The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is officially underway, with Friday’s action kicking off the four-day event. The running backs and offensive linemen were the focal point of today’s workouts, with a handful of special teams players partaking in drills, as well. Considering their uncertainty at the running back position, the Chicago Bears had a lot to pay attention to in Indianapolis.
So few special teamers are invited to the combine, and the drills they partake in don’t apply to skills that are truly useful for their respective positions. However, the Bears met with all three kickers—Matt Gay, Austin Seibert and Cole Tracy—and Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky ran a 4.63 40-yard dash, even though the time doesn’t matter too much. With Cody Parkey set to be released and Pat O’Donnell on track to enter free agency, Chicago could end up adding one of those prospects, whether it be as a draft pick or an underaged free agent.
I had the fortunate opportunity to drive down to Indianapolis and attend drills again this year, and I managed to catch a lot of Friday’s action. These are my takeaways from the workouts at running back and offensive line.
I missed the first group of offensive linemen, as I was standing in line to enter Lucas Oil Stadium while the workouts were taking place. That said, I don’t have much commentary to add for that group, but two players in particular put together great athletic profiles: Washington State’s Andre Dillard and North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury. Both Day 2 prospects on my board heading into today, I expected them to have solid outings, but they surpassed my expectations.
The six-foot-five, 315-pound Dillard ran an impressive 4.96 40-yard dash with a 1.69 10-yard split and a 4.4 20-yard shuttle. He was an athletic pass protector on the blind side for quarterback Gardner Minshew this year, and his athleticism was apparent in drills. Some see him as a first-round pick, and though I don’t agree with that from what I’ve currently seen, I still have some more of his tape I’d like to dig into. As for Bradbury, he entered the weekend as one of my favorite offensive line prospects, and that certainly didn’t change today. He tested incredibly well, complementing 34 reps on the bench press with a 4.94 40-yard dash with a 1.7 10-yard split. He reminds me a bit of James Daniels coming out last year, in that he’s an athletic and intelligent interior lineman who’s a bit on the smaller side—Bradbury is just under six-foot-three and weighs 306 pounds. With some added anchor strength, he can be a top-tier offensive lineman for years to come.
Chicago might target a lineman late in the draft, but few of the Day 3 prospects truly stood out. The only player who fits under that billing who consistently impressed me is Northern Illinois’ Max Scharping. He looked quick and nimble in drills, showcasing good lateral agility and the ability to pull with quick feet and tight angles. Trey Pipkins from Sioux Falls also looked quick to me, which was encouraging, considering his small-school status. I haven’t been able to find tape of his, but I’m looking forward to watching him when something becomes available. Either of them project as swing tackles whom the Bears would be wise to target late on Day 3.
My two favorite linemen in the second group were Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Kansas State’s Dalton Risner. Risner’s technique was textbook all day, as he looked refined in his balance, frame and movement. His feet were quick, his movements weren’t too long, and he showed off a powerful punch upon contact. Much debate will be had about whether Williams can play tackle at the next level or not—I think he definitely can, for what it’s worth—but he still has the potential to be a Pro Bowl lineman. His game relies more on intelligence, technique and athleticism than it does on nastiness, so the combine benefits someone with his skill set. He took advantage of that, showing off solid lateral movement, sharp angles when turning the corner and good speed, running a 5.12 40-yard dash. Both of those players will more than likely end up drafted in the first round.
Ole Miss’ Greg Little started the season as a legit first-round pick on my board, but his stock has dropped a little bit since then. His stock will continue to decline after his combine outing, as he performed poorly in positional drills and ran disappointing 40-yard dashes and 20-yard shuttle times. His movements in lateral agility drills looked unnatural and long, and his form and balance looked poor when engaging with defenders. In a class where players like Dillard, Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford have seen their stock rise since the end of the season, Little’s poor outing at the combine surely won’t help his case as teams look for other tackles to draft.
This year’s draft class is stacked with mid-round running back talent, which bodes incredibly well for the Bears. While some potential targets had disappointing outings, others did a great job of boosting their stock.
Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary entered the day as one of the best runners in the class, but he put together disappointing measurements and numbers in drills. He measured in at five-foot-seven, shorter than his presumed five-foot-nine. His height certainly wasn’t boosted by his times in drills, as he ran a 4.66 40-yard dash at 203 pounds and put together surprisingly disappointing times in agility drills. Considering his elusiveness on tape, the fact that he failed to even post average times in the 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drills is underwhelming. He did look sharp in positional drills, though, so he will have to hope that those prevent his draft stock from dropping too much.
Though he couldn’t participate in positional drills due to injury, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill tested very well in the drills he did. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of the running back class with a 4.40, complementing that with a speedy 1.52 10-yard split and a 2.55 20-yard split. He also had a 40-inch vertical and a 10’10” broad jump, both fantastic marks for their respective drills. It would have been interesting to see him partake in positional drills, but he could potentially be a target for the Bears in the third or fourth round.
One of the best performances of the day came from Penn State’s Miles Sanders. Saquon Barkley’s former backup ran very well and put together great outings in positional drills. He ran a 4.49 at 211 pounds, ran a great 6.89 three-cone drill and tested above average in the 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump, broad jump and bench press. He showed the ability to sink his hips and make precise cuts in drills, and his hands and route running were both reliable. With his compact frame and his blend of athleticism and power, he could be in play as early as Round 3 for Chicago.
Several late-round runners put together great performances, too. Temple’s Ryquell Armstead ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at 220 pounds, he moved well in positional drills, and his hands looked reliable when he ran routes. Kansas State’s Alex Barnes added onto his incredible 34 bench press reps from Thursday with a 6.95 three-cone drill and a 4.1 20-yard shuttle at 226 pounds, which will do nothing but help his stock. Mike Weber from Ohio State ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, and he looked explosive in positional drills and showed off great lateral agility and good hip-sinking ability. Washington State’s James Williams only ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at 197 pounds, but he looked great in receiving drills and showed off the natural hands that are apparent on tape.
Regardless of what the Bears do at the running back position, they will have more than enough options to choose from who could step in and contribute to their offense.