10 Things We Learned At The 2016 NFL Combine

Hundreds of former college football players have their biggest job interview at the NFL Combine. Trying to impress NFL coaches, general managers,and owners during interviews as well as in on the field drills can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s unfair, but the combine can make or break some prospects.

Having a good NFL Combine showing can improve one’s stock immensely. On the other hand, having a bad showing can make a player drop down the draft boards.

All in all, the NFL Combine is a huge litmus test for the future stars in the NFL. During the short period that the players are observed, a lot can be gleaned — both good and bad. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned over the weekend from the 2016 NFL Combine.

Big Ten Tackles Put On A Show

Jason Spriggs (Indiana), Taylor Decker (Ohio State) and Jack Conklin (Michigan State) put on show during Day 1 of the combine. Decker and Conklin have been projected to go in the first round in many mock drafts, and they solidified their positions with their performances this weekend. But Jason Spriggs stole the show.

Spriggs, the mammoth left tackle from Indiana, wasn’t as high on as many draft boards as the aforementioned Conklin and Decker, but that may change. Spriggs wowed scouts with a 4.94 40-yard dash, which made him the fastest offensive linemen in Indianapolis. He also displayed great body control and quickness during position drills. Since left tackle is one of the most important positions in the NFL, don’t be surprised if you hear all three names called in the first round of the NFL draft.

Don’t Sleep On The (Slow) Wide Receivers

Other than Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, the wide receiver group did not display track-like speed in the 40-yard dash. Despite being the slowest class since the 2011 group, this is a solid collection of receivers.

Guys such as LaQuon Treadwell, Will Fuller, Mike Thomas, Corey Coleman and Josh Doctson have the ability to contribute immediately. Underrated prospects such as Sterling Shepard, Braxton Miller, Tajae Sharpe, Aaron Burbridge and Kenny Lawler possess the potential to be quality NFL wideouts if placed in the ideal system.

There may not be a clear-cut star a la A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but don’t be surprised if some Pro Bowlers emerge from this group when it’s all said and done.

LaQuon Treadwell’s Hat > LaQuon Treadwell The WR

The uber-talented wide receiver from Ole Miss channeled his inner Ken Griffey Jr. while wearing a backwards hat during the NFL Combine. Treadwell, who has been compared to Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, may be the first wide receiver off the board.

While his receiving skills are great, his hat game and swagger may have surpassed his overall play. Let’s take a look at a few tweets that support my claim.

Even my fellow TSFJ’er Kyle Madson had to chime in.

The ‘Other’ Quarterbacks May Be Worth A Gamble

While Carson Wentz and Jared Goff have been pegged the best quarterbacks in the 2016 draft class, a few other quarterbacks made their case, proving they aren’t that far behind  the top quarterbacks. Vernon Adams Jr., Dak Prescott and Paxton Lynch all had solid showings. All three showed the ability to throw the ball while displaying solid footwork and mechanics. It also helps that all three players ran in the 4.8 range in the 40-yard dash. They may not be worth a first-round choice, but these quarterbacks may be considered steals in the later rounds of the draft.

Henry Vs. Elliott May Be A Thing

Prior to the combine, Ezekiel Elliot was regarded as the unanimous top running back in the draft. After a strong showing by Derrick Henry, however, Elliott will have some competition for the top spot. This isn’t quite Edgerrin James vs. Ricky Williams in the 1999 NFL Draft, but both backs are regarded as “can’t-miss prospects.”

Elliott and Henry have contrasting styles, and depending on what team they land with, both teams may be very happy. Elliott ran a blistering 4.47 in the 40-yard dash while Henry ran a 4.54. Henry isn’t as fast as Elliott, but standing at 6-4, 247 pounds, defenders will have to make a business decision before attempting to tackle him.

Both backs showed good hands, elusive footwork and the speed that teams covet. The running back position may be not what it was 15 years ago, but both Henry and Elliot should be selected in the first round.

Jaylon Smith’s Knee Has Everyone Worried Except Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame’s all-everything linebacker tore his ACL, LCL and PCL against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Unable to participate in any type of drills, Smith has remained confident throughout the process. Many questions have surfaced about possible nerve damage to his knee, but Smith is remaining positive that he can be one of the best players in the draft.

Noah Spence Is Not A Workout Warrior

At times, guys such as Mike Mamula and Vernon Gholston hoodwink general managers into selecting them early in the draft; Noah Spence may not be that guy. The pass-rushing specialist out of Eastern Kentucky ran two underwhelming 40-yard dashes clocking in at 4.80 and 4.86. Overall, Spence didn’t have a bad combine, but he did nothing to stand out. Like many players, he is someone who stands out on game tape, rather than doing drills in shorts and a T-shirt. Despite the so-so combine, Spence should still be a first-round selection.

Defensive Line Is The Deepest Position In The Draft

Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Shaq Lawson, Noah Spence, Kevin Dodd and Robert Nkemdiche are just a few known names expected to make several NFL teams happy. With many questions surrounding other positions in the draft, the talent is very rich at the defensive linemen positions. Defensive line play is essential in order to play at a high level in the NFL. As we saw in Super Bowl 50, it’s important to have players who have the ability to get to the quarterback as well as stop the run.

Only 6 Wide Receivers Ran Faster Than LB Darron Lee In The 40-Yardd Dash

Will Fuller, Kolby Listenbee, Trevor Davis, Ricardo Louis, Malcolm Mitchell and Charone Peake can all say they ran faster than Darron Lee. The other 37 wide receivers that were invited to the 2016 NFL Combine cannot.

The All-Big Ten Linebacker from “THE” Ohio State Buckeyes ran a 4.47. Lee is what new-look NFL defenses covet due to having lightning speed coupled with his incredible instincts at the LB position. With NFL teams in a passing frenzy, it’s vital to have linebackers who can play all three downs. For those who have watched Lee play over the years, this should not come as a surprise.

Pro Days Will Be Important For Some

For players such as Cardale Jones, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, Tyler Boyd and a host of others, they will need to put on a show during their pro days at their respective universities. Outside of Jones, who bowed out of workouts due to a hamstring injury, the aforementioned players didn’t perform at the level many scouts expected them to. Normally, workouts on campus are catered to the player’s strengths so it will be an advantage for them to show scouts one more time that they are worth a worthy draft selection.

With the defensive backs on par to go through workouts Monday, I’ll be back for another assessment of the arguably the most entertaining day of the NFL Combine.

Until next time.

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