Football fans finally got their first taste of the 2020 NFL season with the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Upon watching and digesting various performances, I have several observations to share. In this article, I’ll key in on the offensive side of the ball.
First, as a host of Irish On Tap, I have to give a shoutout to the players from Notre Dame who participated this weekend. Chase Claypool impressed by running a 4.45 40-yard dash, which was the fastest time by a receiver weighing over 230 pounds since Calvin Johnson in 2007.
Between Claypool and tight end Cole Kmet, who ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical, the draft stock for these two certainly is on the rise. Kmet was someone I had my eye on to add to the Bears tight end room as a vertical threat who can go up and catch the ball and also as a physical player who can block.
A huge congratulations to all of the Notre Dame athletes who competed this weekend.
Moving on to the rest of the board, I’ll start with the quarterbacks by addressing the Jake Fromm and Chicago Bears news first. Despite my Mitchell Trubisky favoritism, I like Fromm a lot. I’ve liked him since I watched him on Netflix show “QB1,” where he was featured as the nation’s top high school recruit. I followed him during his time at Georgia, where he eventually became the starter, beat Notre Dame twice, and made the College Football Playoff once.
I don’t like the idea of getting a quarterback as early as Fromm as projected, but if the Bears are going to address the situation in the draft, Fromm is the guy who makes the most sense. He possesses a strong and accurate arm and has great pocket presence. The only issue I have here is that Fromm played with an elite Georgia offensive line. The offensive line is one of the priority positions in this offseason for the Bears. If everything works out the way Bears’ fans hope it will and Trubisky rebounds (or for the haters, Andy Dalton replaces Trubisky and he gets cut), Fromm can develop and the Bears can build the line to help aid the young quarterback.
On the topic of quarterbacks, one name I’ve liked for the Bears that really made some strides this weekend is Jalen Hurts from Oklahoma. He showed his quickness with a 4.59 40-yard dash and his deep ball looked good as well. He’s accurate, brings an element of speed, and has the ability to get the ball down the field. He wouldn’t be the savior, but a backup/future starter role could be something to consider.
I do believe that Miami will attempt to finally solve their quarterback issues with Oregon’s Justin Herbert. His arm is one of the best in the draft and he has the talent to turn things around in Miami. The other big name in the first round is Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. His injury history will impact his draft stock more than most anticipate and he will fall out of the top ten. The Colts need a quarterback, so after Herbert goes to Miami, Tagovailoa will be the next option. As for another team in the market for a quarterback, the Los Angeles Chargers may go the route of Jordan Love. The Utah State product has plenty of room to grow, but he showed a very consistent deep ball and led guys well to the sideline. Love is a second-round talent and I think can fit well with the Chargers.
When analyzing the running back class this year, one name that stands out to me is Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. He’s a quick, versatile back who plays at a high level. Despite his 4.48 40-yard dash time ranking sixth among running backs, I think he will be the first running back off the board.
The fastest back in the combine was Jonathan Taylor out of Wisconsin. I’ve seen Taylor break off electric runs, so it makes sense that he posted a 4.39 40-yard dash time. He’s a downhill, strong runner who can be a dangerous weapon for any offense. Boston College’s AJ Dillon is another strong power back whom I like a lot. He could very well model after Derrick Henry both on and off the field. Both Henry and Dillon weigh 247 pounds. Dillon had an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds but needs to improve his ability to catch out of the backfield before any comparisons can be made. Dillon will be a late second to early third-round pick, but I believe he can progress to something significant.
On the wide receiver front, Henry Ruggs III of Alabama stole the show after running a 4.27 40-yard dash and posting a 42-inch vertical. However, one guy I really like in this year’s class is Justin Jefferson of LSU. Jefferson not only balled out with Joe Burrow this year, but he’s a 6-foot-1, 202 lb wide receiver that ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. He will be a dangerous weapon, and with others like Ceedee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy most likely going ahead of Jefferson, I could see a team like the Saints looking to him to pair him with Micheal Thomas.
In a rather less-than-exciting tight end class, I like Brycen Hopkins out of Purdue to go in the second round. He will likely be the second-highest selection at the position in the first two rounds. I believe Cole Kmet can garner first-round consideration after his combine, leaving Hopkins the second-best option. However, it is worth noting that Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam did run a 4.49 40-yard dash. He could be a potential threat across the middle but his blocking would need improvement to make any impact in the league.
Any discussion of offensive line prospects needs to start by mentioning Mekhi Becton out of Louisville. A 6-foot-7, 357 lb lineman already sounds scary enough, but he posted a 5.1 40-yard dash time. For a lineman of such stature, that speed could make waves among NFL teams.
That’s why I have him going fourth overall to the Giants as the second offensive lineman selected behind Jedrick Wills from Alabama. No surprise there, as Bama is typically a team that produces elite line talent. Another potential top-ten pick is Tristin Wirfs of Iowa. He set a combine record for offensive linemen by posting a vertical jump of 36.5 inches. Combine that with a 4.85 40-yard dash time and a 7.65 cone drill, and Wirfs has all the ingredients to be a top offensive lineman. I have him going tenth overall to the Browns. Ezra Cleveland from Boise State also impressed me with his 4.46 short shuttle and a 7.26 three-cone drill. Despite having the athleticism, a weaker conference in college football, to me, generally produces slightly weaker talent. A year or two of getting stronger can make him a top talent.
With the NFL Scouting Combine in the books, the draft will be here in no time. Stay tuned to On Tap Sports Net’s coverage leading up to, during, and following the 2020 NFL Draft.