There is a lot to process from the six days of weighing, measuring, testing and talking just completed at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Much of it is inconsequential, but there is some information that was especially pertinent for a rebuilding Bears team trying to escape the NFC North cellar for the first time in five years – and for the three division foes trying to stay ahead of them.
1. After less than two months together, it already seems as if the thinking between Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy is more aligned than it was with Pace and John Fox.
At least it seemed that way when Pace said: “I think when mistakes are made in organizations, it’s when the personnel department and the coaches are not on the same page. That continuity is important; that chemistry is important. I think it’s already naturally existing with us in the concept dialogue that we have, and I think you eliminate mistakes when you do that. If you share a vision for a player, then it helps eliminate some of those mistakes.”
2. The suspicions that Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley was not worthy of the Bears’ No. 8 pick in the first round may have been confirmed.
Ridley still is likely to be the first wide receiver off the board, but SMU’s Courtland Sutton and others closed the gap. While this crop is considered extremely deep, it’s possible that no wide receivers will come off the board in the top 12 or 15.
Ridley’s 4.40 40-yard dash was excellent, but he showed a lack of explosion in other tests, including a 31-inch vertical that was nearly 5 inches less than the average for wide receivers. Ridley’s 9-foot-2 broad jump almost was a foot less than the average. His 4.41-second 20-yard shuttle was pedestrian.
Sutton, who is 6-foot-4, ran a 4.11 in the 20-yard shuttle, and his 6.57 3-cone time was .01 off the best among wide receivers. Not that bench press is considered a critical test for wideouts, but Ridley’s 15 reps were average.
Ridley still is considered an excellent route runner, and he played in a pro-style offense, even though Alabama didn’t throw the ball frequently.
3. Many draft analysts believe quality wide receivers may be available into Round 4, and LSU’s DJ Chark is a perfect example. The 6-foot-3, 199-pound Chark had only 66 career catches, but averaged 20.5 yards a reception, and he ran a blistering 4.34 40 with a 40-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-9 broad jump.
Maryland’s D.J. Moore may have improved his stock more than anyone. At an even 6 feet and 210 pounds, the Big Ten receiver of the year ran 4.42 in the 40, had a position-best 11-foot broad jump, a 39½-inch vertical and a 4.07 20-yard shuttle.
The Bears aren’t the only NFC North team looking for WR help. While their needs aren’t as serious, the Packers and Lions will be in the market as well, and combine performances confirmed that they can wait until the second or third day to get help.
4. Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has a unique blend of talents, all of which would come in handy for a Bears team seeking impact players on the second level.
Edmunds had only 10 sacks in his final two seasons at Virginia Tech because he wasn’t often used to blitz or rush the passer, but he’s considered a potentially excellent edge rusher after running a 4.54 40 at 6-foot-4 and 253 pounds. Edmunds played more inside linebacker in college and showed excellent coverage ability and great range vs. the run, with 32½ tackles for loss in his final two seasons. He’s a bit raw, but that’s to be expected from a 19-year-old, although he came across as mature beyond his years in Indianapolis. He could be a monster in two or three years.
His 4.38 40 perhaps was the biggest shock of the combine. It was the fastest time ever run by a linebacker, and he also managed 20 bench-press reps of 225 pounds, using a prosthetic at the end of his left arm to balance the bar. The 227-pound Griffin ran the exact time his twin brother, Shaquill, ran last year – as a 197-pound safety, who went to the Seahawks in the third round.
Shaquem Griffin was the All-American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2016, when he had 11½ sacks. If Shaquem Griffin’s floor previously was “standout special teams player,” it’s gone up a couple of stories.
6. Going into the combine, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick was the slam-dunk No. 1 safety in the draft because he has the size to play the position but the movement skills and cover ability to play cornerback or in the slot.
Not so fast. Florida State’s Derwin James blew the doors off Lucas Oil Stadium, running a 4.47 40 at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. He also had a 40-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump. James, who can bang with the best, also displayed exceptional feet and the movement skills that could project him to a big corner in some schemes.
7. As much as Tarik Cohen wants to believe he is to the Bears what Tyreek Hill is to the Chiefs, that may be a tad ambitious on his part.
Nagy said as much when he spoke to the media on opening day of the combine.
“Size-wise, you see that and you say, ‘OK, they’re pretty similar, right?’ ” Nagy said of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Hill and the 5-foot-6, 179-pound Cohen. “And then you have the speed and shiftiness and the moves; everything that they do.
“They’re similar in the fact that you can move them around and do different things. [But] on tape, you’re going to see that Cohen can run the ball a little bit more from the backfield. Not that Tyreek can’t, [but] they’re different. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them, but I do understand why people [do]. I’m very excited to be able to coach both of them, and look forward to working with Cohen.”
In two seasons, Hill has 136 receptions for 13 touchdowns and a 13.1-yards a catch average. As a rookie last year, Cohen caught 53 passes for 353 yards, a 6.7-yard average. Hill has run the ball only 41 times in two years but averaged 8.0 yards a carry. Cohen had 87 carries as a rookie for a 4.3-yard average.
8. The Packers’ biggest need on offense is at tight end, and it was impossible to ignore the performance Penn State’s Mike Gesicki put on in Indianapolis.
Gesicki’s 41½-inch vertical jump tied for the best among all players, he was sixth in the 60-yard shuttle with an 11.33, tied for seventh with a 10-foot-9 broad jump and was eighth with a 6.76 3-cone drill and also eighth with a 4.10 20-yard shuttle.
The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Gesicki doesn’t block very well because he lacks bulk strength, but so do almost all of the top tight ends in the draft and the NFL. But Gesicki has long (34-inch) arms and big (10-inch) hands. His 4.54 40 time was better than a lot of wide receivers. He caught 105 passes for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Penn State, and he could be the field-stretching deep threat NFL teams crave at tight end.
9. No team needs running back help more than the Lions, who hit the daily double last year – dead last in rushing yards and average gain a rush. Fortunately for them, this draft class is very good, even after Saquon Barkley, who potentially is the No. 1 overall pick.
San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny, who rushed for an NCAA-best 2,248 yards last year and averaged 7.8 yards a carry, ran a 4.46 at 220 pounds and showed impressive pass-catching skills, proving his 73-yard TD reception in the Senior Bowl was no fluke.
USC’s Ronald Jones had hoped to run in the low 4.4s but tweaked a hamstring on his first run. He posted an impressive 36½-inch vertical before the injury, which also could prevent him from performing at the Trojans’ pro day on March 21. It’s possible Jones could schedule a personal workout closer to the draft. If not, that would leave teams to focus on his three-year production, which was excellent. Jones rushed for 3,619 yards and 39 touchdowns, while averaging 6.2 yards a carry. He also had hoped to display his pass-catching skills in Indianapolis, since they rarely were used at USC, but his injury prevented that as well.
10. The Vikings’ O-line needs are more serious inside, which might be a very good thing this year since many experts have the guards rated more highly than the tackles.
The combine highlighted some impressive testing by a handful of O-linemen, and some major disappointments.
Texas-El Paso’s Will Hernandez did a position-best 35 reps on the bench and could sneak into the first round. Hernandez is the consensus top guard after Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. UCLA’s 6-foot-9, 309-pound Kolton Miller turned in the most spectacular combine performance among the O-linemen. He ran a 4.95, had a 31½-inch vertical jump and an O-line-best 10-foot-1 broad jump.
Ohio State’s Billy Price, who could step in at center or guard for most NFL teams, suffered a partially torn chest muscle on his third rep on the bench and could be out until training camp. He still had a much better week than Oklahoma’s 6-foot-8, 345-pound tackle Orlando Brown, who had a position-worst 14 reps, and combine-worst of 5.85 in the 40 and only 19½ inches in the vertical. His 6-foot-10 broad jump was the worst in combine history.
Brown’s quarterback, Baker Mayfield, pointed out that he didn’t allow a sack all season, but he was scolded by coaches for loafing during field drills, and the big guy may have fallen out of the first round.