NFL Draft – Trust the band. This mantra is said ad nauseam every draft season from time immemorial as a reminder that a player’s bond is their most important attribute. But like any other piece of information, the tape can lie! A player can be older and dominate younger competition, or play a soft schedule that doesn’t really challenge them.
Statistics and data can also lie. A defender can break up or intercept fewer passes than a teammate simply because they’re less likely to be targeted by opposing attacks, while a wide receiver can complete more goals simply because they’re playing alongside someone who demands double coverage.
You know what lies too (at least relatively speaking)? The grass on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium. No, not exactly the lawn. While this turf is likely very similar to the turf used in NFL stadiums, even combine data is crooked. According to an analysis by a data scientist Bud Davis, Players choose to perform the drills that make them look their best and forego drills that would cast them in a less than flattering light. What are the effects? Average times for exercises like the coveted 40-meter dash have fallen, as has the proportion of athletes taking part.
Nevertheless, the combine harvester provides useful information. It generally helps distinguish elite athletes who are NFL competitors from potential pretenders who have made ends meet on ligament or reputation alone. In my “Grinding the Mocks Combine Risers and Fallers” column last year, I identified up-and-coming talent like Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker, Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith, and Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore, all of whom were Impact players for their teams Beginner. Which prospects will be prepared for great achievements in their anticipated draft position and important roles in their future teams? Read on to find out!
Anthony Richardson, QB, Fla
If Travon Walker was the clear winner of the 2022 NFL Combine, then the 2023 winner must be Anthony Richardson of Florida. Both are winners for similar reasons. As a player without high collegiate achievement, it was well known that athleticism would be every player’s calling card. However, what we witnessed from both Richardson and Walker surpassed all expectations and made them both post-combine contenders for the top overall pick. Richardson had the best performance ever by a quarterback at the NFL Combine. His speed, size, and blast give a glimpse of the kind of talent he can display if he’s allowed to develop as a player.
Richardson’s comparisons as a player abound. Optimists (like me) see him more like Cam Newton or Josh Allen, while pessimists see him more like Jake Locker or JaMarcus Russell. No matter who you compare him to, what Richardson did at the combine puts him on the air as an athlete at the quarterback position and is sure to fascinate many teams in late April.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, ER, Northwest
Little did I know when I got into the combine that northwest edge rusher Adetomiwa Adebawore’s first name translates to “Crown of One,” but after that, that name makes a lot more sense. He was one of the top linemen at this year’s Senior Bowl, where he first came on the Draftniks’ radar in a big way by showing versatility as a defender inside and outside. His performance at the combine has now made him known to the rest of the broader NFL community.
No one has ever run a faster 40-yard dash than Adebawore (4.49 seconds) at a heavier weight (270 pounds). Most players would have just quit there (like my colleague Calijah Kancey from Pittsburgh), but Adebawore kept going, putting on elite numbers on the vertical and long jumps and bench press. The main thing he lacks is size, but in Grinding the Mocks we have a “little” king (prince, but who counts). Adebawore maxed out the drafting process, working his way into the middle of the second round with more room to grow.
Nolan Smith, ER, Georgia
They forgot Nolan Smith like they forgot Dre… and I don’t necessarily blame them. Smith was injured for a decent chunk of his senior year in Athens and was on the sidelines as Georgia repeated as national champions this January. When he was healthy, Smith showed at the combine why he was in the conversation in the first round of last year’s draft alongside his Bulldogs teammates, who had decided to turn pro after the first of back-to-back championships.
This year’s draft class is packed with top-end talent and edge-rusher athletes, so Smith’s full return to the Round 1 mix is a boon for teams looking for pass-rush help. Smith ran a stunning 4.39-second 40-yard dash, which is fast for his position despite his lighter weight, but more importantly ran a 1.52-second 10-yard split and showed elite Achievements in the vertical and long jumps, which measures explosion more than speed. I put Smith in my first mock for Football Outsiders with the Philadelphia Eagles with the 30th pick. Probably won’t happen!
|2023 Grinding the Mocks Post Combine Risers|
|Surname||position||School||EDV precombine||EDP after the combine harvester)||Difference|
|Anthony Richardson||QB||Florida||12.1 (10)||3.5 (3)||+8.6 (+7)|
|Adetomiva Adebawore||HE||northwest||95.0 (114)||49.9 (47)||+45.1 (+67)|
|Nolan Smith||HE||Georgia||34.0 (33)||20.8 (19)||+13.2 (+14)|
Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Talking about falls is a lot less fun than talking about climbers, and writing about the biggest falls is even less fun than most. Georgia’s Jalen Carter is a global soccer talent on the field who is ranked among the top 5 players in this class by draftniks. Off the field, however, Carter is involved in a lawsuit relating to the car accident that caused the deaths of Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy, a former teammate and a member of the football recruiting staff, respectively.
With the court case hanging over him for his recklessness and poor judgment (as well as the changing landscape at the top of the draft), Carter’s stock, which makes up the draft pick value, has been the strongest of any player since before the combine please. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t need to be one to know that having this situation hanging over his head is not good for him. Even if that changes, the stigma of that incident will likely leave a mark on his character in the future and give teams pause for thought as they draft. Maybe I’m optimistic, but Carter’s stock could fall further.
Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
Kayshon Boutte started the 2022 college football season the same way his LSU Tigers did: with plenty of hype, followed by a slew of disappointment before topping it off with some hope for the future. It was this hope likely that led Boutte to first announce he would be returning to Baton Rouge for another season, which is the cause of the gap between Boutte’s mock drafts in the chart above. However, just prior to the underclassmen declaration deadline, Boutte announced that he would relinquish his eligibility and participate in the draft.
Such a turnaround by a player usually does not bode well, especially if they were originally keen to get back to school. Boutte would need a powerful combine to show that he wasn’t just a player whose recent college campaign didn’t quite live up to the high expected draft position he held before the season began. Not only did he surface under 6 feet, but Boutte performed poorly on the blast drills, running just a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, also with subpar splits. Those types of numbers will still pull you in, but probably not in the top 100.
Myles Murphy, ER, Clemson
Myles Murphy is called a post-combine faller less for the things he did at the combine than for the things he didn’t do in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, Murphy managed to tighten his hamstring while warming up for practice, so he didn’t have a chance to show off how he compares athletically to his peers in the edge rusher position.
Before and immediately after the 2022 college season, Murphy was considered the ER2 behind Alabama’s Will Anderson. In the pre-Combine era, however, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson (who also did not train at the combine due to an injury sustained during the season) saw his stock skyrocket when he passed Murphy for the ER2 spot and challenged Anderson for ER1. Murphy is now in the middle of the mix with the next group of edge rushers and has a larger draft range than before as players like Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness or Georgia’s Nolan Smith also compete for a chance to become the next edge rusher.
|2023 Grinding the Mocks Post Combine Fallers|
|Surname||position||School||EDV precombine||EDP after the combine harvester||Difference|
|Jalen Carter||DT||Georgia||3.0 (3)||6.6 (6)||-3.6 (-3)|
|Kayshon Boutte||WR||LSU||45.7 (51)||82.0 (77)||-36.3 (-26)|
|Myles Murphy||HE||Clemson||9.0 (7)||16.0 (15)||-7.0 (-8)|