This weekend was one of the most anticipated events of the NFL Draft process. The Combine, where hundreds of prospects went through physical and mental tests as they try to become the next starts in the NFL. I want to preface this piece with the disclaimer that becoming obsessed with raw combine numbers is a poor way of scouting. Their athleticism is just a piece of the puzzle that should be combined with scouting their tape and their interviews. But performances at the combine can show how a player could or could not excel at the next level.
Here are six offensive players that I changed my view on after the combine.
Dylan Cantrell, WR Texas Tech
Going into the combine, the knock on Cantrell was that he was a poor raw athlete that lacks the ability to get separation against man coverage. However, his measurables at the combine told a completely different story. Outside of his 40 time, he dominated every event. Cantrell ran a blistering 6.56 second 3 cone and aced every short distance quickness test. He is also widely thought of as one of the best, if not the best blocking wide receiver in the draft because of his size and physicality, and his performance at the bench press backed that up. Overall, Cantrell scored the highest SPARQ of all of the combine WRs, 97th percentile overall.
Cantrell will get some Cooper Kupp, Jeff Janis and Chris Hogan comparisons as the draft approaches. Although Cantrell plays in an air raid offense, he’s caught passes from two different quarterbacks that should make NFL rosters in Patrick Mahomes and Nic Shimonek. And of course there can’t be a complete Cantrell profile without mentioning the success the Patriots have had with Texas Tech WRs in the past. Wes Welker and Danny Amendola are both lofty expectations for Cantrell, but if he’s really this good of an athlete, he should have a chance to get there.
Cantrell did not formally meet with the Patriots during the combine but his teammate Keke Coutee did. The Patriots will likely see more of him at Texas Tech’s pro day later this month.
Where I would draft Cantrell: Rounds 4-5
Trey Quinn, Slot WR SMU
Trey Quinn is a pro’s pro. Does stuff the right way and is a first in, last out kind of guy. Deceptive athleticism and could do some damage in the slot.
More seriously, Quinn projects as a possible replacement for Danny Amendola, who enters unrestricted free agency this year. Playing alongside future 1st rounder Courtland Sutton, Quinn played only 1 year at SMU after transferring from LSU after his sophomore year. But he made the most out of his time there, catching 114 balls in just 13 games. In one 3 game stretch in the middle of the season, he had 49 receptions for 458 yards and 3 touchdowns. It’s so stereotypical, but “deceptive athleticism” really does fit Quinn.
According to David Helman, the Patriots did have a formal meeting with Quinn at the combine. And Quinn impressed during his workouts this weekend. He graded out below average for raw size and athleticism (as expected) but posted above average marks in all short distance quickness tests. In addition, his hand size stands out as an outlier when compared to the rest of his athletic profile. As a guy that will have to excel in the slot and make contested catches to succeed in the NFL, having big hands will help him avoid drops. To illustrate how big of an outlier his hand size is, Quinn’s 10 1/8 inch hands are the same size as rocket arm Josh Allen, the biggest among the quarterbacks. Quinn’s stock, which was previously 7th/Priority FA definitely is pointing up.
Where I would draft Quinn: Rounds 5-7
Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
Orlando Brown had a nightmare combine, there’s no sugar coating it. Running a 5.85 40 yard dash (and more troubling, a 2.00 10 yard split), Brown also finished dead last in the bench press, vertical jump and the broad jump. And perhaps more disconcerting was Brown’s perceived lack of effort and interest.
Orlando Brown combine update:— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 2, 2018
*14 bench reps
*official 5.85 40 yard dash
*yelled at by coaches during drills for loafing
As a player that has been consistently mocked in the mid teens or higher, Brown could be looking at a Tre Jackson-esque slide where he fell from round 1 consideration all the way to the 4th round after a poor combine. For what it’s worth, Baker Mayfield, the quarterback that Brown protected last year, switched roles temporarily and defended Brown immediately afterwards.
"When are you going to watch Orlando Brown run 40 yards down the field? Never. Look at his film. He gave up zero sacks last year."
Brown’s Pro Day is less than two weeks from now on March 14th so it will be interesting if he improves on his combine dud. For a Patriots team that has 3 UFA tackles, Brown could be a buy low option if his poor combine was just a fluke. It’s also worth noting that Dante Scarnecchia has had experience turning poor offensive tackle athletes into quality starters. Both Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming fit that mold.
Where I would draft Brown: Round 3
Kolton Miller, OT UCLA
At 6085, Miller is physical monster that performed very well in his agility tests for a man of his size. Miller had a sub 5 40 yard dash and more importantly, his 10 yard split of 1.67 was the best of all offensive linemen at the combine. Miller played both left and right tackle at UCLA and showed improvement every year. Athletically, Miller compares favorably to Nate Solder, who is his 9th most similar comparable according to mockdraftable.
The Patriots did have a formal meeting with Miller according to Phil Perry. If they were to take Miller it would be the 2nd straight year they selected the starting left tackle for UCLA after taking Conor McDermott last year. Miller is a superior player to McDermott but mockdraftable also thinks that the two have a lot in common athletically. McDermott is Miller’s 3rd most similar comparison.
Where I would draft Miller: Round 2
Bo Scarborough, RB Alabama
Bo Scarborough, another name in the long list of Alabama 5 star running backs, projects as a part time player in the NFL. Between his extensive injury history and durability concerns and his non existent contributions in the passing game, Scarborough will be a 2 down power running back in the NFL. Scarborough is a much better athlete than I thought before the combine and ran a fantastic 40 yard dash for a big back. He has surprising speed and vision for a big back.
I think the Patriots are a perfect fit for Scarborough’s skill set: they run a power scheme, they go with a running back by committee approach, and they like to use big backs to wear out tired defenses in the 4th quarter. When Mike Gilleslee failed to make an impact last year, the Patriots were forced to use Rex Burkhead and later Brandon Bolden as goal line/short yardage backs to protect Dion Lewis. Bo is a more natural big back and could end up being the next LeGarrette Blount in the Patriots offense.
Where I would draft Scarborough: Round 3-4
Dallas Goedert, “Y” TE South Dakota State
The Patriots are likely to take a tight end in the draft because their current #2 and #3 TEs will be cap casualties. Goedert stood out the most athletically and unlike several of the top prospects, he projects as a strong blocker. Goedert was originally a walk on to the team after playing high school basketball (shout out Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham) and he quickly became a star. To be honest, his background on the court gave me some skepticism when it came to his blocking. That kind of muscle building and strength training to block NFL defenders isn’t emphasized in basketball players. However, Goedert proved me wrong and did very well in the bench and with his arm length and wingspan measurements, which solidified the belief that he’s going to be a plus run and pass blocker at the next level.
Goedert’s basketball background will allow him to excel at high pointing the ball and he should be a red zone threat on any team from day 1. He didn’t run the 40 or do any agility drills as he recovers from minor injury, but will run them at his March 30th Pro Day. Anything that’s respectable should solidify him as an early day 2 pick. At this point, I honestly would have no qualms about taking him at 31. There is always the question with strength of competition with him at South Dakota State, but Goedert is a good enough athlete to hang with anyone at the next level.
Where I would draft Goedert: Rounds 1-2
Although Josh McDaniels didn’t attend the combine, the Patriots learned a lot about some offensive players over the weekend. I’m sure that they will follow up with at least most of these guys at their pro day, and I would be happy with the Patriots selecting any of these six in April. Stay tuned: my six to watch on defense is coming later in the week.