Draft Daily: What to look for in combine performances
Pro Football Focus’ Draft Daily will hit on a number of NFL Draft-related topics including recent news, scouting reports, PFF draft takes, and much more on a frequent basis.
Welcome to my first draft daily of the draft season. I have a lot of things to get off my chest so kick back, relax, and enjoy the takes.
Every year prior to the NFL combine, I like to project numbers on guys I’m high on to see what they’ll run/jump/bench. I think this is helpful to an evaluation for a couple reasons:
- It sharpens your eye to help quantify certain traits (explosiveness, bend, etc.)
- It points out guys whose numbers don’t match your eye test
Earlier this week I wrote an article detailing what I believe each drill actually means to certain positions when translating to the NFL (read it), so those are the ones I focus on. This is the true value of the combine in my opinion. I don’t need a 40-yard dash to tell me that John Ross is fast. I don’t need a broad jump to tell me Tim Williams is explosive. But what if Takk McKinley has a ridiculous 10 time and vertical when I saw him as a slightly above-average athlete on tape? What if Dalvin Cook runs in the 4.5s after I thought he was the best home-run threat in this class? That is where I think the real value of the combine falls and what I’ll be focused on this week.
Leonard Fournette: #NotMyRunningBack
According to almost every prognosticators’ projections, Leonard Fournette will be a first-round pick come April. I wouldn’t want it to be by my team. Never mind the fact that this is one of the deepest running back classes of all time and that you could probably find a Week 1 starter on day three; Fournette simply isn’t a dynamic enough threat that he can overcome average or worse run-blocking to have success. When he had below-average run-blocking for an entire game in 2016 he had 68 carries for 314 yards (4.6 yards per carry; Dalvin Cook was at 5.9 for comparison). When he had above-average run-blocking for an entire game, those numbers jumped to 61 carries for 531 yards (8.7 ypc).
When watching the film there’s a legitimate reason there’s a worrisome discrepancy: Fournette has little to no patience. Fournette has one speed when he runs, and if that one speed is taking him toward a hole that’s blocked up, he has difficulty adjusting course. Because of this, I wouldn’t want him anywhere near a zone scheme and even then the gap scheme better have a pretty darn good offensive line to unleash his full potential.
PFF Draft Podcast
I’ve personally made it my goal to make our podcast as interesting as humanly possible this offseason and hopefully you guys are enjoying them. I know I personally would much rather listen to two idiots talk for 45 minutes while I’m working than spend five minutes reading an article (like this one). So if you guys have any feedback on what we can do better or anything you’d like to hear on the podcast in the future please send me your feedback either in the comments below or @PFF_Mike on Twitter.
DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
McDowell didn’t have the dominant junior season we predicted that would have vaulted him in the top-10 of this draft, but I’d argue he still belongs in that conversation for two huge reason.
1. He is 20 years old and won’t be 21 until June
That is incredibly young for a draft prospect. Consider the fact that DeForest Buckner was already 22 before he went seventh overall to the 49ers a season ago. In Buckner’s 20-year-old season he wasn’t near the pass-rusher that McDowell was in 2016 and decided to come back to school because of it. Buckner ended up being the second-highest-graded rookie interior defensive lineman in the NFL this past year. Makes you think.
2. McDowell absolutely dominated the best two offensive lines he faced: Notre Dame and Wisconsin
Against two of the better offensive lines in college football a season ago McDowell notched a ridiculous 13 pressures, including multiple against Ryan Ramczyk and Mike McGlinchey. The Notre Dame game in particular was impressive as he lined up everywhere from nose tackle to 9-technique and created havoc. While it’s concerning that he couldn’t replicate that against lesser opponents, dominating the best will always have a special place in my heart.
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