Washington wide receiver John Ross' record-breaking 40 was one of many impressive performances from the Combine in Indianapolis
The annual NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and all 32 teams have left Indianapolis ready to shake up their draft boards based on what they saw and heard. All of the prospects were put through the gauntlet of tests, drills and interviews but who emerged from the event on the rise?
Here are 12 players (ok, 11 and one entire position group) who impressed at Lucas Oil Stadium and boosted their 2017 NFL Draft stock:
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Peppers played all over the field with the Wolverines and was all over the field in Indy. His 40 time confirmed he was fast enough to play safety, not linebacker, and he made the poor players who went before and after him look slow when going through drills. He was actually thrown into linebacker drills after mostly training for defensive back drills but looked plenty smooth in everything he did across two days of testing. After seeing him perform, more teams will be convinced he can help solve numerous matchup issues in the NFL.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
After back-to-back appearances in the national title game, the spotlight is used to finding Watson on the field and that was the case once again in Indianapolis for the biggest throwing session of his young career. The Tigers’ signal-caller tested well throughout the event — surprising some with just how athletic he is — and was the best quarterback of the group when it came to the throwing session. While Myles Garrett had people buzzing about being the No. 1 pick, Watson did everything he could to insert himself into the conversation for the Cleveland Browns.
John Ross, WR, Washington
Everybody knew Ross was fast but there had to be a few skeptics who thought he’d run as fast as he did — a Combine-record 4.22 in the 40. While he didn’t do much after that, the buzz resulting from that blazing run did nothing to slow his momentum up draft boards and you’ll continue to hear his name mentioned in the first round. If there’s a team outside the top 10 that has a need at wide receiver, their scouts will be doubling down on the Ross tape after he ran out of the building and literally turned heads.
Hasson Reddick, LB, Temple
Reddick worked out with the defensive linemen but confirmed to many that he had what it takes to transition to an outside linebacker at the next level. He ran a blazing 4.52 40-yard dash, jumped out of the gym and looked very quick and smooth going through drills. There are few prospects rising as quickly as Reddick has during the draft process and the end result could be him becoming a top-20 pick when all is said and done.
Jordan Willis, DL, Kansas State
Everybody expected the athletic show Myles Garrett put on but another great day came from the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year that not many outside the Little Apple know about. Willis had a super quick 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash (which was an impressive 4.53 overall), ran the drills extremely smoothly and showed plenty of explosiveness with his jumps. He still may not sneak into the first round but this Combine performance certainly made him a very early Day 2 pick.
Obi Melifonwu, DB, UConn
A few years ago, Byron Jones jumped out of the building and wound up as a first-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys. Might Melifonwu follow in those footsteps? It’s possible after he posted an eye-popping 11” 9’ broad jump (second-best ever at the event), ran a shockingly fast 40 (4.40) and looked good in drills. Given how important size has become for DBs in today’s NFL, the former Huskies star should see a ton of increased interest from teams.
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Godwin played a huge role in the Nittany Lions’ surge toward the Big Ten title last season and was one of the most intriguing prospects among the receiver group at Lucas Oil Stadium. While everybody knew about his big ball skills, just how fast he is was up for debate but he erased any doubts by running a much faster than expected 4.42 in the 40 (doing so at 200-plus pounds too). Add in good numbers on the jumps and shuttles and few helped themselves more than Godwin did with his showing.
Adoree’ Jackson, DB, USC
The Combine was an event made for somebody like the terrific USC athlete and he delivered with an impressive performance. Jackson looked super smooth during drills and displayed some of the better hands of the defensive back group. Add in a quality 40 time of 4.42 and he continued to press the case that he is one of the defensive backs in line to be a first-round pick.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes’ tackling machine has plenty of tape for all to see but the one question about him was just how athletic he really was. Consider that answered as he ran a faster than expected 4.61 in the 40 and looked sharp in drills as one of the smoother players in the linebacker group. At this point, he should continue to rise up draft boards and become a very good option for teams that want a safe pick and don’t want to pay the high draft price to get a Reuben Foster.
Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
Folks were buzzing about Bolles as the top tackle in the draft coming into the week and he confirmed those projections by showcasing his terrific athleticism. Everybody still has concerns about just one year of major college football on tape but the way the big tackle ran (4.95 40), jumped and moved during drills helped alleviate those issues with each passing rep.
Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Do NFL teams love Lamp? Some certainly will start to fill that way after he checked off all the boxes when it comes to measurables and agility at the Combine. He already generated some buzz down at the Senior Bowl and continued to keep that going by putting up a position-leading 34 reps on the bench, running well and moving like one of the best in the group. Teams still probably think he slides inside but bottom line is he likely solidified himself as a first rounder for many.
The tight end group
This year’s tight end group is one of the best that scouts can remember and that was confirmed when they trotted out onto the field last week. Alabama’s O.J. Howard looked like a block of chiseled granite and ran an impressive 4.51 in the 40-yard dash to confirm his first-round status while Miami’s David Njoku continued to build buzz with his athletic ability. Add in Ole Miss’ Evan Engram (with a blazing 4.43 40), Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges (out-jumping a ton of wideouts) and small-school star Adam Shaheen (from Division II program Ashland) and this might be the most impressive overall group at the Combine.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.