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Winners and Losers from the 2019 NFL Combine

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The 2019 draft class is filled with freak athletes. Which ones helped or hurt their stock in Indy?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NFL Combine is wrapping up today in Indianapolis with the on-field drills for defensive backs, but we’ve already seen some players significantly raise or lower their draft stock.

A couple disclaimers before we get started. First, if I list a guy as a “winner” that doesn’t mean I love him as a prospect. It simply means that they had a good combine and helped themselves. The opposite is true as well. I’m not out on guys listed here as “losers”. Also, I’m definitely going to leave some guys out who had good days, but these are the performances that really stood out to me.

Position ranks listed in parentheses next to measurements

Winners

Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State

Let’s start with Sweat who may have been THE winner of the combine. He set the all-time record for the fastest 40 time for a defensive lineman, running a blistering 4.41. For some context, that’s faster than Odell Beckham Jr.’s 4.43 despite being almost 6 inches taller and over 60 pounds heavier than the star wide receiver.

Even more important, Sweat’s 10-yard split on that record-setting run was 1.50 seconds which is reflected in his elite get off as a pass rusher on tape. He also tacked on a great 3-cone time and short shuttle for his position group, especially with his insanely long build. There will still be questions surrounding Sweat’s ability to bend that may keep him behind other edge rushers like Nick Bosa, Brian Burns, Josh Allen, and Clelin Ferrell for some teams, but Sweat certainly inserted himself into top 10 pick consideration with this performance.

From a Titans standpoint, Sweat’s combine means that there is a real chance that he is not on the board by the time the 19th pick comes around. Does that push one of the other edge rushers down, like Burns or Ferrell? Maybe, but I don’t think I’d be willing to spend that pick on an edge rusher outside of those five if they’re all gone.

Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Eastern Michigan

A couple other edge rushers further down draft boards helped themselves over the weekend as well. The biggest riser of this group might be Maxx Crosby from Eastern Michigan.

Crosby finished in the top 10% all-time among edge rushers in every category he competed in. Combining that level of movement skill with a 6’-5”, 255 pound frame will make him an enticing option for teams that miss out on that Bosa-Allen-Burns-Ferrell-Sweat group at the top of the draft. Crosby was a late round flyer type of guy coming into the combine due to a lack of play strength and those questions weren’t answered here, but I could see this showing pushing him as high as the 3rd or 4th round as a high upside developmental player.

Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan

The drill that matters most for edge rushers is the 3-cone drill which measures a player’s ability to change directions and corner. Only four players listed as defensive linemen or edge rushers managed to post times under 7 seconds which is generally considered the threshold for elite status in the 3-cone drill. Winovich was one of those players, posting a 6.94-second time, good second among edge rushers who participated in the drill.

Winovich is widely expected to be a Day 2 pick in the draft and this performance probably does more to lock that in than it does to push him up into the bottom of Round 1. He profiles as the type of guy that Jon Robinson would love with a non-stop motor and a high “football character”. Winovich was considered a leader on a good Michigan defense the last couple years and the combine results prove that he’s more than just a “try hard” guy.

Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU

Banogu put up some great numbers as an edge rusher as well. Like Crosby, he’s viewed as a late round project type pick, but his combine adds some intrigue to that project. The measurements that stood out with Banogu were his elite 134-inch broad jump and 40-inch vertical jump, both tests that measure explosiveness.

Banogu and Crosby are both interesting projects that the Titans could take on if they decide to address the edge position via free agency with a veteran. Ideally these are the types of guys that would be key special teamers while you let Mike Vrabel work his magic to help them develop into more complete pass rushers.

Anthony Nelson, DL, Iowa

Nelson is one of the most interesting prospects in the draft. He’s another of the four pass rushers that posted a sub-7.0 time in the 3-cone drill, but he did it at 6’-7” tall and 271 pounds which is utterly ridiculous. Nelson’s length and explosiveness are also elite among his position group.

Nelson, like Winovich is likely a Day 2 pick, but I could even see him sneaking into the bottom of the 1st round. His college career featured solid and steadily improving production and the tape shows a guy with enormous power and a pretty advanced repertoire of pass rush moves.

Nelson is certainly more of a pure 4-3 defensive end than he is a 3-4 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, but with the Titans preaching “front multiplicity” on defense and playing out of the nickel with four down linemen for the vast majority of snaps last season I would expect them to be able to find a way to use a player like this. He would certainly give a good contrast to Harold Landry’s speed game on the opposite side.

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

Gary was expected to be one of the biggest freak athletes in the draft and he did not disappoint, posting a 4.58 40-yard dash and 38-inch vertical at 277 pounds.

The questions with Gary remain though. Where is the production for a guy that is that physically gifted? Where does he play at the NFL level? His mediocre 3-cone time underscores the concerns for the crowd that believes he fits best as an interior player. His tape is maddening to watch, especially when you know the kind of athlete he is. My guess is that Gary still goes in the 1st round — maybe even in the top 10 — but I really don’t know what he is at the NFL level.

Ed Oliver, DL, Houston

Oliver, like Gary, was fully expected to blow up the combine and he did impress in the few events he participated in. The biggest measurement for Oliver was probably his weight though. There had been rampant speculation about where he would play and the Titans even reportedly asked Oliver to work out as an outside linebacker which is interesting. However, at 287 pounds I think there is little doubt that Oliver is big enough to play inside. That’s two pounds heavier than Aaron Donald checked in at back in 2014.

Oliver’s performances in the broad jump, vertical, and bench press were all in the elite range for defensive linemen and I would suspect that he will put up some eye-popping numbers at his pro day where he is expected to run a 40-yard dash and possibly add some other drills that he skipped in Indianapolis.

The Titans met with Oliver and asked for him to participate in outside linebacker workouts which is very interesting. He’s a special athlete and it seems like Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel are at least sniffing around him as a potential target for the 19th overall pick even if it’s relatively unlikely that he lasts on the board that long.

Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri

This is a phenomenal class of wide receivers which is great news for the permanently receiver-needy Titans. One of the guys who helped his stock the most at the combine was local Centennial High School product, Emanuel Hall. Hall checked in at just a shade under 6’-2” and 201 pounds and then blew all of the athletic testing out of the water, running a 4.39-second 40, jumping 43.5-inches in the vertical, and registering a 141-inch broad jump (second best broad jump in the history of the combine, regardless of position).

Hall is currently projected as a probable Day 2 pick with injuries and limited production holding him back from going higher, but he has a massive upside that the combine underscored in a big way.

Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

Butler’s combine performance is getting somewhat overshadowed by D.K. Metcalf’s 4.33 (more on that in a moment), but I think he might have helped himself more than anyone. Butler checked in at over 6’-5” tall with ridiculous 35.25-inch long arms and then ran 4.48 in the 40 and jumped a 128-inch broad jump. Oh, and he has enormous 10.75-inch mitts for hands.

Butler was a big play machine at Iowa State, using his jump ball and tackle breaking skills to dominate Big 12 competition. This combine probably takes him from a locked in Day 2 pick to a borderline 1st round player. The big question with Butler are his inconsistent hands and those popped up with a couple drops during field drills during the combine, but the physical skill set is nearly unmatched.

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Metcalf is one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft. To some, he’s the clear WR1 and a potential top 10 pick. To others, he’s more of a mystery, a physical specimen who struggled with injuries and production. His combine performance offered evidence to both sides of the argument.

On one hand, his 6’-3”, 228-pound frame with a reported 1.6% body fat (not sure I buy that one) is certainly amazing and the fact that he posted 27 bench press reps with a 4.33-second 40 makes him one of the most ridiculous combinations of size, strength, and speed to ever enter the league. However, he also posted very poor times in the 3-cone and short shuttle, two drills that are meant to measure agility and change of direction (he slipped a bit on the 3-cone run) which leads his detractors to continue to paint him as a stiff, overly muscled receiver.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit wary of Metcalf, but it has nothing to do with the combine performance. He’s clearly an incredible athlete and his change of direction skills on tape didn’t appear to be a big issue. It’s the inconsistent hands and consistent injuries that give me pause. Regardless of my stance on him, it’s highly unlikely that Metcalf remains on the board at 19 so I don’t think he will end up being an option for the Titans.

Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame

Boykin is another receiver that helped himself in a big way. His broad jump and vertical jump were both in the elite range just behind Hall’s numbers and he also checked in with a 4.42 at almost 6’-4” and 220 pounds.

Boykin wasn’t a big numbers producer at Notre Dame, but like Hall, he has a lot of upside to work with as the combine revealed. He rates as a likely 3rd or 4th round pick.

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

Campbell’s blistering 4.31-second 40 time wasn’t really that surprising to anyone who watched him play over the last couple years. It was extremely obvious that he could fly even for the casual observer. Some guys just move at a different speed in pads and he’s one of those guys. At just a shade under 6-foot and weighing 205 pounds, he’s significantly heavier than most guys that run in the low-4.3s. Campbell also tacked on elite jumps and short shuttle measurements to complete his outstanding combine.

Right now, Campbell is generally viewed as a likely Day 3 pick, but I find it hard to believe that he falls out of the 3rd round. Speed rarely falls in the draft. I love the idea of Campbell as a mid-round pick for the Titans.

Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State

No running back blew up the combine like Saquon Barkley did last year, but Barnes was probably the closest. He set a “non-fullback” running back record on the bench press with an extremely impressive 34 reps. That was good for 4th among all combine participants. He added a solid 4.59-second 40 time for his size (6’-0”, 226 pounds) and a great vertical jump at 38.5 inches.

The Titans are pretty set at running back for 2019 with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis returning, but they would probably be interested in adding some depth for the future considering the fact that Henry is entering the final year of his rookie contract and Lewis is approaching the magical age of 30. Barnes could be a good late round target. He’s absurdly powerful and runs angry.

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

T.J. Hockenson had a very good combine, but he got overshadowed by his Iowa teammate in Indy. Fant posted top 5% all-time results among tight ends in the 40 (4.50s), vertical (39.5-inch), broad (127-inch), and 3-cone (6.81s) at 6’-4” tall and 249 pounds.

This really just confirms what we already knew about Fant. He’s a special athlete with great ball skills and he’s a solid blocker as well. Hockenson’s game may be more well-rounded, but you could certainly make an argument for Fant as the better receiving tight end of the two. He’s likely to go towards the end of the 1st round or early in the 2nd.

Garrett Bradbury, OL, NC State

Bradbury was largely considered to be among the top interior offensive line prospects heading into the combine, but he cemented that status with a mind-blowing performance. Bradbury’s finishes were near the top of the offensive line group in all categories, including elite numbers in the 40-yard dash and bench press.

Bradbury is a converted tight end so it’s not surprising that he tested as an excellent athlete, but the numbers help solidify him as an elite prospect on the interior of the offensive line. I think this performance pushes him into a near lock for the 1st round. The question for Titans fans is whether he will be around at 19 and whether you’d prefer him to one of the top pass rushers that might be on the board.

Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College

Lindstrom might have helped his stock more than any other offensive lineman. His elite movement skills, especially for a guard, will make him particularly attractive to zone blocking teams like the Titans.

Like Bradbury, Lindstrom was already being pegged as a late 1st round to early 2nd round type pick and this probably pushes him closer to the 1st round part of that range. The Titans will be a particularly interesting potential landing spot for Lindstrom. Mike Vrabel’s son Tyler shared a position room with him at Boston College last season and new Titans strength coach Frank Piraino helped develop him into the player he is today. No team will have a better read on who Lindstrom is a player both on and off the field than the Titans. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he’s in play at 19.

Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A & M

McCoy is another of the top interior offensive line group that really helped himself with his performance. Like Bradbury, McCoy is a hyper-athletic center who would best fit in a zone system.

Most feel he’s the clear number two center behind Bradbury so I think there is a real good chance that McCoy lands somewhere between the 20th and 50th pick in the draft, but if he’s still around at 51 — and the Titans don’t go offensive line in the 1st — I could very much see him being an option there.

Devin White, LB, LSU

Two off-ball linebackers named Devin really shined at the combine. In a league that is more and more reliant on speed, White’s 4.42-second 40 time will be very appealing to NFL teams.

The Titans won’t be in the market for off-ball linebackers with Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans on board for the next couple years so I don’t think White will be on their radar, but his combine performance has caused some to project him as a potential top-15 pick. That would obviously be great news for the Titans because it would push another player at a need position down to 19.

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

The “other Devin” posted eerily similar combine numbers. In fact, Bush is White’s top comparable on mockdraftable.com while White is Bush’s second most comparable athletic profile.

Titans fans should be rooting for Bush to go in the top 18 of the draft as well.

Losers

Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida

A lot has been made of Polite’s exchange with the media where he discusses teams spending their interview time “bashing him” and, frankly, I think it’s been overblown. If you read what was said in text, it sounds far worse than how it comes across in a video.

However, it seems scouts had a different reaction than I did and their opinions matter far more than mine does.

If it had just been the questionable soundbites it would have been a bad combine, but when you throw in the 4.84-second 40 time and 32-inch vertical leap it was about as bad as it could have possibly gone for Polite in Indy.

Polite has been a player that has frequently been mocked to the Titans at 19 and most had him and Montez Sweat close together as the 5th and 6th rated edge rushers in this draft class, but the combine puts Sweat clearly into the top 5 at the position (and maybe even higher) while Polite becomes a distant 6th.

I don’t know if the Titans were one of the teams that thought he interviewed poorly — they’re a very tight-lipped front office, so I’m guessing they weren’t one of Matt Miller’s tipsters either way — but I would guess that you won’t be seeing many mocks with Polite going at 19 anymore going forward. Could he even be in play as low as 51?

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

As a Texas alum it hurts to put LJH down as a loser, but he had a pretty brutal combine. I didn’t expect him to be among the speedier receivers by any means — long speed was always one of his question marks — but I also didn’t expect 4.75. That’s red flag slow and when you combine it with below average marks in every other test, the picture becomes pretty ugly for his draft prospects.

Humphrey was a big time producer for the Longhorns in 2018, but my guess is that he’s waiting deep into Day 3 to hear his name called if he gets called at all.

Demarcus Christmas, DL, Florida State

Christmas is another guy that was pretty disappointing at the combine. If you’re going to be a sub-300 pound defensive lineman in the NFL, you better be able to move and Christmas didn’t show that he could.

He was already a likely Day 3 pick, but this confirms it.

Dre’mont Jones, DL, Ohio State

Like Christmas, Jones checked in under 300 lbs and failed to post impressive movement skills in any of the drills.

It’s even more disappointing for Jones as he is currently viewed as a likely late 1st or early 2nd round pick. That might still be the case — after all, combine results aren’t everything — but this certainly doesn’t help him.