Just when football fans think the NFL season is far away, the new league year is upon us, as the NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up this past week. Teams are preparing for the upcoming season, viewing the available free agents for filling holes in the roster while additionally observing the young talent making the transition from the collegiate level to the professional level.
The combine is a truly remarkable and underappreciated sporting event to watch. Those participating in this combine are among some of the best athletes in the world in their age group, demonstrating their unfathomable athletic abilities. In this year’s combine, one of the top performers was Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who ran the 40-yard dash in a time of 4.27 seconds, tying San Francisco 49ers’ wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for fourth-fastest time in the history of the combine. A half-second short of the record set by Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver John Ross who broke the record in 2017 with a time of 4.22, Ruggs III’s speed will still blaze through secondaries at the next level.
Fresno State offensive lineman Netane Muti won the bench press contest by a landslide, putting up 44 consistent reps, seven more than the next closest lineman at the combine. However, Muti is still seven short of the all-time record set by defensive tackle Justin Ernest in 1999. Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones won the vertical jump, with a height of 44.5 inches, just a half-inch short of tying the record set by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Christian Conley in 2015. Peoples-Jones was 2.5 inches ahead of the next closest wide receiver, which was a four-way tie at 42 inches between receiver prospects Jalen Reagor, Ruggs III, Dante Olsen and Kyle Dugger. Peoples-Jones was also the winner of the broad jump, leaping 11 feet 7 inches and narrowly winning it by an inch over receivers Jeremy Chinn and Reagor.
A crazy sight to see out of the offensive linemen’s day was Louisville’s 364-pound offensive tackle Mekhi Becton’s 40-yard dash time of 5.10 seconds. Even as one of the highest-rated linemen in the entire draft, it is unbelievable to see a guy of that size run that fast, and it speaks to Becton’s athleticism as a prospect. Another interesting spectacle that came out of the combine was the measurement of Louisiana State Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow’s hand size, which came in at just 9 inches, which is much smaller than the ideal standard for quarterbacks around the league, closer to 10 inches. Currently, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray owns the league’s smallest hands by a signal-caller at 9.5 inches. Burrow is all but guaranteed to be drafted first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals following his incredible senior season with a historic Tigers team and it is unlikely that his hand size will change that, but it is worth noting that metrics suggest that the quarterbacks with smaller hands have less control of the ball and turn it over more. Burrow comically responded to these reports in a tweet.
“Considering retirement after I was informed the football will be slipping out of my tiny hands. Please keep me in your thoughts,” Burrow tweeted.
Assuming Burrow goes to the Bengals, and that they’re able to resign wide receiver A.J Green, Burrow will be surrounded by capable playmakers on offense between Green, Ross, wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon, who showed a lot of growth in the 2019 season. Second-string running back Giovanni Bernard also will be returning from injury, as well as tight end Tyler Eifert, both of whom are former Pro Bowl players, which is certainly a better situation than most rookie quarterbacks are brought into.
Burrow, coming off one of the greatest seasons in college football history, has an impressive amount of talent, to which the Bengals coaching staff will hopefully be able to develop to the NFL level. Ohio State third-year defensive end Chase Young, who is essentially guaranteed to be drafted second overall by the Washington Redskins, chose not to participate in the combine in favor of performing at his pro day. He is believed to be the best overall player in the entire draft and is considered a generational talent, and his tape proves as much.
Young is a game wrecker by every stretch of the imagination and has been a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators throughout his entire time at Ohio State. Redskins newly hired head coach Ron Rivera is a defensive-minded coach who will relish the opportunity to bring in a player of Young’s magnitude to anchor his defense for the next decade. All of the Redskins’ divisional rivals in the NFC East have young developing quarterbacks in Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones. Assuming Young goes to the Redskins and his talent translates to the NFL, he’ll be getting after those quarterbacks for years to come.