By: Zack Marseglia
Every year, the combine makes or breaks some players in the upcoming draft. Some players shoot up draft boards, and some lay duds and free fall down. Players have their pro day to help stop the bleeding, but the combine is the biggest stage for players to improve their draft stock. Saquon Barkley showed out, and so did Vita Vea, while Orlando Brown laid an egg.
Saquon Barkley may have had one of the best combines in NFL history. A running back posted 29 on the bench, a 41” vertical, and a 4.41 forty time. These numbers are absurd for anyone, let alone a running back. I don’t think a running back has ever come into the league with numbers like him. NFL.com has Barkley compared to Barry Sanders, and I don’t think it serves Barkley justice. Barkley is in a class of his own. I see a mixture of Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson, and Gale Sayers in Barkley’s game. He is a powerful, explosive athlete who could go to any of the 32 teams and be their feature back. I don’t think the Browns can pass on him at number one.
Vita Vea, the big man from Washington also had quite the combine. The 347 pound DT posted a respectable 5.11 forty time, and threw up 41 reps on the bench. This should solidify Vea as a mid-to-late first round prospect. He is surprisingly quick off the line and is a boulder in the run game, but has also shown the ability to get after the quarterback. If he can do that in the NFL, Vea will have a long career in the NFL.
Bradley Chubb is my highest rated defender in this class. At 6’4”, 269 pounds with 34” arms, he is the perfect size for a 4-3 defensive end. Coupled with a relentless motor, Chubb can consistently bend the edge and wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Chubb posted a 4.65 forty, 24 reps on the bench, and a 36” vertical jump, Chubb solidified himself as the drafts top edge rusher. The Colts should be hoping the cards fall right and if Chubb is there at number three, Chris Ballard should not waste any time in drafting Chubb, and immediately send in his pick.
Any time you get compared to Jadeveon Clowney, you’re doing something right. Marcus Davenport wowed scouts in Indianapolis over the week, and likely solidified his spot in the top 20. Although Davenport is extremely raw with his technique, his athleticism and potential may warrant a high selection. At 6’6”, 264 pounds, Davenport ran a 4.58 forty and posted 22 reps on the bench press. His 33⅝” arms are not too short for an edge rusher, but at 6’6” scouts would like to see them a little longer. Davenport should wind up with a team who is willing to coach him up, and to infuse athleticism on their defensive front. He may not be a 10 sack guy in his first season, but with the right coaching he very well could wind up being an All-Pro caliber player.
Denzel Ward may be a bit undersized at 5’10”, but don’t tell him that. The Junior from Ohio ran a blistering 4.32 forty and had a 39” vertical, along with 16 reps on the bench, which is very respectable for a corner. Ward is a feisty corner who is very good at attacking the ball. Sometimes his hips appear to be a little tight at times, but Ward should be a top 15 pick come April.
This piece wouldn’t have merit if we didn’t highlight the drafts biggest dud. Orlando Brown from Oklahoma may have had the most disappointing combine I have ever seen. At 6’8” 345 pounds, Brown ran a 5.85. For a offensive lineman it is bad, but not free fall bad. However, a 19.5” vertical and a mere 14 reps on the bench do warrant such a free fall. As a tackle at 345, I would have wanted to see at least 30 reps come out of him. If Brown cannot improve these numbers at his pro day, scouts will watch tape more critically to see what they missed. We already know he has poor technique and stands up straight too often, and couple that with abysmal scores like that, and that’s how you go from being a fringe first round prospect to 3rd or 4th round pick.