Every late February we gather 'round our televisions screens once again, as we're used to doing during football season, to gape in awe of insanely athletic human beings doing insanely athletic things in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. I know some people aren't a fan; those who aren't usually just tell me these drills and events have little correlation to how each prospect will ultimately turn out.
To those, I say this: POPPYCOCK. But, well, you're sort of right, too.
An athlete's transition from college to professional sports is as unique as each person's DNA. With that said, some of you are right, there are no exact drills, measurements or events that can perfectly predict answers draft analyst desperately try to find. But, in the meantime, it's fun to see some of college football's biggest names go pass-for-pass, stride-for-stride and movement-for-movement with each other as they prepare for (hopefully) one of the greatest moments of their lives: draft day.
There were nine players from the University of Florida in attendance this weekend: Kyle Christy, Max Garcia, Chaz Green, D.J. Humphries, Trenton Brown, Neiron Ball, Leon Orr, Dante Fowler Jr., and Matt Jones. Which Gators punched their ticket to draft day, and which might need to still prove themselves at Florida's Pro Day April 7th? Glad you asked, because I needed that rhetorical conceit.
DE/"OLB" Dante Fowler Jr.
Going into the combine, the vibe around the NFL was that Fowler was battling Clemson's Vic Beasley and Nebraska's Randy Gregory to be the top edge rusher taken in this year's draft. On Friday (defensive lineman arrival day), Beasley and Gregory both showed up bigger than the weight they played at during the season, hoping to match the "big and fast" Fowler.
But when Fowler stepped up to the 40-yard dash line, still nearly 20 pounds heavier than those players, and ran a 4.61 with a 1.56 10-yard split, every scout in the building probably either wrote down "YEP!" or yelped in glee.
The rest of Fowler's athletic tests weren't great: He skied "just" 32.5" in the vertical jump and made it only 9'4" in the broad jump. But I think most NFL guys saw what they needed to see. In drills, he was quick off the line and showed powerful hands against the pads. Fowler's stock going into the weekend was that of a top-10 pick. Now, after running that kind of 40 time at his size (and with a gold watch on), I think it's more like top-five. Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Washington are all possible landing spots.
RB Matt Jones
Jones was a full participant in all combine measurements, tests, and drills, which was one key difference between the Combine and the Birmingham Bowl. (Sorry.)
At an official height and weight of 6'2" and 231 pounds, I think Jones made a few scouts write "Check again" (in a good way) on their note pads after running a 4.61 and putting up 20 reps of 225 pounds. The selling point for Jones will be his size, along with pass protection and soft hands as a receiver. The only problem? A few dropped balls during drills.
But Jones looked explosive for a guy his size, and for that, I think the fifth round is a good target for his camp. RBs may be used less and less in full-time work, but as backfield duties continue to be split based on role more than talent, teams need big backs to substitute in on passing downs and handle extra blitzers. Jones can be one of guys.
OT D.J. Humphries
They key for Humphries going into the weekend was his weight, and how he would test with his new weight. He checked the first box on arrival coming in at 307 pounds, up 17 pounds from his playing weight during the season. Then following a solid showing on the bench press with 26 reps, Humphries demonstrated he was one of the quicker, more athletic offensive tackles on the field.
For most, I'm sure the primary question on Humphries was, "Is he able to sustain good, quick technique in his feet with added weight?" To me, he passed that test, and from the reaction of a few other draft analysts I follow on Twitter, their projections of him potentially sneaking into the first round means they liked what they saw, too. NFL Network's Charles Davis even thinks Humphries could be the best left tackle from this class.
OL Trenton Brown
The reaction to Trenton brown showing up in Indianapolis was much like the reaction of Trenton Brown showing up on campus, "Holy ___, that guy's big!" With official measurements of 6'8", and 355 pounds, Brown was easily the biggest lineman in attendance. And he lost a lot of weight before his time in Indy, dropping more than 20 pounds from his Senior Bowl playing weight.
Nicely for him, he was able to run a somewhat decent time for a man his size with a 5.29, but didn't exactly impress anyone with his 23.5" vert, which featured a very un-stuck landing...
...or his mere 20 reps on the bench. But, to be fair to those who hate the combine for the sentence I just wrote, he has an incredibly long wingspan which makes it difficult to bench, and no one over 350 lbs. is suppose to be able to jump high.
My knock on Brown is his muscle stamina. I like what I see when it comes to burst, but because he's such a big dude, it's hard to sustain maximum effort. His stock is a bit of a mystery to me. I think he gets drafted somewhere on Day 3.
OL Chaz Green
It was nice to see Green get a combine invite after going through so many injuries during his time at Florida. Green's selling point will be his burst to not only get his hands up, but in motion too, and he chalked up one of the faster 10-yard splits from his group at 1.75. I've seen him left off draft boards more than I've seen him on, so a late Day 3 pick is my prediction.
OL Max Garcia
Garcia wasn't able to participate at all this weekend other than in simple measurements. If I had to rank the Florida linemen in terms of draftable odds it would go: Humphries, Garcia, Brown, Green. Garcia could fall in rounds 5-7.
DT Leon Orr
In a weekend where everything had to go right for Leon Orr, there were a few bumps in the road.
The biggest issue for him was surely the interviews. Teams most likely grilled him on why he made the decisions he did, ones which ultimately got him dismissed from Florida's roster near the end of the year. I'm not in those interview rooms, and because he's not a highly coveted prospect, I didn't get much word on it, either. I know he was remorseful and grateful to be there, so you hope it went well.
The next bump was running his 40-yard dash. When he lined up to run it, he was set up wrong: Behind the line, and not positioned the right way.
It was weird. Even when the line coach tried to help him, it seemed as if he wanted to run out of a 3-point stance. It just wasn't a good look for him.
As stated before, everything had to go right for him, and it didn't. I'm guessing a last Day 3 for him.
LB Neiron Ball
Ball didn't participate in on-the-field drills or in any speed/agility tests due to his micro-fracture surgery in November, but he did show off the guns on the bench, in which he put up 22 reps. But he's still a long, lanky LB who fills a traditional LB spot.
Most OLB rankings will be skewed because they'll include players like Beasley or Bud Dupree, who are strictly pass rushing linebacker; Ball plays more of a traditional 4-3 OLB role, and that might help him stand out, so will his effort on special teams. Keep an eye on him at Florida's Pro Day.
P Kyle Christy
#PuntingIsWinning. He might get drafted.
If you like talking draft, follow me over at @RoadToRadioCity. It's an account I run for in-depth NFL Draft talk all year long. I'd love to hear your opinions!