So, after months of a fairly dormant Game Winning Turnover website, we are finally back to producing content. We apologize, but hey life happens.
Anyway, being the football guy that I am, I’m extremely excited for the NFL draft process- which really gets rolling fast with the NFL combine (from February 23rd – March 2nd) . The combine is a huge day for a lot of these NFL declared athletes- they can either tank or bolster their draft stock- and with this year in particular being a pretty competitive class of players, we can expect the combine to be a huge eye test for scouts to determine places on their draft board.
So, with so much at stake, I wanted to highlight the different position battles and who potentially has the most to gain or lose from this year’s combine workout.
This year’s class is full of potential at the QB position. Usually, you have a standout guy who goes top 3, and a handful of others who are deserving of going later in the first round and beyond. However, this year is different.
In my own humble opinion, I could see 3 guys going in the top 3-5 depending on who trades up into those respective spots (which, from what I’ve read, is very likely to happen). The Bengals, Lions, Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers, Jaguars, Raiders, Colts and Buccaneers are all teams within the top 15 picks (with assets to move up) that are potential suitors to move up and take a young guy to take over the franchise- with Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and even Tua Tagovalloa as the prospects of most interest.
Now, with that being said I think Burrow is pretty much the clear cut, most talented of the 3 (he does have a personality issue in my opinion, but most teams will be willing to work with that), so I think there is no doubt that he either goes at 1 or 2. However, Tua and Herbert have a lot on the line at the combine to boost their stock.
Tua has the most to gain. Before sustaining a brutal hip injury that most called potentially “career ending”, many had Tua has the clear cut no. 2 QB in this class. His domination as the Alabama starter over the past few seasons combined with incredible arm talent and mobility made him a very established, experienced, and sought after player. However, the injury is concerning. Some think he could fall into the mid rounds, due to not wanting to take him in the first with such a career altering and dangerous injury- and that logic makes a whole lot of sense. You want your first round pick to make an immediate impact (as a rebuilding team, established contenders can afford to take a chance), so using your later picks seems to be the smartest option when taking a risk. With all that being said, Tua’s stock has significantly dipped since the injury, but he was medically cleared and it was reported that he will be participating in all the major QB combine workouts. So, if he struggles and looks rusty, his stock will stay low. BUT, if he comes out and puts on a show… teams will shift their attention back to Tua.
Herbert, on the other hand, has the most to lose. After a standout senior season at Oregon, Herbert has had a lot of attention on him. People like his frame, arm talent, mobility, and experience. Plus he had a stellar, MVP performance at the senior bowl. All of these things have added up to a large boost in his draft grade- now sitting as a top 3 QB prospect and projects to be selected in the top 5. However, there is still doubt among NFL scouts that he will translate into the pros- and many analysts say that without a convincing performance in his combine workout, Herbert could fall significantly. So, a lot is on the line for the Oregon product.
Aside from the top 3 guys, you also should keep an eye on Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jordan Love, and Kelly Bryant- I could see all 4 having opportunities to slide into early rounds with a good workout.
This position group is extremely and particularly talented this year. I’ve looked at mock drafts from NFL, CBS, an Walter Football- and in each one there is between 5-6 receivers selected in the first round. Now, mock drafts obviously aren’t always going to be on the money, but this just shows off how talented this group is- how often are there this many receivers being looked at in the FIRST round? Not to mention that there are many other names that, personally, I like and would look at in the mid-later rounds.
Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III are seen as the 3 most standout guys with a pretty set-in-stone draft stock placement. All 3 are extremely explosive, run precise routes and possess excellent ball skills- priming them to be early- mid first round selections. A good combine performance is extremely likely and will only show scouts what they already knew. I don’t even see a poor performance placing them anywhere out of the 1st round. The film speaks for itself with these guys.
More names to look out for are Jaelon Reagor, Tee Higgins, KJ Hamler, and (my personal favorite) Justin Jefferson. All of these guys possess similiar explosive capabilities, but their ball skills range. Reagor had a huge dropoff this season in comparison to 2018 (30 less receptions and 400 less yards), Hamler has issues with completing catches/ball security, Higgins lacks blocking ability/physicality despite his large frame, so on and so forth. So, these prospects really need to rely on their combine workouts to improve their stock and compete for a higher selection.
The top 3 guys are a separate class of receivers are competing against one another for a higher selection, while the same guys for the next bunch. I love the talent in this group, and all of the guys I named need to show out to try and establish themselves even more in front of the NFL scouts.
Now, as the league is filling up with talented, young , mobile QBs (Watson, Mahomes, Jackson, Wentz) edge/rush players are becoming so much more valuable in order to attempt to stop these prolific athletes on opposing offenses. We saw the impact of players like Nick Bosa and Brian Burns as rookies in the NFL, and teams will look to add a dominant force on the outside of their defensive line.
Obviously, there is a lot of hype around Ohio State’s Chase Young. He is explosive, dominant, and extremely physical. He is an excellent, balanced edge setter and pass rusher, but he does have some downsides. He has an obvious tell in his stance as to what he is doing on a particular play. He also has issues with pad level- standing straight up on some pass rush attempts. So, even Young has some things to prove in the combine. He is likely a top 3 pick, but he does need to show off that he can be coachable and refine his skills as a prospect. This will be something more important at his pro-day, but still worth mentioning here. If he can show improvements to his stance and pad level at the combine, that is a great start.
As it stands in some mock drafts, A.J Epenesa and K’ Lavon Chaisson are seen as the next best edge players, but guys like Curtis Weaver and Josh Uche are gaining ground.
Look for Epenesa to try to show improvements with footwork, balance, and an ability to be creative with his pass rush moves. He is known to bull rush extremely well, but for NFL scouts to be impressed and interested you need to be versatile in your rush moves- especially with the size and strength of today’s NFL tackle.
Meanwhile, Chaisson needs to prove his ability to stay discipline. He tends to run wild and shoot up too far on plays- which is hard to show improvement on at the combine, but if he can show improvements with footwork and counter pass rushing moves he will be in good shape to stay ahead of the competition.
Obviously, the other positions are important to look at to, but I found these 3 position groups to be the most exciting and loaded. The prospects in each group are looking to improve their stock and show off-season improvement for their first real professional workout.
A lot is at stake and I am more than excited to sit down and watch these guys compete within the week.