Day 2 of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is over. If you’re curious about what took place on Wednesday, here’s a link to Derrik Klassen’s look at the first day.
Let’s get into it.
Ruggs not fastest ever, but still pretty fast
If you listened to interviews with Alabama WR Henry Ruggs prior to Thursday, you know he had one goal: Beat the record 4.22 second time that Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross put up at the 2017 combine.
Ruggs wasn’t able to do that, but he still was easily the fastest wideout that ran the 40-yard dash, putting up an official time of 4.27 seconds in the event. That ties for the seventh-best time ever recorded, and it’s the fastest time from a wideout that we’ve seen since Ross in 2017. Ruggs also posted strong jumping results compared to the group; showing off a 42-inch vertical and a 131-inch broad jump, good for third and fifth among all participates on Saturday. There weren’t exactly questions about the 5-foot-11, 188-pound wideout’s athleticism coming into Thursday, but Ruggs proved that he’s an electric athlete, and it bodes well for his chances of coming off the board on Day 1 in this loaded wide receiver draft class.
Southern Miss wideout Quez Watkins came in second with a 4.35 time, while Baylor’s Denzel Mims (4.38) and Tulane’s Darnell Mooney, Texas’s Devin Duvernay and Memphis’s Antonio Gibson (4.39) were the only other players to break the 4.40 mark.
Mixed day for rest of wideouts
As stated above, this wideout class is loaded. But the remaining testing scores were, dare we say, decidedly average?
Let’s start with the positives, because that’s more fun. Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool was able to run a 4.42 time in the dash, and while that’s a solid number, it’s even more impressive when you consider Claypool is listed at 6-foot-4, 238-pounds. You are not supposed to run that fast when you’re that big, folks. At least one team requested Claypool to work out as a tight end, and while that can’t be ruled out — can you imagine linebackers trying to run with him? We can’t either — he also makes an awful lot of sense as a “big slot” wideout. It’s just February, but it’s tough to say he didn’t improve his stock.
Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones was far from slow with his 4.48 second time, but it was with his jumps that the wideout really impressed on Thursday. Peoples-Jones was able to put up a sensational 44.5 inch vertical on Thursday that was easily the top score of anyone regardless of position. In fact, that’s the best vertical since Chris Conley‘s 45″ recording in 2015, and the second best since 2006. The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder also had the best broad jump of the day with a 139-inch result. It’s never been a question of talent with Peoples-Jones, but the production — in large part because of injuries — hasn’t always been there. Thursday was a friendly reminder of what he’s capable of.
Mims also deserves mention. His 4.38 second time came after measuring at 6-foot-3, 207-pounds. The former Baylor star has some questions about his hands and route-running, but the height/weight/speed combo is sure to intrigue teams.
But alas, there were some disappointments in this group. TCU’s Jalen Reagor posted a 4.47 second time, far slower than expected from a wideout who ran past defensive backs in the Big 12 the last three years. Expect a much better time at his Pro Day, and he was one of the better jumpers in Indy on Thursday.
Nobody expected Jauan Jennings to put up elite numbers at 6-foot-3, 215-pounds, but he posted the second-slowest time at the position (4.72, just barely beating Wisconsin’s Quintez Cephus and his 4.73), and he had the second worst vertical at 29 inches with a middling 119-inch broad. Jennings plays faster on tape, but this was an ugly showing.
Other uninspiring times include Navy’s Malcolm Perry (4.63), Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden (4.60), and Ohio State’s Ben Victor along with K.J. Hill (both (4.60, as well).
And, as always, we had a few players who decided not to test this week. One of those is Clemson’s Tee Higgins, who decided to skip this portion; citing that he didn’t have enough prep time after his long season. Higgins will likely go in Clemson’s Pro Day, and probably has enough (good) tape for this to not matter. Still, a bit of a bummer hoping to see him run.
Penn State’s KJ Hamler participated in the bench press and put up 15 reps, which ranked in the middle of the pack. Unfortunately, that was the only event Hamler participated in, as he is dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him from running in Indianapolis. Assuming full recovery, he’ll be able to run/test at the Nittany Lions Pro Day.
Okwuegbunam flies past TE group
It certainly isn’t a surprise to see Missouri Albert Okwuegbunam post the fastest 40-yard dash time. It’s a little surprising to see how easy it was for him.
Okwuegbunam (6’5/258) ran an official time of 4.49 seconds on Thursday, easily beating Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins‘ time of 4.66 to take home the positional crown. That time for the Missouri tight end is the fastest since the 4.42 second 40-yard dash time by Evan Engram back in 2017, and tied for the third-fastest time since 2011. By the Next Gen Athleticism Scores, that gives him a score of 99 out of 100. That’s pretty good. Okwuegbunam didn’t have any other scores on Thursday, but he didn’t need to. He’s decidedly in the mix to be TE1 come April.
The rest of the 40-yard dash time scores were fairly pedestrian, but there were some other impressive numbers in Indy. Dayton tight end Adam Trautman‘s 4.80 second time was one of the worst of the group, but his 6.78 second 3-cone drill was fifth best since 2006. He was always considered more “quick” than fast, so that below-average 40-yard dash time may not hurt him as much as others. Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara was able to put up 25 bench press reps, and he was among the top seven in every single running drill. Cole Kmet of Notre Dame’s 4.7 second 40 won’t win awards, but keep in mind that he’s 6-foot-6, 262-pounds, and he had the second best broad jump at 123 inches.
This wasn’t an overtly impressive day for the tight ends, but we weren’t expecting one. There are still some diamonds in the rough in this group. There always is.
Quarterbacks are athletes, too, people
Thursday was also the day that saw the quarterbacks take part in athletic testing, and it was somewhat surprising that it was not Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts who posted the best 40-yard dash time. Hurts was beaten just barely — and we do mean just barely by Hawaii’s Cole McDonald — who ran a 4.58 second time as compared to Hurt’s 4.59. Oregon signal-caller Justin Herbert tied for third with a 4.68 second clocking with Colorado’s Steven Montez, and Missouri’s Kelly Bryant was fifth at 4.71.
McDonald really impressed with his other scores on Thursday, as well. On top of winning the 40-yard dash, the former Rainbow Warrior also had the top vertical at 36 inches, and he came in fourth with a 121-inch broad jump. Herbert was also solid, as the 6-foot-6, 236-pound quarterback was just behind McDonald with a 35.5-inch vertical, and he was fifth in the 20-yard cone drill and first in the three-cone drill. A very solid start to the combine for Herbert, who is trying to solidify himself as the third quarterback in this draft behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Eason’s interviews not going well?
The testing is the highlight of the show in Indianapolis, but a big story — maybe the biggest — is the interviews behind the scenes. Based on a report from ESPN’s Todd McShay, it sounds like those interviews aren’t going very well.
McShay flat-out said that Eason’s interviews are not going well on Thursday on ESPN.
“He was too comfortable. He thought that he owned the room. He doesn’t understand the magnitude of all this.”
ESPN’s Louis Riddick basically confirmed he was hearing the same thing, saying on the same program that Eason is being questioned on his mental makeup, commitment, and consistency.
On the surface, some of this makes sense, while other portions sound a bit nitpicky. McShay compared Eason to Jake Fromm, and while you have to give credit to Fromm for his success and leading the Bulldogs to a heck of a run in his three years, criticizing Eason for leaving the program — assuming that’s part of the commitment issues — is silly. It would make no sense for him to stick around the program if he wasn’t going to play, especially as a player that was at a school 2,600 miles away. That being said, the mental questions show up on the field, as Eason would follow NFL throws with decisions that you would criticize a JV player for making.
There’s still time for Eason to change people’s minds, but assuming these reports are true — and it’s worth pointing out that he didn’t test well on Thursday — it’s probably fair to say Eason needs to throw well in Indianapolis to leave the event with his stock up. That was true, anyway, but it’s amplified now — assuming this isn’t just a way to try and drop Eason’s stock.