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2017 NFL Scouting Combine: John Ross and the Top Prospects That Improved Their Draft Stock

By Paul Wilson in Sports
| March 7, 2017 12:00 am PDT
John Ross NFL Combine

The 2017 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and with this year’s NFL Combine now over, pro scouts have a better idea as to where the top players will go, which big names might be a little overrated, and which lesser known prospects may deserve a little more attention.

The spotlight started up top, as Texas A&M stud pass rusher Myles Garrett blew everyone away with his amazing size and athleticism. Piece his stellar combine showing together with his natural talent and production in college, and it’s looking quite clear we have our top pick for this year’s draft.

Garrett wasn’t the only big name to blow the hinges off the combine, though, while there were also some regrettable performances on the flip side that might end up weighing some otherwise tantalizing prospects down. Let’s keep things positive as we take a look at who improved their 2017 NFL Draft stock the most at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine:

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Deshaun Watson was a winner at the quarterback position, too, but it’s pretty fair to assume after three years as a starter at Clemson, we knew everything about him we needed to know. With Trubisky, we thought we did.

The North Carolina product certainly flashed amazing talent and upside with the Tar Heels, but he was only under center full-time for one season. That one year was certainly stellar, but scouts wanted to make sure Trubisky has good size and he measured in over 6’2”. Trubisky still has questions about his fit in a pro system and his accuracy, but the size, athleticism (4th among quarterbacks in the 40-yard dash with a 4.67) and arm strength are all there.

Trubisky was coming into the draft a bit inflated to begin with, simply because the quarterback crop is thin and the need for a franchise passer remains so great. None of what we saw at the combine necessarily locks him into the top-5, but nothing he did hurt his chances of being the top quarterback selected, either. Still a little raw and inexperienced, Trubisky might be the most tantalizing passing prospect to work with in this draft class and we were all reminded of that again this past week.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

You could add Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook here, but for some reason when you looked at the top three rushing prospects going into this draft, McCaffrey was the one that had to prove himself. He certainly did that, as he rebounded from a regrettable 10 reps on the bench press to crush his 40-yard dash time and execute at a high level in every other athletic drill.

Shannon Sharpe noted on his show Undisputed recently that the whole point of the combine is to see if what we see on tape meets reality. McCaffrey put up elite numbers in a big conference over the last two years, displaying high level speed, quickness, explosiveness and soft hands. The big question, of course, was whether or not any of that was doctored or misleading.

There are still questions regarding McCaffrey’s overall strength and size when it comes to blocking or being a three-down back at the next level, but he can always improve his bulk and strength. He showed at the combine that he has the skill-set and overall athleticism everyone thought he did, which very well could cement him as a day one pick.

John Ross, WR, Washington

It’s one thing to be one of the fastest guys in college football, but showing up to the combine and breaking Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record is a pretty good way to get everyone’s attention.

The speedy Ross did just that, cementing himself as the fastest man to ever run at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Anyone who watches Ross knows he’s a burner, but putting a stamp on his elite level speed by breaking that record really puts his upside as a deep threat over the top. The beauty here, of course, is Ross isn’t some random name who shocked as a freakish speed guy. He’s a burner who excelled at Washington and already had the tools that had him in conversation to go in the first round. His blazing 40-yard dash run might just cement it.

T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina

Speaking of appealing speed, North Carolina rusher T.J. Logan probably made some money at the combine, as he paced all running backs with a blazing 4.37 40-yard dash time. Everyone already knew Logan was a burner, but putting it on the official NFL clock suddenly put him on the map as a very interesting gadget weapon.

Logan doesn’t currently have the frame or build to be an every down runner at the next level, but James White proved in the Super Bowl size and build doesn’t mean everything. Logan’s speed gave him a nice boost up draft boards with this stellar performance and numerous teams will take a long, hard look at him as a third down back and return man.

Curtis Samuel, OW, Ohio State

Samuel is another guy who probably boosted his draft stock at this year’ combine, as he ran a blistering 4.31 40-yard dash time to remind everyone of just how explosive he truly is. The downside with Samuel is that he doesn’t have amazing size and some think he lacks a true position, but it’s very hard to knock the guy for his elite versatility. Beyond that, you can’t teach speed and Samuel has it in spades.

Does Samuel project best as a running back, wide receiver or defensive back? It’s tough to say, but his showing at the combine displayed his raw physical gifts and someone will think they have the perfect spot for him.

Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi

Top tight ends O.J. Howard and David Njoku didn’t do anything to crater their draft stock at the combine, but Engram stole the showing with by far the best 40-yard dash time among tight ends. The Mississippi product certainly leaves something to be desired when it comes to overall size and blocking, but with the direction the league is going with more athletic move tight ends, Engram is a perfect fight in a pass-happy system.

The beauty with Engram is he’s more explosive than any other tight end and as an offensive weapon, there is a lot to get excited about. He certainly put that on full display at this year’s combine, finishing with high marks in the 3 cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle, the 40-yard dash and the vertical jump.

Engram needs to work on his focus and blocking, but his job is to win his matchup and go get balls. He showed at Mississippi he could do that at a high level and his performance at the combine only meshes with that notion. He won’t be a first round pick, but it’s quickly becoming arguable that he could end up being a serious steal as early as round two.

Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

Peppers proclaimed himself to be a safety before the combine, a position most scouts agree he’s appropriately suited for. Considering that’s the case, he proceeded to blow the hinges off the combine, showcasing amazing physical ability for a safety prospect.

Peppers is really a do-it-all talent, but it’s scary to imagine how good he could end up being if he puts all of his time and energy into one position. The size, athleticism and natural instincts were all already believed to be there, but to actually see the physicality, speed and explosiveness live at the combine was rather shocking.

While Peppers was recorded in his drills as a linebacker, his still came away impressing scouts, as he finished as the fastest linebacker in the 40-yard dash (4.46) and when you slide him into the safety category he still came in as the fifth fastest runner. Peppers further displayed his high level athleticism with a strong broad jump and the fourth best vertical among linebackers.

It’s anyone’s guess where Peppers will fit in exactly at the next level, but if you watch him at Michigan you know he can play football. And if you watched him at the combine, you know he’s a physical specimen. Someone will put that to good use and it will likely come from a team selecting in round one.

T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin

Another guy that surely helped himself at the combine is Badgers product, T.J. Watt. The younger brother of Texans star pass rusher J.J. Watt, T.J. has made a name for himself with one stellar season as a full-time starter at Wisconsin (11.5 sacks in 2016) and high level physical ability.

Watt was a major question mark entering the combine, largely because he has a history of knee injuries and he only had one productive season under his belt. It was a gem, of course, as Watt was a terrific all-around player who made a lasting impact for a great Badgers defense.

Scouts wanted to see how Watt’s seemingly solid athleticism and versatility translated to the next level, and the younger Watt passed all of the key tests. His straight line speed was only average in the 40-yard dash, but Watt impressed across the board otherwise, grading among the best contenders in the vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.

With great size and elite overall athleticism, Watt may have forced his way into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. His game tape suggests he can work on the line of a base 4-3 or standing up as an outside linebacker, too. An improved 40 time at his Pro Day could only help his already rapidly ascending draft stock.

Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

It wasn’t just about the skill position players or the big name defensive options at the combine this year, as Utah’s Garett Bolles also made a name for himself. Inexperience and raw ability are the big red flags with Bolles, but a guy who was perceived to be a strong athlete blew everyone away with stellar showings in the top athletic drills for offensive lineman.

Bolles was already regarded as an athletic, versatile beast on the line, but with amazing runs in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, 3 cone drill and 20-yard shuttle, he vastly improved his already strong draft stock. There is still work to be done for Bolles to fill out his body and develop a more well-rounded game, but he was fantastic in his lone season as a starter and the athleticism is off the charts. He may have cemented himself as a day one pick.

This year’s NFL Scouting Combine was full of surprising and/or impressive performances. We feel we locked in on the top efforts that likely impacts a player’s draft stock the most. We could have missed a few, however, as Joe Williams and Jaylen Myrick were two other guys we were impressed with that could have also helped themselves out this past week.

Have some other names you feel greatly improved their positioning leading into the 2017 NFL Draft? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below!



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