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First-Hand NFL Combine Observations

The NFL Combine is a great experience for potential draft picks. It's an opportunity for players to show off their athleticism and help reinforce some of the attributes scouts see on tape. It is also an opportunity for everyone to second guess them because a 40 time was .5 seconds too slow or because a ball was dropped on an out route.

For as much good as the combine can do, it can also do as much harm. Having a chance to actually be there in person showed me as much. All the athletes were critiqued over every little thing they did. Every drop, every route, every throw, every cut was discussed and broken down. It was incredible to see so many years of work being reinforced or critiqued in a matter of seconds.

Fantasy owners just need to keep the combine in perspective. Don’t overreact to a great performance but don’t overreact to a poor one either. The landing spot of each player in the draft is just as important as their combine results. Use the combine in your overall research, but trust your gut when drafting rookies. Even the notes compiled in this article shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all to your decision-making process. That said, here are my notable observations from watching the top draft prospects perform in person.

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Baker Mayfield stole the show in this one. He was by far the best QB on the field and in all of the drills. I absolutely think he should be the QB1 in this draft, but I have spoken about him enough in the past that I want to cover some of the other QBs.

Lamar Jackson is my QB2 in this draft, but needs to land in the right situation to be successful. His combine wasn’t great either. His throws were all over and he looked as if he was trying too hard to be perfect. When he let the ball rip, he was on target. The ball pops out of his hand with little effort. If he can sit behind a veteran QB for a couple of years and learn, he has a chance to be very successful.

Josh Allen and Josh Rosen are next up on the board. Allen showed his worth when throwing go routes to receivers. When he stood on the 10-yard line and threw the ball to the other 30-yard line, the everyone in the stadium said “wow” at the same time. His huge arm will be his claim to fame. His feet and accuracy though need the most work and it showed at the combine. He didn’t have a lot of throws that were on target and his feet were all over. When he let it lose, you could tell he wasn’t thinking and just throwing the ball. When the brought the routes closer to the QBs, he changed and just tried forcing everything. Josh Allen would be perfect in New England, but no way he falls that far.

Another QB I will be keeping my eye on during the draft is Mason Rudolph. He looked confident during the combine. Unfazed by anything around him, he was just there to have fun and play football. He made some good throws and I could hear others complimenting him. I said the other day I would like to see the Browns use their first two picks on players that can help now and wait on a QB like Rudolph. We will see if that happens, but Rudolph could be good in a few years given the right situation.


Running Back

We all know who stole the show for the running backs. Do we even need to talk about Saquon Barkley at this point? He is the 1.01 in all drafts. If you don’t take him as the first rookie, I would love to hear why. I probably won’t agree with you, but I will let you try to change my mind.

Two running backs really stood out to me during the combine. Nick Chubb and Rashaad Penny both had excellent combines and moved themselves up the draft boards for fantasy owners. The 1.01 has been set with Barkley and the 1.02 should still be Derrius Guice. After that, Chubb and Penny have moved into the conversation with Sony Michel for the 1.03 pick.

Chubb actually outperformed Michel in almost every part of the combine. After an eye opening performance in the College Football Playoffs, Michel was expected to be one of the top running backs in the draft, and while that will still be true, Chubb showed he is back to being an elite athlete.

Penny comes with the stigma of not playing at a power five school, but he sure played like he belonged at one. He also proved he belonged as a top choice in the draft after a stellar combine. The only note was his 13 reps on the bench that wasn’t as outstanding as others. Penny flashed in the 40-yard dash though showing he has the speed-size combo to become a three down back in the NFL.


Wide Receiver

The receivers in this draft didn’t get much love until after the combine. Overall, I was impressed with what I saw on Saturday. It was just a little backward from what I was expecting. Going into the combine I expected great performances from Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk and Auden Tate and didn’t see that. I loved what I saw from D.J. Moore though and think he has jumped to the WR1 position in rookie drafts.

I had my eye on Anthony Lazard heading into the combine. I had heard good things from fellow members of the fantasy football community and was excited to see what he had. I was not impressed however. When running the gauntlet, Lazard had a couple of bad drops and didn’t run smooth. His 40-yard dash wasn’t overly impressive and he locked slow in his routes. He needs a lot of work and won’t make an immediate impact on a team.

Simmie Cobbs was another name who dynasty owners got to know early in the college season but has started to fade recently and slipped even more after the combine. He didn’t do anything to help his stock, but I will say he made some nice adjustments on bad throws. More than once the QBs didn’t hit their target with Cobbs and he had to make quick adjustments. For being a bigger guy, he adjusted to the throw well in the air.

One guy I will continue to keep my eye on during drafts is Antonio Callaway. He didn’t measure well, but he looked excellent in his on field work. Smooth, crisp routes, attacked the ball and made all of his catches. He had a quick burst of speed in his drills and did not disappoint. The problem is, he may not even go in the draft. He has a lot of off-field issues and needs to prove to teams he will not continue to make those mistakes moving forward. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on him though and could get a huge discount. If you play in a league with taxi squads or deeper rosters, then this is a guy you could grab and wait for him to make his way up the depth chart.

Keep an eye on Trey Quinn and Dylan Cantrell. They don’t have the standout names who have been hearing, but both showed well at the combine and should be taken in rounds three or four. Given the right situation, both could contribute out of the slot within the year.


Tight End

Last year, the tight end position was one of the best in the draft. Three tight ends were taken in the first round, but you might not even see one taken in the first round this year. Due to a weak free agent class for linebackers and a deep pool and running backs, you could see those positions dominate the first night. When round two gets here, Mike Gesicki should be a name called. He turned in an absolutely freakish performance for a tight end at the combine. He showed power on the bench press, speed in the 40-yard dash and ran routes with the best of them on the field. He is the bread and butter in this year’s class and lived up to the hype in Indianapolis. He was impressive to watch in person.


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