By Michael Stewart
Since the NFL combine first year in 1982 it has evolved into a major determining factor for many college prospects. Some have seen their performance place them into the 1st round; while others have seen it push them out of the 1st round. The 2018 NFL combine was no different and it certainly didn’t disappoint the many football fans, scouts, coaches and general managers who observed this gala event. Every year, there will be a handful of prospects who shined and others who missed out on the opportunity to showcase their talent. Below I have assembled my top 5 winners and losers for this year’s combine and although it was tough to narrow it down to only five for each category; these are my top 5 winners and losers in the 2018 NFL combine.
Saquon Barkley-5’11/233 (RB) Penn State: Considered the best college prospect in the 2018 NFL draft didn’t disappoint anyone at the combine as Saquon Barkley a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash weighing 233 lbs. Barkley also pushed out 29 reps on the bench press and posted a 41-inch vertical leap. All his physical talents are equally matched by character; which should make him the #1 overall pick in this draft.
Will Hernandez-6’3/345 (OG) UTEP: The 6-foot-2 and 327 pounder as expected showcased himself very well by posting a solid 5.15 40 after pushing up 225 pounds 37 times on the bench press. Hernandez is the 2nd best guard in this draft (behind Quenton Nelson) and his performance solidified his place as a day 1 draft pick.
Kolton Miller-6’7/310 (OT) UCLA: If there were any doubters regarding Kolton Miller, his performance at the combine should put them all to rest. The 6-7, 309-pounder ran a comfortable 40-yard dash in 4.95 seconds (with a remarkable 1.67-second 10-yard split), while also posting a 31.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-1 broad jump. Miller continued his performance with a strong positional workout where he exhibited outstanding movement skills and lateral quickness in drills. Miller should hear his name called on day 1 of the draft.
Shaquem Griffin-6’1/222 (OLB) UCF: Griffin, who had a hand amputated as a young child, won everyone over when he put up 20 bench press reps on Saturday with a prosthetic hand. Then he ran the fastest 40-yard dash we’ve seen from a linebacker (4.38) since 2003. Griffin’s stock will certainly rise with his performance, how much is uncertain as many view Griffin now possibly going early on day 2, while others have him hearing his name being called late on day 2.
Derwin James-6’3/211 (Safety) Florida State: James has the size, speed and athleticism NFL teams covert and after his performance at the NFL combine (4.48 in the 40 yard dash, 40’’ inch vertical and an 11 feet broad jump) his stock should rise even higher..
Orlando Brown-6’7/345 (OT) Oklahoma: Brown struggled with an unimpressive 5.85-second 40 after recording a 19.5-inch vertical jump and a 6-10 broad jump. These results should put doubt in Brown’s athleticism or lack of it. It also puts into play Brown’s possible inability to handle edge rushers. I believe Brown’s overall body of work will safe him here a little and although I see his stock falling; he still could go in the 1st round between 25 to 30.
Ronald Jones II-6’0/200 (RB) USC: The talented running back suffered a setback as he tweeted his hamstring and ran a poor 40 yard dash. Unfortunately for Jones, he couldn’t continue to showcase his receiving abilities; which was in question. This should push Jones back a bit; perhaps a late 3rd or 4th round pick.
Auden Tate-6’4/225 (WR) Florida State: Tate didn’t help himself at all this weekend as he posted a poor 40 yard dash and didn’t excite anyone with his numbers in the other drills. Tate has the size and talent that teams grave for, however; will any team be willing to select him on day 1 or early on day 2; maybe not.
Maurice Hurst-6’2/282 (DT) Michigan: Hurst didn’t even get a chance to showcase his abilities at the combine as he was sent home after a physical revealed a heart condition. Hurst was projected as a possible 1st round prospects and this latest news should change that. Obviously; Hurst’s health is more important than playing football and hopefully he will be able to continue on the football field.
Josh Jackson-6’1/185 (CB) Cornerback Iowa: Jackson was considered on the top cornerbacks heading into the combine and the 2018 NFL draft. Unfortunately; Jackson struggled in the 40 yard dash posting a 4.56 time and also underachieved in the positional drills. Jackson’s performance might see his stock fall the most out of all the prospects at the combine.
Final Thoughts: Personally, I believe the combine is a great tool in evaluating college prospects that have aspirations on becoming NFL players. However; I don’t believe it’s an exact science which measures the true ability of a player. Many prospects have performed well at the combine, only to fail at the next level in the NFL. In contrast, many have done poorly at the combine and enjoyed great success in the NFL.