Here are five lessons learned after spending the week in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. 1. An Incredibly Deep Draft Class
– That was the buzz entering the Combine, and the performances only served to reinforce this belief. Many believe starting caliber players will be available even late into the third day of the draft as scouts and analysts couldn’t help but gush over what they saw on the field. I thought NFL Network’s Albert Breer summed it up best when talking about the Chargers possible selection with the 25th
overall pick: "What I can say is that you're going to get a really good player there. What I've been told is that maybe 10 to 12 players in this draft are better than anybody in last year's draft, which is an incredible thing when you think about that's just the top shelf. Then you're working down, so if you're drafting in the 20s, you might be getting a player who in another year could be a top-10 caliber player."
2. Bigger, Stronger, Faster – I came away from last year’s combine marveling at the physical gifts of the prospects available. This year’s crop may be even more impressive as the players entering the league continue to be freakish athletes. Need an example? Look no further than Jadeveon Clowney. The prized defensive end ran a blazing 4.53 in the 40-yard dash while measuring 6-5, 266-pounds. Then there is Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who at 6-1, 285-pounds ran a 4.65 40 while posting 35 reps at the bench press. Even the tall wide receivers who a few years ago would be referred to simply as possession receivers showed elite speed, with the likes of the 6-4 Martavis Bryant running a 4.42 and 6-1 Sammy Watkins clocking in at 4.43.
3. Experts “Bullish on the Chargers” – With the Combine serving as a “who’s who” of the NFL world, we asked some of the top analysts their thoughts on the Bolts. Overall, NFL experts had high praise for the team located in America’s Finest City. ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio said he is “bullish on the Chargers” explaining how he feels they are “in a position within the division to really do the most long term damage.” There are a few major reasons why analysts are encouraged about the future of the Bolts, chief among them General Manager Tom Telesco and Head Coach Mike McCoy. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King credited Telesco for building a winning atmosphere in San Diego while CBS’s Jason La Confora said he believes McCoy was overlooked in the Coach of the Year race. 4. Prolific Passing Game Prospects
– While this year’s draft class as a whole is quite impressive, perhaps the groups that shone the most are the positions that deal most with the passing game. That includes the quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs. The buzz in Indy was around some prolific passers being available, with most pointing toward Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manzel and Blake Bortles as the head of the class along with the likes of Derek Carr, David Fales, Jimmy Garoppolo and A.J. McCarron close behind. There are a number of wide receivers with first round grades, including Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham and Kelvin Benjamin just to name a few. And the prospects tabbed with guarding those types or receivers is deep as well, with experts predicting Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, Darqueze Denard, Marcus Roberson, Louchiez Purifoy, Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Calvin Pryor all could be picked on the first day of the draft. One of the go-to lines for media members these days is to call the NFL a passing league, and with the talent available at quarterback, wideout and in the secondary, it’s easy to see why.
5. So Much Still Up in the Air
– The Combine creates a lot of hype around players, but it’s critical to note the NFL Draft is still a ways away. In fact, it will be held even later than ever before from May 8-10. There is still a lot left in the evaluation process such as continuing to review game film, Pro Days and additional interviews to name a few. There will be a lot of speculation in the immediate aftermath of the Combine, so it’s important to realize how a player performed on the big stage in Indy isn’t the end-all for him.