John Ross, Deshaun Watson shine in combine Saturday
Saturday at the combine the top quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends had their turn on the field. While this quarterback class may lack a potential No. 1 overall draft pick as in recent years, there was still some talented future NFL quarterbacks on display. However, the performance of the wide receivers and the tight ends was the big story of the day. Here are the top performers from the second day of on-field workouts at the scouting combine.
John Ross, WR, Washington
The combine-record 4.22 40-yard dash of Washington wide receiver John Ross was the big story of the day coming out of Indianapolis. Ross also posted exceptional marks in other areas with an 11-foot-1 broad jump and a 37-inch vertical jump. The type of explosion that Ross showed on Saturday was also evident in Ross’s games as he ran past and around defenders on a weekly basis and ranked 12th in the nation with 3.04 yards per route run. Unfortunately, Ross was unable to finish all aspects of his workout due to some leg cramping, but his performance likely locked him in as a first-round draft pick.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson is currently the No. 10 prospect on Steve Palazzolo’s draft board and his highest-ranked QB. Saturday at the combine, Watson looked like every throwing drill came naturally to him. He looked fluid in his drops and he threw accurate passes to unfamiliar wide receivers to all parts of the field. He also displayed nice deep touch and accuracy. Watson’s on-the-field performance helped to solidify his status as one of the top quarterbacks in the class.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard did enough to ward off the competition as the top tight end in the draft class. Howard is a known commodity as an excellent run-blocker from his time in the Alabama system and his 81.8 run-blocking grade in 2016 ranked No. 1 in the nation. However, the NFL is a passing league and a tight end needs to show he can do damage in the pass game to be a first round draft pick. On Saturday, Howard showed off his long speed and pass-catching ability in drills. Howard measured in at 6-5 and 251 pounds and was still able to run a very fast 4.51 40-yard dash. Howard did have a couple of drops in the gauntlet drill but looked fluid and athletic as a pass catcher.
Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi
Engram doesn’t really have traditional tight end size at 6-3 and 230 pounds but he is a dangerous mismatch weapon in the passing game. Engram’s average depth of target in 2016 was 9.3 yards, which shows that he can be used to move the ball down the field. On Saturday, Engram ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 — the fastest of the tight ends and would have been the fifth-highest for the wide receivers present. Engram also looked fast, fluid and natural in pass-catching drills. Engram shouldn’t be viewed as a traditional in-line tight end but a player who can be lined up in the slot, out wide or even used in the screen game. Engram is too fast for linebackers to cover and can outmuscle defensive backs. Engram definitely made money on Saturday and will likely not make it out of the second round.
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
Henderson was a player we highlighted that could help his draft stock with a good showing in Indianapolis. He did just that on Saturday as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 and had a 36-inch vertical leap. That speed and explosion showed up on game film as Henderson was a yards-after-the-catch weapon for Louisiana Tech (785 YAC ranks No. 4 in draft class) and a player capable of taking a shallow crossing route to the end zone. Henderson also looked explosive in drills and didn’t appear to have any difficulty quickly changing direction which can be an issue with players that have long legs like Henderson. He had a bad stretch of the gauntlet drill but other than that he had a good day with a solid 40-time and impressive drill work.
Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
Switzer is going to make his living in the slot in the NFL, where his elite change-of-direction ability and quickness will allow him to get open in the middle of the field. For three straight seasons Switzer has had more than 500 yards after the catch. On Saturday, Switzer ran a 4.51 40-yard dash and continued to look like a very technically sound wide receiver in drills. Switzer is very sudden when breaking off his routes, looks the ball in and can tuck it and run with surprising quickness. Switzer also showed off top-notch body control to stay in bounds after making catches. In addition to his receiving ability, Switzer is also a fearless and deadly punt returner who can make an instant impact on an NFL team’s punt return unit.