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NFL Combine 2017: Top performers in Indianapolis

Deshaun Watson, Myles Garrett, and Christian McCaffrey all boosted their draft stock at the Combine.

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine was a chance for college football’s brightest stars to shine in front of NFL scouts, and many made the most of the opportunity. Potential first-round selections like Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson wowed executives with electric displays of athleticism. Other standouts, like LSU tailback Leonard Fournette and Florida cornerback Teez Tabor, left some questions they’ll hope to answer when their respective programs hold their pro days this spring.

While the combine won’t make or break a player’s NFL career, it can certainly make his introduction to the league a bit easier with a premier draft slot. Here’s a look at the performers who boosted their stock the most in Indianapolis, broken down by position groups.

Quarterbacks

Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight left his mark as 2017’s most dynamic quarterback after leading his group in the 40 (4.54), vertical jump, and broad jump, and finishing second in the 20-yard shuttle — so much so that he might not even play QB at the next level:

Deshaun Watson wasn’t far behind, but his most impressive performance of the event wasn’t measured in seconds or inches. He dazzled scouts with an array of accurate passes, stating his case as this spring’s top prospect.

Wide receivers

Washington’s John Ross made himself a household name in NFL circles by running a combine-record 4.22 40-yard dash.

His 133-inch broad jump (11’1) solidified his status as a freak athlete.

East Carolina’s Zay Jones may have pushed his way into first-round consideration after performing with the group’s elite athletes in the jumps and shuttle runs, while Clemson’s Mike Williams underwhelmed in his three events at the combine despite his plans at being the best Mike Williams in the NFL. Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, another potential first-rounder, did not work out due to an injury.

Running backs

Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey , the 2015 Heisman runner-up, showcased the athleticism that made him one of college football’s most dynamic backs. He posted top-five scores in the 40 (4.48), vertical jump (37.5 inches), three-cone drill, and 20- and 60-yard shuttle runs. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine may have run one of the group’s weakest 40s, but his jaw-dropping 30 reps on the bench press were more than all but four of this year’s offensive linemen.

Tight ends

Alabama’s O.J. Howard was as good as advertised, finishing in the top five at tight end in five of the combine’s seven exercises. David Njoku from Miami wasn’t as impressive, but his 4.6 40 time and solid performance in agility drills at nearly 250 pounds should make him a reasonable consolation prize for any team unable to trade up and grab Howard.

Offensive linemen

Utah’s Garett Bolles established himself as one of the most athletic linemen in Indianapolis, running the group’s second-fastest 40 (4.95) and posting upper-tier results in the vertical jump, shuttle run, and three-cone drill. His teammate, Isaac Asiata, also impressed with 35 reps at the bench press and solid speed numbers for a 325-pounder. Vanderbilt tackle Will Holden also improved his stock with a handful of strong performances.

Defensive linemen

Myles Garrett put on a performance worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, showcasing the athleticism of a tailback at 272 pounds.

However, no pass rusher may have helped his stock more than Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers, who was a top performer on the bench press, in the 40, and in two other agility drills. The FCS star can parlay that huge performance into a Day 2 selection in April.

Linebackers

Florida’s Alex Anzalone stated his case as the draft’s quickest linebacker after posting high marks in the 40, three-cone drill, and shuttle runs. Houston defender Tyus Bowser was right there with him throughout the day, showcasing the fluidity needed to work both as a pass rusher and in coverage. The Wisconsin duo of Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt impressed as well.

Temple’s Haason Reddick, who worked out with the defensive linemen but projects as a linebacker in the NFL, boosted his stock tremendously with a solid all-around performance that could slide him into the first round.

Cornerbacks

Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick’s 4.28-second 40 would have been the talk of the town had it not been for John Ross’ performance Friday. Central Florida coverage specialist Shaquill Griffin also impressed, breaking the 4.4-second barrier in the 40 and posting high results in the bench press and jumping events.

Safeties

UConn’s Obi Melifonwu had an all-time all-around performance, posting the combine’s longest broad jump of the year (11’9), running a 4.40 40-yard dash, and ripping off a 44-inch vertical leap. His freak athleticism could push him into a premier pick. North Carolina State safety Josh Jones was nearly as good, finishing in the top three of four different events (40, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press).

Finally, Jabrill Peppers, who worked out with the event’s linebackers Sunday, met expectations as one of the draft’s most athletic specimens. Peppers only participated in four events, but together the performances left him among the top half of this year’s safeties.