The 2022 NFL Combine is this week and there will be many eyes looking at the offensive side of the ball. From the QBs throwing (and running) to how the RB/WR class can stack up, it is an important event to see the true athletic potential of the future of the NFL. Time to highlight some of the big storyline questions of each position group and what to look for.
Will Malik Willis lap the field?
Most questions here will revolve around position groups as a whole, but many eyes will be on Liberty’s Willis to see if he continues his Senior Bowl momentum. With rumors of him running a Robert Griffin III like 4.41, Willis could take the entire Combine by storm in the first day and never look back.
A major question for Willis is if he will decide to go through all of the testing at the Combine or just wait until his Pro Day (or not run at all). NFL teams know how fast he is, and risking putting up a worse number than they think may not be worthwhile. As a dratnik, I’m still holding out hope Willis performs a full Combine and ultimately cements himself as the QB1.
Who will have the best zip throwing the football?
The passing drills at the Combine are always a bit overblown. Throwing in shorts to unfamiliar WRs on a whole route tree can get a bit messy. One interesting indicator is the NFL utilizing a radar gun to track the best zip on passes in miles per hour. Since this started in 2008, Josh Allen has had the fastest Combine pass at 62 mph. Following behind him in 2018 was Baker Mayfield at 59 mph. In 2017, Patrick Mahomes had the second fastest pass that year at 55 mph.
Though it is far from full proof, this can be a nice way to gauge upside in arm strength. A player like Sam Howell from North Carolina may surprise and be on the higher end of he list. Willis should do extremely well too. Will Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Mississippi’s Matt Corral be in the higher end? Or will a sleeper like SE Louisiana’s Cole Kelley have the fastest pass this year?
Who will impress in interviews?
Interviews with NFL teams are important for every prospect, but the QB prospects have an increased importance on finding a comfortability with a coaching staff and team. Willis was reported to have impressed speaking to teams at the Senior Bowl so we will see if that momentum continues. Corral was one top QB prospect who wasn’t at the Senior Bowl so this is also a big opportunity for him to make his mark.
Medical and Measurements
Pickett’s actual hand size should get released as well as Corral’s height, both of which are key NFL measurements. NFL teams will also get a closer look at the knee of Nevada QB Carson Strong, ankle of Corral, and shoulder of Miami (FL) QB D’Eriq King. There is also some talk of Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder being a surprise standout at the Combine.
Predicted QB Standouts
-Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
-Malik Willis, Liberty
–Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
Who will run the fastest 40 time?
The running backs usually have a blazer or two who could run a very fast 40 time, but that is not the case this season. In my 40 time predictions coming out in a few days, I don’t have a RB running faster than a 4.44 this year. With the RBs being a bit bigger, it would be wise to look more at the Relative Athletic Scores than the pure 40 times to truly see who is the most athletic.
That being said, some contenders for fastest 40 time are Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams, Missouri’s Tyler Badie, and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III. Look for players like FIU’s D’Vonte Price and Georgia’s James Cook to put solid times as well.
Who will shine in pass catching drills?
One of my favorite drills to watch is the RBs catching passes. Many aren’t asked to be a big part of the passing game in college and can show some prowess at the Combine that wasn’t on film. Boston College’s AJ Dillon is an example of a player who shined a bit at the Combine and now has a pass catching role in the NFL.
There are plenty of great pass catchers from Cook and Williams to Arizona State’s Rachaad White and Mississippi’s Jerrion Ealy. The question will be if a player like Walker could emerge and flash pass catching skills when he wasn’t used that way at MSU. Don’t discount someone like Cincinnati’s Jerome Ford showing well in pass catching and improving his stock.
Can one RB emerge into the top tier?
Walker likely has the best chance to emerge as a top tier runner by the end of the Combine. If he can have an excellent Combine after big time production, then there is a chance of emerging. Iowa State’s Breece Hall is likely to stand pat with solid numbers, but it would be a surprise to see him absolutely blow it up. Finally, Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller has the size to really turn some heads if he can time extremely well. It is doubtful we see a true top RB emerge and continue a Day 2 glut.
Predicted RB Standouts
–Tyler Allgeier, BYU
-Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
-D’Vonte Price, FIU
Who will overperform in the 40 yard dash?
The 40 is a key data point for WRs to see how quickly they can run a 9-route and get down the field. There ar numerous speedsters in this class from small guys like Memphis’ Calvin Austin to bigger ones like North Dakota State’s Christian Watson. There will be a few blazing 40 times, but eyes will be on the top of the class.
Arkansas’ Treylon Burks is well built likely around 6’2.5 220 pounds, but he could put up a high 4.3 or low 4.4. If that happens, he should leap into the Top 10 of the draft. We should also see blazing times from the other top WRs like the Ohio State duo of Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Expect the WR group as a whole to be one of the best at the Combine.
Who is able to run the entire route tree?
The WR drills are some of my favorites at the Combine. With a full route tree run by each wide out and seeing the QBs throw to them, you can get a real sense of who is able to to run crisp routes successfully and not have wasted steps/motions.
Catching technique can also be displayed fairly consistently and grading the apples to apples between the WRs are very important. Expect players like Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, and Virginia Tech’s Tre Turner to excel here.
Who will cement themselves as the first WR off the board?
Burks has that opportunity to really take the buzz and be a Top pick. If he should falter though, we could see Garrett Wilson slide into that top spot.
It is also unlikely Southern Cal’s Drake London or Alabama’s Jameson Williams will workout after ankle and ACL injuries respectively, but there could be some interview buzz that props them up. If we see the other high end WRs falter, then look for someone like London to start garnering Top 10 talk.
Predicted WR Standouts
-Treylon Burks, Arkansas
-Erik Enzukanma, Texas Tech
-Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Who is the strongest?
The Bench Press itself is fairly antiquated in terms of what it tests. There are about a dozen better ways to actually test a player’s strength, especially linemen, but we have to take what we can get.
Players with longer arms and wingspans end up at a big disadvantage lifting the bar way up for a counted rep. If any of those long arm players have big bench presses, it shows that weight room discipline. Look for players like Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann and Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa to show off their strength.
How are the big guys at moving their feet in drills?
Though the drills get the least amount of press, but for the Offensive Linemen it is key. One of my favorites is the change of direction drills to see not only the read and react ability, but also how agile in movement they are. It really does separate more sluggish linemen off the snap and in reaction to a pass rush vs. very explosive ones.
Iowa Center Tyler Linderbaum is by the far the best at his position in the class and his athletic ability will be eye-popping in these drills. It also will be intriguing to see bigger OL like Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele, Alabama’s Evan Neal, and UCLA’s Sean Rhyan will get some focus. Can they move in the box as well as needed?
Will we see an athletic freak on the OL?
Every year there seems to be one or two athletic marvels at the OT position. Last year, Texas’ Samuel Cosmi, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, and Northern Iowa’s Spencer Brown all had some of the best Combines ever for Offensive Linemen. This year, Neal could be that guy establishing himself at #1 overall. Also, in terms of pure numbers, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross shows that athleticism on film and should stand out as well.
In terms of interior linemen, no one jumps out as a big time athlete outside Linderbaum. Perhaps a Center like Nerbaska’s Cam Jurgens will be a breakout star of the Combine and flash enough athletic ability to move up in the draft.
Predicted OL Standouts
-Evan Neal, Alabama
-Charles Cross, Mississippi State
-Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
-Daniel Faalele, Minnesota
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