The 2023 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 any of the top prospects work out?
This is always the question at every Combine and there are three QBs in particular that everyone has their eyes on. Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud have topped the board for over a year and both will have an opportunity to make their case at being the first QB off the board and potential #1 overall pick. It would be great to see both throw and workout, getting a clear 40 time and athletic testing, but it seems doubtful they will participate.
Kentucky’s Will Levis may be on the fence of what he does at the Combine. Not only did he play through injuries this season, but Levis did skip the Senior Bowl and caught some flack for it. Working out at the Combine would go far for Levis, who needs to show his athleticism and arm to remind everyone why he is a potential top pick.
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. Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson could really impress here. The next tier of QBs needs someone to emerge and players like Stanford’s Tanner McKee and BYU’s Jaren Hall could flash that zip to show they should get late Day 2 consideration.
Will Anthony Richardson emerge as a top QB option?
Richardson may be on the borderline of deciding to work out, but if he does, he could be the buzz of the whole week. His size and athleticism are sure to wow in the 40 time and vertical leap, but it could be the throwing drills where ARich shines. If he does work out, will this be a deciding factor of him being a Top 10 pick? Or will it not quite catch the eyes of scouts similar to Malik Willis last year?
Medical and Measurements
Predicted QB Standouts:
-Anthony Richardson, Florida
-Max Duggan, TCU
-Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
Who will run the fastest 40 time?
The running backs usually have a blazer or two who could run a very fast 40 time, and this year is no different. There are numerous track athletes at the RB position who could post times in the 4.3s and maybe even get into the 4.2s this year. The track at the Combine has been pretty fast, so expect blazing 40 times.
The contenders for the fastest 40 time are Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs, TCU’s Kendre Miller, Syracuse’s Sean Tucker, and Kansas State’s Deuce Vaughn.
Some other solid size/speed combination for the 40 that should emerge are UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet and Texas’ Bijan Robinson.
I am interested most in Auburn’s Tank Bigsby and if his RAS score can compete with some of the faster, smaller RBs.
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. Even Kenneth Walker last year flashed that he could be a pass catcher at the NFL.
There are plenty of great pass catchers from Devon Achane and Jahmyr Gibbs to Kenny McIntosh from Georgia and Tyjae Spears from Tulane. But, the second tier of RBs has a few who need to show they are natural pass catchers. Mississippi’s Zach Evans comes to mind as a major name I’ll be watching, along with UAB’s DeWayne McBride.
Will the Day 2 RBs separate themselves?
After Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs, the field is wide open on who will stand out and become an early Day 2 selection. My guess is Charbonnet and Achane put themselves in that early Round 2 mix, while players like Kendre Miller and Tyjae Spears should also impress enough to gain consideration. We will have a much better idea of this RB class after the Combine.
Predicted RB Standouts
-Devon Achane, Texas A&M
-Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
-Sean Tucker, Syracuse
Wide Receiver/Tight End
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 are numerous speedsters in this class from relatively unknown players like Liberty’s Demario Douglas or Georgia’s Kearis Jackson to some of the bigger names like Boston College’s Zay Flowers and TCU’s Quentin Johnston.
Most of the top WRs should perform well. USC’s Jordan Addison, North Carolina’s Josh Downs, Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt, and Houston’s Tank Dell and others will blow up the track.
Some of my personal favorites WRs in the class in Cincinnati’s Tyler Scott and Princeton’s Andrei Iosivas should become bigger names after the Combine. 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 Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman, Wake Forest’s AT Perry, and Michigan State’s Jayden Reed to do well.
Who will cement themselves as the first WR off the board?
Quentin Johnston has the opportunity to show he has the size and athleticism to be a monster in the NFL if he can run in the low 4.4s at 6’4, 215 pounds. But, Jordan Addison may just add to his resume and be intriguing as the first WR off the board instead.
Many of the eyes will be on Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. There is some buzz that he may not work out as well as previously expected, which could continue his tumble down the board and into Day 2. But, if he emerges as an athletic talent, then he could be propped back into the first round.
Will the TE class live up to the hype?
With talk of as many as 4 TEs going off the board in the first round, the Combine will solidify if the hyped is deserved. Athletic players like Utah’s Dalton Kincaid and Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave should perform well, all things considered. But, questions loom if Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer works out and if so, is he athletic enough to compete in the class? On top of that, we have the towering Darnell Washington from Georgia who will check in size wise as massive, and may work out up to that.
Predicted WR/TE Standouts
-Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
-Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
-Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
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 (so Ohio State’s Dawand Jones may be out on that one). Look for players like North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch and Wisconsin’s Joe Tippman to be among the standouts.
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.
Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr. will be an intriguing player to watch as he is big, but has nimble feet that could impress. Other potential standouts in the drills are Maryland’s Jaelyn Duncan, Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison and Wanya Morris, and USC’s Andrew Vorhees
Will Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski measure up?
Skoronski is my OT1, but many are fading him for his short arms and likely being under 300 pounds. The Combine will be an opportunity for him to answer many of the questions about him as showing top athleticism will help quiet those fears. If Skoronski has great times and looks the best in drills, he can show he is a potential franchise LT and not just an interior lineman. I expect that to happen.
Predicted OL Standouts
-Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland
-Paris Johnson, Ohio State
-Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
What are you looking for at the NFL Combine?
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