Another NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, and thus declarative statements about who won and lost the Underwear Olympics have to be made.
It’s easy to look back on a week in Indianapolis and declare it a good one for players like Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett and Washington wide receiver John Ross. Those two players probably generated the most headlines with showings, but they didn’t really do anything unexpected.
Instead, these 10 players were among the real winners and losers of this year’s event.:
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
An athletic player being athletic at the combine gets overblown, but not with Hodges. He was expected to showcase his athleticism, and he certainly did in Indianapolis. He was the leader among tight ends with an 11’2 broad jump and a 39-inch vertical jump. He was also fifth among tight ends with a 40-yard dash time of 4.57 seconds.
The 6’6, 257-pound Hodges will never be viewed as a classic tight end who blocks and bodies linebackers working the short middle of the passing game, but teams certainly took notice of his performance.
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
There no faster riser among wide receivers than Godwin. He was overlooked at Penn State for much of his career because the quarterback play has been shoddy, and running back and future first-round pick Saquon Barkley carrying the ball so well. But Godwin has momentum.
He had a strong Rose Bowl with nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, and backed it up at the combine. He ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds and did the short shuttle in a flat four seconds, the best among all wide receivers.
In the past, we’ve seen receivers boost up in the draft — Cody Latimer becoming a second-round pick in 2014 comes to mind — and that’s what should happen with Godwin. He’s a better player than Latimer, though, so the buyer shouldn’t have to beware.
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
Jones has done everything he can this offseason to show he’s not just a product of the high-octane East Carolina passing offense. He starred at the Senior Bowl and carried that over to the combine. In passing drills, Jones looked like what you’d expect from a player who caught 158 passes last season.
He helped himself by running a 4.45 40-yard dash and registering an 11’1 broad jump to go with a 36.5-inch vertical leap. The latter numbers can show exposition, something teams may have doubted with Jones. He may have secured a spot as being the draft’s fourth-best wide receiver.
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Throughout the draft process Conley has been viewed as a fringe first-round pick. The depth at cornerback this year is so great that it could push a player like Conley back some. At the combine, he pushed back in a big way.
Teams will love his 33-inch arm length and 6’0 and 195-pound frame. Conley is NFL-ready from a technique standpoint, and now he has the size to match it. The only box left he has to check is adding strength. If teams aren’t worried about that, though, he could start overtaking some of his cornerback competition.
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
Length and athleticism for an edge rusher often equals a player on the rise in the draft. This year that is Willis. He’s another Senior Bowl standout who carried the momentum over. He ran the three-cone drill in 6.85 seconds, which was the best of the defensive line group. That’s a better number than Joey Bosa last year. He also ran the 40 in 4.53 seconds and put up a 39-inch vertical leap. For a player who models his game after Cameron Wake, teams might start to think they’re getting a similar type of player in Willis.
Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
You can argue all you want that Foster’s draft stock should remain unchanged, but getting sent home from the combine certainly isn’t a good thing for him. It’s easy to love Foster based on how he plays — and he’ll still carry a top-10 talent grade going into the draft. But he opened the door for teams to question his attitude. That questioning, in addition to playing a position that often gets undervalued in the draft, is a bad combination for the All-American linebacker.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
Kupp didn’t necessarily have a bad combine, he just didn’t have a good enough one to stop other receivers from overtaking him in the draft. He ran a relatively underwhelming 40 of 4.62 seconds and didn’t stand out in the explosive drills like the vertical and broad jumps. Kupp is still a good player, but teams need to understand he might only work in the slot in the NFL, and that could be a hit on his draft value.
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
No one expected Tabor to light up the combine from an athletic standpoint, but most thought he’d run a better 40-yard dash than 4.62 seconds. Tabor came into the combine with some off-field questions, and he could have quieted them some with a good workout. But he had pretty ordinary numbers.
If teams have him rated closely with some other first-round cornerbacks, they may get the nod because of athleticism and fewer character questions. Tabor fortunately has his quality play to fall back on, but his competition does too.
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
When a speed rusher comes to the combine and doesn’t have speed, that leads to questions. Harris is the latest Missouri pass rusher headed to the NFL, and with the Tigers he made his name off a good initial burst and the ability to work the edge. But after registering a 10-yard split of 1.66 seconds in his 40-yard dash, teams might want to go back and look to see what they liked about Harris. He was a borderline first-round pick, and will need a good pro day to boost his draft stock.
Teams that need a quarterback
Any expected action involving the New England Patriots and moving backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was quieted early last week when it was reported the team won’t trade him. That was blow No. 1 for the numerous teams at the top of the draft that need a quarterback.
Blow No. 2: Mike Glennon (Mike Glennon!) is now expected to get paid $15 million a season.
Blow No. 3: The Buffalo Bills still haven’t released Tyrod Taylor.
Blow No. 4: Although Deshaun Watson of Clemson probably had the best week of the top quarterbacks, none of them looked like the type of superstar you need at the position. You have to wonder how many of the quarterback-needy teams will punt on the position this year and hope they get a chance on someone like Sam Darnold of USC in 2018.