The first day of the NFL Combine is officially in the books and it was one to remember. The quarterbacks got a chance to battle for position atop the big board, the tight ends had an opportunity to showcase how solid a group they are, and the receivers put on a record-breaking performance.
There were a number of players who saw their stock rise, while others fell behind while struggling to keep up with the field. Here’s a look at the players that stoop out, for better or worse.
Winner: WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Chris Olave was stuck in a weird spot heading into this year’s Combine. He was viewed by analysts as a good player who produced but didn’t have any traits that truly set him apart. Boy where they wrong.
Olave absolutely crushed the 40-yard dash, running an unofficial 4.26. That number wouldn’t hold up, as he officially ran a 4.39, but seeing him crack the 4.4s was great to help him display that speed.
4.26— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) March 4, 2022
If official, Chris Olave's 40-time is tied for the 4th-fastest EVER recorded at the combine. pic.twitter.com/0nboinixCH
Adding elite speed to the production and poise that he plays with makes Olave one of the safer bets you could ask for in this draft.
Winner: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
Speaking of fast. Tyquan Thornton’s unofficial 4.21 second 40-yard dash would have been the fastest ever recorded in Indianapolis. Alas he did not break the record, but his 4.28 was top of the class nonetheless. Not only does he have elite football speed, but this is a man who has legit track speed.
Thornton was a day three picks on most boards. After finding out that he’ll roll into the NFL as one of its fastest players, an NFL team is bound to take a shot at drafting him on day two.
Winner: TE Jelani Woods, Virginia
The tight ends had an early start on Thursday, serving as the undercard to the wideout’s main event. The lone player to truly standout in comparison to what was expected prior to the days events was Jelani Woods.
The former Oklahoma State quarterback looked like a natural throughout the tight end drills and tested off the charts for a player that stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 249 pounds. His athletic score relative to players at his position is a 9.7 out of 10 and he ran through the gauntlet and sled blocking drills like a pro. His stock is rising.
Updated Jelani Woods' school (he was a transfer), added his bench. First Combine player with an unofficial score and he's heading for a doozy of a day. pic.twitter.com/ldaidOknEd— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 3, 2022
Winner: QB Malik Willis, Liberty
Arm talent is a quarterback buzzword that gets run into the ground. That being said, Malik Willis has top notch arm talent. He showed off his arm in the deep ball drill with the wide receivers, and had notable velocity on underneath throws. The ball jumped off of his hand throughout the night, but more importantly he showed touch that the other quarterbacks didn’t quite have.
Malik Willis has an unreal arm. He can uncork that thing. pic.twitter.com/DsIdGXdA07— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) March 4, 2022
Loser: QB Carson Strong, Nevada
Speaking of a lack of touch, Carson Strong struggled to control the ball on Thursday. There’s no doubt that he can launch the football, he may even have the best arm of the class, but uncorking the ball without having an idea of where it will end up isn’t exactly ideal.
Winner: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State
Christian Watson had one hell of a day at the NFL Combine. He showed speed, size, athleticism, and a natural ability to catch the football on his way to showing that he belonged with the power five players on hand.
It wasn’t all that long ago the Patriots spent significant draft capital on an elite athlete from a smaller program who shined at the Senior Bowl…— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) March 4, 2022
If there was ever a New England Patriots target on this list, it’s Watson.
Winner: TE/FB Connor Heyward, Michigan State
Just kidding! Connor Heyward is a Patriots fit through and through. He comes from a football background, being the son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward and the brother of Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro Cam Heyward. He did everything for Michigan State while he was there, playing fullback, tight end, and even returning punts and kicks. The title that should be associated with Heyward is “football player” and nothing more.
In terms of how good he looked at the combine, Heyward was a chameleon, adapting to whatever drills the tight ends ran through with ease.
Loser: WR David Bell, Purdue
David Bell is a solid wide receiver. He did a good job on Saturdays and will likely be a solid contributor on Sundays. He did not test well athletically, however. His 4.64 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical, and sub 10-foot broad jump are all considered poor relative to his contemporaries. With other players rising, Bell was one that was bound to slip.
Loser: WR Kyle Phillips, UCLA
Another receiver who slipped due to the rise of others, Phillips had the Opposite Day as Bell. He tested well but struggled with ball skills and let a few footballs touch the ground. He also came down hard towards the end of the night and had to remove himself from the remaining drills. He took one step forward, then two steps back.
Winner: WR Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Alec Pierce may be the most impressive athlete we will see this draft season. His 41-inch vertical topped the group and contributed to his 9.98 athletic score relative to his peers. That is second to just Christian Watson. (Special hat tip to @MathBomb for his work on Twitter.)