Friday is the first day of on-field workouts at the NFL Combine. We’ll see running backs and offensive linemen do athletic testing and then display their traits on the field. It’s a big day for a lot of players. Here are the players the AP Nerd Squad will be watching.
Kent Swanson: Devin Singletary
The Florida Atlantic running back has some of the most fun tape among running backs in the draft class. There are still questions about his ability in the passing game, as he didn’t get many opportunities in his time with the Owls. If Singletary shows some ability as a route runner in drills this week, that’ll help his stock rise. He’s got electrifying talent as a runner, but if he can prove to teams that he can also be dynamic in the passing game, the Chiefs won’t have a chance to select him in day two.
Craig Stout: Elijah Holyfield
Another in a seemingly endless line of quality Georgia running backs, Holyfield is a wonderful blend of power and agility built for the next level. Able to cut quickly, make players miss or run right through them, Holyfield is a potential prize in this draft class. He has serious questions about his long speed, and both his pass protection and receiving ability will be under severe scrutiny this week. If he runs a solid 40-yard dash and performs well in the passing drills, Holyfield might find himself creeping into the early day two conversation.
Matt Lane: James Williams
With the emergence of Damien Williams and Darrel Williams, I’m a bit lower on the news at running back than most; an early pick on RB doesn’t tempt me. Instead, my focus is on a pure third-down back that can provide some special teams play, and the juice to break any touch open. There are a handful of backs that could be available on Day 3 that could be this guy (why oh why isn’t Darwin Thompson at the combine?) but James Williams out of Washington State has the best receiving production you can find at running back. His agility is top notch — he’s shifty and explosive in the open field — but I’m interested in his long speed to gauge what kind of home run hitter he can be.
Kent Swanson: Tytus Howard
Howard was one of the prospects we enjoyed watching at the Senior Bowl this year. He’s an outstanding athlete on tape, and I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of numbers he puts up in Indianapolis this weekend. Some consider Howard to be a Day 2 prospect, and even a top 50 player. If he puts on a show in drills and testing, that very well could be the case. Howard moves his feet extremely well for a man his size and has ideal length for the position. He’s a competitive player who gives great effort. Coming from Alabama State, he’s still got a long way to go, but even in a good offensive line class, Howard’s athletic traits could help him stand out.
Craig Stout: Andre Dillard
An early-round player that would be a luxury pick for the Chiefs offense, Dillard is a developmental tackle that needs help with his hands and his anchor at the next level. The AP Draft team holds him in high regard as a Day 2 pick, and it’s mostly because of his athleticism. His quickness and explosiveness show up in both run and pass blocking, and with some grooming, he has the makeup of a good left tackle. He should be at or near the top of a lot in the combine drills, and how he performs in agility and strength drills could be the difference between a first-round grade and a third.
Matt Lane: William Sweet
This is a very good offensive tackle class with great top-end talent that carries well into the middle rounds. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Chiefs are in a position to go hard after the position early, so a guy like Sweet — who is a big, long, raw tackle from the University of North Carolina — is a guy that has my interest. Likely a Day 3 pick, Sweet showcases adequate movement skills on tape but actually survives by using his length. I want to see not how he tests but rather how he looks in on-field drills: the fluidity of his drop step, the lateral slide drill, and if his hands and feet can work in unison.
Interior Offensive Line
Kent Swanson: Garrett Bradbury
The Chiefs may not be interested in a round one interior offensive lineman, but if Bradbury performs as expected this week, he could vault himself to a range of where the Chiefs select and push a player at a position of more immediate need closer to them in the first round. Bradbury’s best play is as a center, and while he isn’t the most stout, he has excellent quickness and moves easily in space.
Craig Stout: Michael Deiter
A player the AP Draft Team saw in person at the Senior Bowl, Deiter has a lot of the traits that Andy Reid looks for in an offensive lineman: quick feet, mobile, and versatile. Playing center, tackle, and guard at Wisconsin, he is a player that can be trusted at multiple positions and in space as a lead blocker in the screen game. He’ll need to show a better base and a little more explosiveness in Indianapolis to rise, but his agility and movement drills should grab the attention of more than just the Chiefs brass this weekend. Deiter looks like a mid-Day two pick that could have some starter impact in his first year.
Matt Lane: Connor McGovern
McGovern is a player that I’m quite a bit higher on than most other reviewers. On the football field, he’s a high-IQ player that plays with different techniques, good power through his legs, and refined hands. None of that leads to excitement for the combine, however. In Penn State’s rushing attack he was often asked to pull in different manners and make some long reach blocks. His ability to stay balanced and transition through all different types of movement should translate to a good overall showing in Indianapolis, showcasing the athleticism necessary for Andy Reid’s offense.
AP Draft Show
We continue our preview of the NFL Combine on this week’s episode of the AP Draft Show.