If you didn’t sit around for seven hours to watch the NFL combine on Thursday, we have you covered. The first group of players to hit the field for testing and drills were the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends, with the offensive linemen and running backs set to finish up the offense on Friday before the defenders hit the field this weekend.
Considering the fact that the Green Bay Packers have their own quarterback issues to figure out, we’ll skip the position and focus on what the receivers and tight ends did on the first day of testing in Indianapolis.
9 receivers ran sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash times
At one point in time, when the numbers were still unofficial, it appeared that 12 of the combine wide receivers ran a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash, with that number dropping to nine when the numbers became official. Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thorton initially was credited with a 4.21-second time that was adjusted to 4.28, as both the receiver and tight end group apparently ran much slower than what was originally announced.
A source told me on Thursday that the combine used a new starter on the laser clock this year, which was the reason given for the wider discrepancies between the official and unofficial times. It is yet to be seen if this issue will be fixed for the remaining three days of testing.
Christian Watson's official time was 4.36, which is still 96th percentile.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 4, 2022
It drops him to top 10 from top 2, out of over 2,000 WR. pic.twitter.com/vc6kIqq35Z
The wideouts who cracked 4.4-flat on Thursday were: Thornton, Velus Jones (Tennessee), Calvin Austin (Memphis), Alec Pierce (Cincinnati), Danny Gray (SMU), Bo Melton (Rutgers), Christian Watson (North Dakota State), Garrett Wilson (Ohio State) and Chris Olave (Ohio State.) Only Wilson and Olave are top-100 prospects, according to consensus big boards, but Austin, Pierce and Watson have been talked about as potential Day 2 selections and their times should only help their cases.
The receiver type the Packers like showed out
One of the biggest questions of the offseason for Green Bay is if they will change their approach at wide receiver. Obviously, they haven’t taken a first-rounder in some time, but one of the overlooked aspects of their team-building strategy is that they use massive wideouts who contribute in tight end positions far more frequently than the rest of the NFL as a whole. They also are featured frequently as outside receivers who block both for the run game and primary screen-catcher Davante Adams on the perimeter.
Because of this, over 90 percent of their snaps at receiver over the last two seasons have come from players who are 205 pounds or heavier, which could limit who they look at in receiver classes. For example, only two receivers who were of “Packers wideout size” were drafted in the top-100 of the last draft: Amari Rodgers, by Green Bay, and Nico Collins, drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans.
With that being said, there are plenty of top-100 or borderline top-100 talents who are of that size in the 2022 draft class and, for the most part, they did well on Thursday. Christian Watson (North Dakota State) and Alec Pierce (Cincinnati) are obviously trending north after their sub-4.4-second 40-yard dashes. Georgia product Georgia Pickens, who showed up about 10 pounds lighter than expected, ran a 4.47 but can gain some weight back up to the 205 range if asked. Arkansas’ Treylon Burks, who is talked about as a potential top-10 pick, ran a modest 4.55 but at 225 pounds.
The only real disappointment for the big-body receivers was David Bell of Purdue, who ran a 4.65 40-yard dash and did poorly in both the jumps and agility drills. Bell was thought of as a power slot-type of player who would likely be drafted in Round 2 coming into the combine. There was never an expectation that he would be one of the talks of the combine, but the fact that he was unable to run a 4.5 will turn some heads.
Not the best Combine for David Bell, who didn't hit average or above for any testing metric outside of size.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 4, 2022
Splits are projected. pic.twitter.com/twXEzlWpwv
Two other top big-body receivers, USC’s Drake London (ankle) and Clemson’s Justyn Ross, did not run in Indianapolis and will have to be timed at their pro days.
A late-round surprise among these receivers was Velus Jones of Tennesse, who ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at 204 pounds. The Volunteer had twice as many kick return yards as receiving yards over his six-year college career which included a transfer from USC. Jones, essentially, was a one-year contributor as an offensive player and is turning 25 years old in May, but was named the SEC’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Year in 2021 and was given First-Team All-SEC honors.
Most of the top tight ends sat out of testing
According to consensus draft boards, the five top-100 tight ends did not run in Indianapolis. The biggest names to actually record their times on the field were Nevada’s Cole Turner (4.76 40) and UCLA’s Greg Dulcich (4.70 40.) We will have to wait for pro days to get numbers on Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer, Coastal Carolina’s Isaiah Likely, Iowa State’s Charlie Kolar and Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert.
All four of the tight ends who cracked the 4.7-second mark in the 40 come from odd backgrounds. Both Maryland’s Chig Okonkwo and SMU’s Grant Calcaterra are small for tight ends, coming in at sub-250 pounds. San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger recorded only 771 receiving yards after three years as an off-and-on starter with the Aztecs. Virginia’s Jelani Woods, an Oklahoma State transfer, spent most of his career as a 6’7” blocking tight end but flashed his basketball background in his one year in the Cavaliers’ 12 personnel offense.
Clarity in this position group simply did not come on combine testing day, with the stars refusing to run. Expect ebbs and flows to tight end rankings as new information trickles in during the pro day circuit.
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