It’s NFL Combine week, which, when I was a sportswriter, meant five days of seeking out NFL Network, grumbling about arm lengths and broad jumps and, just generally, being not nearly as pleasant to be around as I am usually.
And trust me. I’m not very pleasant to be around under normal circumstances.
But, as much as killjoys like me may whine, it is a truly big showcase for Missouri draft hopefuls Drew Lock, Emanuel Hall, Kendall Blanton, Paul Adams, Terry Beckner and Terez Hall.
Pete had a good primer on what to watch for out of the former Tigers this week, so I’m going to take a different tack.
Here are the guys from other schools at each position that are similar in pre-draft status to the Missouri participants. The guys who, if you’re looking for a good temperature check on how Lock, Hall (x2), Blanton, Adams and Beckner are doing this week, you should be paying attention to as well.
Drew Lock (6-4/225)
Career Stats: 883-of-1553, 12193 yards, 99 TD, 39 INT; 437 rush yards, 9 TD
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio St. (6-3/220)
Career Stats: 413-of-590, 5396 yards, 54 TD, 9 INT; 194 rush yards, 4 TD
Daniel Jones, Duke (6-5/220)
Career Stats: 764-of-1275, 8201 yards, 52 TD, 29 INT; 1323 rush yards, 17 TD
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma (5-10/195)
Career Stats: 350-of-519, 5406 yards, 50 TD, 14 INT; 1478 rush yards, 13 TD
Pretty much any rankings site you look at, these four are in each other’s company, though some may have Haskins first, some Jones, some Lock, some Murray. Lock has the prototypical frame and arm for an NFL quarterback, but so do Jones and Haskins. Murray’s undersized, but he also has the ground game to add into the equation, plus the fact that he’s the reigning Heisman winner. Jones and Lock also have to contend with a lack of success at the collegiate level when compared with Haskins and Murray. The real utility for Lock at the combine is going to come through the behind-closed-doors meetings with teams and (if he throws) how impressive he looks on the field.
Emanuel Hall (6-3/195)
Career Stats: 97 catches, 2016 yards, 16 TD
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo (6-2/210)
Career Stats: 133 catches, 2367 yards, 25 TD
Terry McLaurin, Ohio State (6-1/205)
Career Stats: 75 catches, 1251 yards, 19 TD
Riley Ridley, Georgia (6-2/200)
Career Stats: 69 catches, 1015 yards, 13 TD
McLaurin and Johnson are more in the rangy, burner mode like Hall, so they may be his most direct competition. But Ridley offers a different type of receiver – more physical, possession-based – out of largely the same frame that teams could consider instead of track stars. Hall obviously has to address any lingering durability questions from teams and then show that he can be a sort of otherworldly testing talent in the 40, shuttles and jumps to make a team take a chance on him over other, more polished prospects.
Kendall Blanton (6-6/265)
Career Stats: 44 catches, 476 yards, 6 TD
Keenen Brown, Texas State (6-3/250)
Career Stats: 51 catches, 577 yards, 5 TD
C.J. Conrad, Kentucky (6-5/252)
Career Stats: 80 catches, 1015 yards, 12 TD
Dax Raymond, Utah St. (6-5/250)
Career Stats: 72 catches, 873 yards, 3 TD
Blanton falls into the “teams taking a chance on guys” range of the draft, so his mission at the combine may be sticking in enough teams’ minds favorably that he could end up getting his pick of the litter as an undrafted free agent. He’s not as prolific a pass catcher as those bunched around him in the rankings, but we saw some glimpses of what he can do when he’s open as well as his ability to make a plus catch or two…even if he gave some of those back with easy drops. I know Conrad is a bad word around these parts (what with his roving hands…), but he would be a good measuring stick for Blanton: played a lot as Wingback in a run-heavy SEC offense and also could catch when he needed to.
Paul Adams (6-6/315)
Derwin Gray, Maryland (6-5/330)
Isaiah Prince, Ohio St. (6-7/310)
Olisaemeka Udoh, Elon (6-5/336)
The intrigue around Adams at the combine is whether he will show to teams better as a tackle or a guard. He had a better run blocking than pass protection profile in college and, if he can show some speed and agility in testing and drills, teams could see him as a valuable pulling guard option. Prince would be a good analogue for a future as a tackle, Gray and Udoh for a possible position change to guard. If Adams can show he’s quicker and more agile than all three and not give up much in the strength department, it could be a productive week for him.
Terry Beckner (6-4/295)
Career Stats: 120 tackles, 32.0 TFL, 13.5 sacks
Demarcus Christmas, Florida St. (6-4/305)
Career Stats: 106 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
Kevin Givens, Penn State (6-1/285)
Career Stats: 83 tackles, 22 TFL, 13.5 sacks
Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois (6-2/310)
Career Stats: 204 tackles, 34.5 TFL, 18 sacks
Like Hall, Beckner’s big questions are going to be injury-related. In Beckner’s case, it’s the two season-ending knee injuries he suffered in 2015 and ’16. He stayed injury free and had fits of production over his final two seasons at Missouri, but you can tell the early career injuries took a bite out of his potential. Now, he’s somebody that can make a play or two to absolutely wreck a series but then disappear for the next three or four series. You can’t really prove play consistency at the combine, which is what Beckner needs to do. What he can do, like Hall, is put up some promising test numbers that show potential suitors his injury issues are behind him and he’s back to the insane measurables that made him a top-flight prospect out of high school.
Terez Hall (6-2/230)
Career Stats: 178 tackles, 23.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks
Bryson Allen-Williams, South Carolina (6-1/230)
Career Stats: 176 tackles, 25 TFL, 6.5 sacks
Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin (6-3/237)
Career Stats: 251 tackles, 29 TFL, 6.0 sacks
Emeke Egbuie, Houston (6-4/240)
Career Stats: 162 tackles, 13 TFL, 5.0 sacks
If there were one of those punch-measuring arcade machines – you know, the one where you hit the bag and it registers points based on how hard you hit it – at the combine, then Hall would be in great shape. That is his biggest strength: screaming into a gap and just lighting up a ballcarrier. Unfortunately, Hall’s going to have to let his film talk for him when it comes to that with NFL teams. And his film also says that he has trouble positioning himself and is a subpar pass defender. As it is, Hall can try to show off his reaction time in drills as well as put up some eye-catching numbers in the speed and agility measurables.