With the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine now in the books, us draft enthusiasts are left with no major events to look forward to until the actual draft which is still over a month and change away. There are Pro Days still to look forward to, I guess. With the Combine now behind us, our evaluations and rankings become set and more concrete as not much else will change from now until the draft. We have all the film, and we have all the athletic measurements. Now it’s just time to put that all together and attempt the impossible as we compute all the data in an attempt to accurately project and rank these players in order.

The NFL Scouting Combine proves year after year that a good showing of your athletic ability can lead to a skyrocket up draft boards, and ultimately more money during your rookie contract. Everyone places different weight on the Combine. In my case, I use it as a leverage meter. We’ll say I have Player A and Player B ranked just about even – for context sake, we’ll say that they’re both receivers at similar size as well. If Player B runs a 4.40 and Player A runs a 4.55, you know for sure I now have a clearer image of who to rank higher. The Combine can serve as a very useful tool when stacking up two players against each other.

On the other hand, some people may see a dude run in the 4.3s and automatically assume he can be a difference maker on speed alone. That’s not how it works. Game speed doesn’t always translate to field speed. Some players may even be faster on the field with pads than they are in a dome with compact shorts. In recent years we’ve seen workout warriors get their stock boosted all the way into the 1st round based on their athleticism showcased at the Combine, but simply not pan out at the next level. Some notable names that come to mind include: Vernon Gholston, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Matt Jones, among many others. Trust your eyes, trust the film, but don’t trust the numbers, please.

While it’s a little bittersweet that the Combine has come and gone so soon as it served our last little taste of prospect evaluation, it just means we’re that much closer to Draft Day. I inhaled as much of the Combine as I possibly could these past few days (including repeats on NFL Network), and below I compiled a list of the top players who “won the Combine”. Whether it was from an athletic ability excelling in drills, or a mix of both, a handful of players have to have left Indianapolis feeling good about themselves, knowing they proved themselves and increased their draft stock in the process.

Check out my list below and include some of your own Combine studs in the comments!

 
QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson) 

It wasn’t the athletic events that made Deshaun Watson a “winner” this past week in Indy, but instead it was his showing in passing drills. Watson by far displayed the most precision, accuracy, touch and timing while throwing the football. With that being said, he still performed at a good level in testing with a 4.66 40, 32.5” vertical jump, 119” broad jump and 6.95 3-cone drill.

With his performance at the combine, you could make the case that Watson separated himself from the likes of Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer as the top QB in this year’s draft class. In my case, he further solidified himself as the top signal caller in the 2017 NFL Draft.

RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

For whatever reason, Christian McCaffrey is often overshadowed by the likes of Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and even Joe Mixon when discussing the top RBs in this year’s draft class. McCaffrey showed UP at the combine and was the talk of the event during Day 1. To start, he soared to a 37.5” vertical jump – 2nd at the position, behind only Alvin Kamara. He went on to post a 4.48 in the 40 yard dash which ranked 4th among all RBs and was better than both Cook and Fournette. McCaffrey was also a standout in the 3-cone drill where he posted a 6.59 – the 2nd fastest by an RB since 2003. Absolutely absurd.

After the combine, a lot of draft experts were forced to re-think their RB rankings due to McCaffrey’s explosive athletic performance. Matt Miller even went as far as saying he needed to update his board and drop Cook to #4 at RB – insinuating that McCaffrey would be moved. I never doubted McCaffrey athletically wise, but I was even “wowed” by his performance. He solidified himself as a premier RB talent. However, I still list him as my 4th overall RB behind the likes of Cook, Fournette and Mixon, although McCaffrey may have cemented himself as a 1st round pick.

WR Chris Godwin (Penn State)

As Mike Mayock put it, “fast players run fast, slower players run slow”. This led him to making the statement that “Chris Godwin ran the most impressive 40 of any WR at the combine”, even over the new record holder, John Ross. I can attest to that as Ross was expected to run fast. Not to take away from his accomplishment, but Godwin ran way faster than anyone could’ve imagined at 4.42. That will get the attention from scouts and increase his draft stock in a big way. He also added 19 bench press reps – 3rd among all WRs.

Entering the combine, Godwin was a projected mid round prospect, but he definitely helped his cause this past week and now stands out in that 2nd-3rd tier of WRs. With his showing at the combine, he looks like a lock to go by the 3rd round.

WR John Ross (Washington)

Speed kills. John Ross was a blur on his way to breaking the 40 yard dash record with his posting of 4.22. Ross was already tossed around in the mix as a 1st round prospect, but he all but solidified that at the combine – and perhaps even cemented himself as a top 20 pick this upcoming April. A WR-needy team very well could swoop him up at pick 19.


TE Evan Engram (Ole Miss)

If anyone helped themselves the most on Day 2, it was Evan Engram. The WR/TE tweener blazed out a 4.42 40 time and now has everyone convinced he’s a WR at the next level – something I’ve been saying for months now (thanks Jesse). Engram showed off his elite athleticism with his 40 yard dash, plus a 36” vertical jump, 6.92 3-cone (2nd among TEs). These numbers from a guy at 6’3”/236.

It’s hard to imagine Engram slipping out of the 2nd round at this point. It will be interesting to see what position teams project him at, but he but more than proved he is capable of playing WR at the next level with his insane athletic showing. He’s currently a top 5 WR on my position rankings.

OL Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky)

While the offensive linemen are the most yawn-drawing to watch, I wanted to include one on the list for context sake. Already my top overall offensive linemen entering the Combine, Lamp solidified that status. He was incredibly balanced in every drill, finishing in the top 5 in the 40 (5.0), bench press (34 reps), broad jump (111”) and 3-cone drill (7.55).

Lamp checked all the boxes and offers the versatility to play tackle or guard, although he’s a better fit on the inside at the next level. Lamp should be the first offensive linemen this year.

DL Haason Reddick (Temple)

Haason Reddick’s draft campaign took off following a tremendous week at the Senior Bowl. He was Mr. Do It All. He made plays as a standup linebacker, up on the line with his hands in the dirt, rushed the passer, showed off in coverage and displayed great overall football instincts. After a great performance at the Senior Bowl, 1st round rumblings began to surround Reddick.

He just added even more ammo to that conversation after blowing up the combine. He ran the fastest of any defensive linemen with a 4.52 40 time and by far had the longest broad jump at the position at 133” and placed 3rd with a 36.5” vertical jump. Reddick helped himself tremendously and cemented himself as a 1st round pick in April’s draft. While his role is uncertain, he brings the versatility to do a variety of things and is an overall great football player.

DL Jordan Willis (Kansas State)

An absolute monster at the NFL Combine, Willis recorded the 2nd fastest 40 time among defensive linemen at 4.53, only behind Haason Reddick. He also had the 2nd highest vertical jump at 39” and finished with the quickest 3-cone drill at 6.85 seconds. Like Reddick, Willis built some draft steam after a solid showcase at the Senior Bowl. At 6’4”/255, he has the prototypical size, and those athletic numbers should boost him at the tail-end of Day 2.

Many experts have pointed out that Willis’ postings at the combine don’t match up to his game speed. This is a case we see every year – a player will post insane numbers leaving a lot of experts scratching their heads. Jordan Willis is the next guy up on my evaluation radar. Soon I will have a concrete diagnosis of how he projects to the next level.

LB Tyus Bowser (Houston)

Like Reddick and Willis, Tyus Bowser is another guy who showed up at the combine and has gained a steady increase in draft stock since then. You could make the case that Bowser was the most impressive linebacker up in Indianapolis. His 4.65 40 was more than respectable, but he made more of a splash in events like the vertical jump where he stood at the top of the position group at 37.5”, the broad jump where he was 3rd with 127”, and also the 3-cone where he posted the best time at 6.75 seconds.

In a rich class of edge rushers, Bowser presents solid value in the 3rd round range. After his combine, he more than solidified himself as a Day 2 pick come April.

S/LB Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)

The first player in Combine history to test at two separate positions was none other than Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers as he performed drills with both the linebackers and defensive backs. First came LB drills on Day 3 of the Combine. He stole the show running the fastest 40 at the position at 4.46 – a time that would rank in the top 5 among safeties. His 128” broad jump was tops among LBs and again top 5 among safeties. While he “wowed” with his athletic performance, he also looked tremendous in drills. What was seemingly an improvised session in LB drills, never having done them before, Peppers nailed it and looked the best of any at the position. In safety drills, he looked smooth and fluid.

Debate has surrounded Peppers for the past couple months due to the “uncertain role at the next level”. The way I see it, if you draft Peppers, you’re getting an elite athlete, and tremendous football player with versatility and good character. He can be a difference maker for years to come and a matchup player. As long as his coaches understand how to utilize, he’ll be well worth a 1st round selection.

CB Kevin King (Washington)

The NFL loves tall, lengthy corners. But tall, lengthy corners who can run fast? It’s a done deal. Kevin King played Robin to Sidney Jones’ Batman at UW, but he’s now ready to steal the show at the next level.King matched his 6’3” frame with a 4.43 40 yard dash. He showed the ability to go vertical as well with a 39.5” vertical jump – ranking 2nd among all corners.

Often overshadowed at Washington as he played in the same secondary as two potential 1st round picks in Jones and Budda Baker, King now looks to build a reputation of his own at the next level. In what has developed to be the best corner class in ages, King will likely slip to the 3rd-4th round, but could have went as high as the 2nd round in mostly every other draft.

CB Jalen Myrick (Minnesota)

The most impressive 40 time during the final day of the Combine goes to Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick. A seemingly unknown prior the Day 4 of the Combine, Myrick was sure to gain the attention from teams and scouts after posting a 4.28 40 yard dash – the 2nd overall fastest in the entire event, behind only, you guessed it, John Ross.

With that fast of a 40 time, Myrick is now the standout in that 3rd-4th tier of corners. A team will fall in love with his speed and could even draft him for that trait alone. Previously projected as a 5th-6th round pick, I could see him going in the 4th round when it’s all said an done after today.

CB Fabian Moreau (UCLA)

It’s honestly criminal the little amount of buzz Fabian Moreau has garnered during the draft process. I first caught wind of him during the East-West Shrine Game where he was far and away the most talented defensive back in that game. During that broadcast, Daniel Jeremiah even went as far as saying he, “wouldn’t be shocked if Moreau was a 1st round pick”. While that may be a bit of a stretch, Moreau certainly deserves some love on Day 2.

Moreau was a standout on film at UCLA, and helped his case by running the 2nd fastest 40 among corners today at 4.35. He has good size at 6’0”/206 and offers versatility to play either on the outside or in the slot. After the Combine, I have Moreau projected as a late 2nd round pick, but he’d be an absolute steal at any point prior to that.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado)

Like Kevin King, Ahkello Witherspoon is another one of those tall, lanky corners with speed as he proved on Day 4 of the combine after posting a 4.45 in the 40 yard dash. He topped that as he bested all corners with a 40.5” vertical jump.

Witherspoon shares a lot of similarities with King from size, length, speed and the fact that they were both overshadowed by opposite corners in college. Witherspoon to has the size, length and speed to patrol the outside the next level. He solidified himself as an early Day 3 pick and can even sneak into the 3rd round.

S Obi Melifonwu (UCONN)

Obi Melifonwu was the winner of the 2017 Scouting Combine. We all knew coming in that he would blowup, but he even exceeded those expectations. To start, he launched to a 44” vertical jump – the highest of any player at the Combine. To follow up, he vaulted to a 141” broad jump – by far the longest of any DB. He almost even jumped out of measuring range. He even ran a lot faster than I expected at 4.4 flat – at 6’4”/224, that is just stupid. Melifonwu proved he is an elite athlete with upside through the roof.

On film, I was quite underwhelmed with Melifonwu’s game. He doesn’t take advantage of his size and plays a bit too soft for my liking. I’m not one to place too much stock into a combine. However, Melifonwu’s performance went unmatchable. His combination of size and elite athleticism will boost him on my board a good bit. He set himself up to be a 1st round pick.

About The Author Jonathan Valencia

Jonathan has been investing his time in sports writing for the past decade. Breaking Football's lead writer covers anything from the NFL Draft to providing fantasy football insight. Born and raised in the Jersey Shore. Follow him on Twitter @JonValencia_WiB to talk anything football.