The second night of workouts is in the books, with offensive linemen and running backs going through the paces Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. Quite a few prospects helped themselves with tremendous performances, while a handful of players leave Indianapolis with some work to do at their pro days.
We’ll start with the big guys up front.
Winners: Teams that need an offensive tackle
If you are a team picking in the first half of the first round, and you need an offensive tackle, Friday was a very good night for you. From Andrew Thomas to Tristan Wirfs to Mekhi Becton to Matthew Peart to Jedrick Willis to Terence Steele through Ezra Cleveland, the offensive tackles displayed a combination of speed and power that turned many heads. Sure, on film some of these players are probably not first round picks, such as Peart and Cleveland, but their testing on Friday night might move them into at least the discussion. That leads us to the next group of winners.
Winners: Teams that do not need an offensive tackle (or a quarterback)
This is something astutely pointed out by Evan Lazar on Twitter Friday night:
Watching these offensive tackles today solidifies something I’ve heard all week: there’s going to be a lot of QBs and OTs going early in this draft. That’s good news for teams picking later on in the round with needs elsewhere. #NFLCombine— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 28, 2020
We know quarterbacks get pushed up boards, and given the top ten buzz on Jordan Love and the fact that Justin Herbert is perhaps in play for the Miami Dolphins, we could see four quarterbacks drafted in the top ten or so. Add in the offensive tackles, and some great talent is getting pushed down the board.
Say, to 23.
Winner: Tristan Wirfs
Sure Wirfs was included in the group of tackles at the start, but we need to carve out some space to talk about what he did on Friday night.
That...that is insanity. As Rich Eisen said when Wirfs ran that 4.85 40-yard dash:
Tristan Wirfs runs a 4.86 40 yard dash. Rich Eisen: “that’s insanity.” Also set all-time combine records for broad jump and vertical jump for an offensive lineman. He beat WRs from Oklahoma and Alabama in vertical Is anyone surprised? pic.twitter.com/vpXoFkhPMo— I Love Iowa Basketball (@ILoveIowaBball) February 28, 2020
There has been speculation that Wirfs could kick inside to guard, but I think his testing (combined with his film) solidifies that he is a tackle at the next level and can be a very, very good one. Imagine being a defensive back coming down to force with this man pulling in your direction? Good luck with that.
Winner: Mekhi Becton
The Louisville tackle entered the Combine as the heaviest player in attendance, but he certainly did not move like the heaviest player at Lucas Oil on Friday night:
You hear Daniel Jeremiah describe him as an “avalanche” when he down blocks, perhaps now we know why. Becton did not participate in any of the other testing, but his 40-yard dash time is enough to solidify his status near the top of the board.
Loser: The bench press
My friend Brandon Thorn has been saying this for a while now, but the bench press seems to be on its way out as a test at the combine. This is something that Peter King mentioned as well at his Wednesday night tweet-up. The bench just is not a true measure of functional strength, and it should be replaced by a more complex athletic movement such as the squat or the clean.
I’m mentioning this because it gives me a chance to include another example of Wirfs just crushing it, this time in the weight room:
Worker: Trey Adams
The Washington offensive tackle came into Indianapolis looking for a solid performance to keep him in the discussion for a day two pick. But his testing left him near the bottom of the pack when it comes to the tackles:
Adams has a complex injury history as well, given his 2017 ACL tear and his 2018 back injury. The most important place in Indianapolis for him was the physical examination. The results from that are likely much more important than his athletic testing. Film shows someone capable of playing tackle in the NFL, but Friday night has him leaving Indianapolis with more work to do.
Winner: Matt Hennessy
The Temple center tested extremely well, and his Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.06 was third-best among interior offensive linemen:
The explosive testing stands out, particularly that 3-cone time of 7.45. That is a very good number for a man of his size. Perhaps we should have seen this coming on Wednesday, however, when he told us about how he trains his balance:
Going through some stuff from Indy and I forgot to post this great clip of Temple center Matt Hennessy talking about what helps his balance: Hot yoga. pic.twitter.com/LBJE6BShdd— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) February 29, 2020
Worker: Logan Stenberg
On Friday night, and Friday night alone, Stenberg did not have the best night:
But I think Stenberg’s combine performance could serve as an example of overthinking a prospect. Put on the film or watch his performance down at the Senior Bowl, and you’re going to find an interior offensive linemen who puts in the work and can handle his responsibilities extremely well. Here’s a bit of what I wrote about him down in Mobile:
We can begin with his base, as he shows the ability to mirror, reset and anchor against many types of pass rushers. On a rep against Marlon Davidson from Auburn he was able to mirror and slide against the defender, giving up a tiny bit of real estate but still dropping the anchor and stopping the penetration. He also showed very good hands, particularly on a rep against Robert Windsor where he displayed great hand placement as well as power in his arms.
Perhaps Indianapolis was not his best work, but on film I still like what I see.
Excuse me while I adroitly step over the question of “whether running backs matter” and get to Friday night as quickly as possible.
Winner: Jonathan Taylor
The Wisconsin running back posted a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash time, but while this turned heads we probably should have seen this coming. Back in high school Taylor ran track his junior and senior years, and at a meet in May of his senior year he posted a 10.49 in the 100-meter dash, a mark that is still among the fastest times in state history. Entering this season there were questions about whether he could be a three-down back in the NFL, so the Badgers tried to involve him in the passing game more. This speed will convince NFL teams that they simply need to involve him in the passing game, and that all-around ability will make him a very attractive prospect to teams.
Winner: A.J. Dillon
Dillon was known as more of a power runner from the film of his days at Boston College, but on Friday night he displayed more athleticism than many were expecting. His 4.53 40-yard dash (at 6’0” 247) was very solid, and then his vertical of 41” and his broad jump of 10’11” really turned heads. The 3-cone time he posted, of 7.19, was not great for the position but the rest of the numbers are good enough to consider him more of a downhill, “cut and go” type runner in a gap/power scheme.
Winner: Cam Akers
Akers is a fascinating prospect. A dual-threat quarterback in high school, he moved to running back at Florida State and made an immediate impact, breaking Dalvin Cook’s school record for rushing yards from a freshman his first year on campus. Last year he was a second-team All-ACC player, posting 1,144 rushing yards on 231 carries and scoring 14 touchdowns. He was also a contributor in the passing game, catching 30 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns.
Friday night, Akers flashed some athleticism to go with that production:
Worker: Zack Moss
On the opposite end of the scale, the Utah running back’s testing numbers were...not great:
But there is obviously more to playing the position than just the testing numbers. For deeper insight into Moss and how he plays the position I would highly recommend this piece by Doug Farrar from The Touchdown Wire, when he met with Moss and watched film with him. Consider this response to reading the defensive front:
The testing was not great, but between the film and what Moss likely did during meeting sessions, there is still much to like about this RB.
So that is a quick look at the second day of testing. On tap for Saturday night? The defensive linemen and linebackers. New England Patriots fans might want to tune in...