Biggest risers and fallers coming out of the combine

Which prospects saw their draft stock rise in Indianapolis? Whose workout caused them to slip?

| 3 months ago
Christian McCaffrey

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Biggest risers and fallers coming out of the combine


With the NFL Combine in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look back at the movers and shakers. While the combine may only be a small portion of the entire evaluation process, when the workouts fail to confirm what was seen on tape, it can have an even bigger impact on prospects.

Here’s a look at the 2017 prospects likely to move up and down draft boards coming out of Indianapolis.

Risers

Obi Melifonwu, S, UConn

It may be time to see Melifonwu’s name in the first round of mock drafts. The UConn safety had a dominant workout while showing up at 6-foot-4 223-pounds. Teams have been looking for the “next” Kam Chancellor for a while now, and Melifonwu has the size and explosiveness to fill a box safety role. He may be much more than that, however, as he’s shown capable of making plays in a free safety role, and at the Senior Bowl, he took a few strong reps outside at cornerback. Melifonwu’s buzz is just getting started.

Jordan Willis, Edge, Kansas State

Production meet athleticism. PFF’s top-graded edge defender was also a top performer in the workouts, showing great burst and surprising change-of-direction. Even the most cynical PFF analyst looked at Willis as a guy who may struggle in certain aspects of his game, particularly turning the corner as a pass-rusher, but the workouts indicate it may be more scheme-based. Regardless of his limitations, Willis was a force off the edge for Kansas State, and the NFL now has the workouts to back up his production.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

McCaffrey produced a sub-4.5 40 time, but more importantly, his outstanding 6.57 3-cone drill confirmed what we thought about McCaffrey, and that may be just enough for teams to consider him in the first round. He could be a top-round pick as a slot receiver alone, but add in his patient, scheme-diverse running style, and McCaffrey will be a versatile playmaker for a team willing to tap into his skills at the next level.

John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross confirmed that he was fast, but 4.22-fast is eye-popping. The tape has plenty of examples of Ross’ game-changing ability, but putting a number to it is also encouraging. Ross will go from late-first-round hype to potential top-15 hype as NFL teams look for the next speedy playmaker on the outside.

Fallers

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

On the surface, things look pretty bad for Foster. He was forced to leave the NFL Combine early after an altercation, and that was not the only thing that went poorly in Indianapolis. He did not wow teams with his individual interviews, perhaps souring some despite outstanding on-field play as PFF’s top-graded linebacker last season. On the field, Foster is a three-down option capable of playing the run, covering tight ends and running backs, and affecting the quarterback as a blitzer, but combine week may have knocked him out of top-10 consideration.

Jonathan Allen, DI, Alabama

While the tape won’t change, Allen’s mediocre testing may cause teams to reconsider his top-five status. In theory, an average workout shouldn’t change Allen’s projection, as he wins with power and outstanding block-shedding in both the run game and as a pass-rusher, where he led all interior defensive linemen with 67 total QB pressures. Teams picking at the top, however, will feel more comfortable when picking an elite athlete who also has the production backing him.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

It’s an odd story for Cook, who ran a 4.49 40 despite looking like he has next-level speed when the pads are on. That doesn’t change, and his strengths are really his acceleration and ability to get to top speed quickly, but it’s always nice to see the tape match the workouts, and that simply wasn’t the case for Cook. He’s still a first-round talent, but his 40 time may put just enough doubt into teams’ minds for a guy that was pegged as a speed back.

Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Tabor is in the mix to be one of the top cornerbacks off the board, but a poor workout is not helping his chances. He plays fast on the field, though much of his game is predicated on taking chances and making plays on the ball. A 4.62 40, nine bench reps and subpar jumps will certainly raise some questions, however. In a competitive cornerback class, Tabor’s poor combine showing may force him closer to the middle of the pack rather than rising to the top of it.

Ready for the 2017 NFL Draft? Be sure to follow PFF’s coverage of the draft throughout the offseason.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Nick Cortez

    I’m really struggling with Jordan Willis. What games did you look at for Jordan Willis? was it all? I’ve only had the opportunity to watch 2 games (TTech and WV) but I saw very few snaps that lead me to believe he will be a successful pro. He is regularly the last player off the ball on the snap. That is giving away free tenths of a second out of the blocks each play. He doesn’t convert speed to power very well and most of the hurries I charted were well below the anticipated time to release for depth of drop (coverage sacks / hurries).

    • Samuel Beecham

      So you base your opinion on TWO games you watched? Interesting. He was a three year starter you know. Was also Big 12 defensive player of the year, Senior Bowl defensive MVP, was top 10 in the nation for DE’s in sacks, top 10 for DE’s in tackles,

      For the Combine:

      He had a 6.85 3 cone time, which would have placed him 18th among wide receivers. That time is better than Joey Bosa a year ago and good for eighth-best among all d-linemen since 2006.
      2. His 40 time (4.53) was sixth-best over that period, tied for the mark Jadeveon Clowney turned in. Just to put that time in perspective Leonard Fornette ran a 4.51 and Joe Mixon at his pro day ran a 4.50. Alvin Kamara ran a 4.56
      3. His 1.54 10 yard split was the fastest for DL at the combine
      4. His 39inch Verticle was second only Miles Garett 41 inches
      5. His 40 time and 10 yard split was faster than potential overall #1 draft pick Miles Garett

      So I fail to understand your reasoning. Jordan Willis backed up his rise on NFL Draft boards with outstanding on field production, recognition and accolades and a superior combine. If you are holding playing for Kansas State against him the team did go 9-4, beat all 5 of the major D1 teams in Texas and beat Texas A&M and Miles Garrett in the Texas Bowl.

      • Nick Cortez

        I don’t like being wrong…so I went back and watched 2 more tapes. I charted his pressures vs Stanford. He had 1 strip of the QB on a rush he was getting pushed past the qb but got his hand on the QB’s arm. Big play for K State but I don’t feel like that was indicative of what he will typically produce at the next level because he only had 1 other pressure the entire game…not a sack, not a hit on QB, a hurry. All of his pass rushing snaps came against the RT and the RT dominated him in the run game. His pad level was too high, he lacked the ability to use power or technique to disengage from the blocker throughout the entire game. His only effectiveness in the run game came on slants to the inside and unblocked assignments (option game).

        For someone with such great workout scores, he does not display that kind of athleticism on the field. He got pushed past the QB routinely and showed very little savvy / technique in his pass rushing. If he couldn’t run around the Tackle and use a poorly executed swipe / long arm, he didn’t win.

        So, what are we left with? He flashed elite athleticism on a select few plays which was displayed at the combine, but he was beyond inconsistent in the games I saw and showed little promise in setting the edge in the run game or showing that he can flatten his chest / back to consistently bend the edge as a speed rusher. He did not display power / long arm to win in that kind of pass rushing game, either.

        In the end, I hope I’m wrong and that this guy turns out to be an All-Pro. Everything I’ve read about him off the field is positive. I just don’t see it on the field to convince me that he should be a 1st or even 2nd round pick. 3rd round is a good fit for him. Someone that has potential and could develop. 1st and 2nd round draft picks are expected to start in their first year and I don’t see him doing that unless there is an injury situation.

        If you can point me to tape that shows otherwise, I’m interested. As of note, I watch highlight tapes, too, since they generally show the best flashes a player has to offer. Those 2 highlight tapes I watched justified (in my mind) what I wrote above. He won on unblocked pressure or being able to run around the Tackle. Never showed a flat back, but occasionally a good hand swipe.

        • Samuel Beecham

          Thank you for the reply. I also enjoy engaging debates. I still fail to comprehend your arguments.

          So you watched the very first game of the season and one additional game you did not mention. You I am assuming you watched 4 games. Kansas State played 13.

          It would be interesting based on your logic if you applied the same scrutiny to other DEs…..for example Mile Garrett. He played against Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. He was going one on one with Kansas States FRESHMAN left tackle. Do you know how many sacks he had?? ZERO. Do you know how many tackles he had? ONE and that came late in the game. The consensus #1 pick was shut down by KANSAS STATE AND A FRESHMAN.

          One knock on Garrett for example esp this past season is he gets his stats vs weak competition and disappears vs good comp. I can pick out 3-4 games if not more of all the top DEs and make the same arguments you are.

          You don’t have 12 sacks, over 60 solo tackles, Big 12 defensive player of the year and Senior Bowl defensive player if you are an avg 3-4 round player. He will go high to
          mid second round mark my words.

          Again your entire argument is based on cherry picked 3 games. I gave you his stats over the course of the entire SEASON which was animated the top in the Nation for DE’s as well as his accolades and awards and his elite combine numbers. What else do you want?

          One thing you fail to realize is that Kansas State is a very disciplined team there are situations where Jordan has cover the flats, hold the edge and keep running QBs in the pocket etc. He just doesn’t get to rush the offense every play. He also seldom moved from left DE to give a different look or exploit a weaker player. Finally the majority of the teams he played in the Big 12 were spread teams that ran hurry up and passed quickly yet he still was top 10 in sacks and tackles for DE’s in the Nation.

          Yes I could provide you with a season long highlight of Jordon but why? It is obvious your mind is made up and at this point we can agree to disagree.

          Again 3 games is not a good enough sample size to support your argument and I could take every DE rated ahead of him and find several games in which they underperformed were outplayed etc.

          Anyway good have a discussion with you. Take care

      • Nick Cortez

        I should add that I am thankful you posted. I enjoy engaging in this kind of conversation.

    • http://facebook.com/Unicron5 Samnificient Jonsey

      put em on the Patriots ..then see how he “struggles”

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    Melifonwu has some just awful tape out there too, not that any player is perfect, but loafing is the worst trait to me

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    tabor’s hips looked so stiff in the corner-mirror drills, another bad sign

  • crosseyedlemon

    The combine reminds me of when slavers would sail into port, march their human cargo off ship and have them do tricks or tests to amuse potential buyers. It’s a total embarrassment for athletes to have to subject themselves to this B.S. which reduces them to nothing more than a commodity like a side of beef. The NFL needs to end this sorry spectacle.

    • Dane Ross

      Your ridiculous comparison severely devalues the atrocities slaves had to deal with. These athletes are applying for a job partially dependent on these facts. A job that, mind you, at the bare minimum could pay them 450,000 dollars a year for even a 7th round pick and 10’s of millions as a 1st rounder! The comparison ends at the fact most of these players are black and the owners of the teams are white.

      • crosseyedlemon

        Your entitled to your opinion but the owners have mountains of film on these athletes and don’t need to subject them to the combine where they are required to perform like trained seals at the circus. Maybe you think paying big bucks gives owners the right to rob someone of their dignity and treat them like a commodity but it doesn’t sit well with me.

        • MJ

          Dude, comparing them to slaves is the dumbest thing I have heard this week outside of whatever Trump tweets. This is voluntary activity, not chained up slave encampment. And it reminds you? Were you there? Athlete’s choose to go there for a job that has fame and high pay. Where did slaves have this back then? Just a stupid comparison all around. Way to go.

          • crosseyedlemon

            Your pretty naive if you think this is voluntary activity and the owners could never pull this crap on veterans who have a players union behind them. You can just imagine the reaction of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers if they were told they had to report to a combine and score well on some drills to prove that they are still worthy of being offered a contract.

          • MJ

            SMFH. You just don’t get it do you? Wow.

          • http://facebook.com/Unicron5 Samnificient Jonsey

            One would have to see how Willis stacks up in training camp. I think the whole point is, can this potential translate v. superior competition and does athleticism beat savvy, experience and equally adept scheme prepared opponents?

  • Troy Sowden

    No Kevin King? Expected him to be a riser, thought he helped his stock more than anyone outside Melifonwu.