The 2017 annual showcase of collegiate athletes working and interviewing to transition to the professional stage of football has finally reached its conclusion. Most of the weekend featured insight and analysis from top evaluators, current and former players, along with as splash of humour that is rare among NFL sanctioned events, save for the “gong” show that is Super Bowl media day or now evening.
There is an admission that needs to be made. If you don’t have a vest interest, be it a player from your alma mater or favourite program, or doing you own recon on the next key piece to solidifying your NFL franchise, then you’re going to have zero interest in how fast DE Myles Garrett ran the 40 in, or that CB/LB/S Jabrill Peppers would be working out over the course of two days with as many different position groups.
The league, and particularly NFL Network has done an admirable job in keeping an event known for monotony relevant in an age where if what you’re broadcasting does not have a filter then it’s not pertinent.
The guest analyst on the field provide insightful commentary, as well as the casual sense of the viewer being a fly on the wall in a conversation with guys who love the game. From David Carr dissecting the mechanics of a pass from the QB, former Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr.’s personality and eye for intangibles to Carolina Panther’s TE Greg Olsen breaking down engagement coming off the line for tight ends and how subtle a win or loss in that category can be.
The entire crew should be applauded for what they bring to the table for the entirety of the weekend. Yes, even the best personnel in the business can not keep a person glued to the TV set throughout the entire broadcast, however, if you’re able to laugh and gain information from the telecast, we would count that as a win. It’s a luxury to have two of the better known football personalities in Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis looking over the field to chime in with their own notes and breadth of knowledge.
It goes without saying that it is fun to hear the back and forth between co-hosts Mike Mayock and the face of the network Rich Eisen. The conservative traditionalism of Mayock fits in perfectly with the charm, wit and outgoing personality that is Eisen. Ultimately that camaraderie among network employees that extends to key personnel if Bill Belichick of all people walks on set to gush about memories.
As for the hopefuls that looked to make a name or improve their stock over the course of their time in Indianapolis it was a pretty exciting week. There was no Hollywood factor of Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel drawing eyes, tweets and cameras toward them this time around. Instead we just got stories that intrigued you just enough to speculate when and who should select them.
Undoubtedly the biggest moment of the entire combine was moments after Washington wide receiver John Ross broke Chris Johnson’s official 40-yard dash mark of 4.28 with his Sonic the hedgehog 4.22 official time. While Ross pulled up lame after the run, his historic run did more than enough to create conversation, essentially boosting his value on pure speed alone.
Then there was the relatively unheard of defensive back out of Connecticut, Obi Melifonwu. Measuring in at 6’4 and weighing 224 lbs. the initial impression from scouts who watched his tape with the Huskies was “he’s going to blow away the combine”. That is indeed was he did when he ran a 4.40 in the 40, reached 44 inches on his vertical, and leaped 141 inches (11.75 feet) in the broad jump. His measurables are insane. Talk during his time on the field ranged from him lining up as legit corner in some schemes, being a rover, lining him up at backer and of course have him cover as a safety in the box or backing up deep. The conclusion is that Melinfonwu will be doing more than just a single task where ever he lands, acting as moveable piece for a defensive coordinator to play with. There must be something in the Huskies DB waters, because it reminded me of the aftermath of Cowboys safety Byron Jones after he “showed out” at his combine appearance.
The position that got much praise this year were the tight ends. Headlined by Alabama’s O.J. Howard, Miami’s David Njoku, Ole Miss’s Evan Engram, there are plenty of options for teams trying to replicate the Patriots two TE formations, or trying to find their own mismatch chess piece on offence. That doesn’t include Michigan TE Jake Butt who is recovering from his second ACL injury. At the moment there are contrasting expectation that see anywhere from 1-3 TEs projected to be selected in the first round in April. Each prospect in the discussion to be taken early made a viable case in front of those who will bang the table for them leading up to draft night.
While the Under Armour “Underwear” Olympics have concluded there are still pro days and private workouts to go through before we start to see names come off the board. So get ready to go through more mock drafts as we inch toward the draft season finish.