Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (QB11) participates in drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
John McClain: Who’s hot, who’s not coming out of scouting combine
When the last of the NFL scouts vacated Indianapolis on Monday, just about every general manager and coach had his list of who’s hot and who’s not coming out of the seven-day combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Teams still have pro days, private workouts, lunches, dinners, and meetings at their facilities with prospects hoping to get drafted so they can fulfill their dream of playing in the NFL. There were many impressive performances during the combine. Players at every position helped themselves by elevating their draft stock. Others didn’t do as well and will try to improve at their pro day.
A lot of prospects made news. Anthony Richardson had the best workout of any quarterback in combine history. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter had to leave for Athens, Ga., after an arrest warrant was issued, then posted bond and returned to Indianapolis to try to explain his legal predicament to just about every team. Quarterback Bryce Young made news by standing still so he could be weighed and measured – 5-10 1/8, 204.
In our combine wrap-up, let’s start with some players who went home feeling especially good about themselves – not to mention their agents hearing the cash registers ringing. Check out 10 players from the who’s hot category coming out of the combine, beginning with Richardson.
Anthony Richardson, QB, 6-4, 244, Florida
Some believe because Richardson ran the 40 in 4.43, posted a vertical leap of 40½ inches, had a standing broad jump of 10-foot-9, showed a howitzer right arm, and displayed so much athleticism that he vaulted into contention to be the first pick in the draft. Don’t believe it. He may have passed Will Levis for the third spot behind Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, but Anderson started only one season and had accuracy issues. He’s a boom-of-bust prospect who might be ideal for the Raiders (Josh McDaniels) or Panthers (Frank Reich), both of whom are coached by former offensive coordinators who specialize in developing quarterbacks.
C.J. Stroud, QB, 6-3, 214, Ohio State
Stroud, who’s waiting to run the 40 at his pro day, had an exceptional afternoon throwing the ball. He threw from the pocket and sliding left or right. He was on target whether the route was short, intermediate, or long. He was impressive in his interviews with teams. He’s in contention to be the first pick.
Jaxon Smith-Ngigba, WR, 6-0 ½, 196, Ohio State
Like Stroud, he’s waiting for his pro day to run the 40. After playing in only three games last season because of hamstring issues, he showed he’s healthy by getting off the line quickly, running precise routes, and catching everything in sight. He’s an explosive receiver who’s in the competition to become the first player drafted at his position.
Darnell Washington, TE, 6-7, 264, Georgia
The second-best tight end on the Bulldogs’ roster blew away the scouts with his size and athleticism. He ran a 4.64 40 with a 10-2 broad jump. He benched 225 pounds 21 times. And he made the best catch of the combine. On a sideline route, Washington had to leap, reach and turn his body and somehow managed to hang onto the ball for a magnificent one-handed reception.
Nolan Smith, Edge, 6-2, 238, Georgia
Smith showed extraordinary speed, quickness, and athleticism. He ran a 4.39 40, had a 41½ inch vertical, and a 10-8 broad jump. He didn’t lift or participate in drills. He’s waiting for the Bulldogs’ pro day. Coaches salivate over players with his quickness and speed who can fly off the edge chasing quarterbacks.
Lukas Van Ness, DE, 6-5, 272, Iowa
He had a terrific workout and solidified himself as a first-round pick despite not starting in college. He entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore who got a lot of playing time off the bench. Scouts love his 4.58 speed and the way he bends and stays low to get underneath offensive tackles on the pass rush.
Bryan Breese, DT, 6-5 ½, 298, Clemson
He battled injuries last season but had an excellent combine, ensuring he’ll be a first-round pick, possibly in the top half. If he is, indeed, over his health issues, he’s a big-time prospect inside. He has quickness and strength to go with his 4.86 speed – exceptional for a player his size.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT, 6-2, 282, Northwestern
His 4.49 40 got a lot of attention. He had a 37½ inch vertical and a 10-5 broad jump. And he benched 225 pounds 27 times. He can play inside or outside, depending on the front his coaches utilize. He made money at the combine.
Christian Gonzalez, CB, 6-2, 197, Oregon
Outstanding size and speed. His 4.38 40-yard dash raised a lot of eyebrows. He was already a first-round talent, but he may have been so impressive he could be the first cornerback drafted. His athleticism was off the charts – a 41½-inch vertical and an 11-1 broad jump.
Calijah Kancey, DT, 6-1, 281, Pittsburgh
He didn’t participate in any drills, but his size, school, and 4.67 40-yard dash drew comparison to another former Panther defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. Kancey’s 40 was faster than Donald’s. He’ll work out at Pitt’s pro day. He was the fastest defensive tackle at the combine in the last 20 years.
Now let’s look at five prospects from the category of who’s not hot and need to do better at their pro days:
Jalen Carter, DT, 6-3, 314, Georgia
He didn’t work out at the combine because of legal issues. There’s an ongoing investigation in Athens, Ga., where a warrant was issued for his arrest for reckless driving and racing that could have contributed to a car accident that caused two deaths. He’s the highest-rated prospect in the draft who could be the first overall pick or start to slide because of his off-the-field problems.
Stetson Bennett, QB, 5-11, 192, Georgia
He won two national championships for the Bulldogs, but he’ll be a 26-year-old rookie during the season. He threw the ball accurately and on time at the combine, but he lacks arm strength. He didn’t come off well when the media asked him about why he skipped the Senior Bowl and was arrested for public intoxication in Dallas. He’s still a third-day pick.
Andre Carter II, DE, 6-6 ½, 256, Army
He didn’t run the 40 and didn’t fare well in drills. And he benched 225 pounds only 11 times. Defensive backs and wide receivers lift more than that. He’s got to improve at his pro day to elevate his numbers. He’s impressive physically, but the numbers don’t match up.
Will Levis, QB, 6-4, 229, Kentucky
He said he had a cannon and wanted to show it off, and he did. He does have a cannon. But he also was off-target on some throws. He didn’t run the 40. He’s still expected to be the fourth quarterback drafted. Expect him to be more impressive at his pro day.
Michael Mayer, TE, 6-4 ½, 249, Notre Dame
He’s been the top-rated tight end prospect since early in the season. He’s got good hands, is tough, blocks, and can run after the catch. But his workout wasn’t impressive in what’s turning into an outstanding draft for tight ends. He ran a 4.70, didn’t bench, and had a vertical of only 32½ inches. He could still be the first tight end drafted.
(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on SportsRadio610.com).