INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL 2020 combine harvester is finished. Professional days and private training remain until we meet in Las Vegas on April 23 for the NFL Draft. When we do, many of the top Indianapolis players will have done enough to improve their inventory, with some even finding their place in the first round due to mind-boggling physical feats that took place at Lucas Oil Stadium last week.
Below, we are going to take a look at 10 players who had good combinations and who will see this success reflected during the draft night.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Jalen Hurts was the forgotten man at the quarterback, and no fault of his own. He had a scorching start for the Sooners in 2019, but he wasn’t as prolific late in the season. With the emergence of Joe Burrow and the good performances of the Senior Bowl of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, Hurts got lost in the mix. That changed to the combine, where Hurts ran a time of 4.59 40.
The problem was never Hurts’ athleticism, but his time of 40 confirmed that he was more than a bulldozer in the racing game; he also has the speed and maneuver to operate successfully in the NFL as well. It is this versatility that makes it so attractive to the next level. We talked about it last week at the combine:
Yes, we know, the Chiefs aren’t an ideal landing spot for a young quarterback looking for game time, but the point remains: Howls, say, the Dolphins would be much more problematic than Hurts on the Patriots behind Tom Brady. And that brings us to the comparison between Hurts and Taysom Hill, who had exactly that success in the New Orleans offense.
Is Hill a quarter of a franchise? He thinks he is capable, but the reality is that he is not, at least for the moment. But he is still useful in attacking Sean Payton because Hill can run, throw, catch and play in special teams. And while, like Hurts, he’s a former college quarterback, Hurts is a much better passer. And an ideal situation for Hurts would be to land in an established system that doesn’t need him to start as a rookie; instead, use it as the Saints use Hill and in a year – or even two – reassess his abilities as an NFL quarterback and go from there. There is no doubt that Hurts can play in the NFL, but there must be a plan to maximize his talents.
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
We LOVE Justin Jefferson. We loved him before the combine, but we feared he might be able to test more slowly than NFL teams would like. Well, we told him about the CBS Sports HQ set on Tuesday before he ran his 40 and he assured us that he would “surprise a lot of people” with his time of 40. Jefferson hit a 4.43 and that was after I measured 6 feet 1 inch, 202 pounds.
This is where we remind you that Jefferson played mainly from the slot machine last season, where he was one of Joe Burrow’s favorite targets. We asked him to deal with very little media coverage from the slot machine and he said he played outside at the start of his LSU career, where he regularly came out of the scrum without a problem.
For us, Jefferson entered the week in the second round, but he is now firmly in conversation on the first round, and if he lands in a place like New Orleans or New England, be careful.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
It is hard to believe that Taylor was often considered “the other runner in a very good class”. It wasn’t that he was fired, but that it was hard to keep your name in the headlines when you shared the spotlight with Travis Etienne, D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Zack Moss and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
But Etienne returned to Clemson and none of the other riders could reproduce what Taylor did to Indy. Namely, it only needed 4.39 seconds to travel 40 meters. For some perspective, Saquon Barkley ran a 4.41 and they are the only two running back to weigh at least 225 pounds go under 4.45 on the combine since 2014.
Taylor may not be as fluid as Swift or Edwards-Helaire, but his top speed and vision put him firmly in the conversation for being the first to get back on the board. There are questions about his skills to catch the passes, but after carrying eight passes each in 2017 and 2018, Taylor had 26 receptions and five touchdowns last season.
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
Getting into the Wirfs combine was one of our best offensive liners, in part because of his bizarre athleticism. This was confirmed several times last week. The right tackle from Iowa (which can also easily pass to the left tackle, by the way), ran a 4.85 40 (which led all offensive linemen), a vertical of 36.5 ( a combine record) and a 10 foot 1 inch wide jump (also a record). There is also this:
Wirfs also looks good in O-line drills, and will be one of the first offensive liners off the board in late April.
Mehki Becton, OT, Louisville
Becton was 6 feet 7 inches, 364 pounds in Indy, which is… ridiculous. And while it is a human mammoth, it moves like someone who weighs 200 pounds. In fact, Becton has told us that he can do reverse dunk – with both hands – no problem at the moment. We do not doubt him. On the ground, he ran the 40 in 5.1 seconds:
And Becton showed in an exercise position what anyone watching him during the season already knew: he can move. Pay attention to the left tackle here:
There is more! The becton contains 17% body fat. It is one of the most athletic offensive line classes of all time and there is a good chance that five – if not six – attacking linemen will participate in the first round, and Becton will be among the first to hear his name called.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
This was our initial response to Isaiah Simmons running a 4.39 40 time on the combine. A linebacker / safety hybrid who measures 6 feet 4 inches, 238 pounds, ran a 4.39 40. It’s weird. Which only makes sense when you hear Simmons say he models his game after Tyrann Mathieu and Von Miller. We would also add Derwin James, who sort of slipped in the middle of the first round in 2018.
This Will not do This is the case of Simmons, a talent among the top 10 who propelled himself into the top 3 of conversations at Indy. We love everything about his game – he can play linebacker, in the slot machine, on the edge and safely. We asked the combine harvester Joe Burrow what was the biggest thing he had to worry about in the national title match. “Isaiah Simmons,” he said. “You have to know where it is at all times.”
This is where we remind you that Simmons was once a three-star rookie from Kansas who couldn’t believe Clemson was interested in him:
CJ Henderson, BC, Florida
Henderson flew under the radar during the 2019 season, in part because the Gators were not in the national title conversation on the home stretch. But watch Henderson play and it quickly becomes clear that he is a first-round talent. He introduced himself to Indy and ran a 4.39 40 – the same as Isaiah Simmons! – and that was after developing 225 pounds 20 times. And at 6 feet 1 inch, 204 pounds, Henderson has a prototypical size for cornerback coverage in today’s NFL. He excels in coverage; the elite speed we saw on the combine manifested itself every week in Florida. If there’s one thing he needs to work on, it’s tackle, but it’s definitely a first-round talent. The only question is how far it will go.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
The 2020 combine was all about weird athletes showing off their weird athletics and few players did it better than Neville Gallimore. We spoke to Gallimore before he ran and asked if the rumors were true that he was going to beat Quinnen Williams’ 4.83 40 times in the 2019 combined. He smiled. A few days later, he was still smiling when he released a 4.79. Just to be clear: Gallimore is 6 feet 2 inches, 304 pounds and is not just a straight line sprinter. In Oklahoma, he used his rare combination of speed, power and speed to regularly give offensive adjustments to linemen, and his touch-to-touch range sometimes reminded us of Jeffrey Simmons, the first round of the 2019 Titans.
Like the other players on this list, Gallimore made money in Indianapolis.
Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida
Zuniga only played five games last season due to an injury, but his athleticism shone on the combine. He was 6 feet 3 inches, 264 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.64. He also had a 33 inch vertical, put 225 pounds 29 times and his longest 10 foot 7 inch jump was the best among all defensive liners. Zuniga used both power and speed on the field, whether it was blowing up games or whipping offensive linemen to get past the quarterback. And although he’s far from being a finished product, his physical gifts make him an intriguing prospect – and what Zuniga did to Indy will likely help his stock increase by a round or more.
Jeremy Chinn, S, southern Illinois
Chinn did not play in a Power 5 school and he did not even play in an FBS program. The former Saluki was on the NFL radar before the 2019 season and turned his field skills into an invitation to the Senior Bowl, then a month later showed up for the combine and also shown there. The 6 foot 3 inch 221 pound safety ran an unofficial 4.46 40, 225 pound with 20 presses on the bench, had a 41 inch vertical and a 11’6 wide jump. “He could get close to the line of scrimmage in the NFL because he’s a solid tackler, but don’t sleep on his covering skills either.
CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora wrote before the combine that “several teams… have an end of first and start of second note on it“after a solid Senior Bowl and he did nothing to interfere with his draft in Indianapolis.