Football fans and analysts alike are gearing up for one of the most exciting pre-draft events of the year — the NFL Combine.
The Combine provides a unique opportunity for prospects to showcase their athletic abilities and gives NFL teams an up-close look at potential draft picks — including the all-important interview and medical process.
As outside observers, we don’t get access to the interviews, so we have to focus on the drills. Fortunately, there is a lot to focus on there.
Which players will exceed expectations, and which ones will fall short? Here are some of the biggest questions surrounding some of the top skill-position prospects and what we — as evaluators and dynasty players — hope to learn from their performance at the Combine.
Bryce Young, Alabama — Young is listed at 6’0” and 194 pounds. The list of QBs at 6’ or shorter is small. Kyler Murray, Tua Tagovailoa, and Russell Wilson all fit that height, but none of them were less than 200 pounds at the Combine. Young’s talent isn’t much of a question, but NFL teams will be watching closely what his official measurements come in at.
Anthony Richardson, Florida — There might not be a QB with more to gain at the Combine than Richardson. At a listed 6’4” and 235 pounds, that makes him bigger than recent QB prospects like Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts, but there is a chance he runs the 40-yard dash in a similar time. Fields ran in the 4.4s, and Hurts ran in the 4.5s — that is the range in which Richardson is being projected to run.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State — Stroud was not really known as a runner in college, but he has good size and can move. We have seen another former Ohio State QB in Fields be a much more dynamic runner in the NFL than he was in college as well, so Stroud’s 40-yard dash time will be something to watch.
Will Levis, Kentucky — Levis did not improve on his impressive 2021 college season in 2022 like many hoped, but he is still being discussed as a top QB prospect in this class. This is his chance to show he deserves to be the first QB off the board and, at worst, belongs in the Stroud and Young tier of prospects.
Jake Haener, Fresno State — Haener was the star of the Senior Bowl among the quarterbacks down in Mobile, but the competition turned out to be pretty lackluster. Now surrounded by the top QB prospects, does he still shine or struggle to stand out? While no one is expecting him to become anything close to a first-round pick, it will be interesting to see if he can look comparable to someone like Tanner McKee from Stanford.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama — Gibbs is probably the highest-profile RB prospect in this class who has size concerns. Listed at 5’11” and 200 pounds, his ceiling could be an Austin Ekeler level of player in the NFL, but if he comes in under 200, he falls into a list of pass-catching and rotational specialists like Kenneth Gainwell, Nyheim Hines, and J.D. McKissic have been in recent years.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M — Achane is another back with size concerns, but he’s not being touted as highly as Gibbs. He is listed at 5’9” and 185 pounds. RBs who weighed less than 190 at the Combine and were on NFL teams in 2022 include Phillip Lindsay, JJ Taylor … and that’s it. That’s not a very high hit rate for Achane if he doesn’t put on some weight.
Tyjae Spears, Tulane — Spears burst onto the scene at the Senior Bowl. He looked much bigger than expected and weighed in at 194 pounds. That was 4 pounds higher than his listed weight of 190. The Combine will be his next chance to show he can continue to put on mass, but also not lose his projected elite speed in the 40-yard dash.
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA — Charbonnet will be one of the earlier running backs drafted this year, and for good reason. At 6’1” and 220 pounds, he has the size to be a workhorse in the NFL and has showcased tackle-breaking ability. At the Combine, the thing to watch will be his top speed in the 40-yard dash and if he shows similar explosiveness to someone like Bijan Robinson in the other drills.
Roschon Johnson, Texas —-Johnson is an interesting prospect because he didn’t get much playing time in college playing behind Bijan Robinson. He had a good first day of practice at the Senior Bowl, but then had a hand injury that ended his week. He is a much bigger back at 6’2” and 223 pounds, so he runs tall and hard. This will be his chance to show he is also a top back in the class and can move well in drills such as the three-cone despite his size.
Sean Tucker, Syracuse — The main thing to watch for from Tucker during the Combine is his hands. He had a 12% drop rate in 2022 per PFF, and for him to show he can be a three-down back, he will need to be able to catch passes reliably. Dalvin Cook was another back who had drop issues in college and is a similar size to Tucker. The hope will be that Tucker can grow into a role in the NFL similar to Cook’s career arc.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn — Bigsby also had pass-catching issues in college. He had only a 71% catch rate in 2022. Only three other backs with at least 40 targets had a lower catch rate. Pass-catching drills will be important for him at the Combine.
Kendre Miller, TCU — Miller is one of the bigger backs in this class at 6’ and 218 pounds. He is reportedly going to run in the 4.60s for the 40-yard dash. If he runs in the 4.60s, that’s notable because there have been 37 RBs that spent time on an NFL team the past two years that ran in the 4.60s. Only nine of those have ever had what we would consider a usable fantasy season, including Le’Veon Bell, David Montgomery, and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State — One more back had to be mentioned with small size issues. Vaugn is listed at 175 pounds. There were no notable RBs in the NFL at that weight in 2022.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee — Hyatt has the best chance to run the fastest 40-yard dash time of the WRs at the Combine. He has game-breaking speed that is a threat on every play. If he runs in the 4.20s, that would put him in a group consisting of John Ross and Tyquan Thornton, and faster than Tyreek Hill and Will Fuller.
Jordan Addison, USC — Addison may very well be the first WR off the board in the Draft, but that doesn’t come without concerns. Listed at 6’ and 175 pounds, he is on the smaller side. Notable WRs on teams in 2022 at or below 175 pounds include Elijah Moore, Darnell Mooney, DeSean Jackson, and Marquise Brown, but each of those guys ran a 4.40 or lower in the 40-yard dash. Will Addison?
Quentin Johnston, TCU — At 6’4” and 210 pounds, he falls into a list of active NFL WRs who average a 40-yard dash time in the 4.50s. If he runs in the 4.30s, like he has been speculated to do, the only player currently in the NFL close to that speed at that size is Chase Claypool.
Zay Flowers, Boston College — Flowers had somewhat of a drop issue in college — 10% drop rate in 2022, per PFF. Only four other WRs in 2022 had at least 100 targets with a worse rate. He also has similar size concerns to Addison and will need to run a good 40-yard dash.
Josh Downs, North Carolina — Downs is probably the smallest of the highly touted WR prospects in this class, listed at 5’10” and 171 pounds. Despite his size, he posted a 72% contested catch rate in 2022 per PFF, so he knows how to win at the catch point. The question for him will be if he can continue to win at the catch point in the NFL at that size. DeVonta Smith is a similar size, but Smith has a massive 78” wingspan.
Parker Washington, Penn State — Washington might have one of the most unique size builds at the Combine. He is listed at 5’11” and 210 pounds… more of a running back build. Current active WRs listed in that range include Jalen Reagor, Amari Rodgers, and James Washington, so it’s not a particularly great size to play WR, given recent history. The Combine will be a good test of his athleticism at an unorthodox WR frame.
Tyler Scott, Cincinnati — Scott falls into the size bucket where speed will be important for him. He succeeded in college as a deep threat, so a strong 40-yard dash time will be important for his NFL evaluation. Drops could also be an issue. He had an 11% drop rate per PFF in 2022.
Charlie Jones, Purdue — Jones posted the second-most receiving yards in college football in 2022 on a middle-of-the-pack offense. Despite such high production numbers, there is not a ton of buzz about him in the draft process yet. This will be his first chance to show he has a good athletic profile that matches his production.
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest — Perry is one of the bigger WRs of this class, listed at 6’5” and 212 pounds. The goal for him will be to show explosiveness in drills such as the vertical and broad jumps, and posting a good 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash. He flashed playmaking ability in college and now gets a chance to show his size doesn’t hinder his athleticism.
- Dalton Kincaid, Utah — Kincaid is a little small for a traditional tight end if he comes in at his listed 6’4” and 240 pounds. Similarly built TEs who are currently on NFL rosters would be Juwan Johnson, Harrison Bryant, Greg Dulcich, and Dalton Schultz. Kincaid showed plenty of play-making ability during his college career, but it will be good to see him stand out in the Combine drills to cement himself as the TE1 of this class solely based on his athleticism. UPDATE: Kincaid reportedly suffered an injury in his final regular season game and will not participate in the combine drills.
Utah TE Dalton Kincaid, @MoveTheSticks’ top TE and No. 10 overall prospect, will not participate in drills at the Scouting Combine, source says. Kincaid suffered a small fracture in his back in the Utes’ final regular-season game and played through it in the Pac-12 title game.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 27, 2023
- Luke Musgrave, Oregon State — Musgrave is massive, listed at 6’6” and 250 pounds, and the NFL will be interested to see how fast he runs the 40-yard dash. Can he get in the Gronk range of 4.60s, or even faster? If he does, that will give him a serious shot at being the first tight end off the board in April.
- Darnell Washington, Georgia — Washington is a big human being. He is listed at 6’7” and 265 pounds. Only seven TEs in the NFL last year were at least 6’7” at the Combine. And only one of those seven weighed at least 265. None of them have the receiving abilities that Washington does. So the question for him becomes if Washington can move at that size and still be an effective receiver. None of those seven TEs have had a notable fantasy season in their careers
- Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State — Kraft missed a good chunk of games in 2022, but flashed similar play-making ability to former Jackrabbit Dallas Goedert. The issue was he played at a small school, so the Combine is a great chance for him to show he fits in with many of the other FBS TEs in this class.
- Will Mallory, Miami — Athleticism is extremely important for a tight end like Mallory. His game is similar to Mike Gesicki, so he is going to need to show explosiveness and the ability to move fluidly. The Combine is a good shot for him to show NFL teams he can be a bigger receiving threat for their teams.