many times” to be able to draft him. That’s totally unreasonable, but Barkley’s performance does suggest that he’ll be pretty special as a pro.
Penn State, in general
Barkley wasn’t the only Penn State prospect who crushed it. Two of his two Nittany Lions teammates, tight end Mike Gesicki and safety Troy Apke, both boosted their stock this week.
Gesicki had the second-best bench press performance of any tight end with 22 reps. He tied for first in his position group in the 40 with a 4.54, and he led the tight ends in the broad jump, three-cone, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle, too.
He even beat his former teammate, Barkley, with a 41.5 vertical — also the best jump among the tight ends.
@mikegesicki so you had to just go and get that 41.5 …. couldn’t be happy with 41 smh
— Saquon Barkley (@saquonb21) March 3, 2018
On Monday, safety Troy Apke blew Deion Sanders’ mind when he pulled off the best time in his position group with a 4.34 time in the 40.
Gesicki wasn’t surprised by the way he and his teammates showed out at the combine.
You would think this was our pro day with the amount of conversation going on about Penn State players dominating the @NFL Combine. No surprise to us though #WeAre
— Ⓜ️G (@mikegesicki) March 5, 2018
Based on their combine performances, Penn State’s pro day on March 20 should be a fun one.
Lamar Jackson is still definitely a QB and he doesn’t care if you disagree
Much was made of the rumor that teams would like Lamar Jackson to transition to wide receiver. Jackson won the combine simply by patiently standing firm on his belief that he’s absolutely a quarterback.
He faced question after question after question about it, and he never budged. Not only does Jackson see himself as a quarterback, but he compared himself to two of the league’s best: Cam Newton and Tom Brady.
Jackson opted out of the 40 and the other traditional drills, and instead just focused on throwing. Because, you know, he’s a quarterback.
Josh Allen may be the best QB prospect in this draft
His 56.2 completion percentage in college won’t be easily forgotten by teams. But Allen did everything he could at the combine to solidify his spot at the top of this quarterback class.
He wowed in drills, with the third-best 40 time, the best vertical, and the best broad jump in his position group. But where he really blew people away was during throwing drills. CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco said Allen launched one 70 yards, winning over plenty of scouts int he process.
Allen still has detractors, and he doesn’t care. He may not end up being the first overall pick, but he proved he might just be worthy of it after all.
Brian O’Neill lived up to his Piesman hype
The Piesman is a prestigious award, and it’s no surprise that the 2016 recipient, Pitt’s Brian O’Neill, also made a name for himself at the combine.
O’Neill posted the best 40 time, 4.82, and three-cone drill, 7.14, of any offensive lineman who participated in drills. If you watched him play in college, you’re probably not surprised. He had two touchdowns in the three times he got to touch the ball in college. He very nearly had a third, but he was ruled down at the 1-yard line, and Pitt punched it in on the next play.
He’s penciled in to be drafted in the second or third round, but he boosted his stock with those numbers.
Rich Eisen ran his second-best 40 ever
NFL hopefuls train for months to run the 40, and they’re all in their late teens or early 20s. Rich Eisen runs it every single year wearing a suit and a tie, and even though he’s 48 years old, he turned in the second-best time of his life on Monday.
Eisen’s 5.97 run was impressive. He runs the 40 to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which provides medical care free of charge to children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. That’s a big win for a lot of kids who deserve it.
Orlando Brown had one of the worst combines in history
Former Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was projected as a first-rounder. But he may see his stock plummet after a truly terrible performance at the combine.
Brown’s 5.86 40-yard dash wasn’t just the worst among this year’s linemen. It was the fifth-worst 40 of all time. He also had the worst broad jump of the day with a 6’10, and he got reprimanded by coaches for loafing during drills.
Baker Mayfield said he doesn’t think Brown’s performance was representative of his potential as a pro.
Baker Mayfield on Orlando Brown’s bad workout: “You can look at his film and see he gave up zero sacks last year.”#NFLCombine2018
— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) March 2, 2018
For Brown’s sake, he better hope his old college teammate is right.
Taron Johnson took a ball to the face on television
Johnson was a standout corner at Weber State, but he stood out at the combine for a different reason.
— Brad McDaniel (@DFF_BMack) March 5, 2018
To Johnson’s credit, he had a sense of humor about it.
I’m a gif https://t.co/3gbiVgLM4g
— Taron Johnson (@Taronj11) March 5, 2018
Sam Darnold didn’t participate in throwing drills
Sam Darnold is definitely one of the top quarterbacks available in this draft. But there are still plenty of questions about him as a prospect after his athleticism didn’t bowl anyone over and he opted not to throw. His 40 time of 4.85 was neither great nor terrible, and his vertical of 26.5 was the second-worst of his position group.
Scouts don’t love Darnold’s throwing motion, and he also said during media availability that he doesn’t plan to switch it up.
“No, I’m not trying to change my throwing motion at all,” Darnold said. “I think I get the ball off pretty quick. There is kind of a windup but I think I get it off pretty quick and that’s the only thing that really matters to me.”
Much has been made of Darnold’s weaknesses — although that whole “bad face” criticism is dumb and ridiculous — and waiting to throw at his pro day with familiar receivers won’t do him any favors. He also managed to get stuck in a revolving door with fellow top prospect Josh Allen. But hey, at least he doesn’t have tiny Donald Trump hands.
Donte Jackson didn’t beat John Ross’ 40 time
There was really only one realistic option at this combine to beat John Ross’s 40-yard dash record from last year, and that was LSU cornerback Donte Jackson. Jackson said at the combine that he was ready to take over as the fastest man in combine history.
“If you were fast, wouldn’t that be a goal for you? Exactly,” Jackson said. “That’s just competitive nature in me. I’m going to get out the bed and I’m going to be ready to run and beat it. That’s just what it is.”
It didn’t happen. But Jackson’s really not a combine loser. His 4.32 time was tied with fellow cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Parry Nickerson for the best among all players.
There were too many injuries to top prospects
Michigan’s Maurice Hurst’s combine was over before it really began. The defensive tackle was diagnosed with a heart condition by doctors at the combine and he wasn’t able to participate.
Injuries took down a number of others, too. Billy Price, one of the top two center prospects this year, tore his pec during the bench press. That ended his combine early. Defensive tackle Vita Vea ran a blistering-fast 5.10 40, which is ridiculous for a guy who’s 6’4 and 347 pounds. But he tweaked his hamstring and was done for the day. It was the same story for Georgia’s Roquan Smith, who hurt his calf running the 40 on Sunday.
Top cornerback prospect Denzel Ward hurt his ankle on Monday. USC running back Ronald Jones pulled up during his 4.66 40 because of a hamstring injury. These players have spent months preparing for the combine, so it’s disappointing to see the experience cut short by injuries.