Each year around 350 players are invited to the NFL Scouting Combine to prove their draft worthiness. However with a pool of 130 FBS teams along with the other football sub-divisions, invariably some prospects will be left out. Below is a breakdown of several players that I feel are the best unheralded draft day options who were omitted from the combine.
Quarterbacks - 17 invitees
Mike Glass III - (6'0/209) - Eastern Michigan
Glass is perhaps best known for his LeGarrette Blount-esque incident in EMU's bowl game against Pitt where he inadvertently dropped a ref with a right-cross thrown at a Pitt defender. The incident overshadows an impressive body of work from a G5 QB that displayed above-average athleticism paired with a 66.3% completion percentage that ranked above P5 standouts such as Trevor Lawrence, Tanner Morgan and Brock Purdy, while falling just shy of first-round prospect Justin Herbert's 66.8 comp percentage.
Obviously the competition level is well below that of the power-5 schools, but Glass III is adept at buying time and throwing on the run. He rushed 189 times for 840 yards and 14 touchdowns in 20 games played over his college career, so he is a willing and able runner when the opportunity presents itself. His stout lower-body made it tough for would-be tacklers to wrap him up and he throws a nice intermediate-range ball with a particularly good feel for hitting his receivers in stride down the sidelines. Glass III received an 82.7 overall passing grade from PFF in 2019, which ranks above notable combine-invitees such as Nate Stanley, Jacob Eason and Jordan Love so he has projectable skills from an analytics perspective as well.
The knocks on Glass III are his size, which at 6'0/200 is below the preferred threshold for prototype NFL QB's. He also has a tendency to throw off his back-foot which contributed to his sub-par 24/11 ratio. Glass III will lock onto his primary receiver a little too long when he should make progressions and his relative inexperience in terms of games played means he will need ample development as a project at the next level. It has been speculated that Glass III could parlay his athleticism into a position change but that remains to be seen for now. He ran in the 4.7 range previously, so he doesn't possess game-breaking speed from a skill-position perspective. Glass III will be closely monitored during his pro-day testing which is scheduled for 3/12/20.
Bryce Perkins - 6'3/215 - Virginia
Perkins (6'3/215) is perhaps the most puzzling combine snub at the quarterback position, as his arrival on campus at UVA coincided with the program's resurgence under HC Bronco Mendenhall. The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award finalist led UVA to the Orange Bowl while setting the UVA career total yardage record with 7,910.
Perkins completed 64.5% of his passes in his collegiate career while also rushing for 1,692 yards and 20 touchdowns in his two seasons at the helm of the UVA offense. His game tape shows off Perkins' breakaway speed and uncommon passing touch for an athlete of his caliber. He also excelled against top competition, completing 70% of his passes for 323 yards and a 4/1 ratio in his final game versus a formidable Florida secondary. His arm strength is adequate enough to survive at the next level, especially when coupled with his ability to evade the rush and stretch out plays. Perkins is comfortable making quick reads and leading his receivers on short to intermediate routes where they can make plays in space. Also of note is Perkins had far-and-away the lowest drop % (1.6%) of any quarterback with over 400 throws last season, with only 8 drops in 498 attempts. It's a testament to Perkins' ability to throw a catchable ball and the sure handedness of his receivers to make the most of their opportunities.
Conversely, he sometimes will get too much air under his deep throws allowing defenders to catch-up and make plays on the ball. The biggest criticisms stem from his lack of pocket presence, as Perkins scrambled 48 times and took 44 sacks on 550 dropbacks. He produced only a 31.1 PFF passing grade when under pressure, a stat that does not bode well for his NFL chances. He is still likely to be in the Day 3 mix but his stock has cratered for the pre-season when he was rated as Mel Kiper's 5th-best senior QB back in the summer of 2019.
Josh Love - 6'0/203 - San Jose State
Much ink has already been spilled on Utah State prodigy Jordan Love, but it's San Jose State's Love Machine that might warrant a second look from teams who seek an experienced hand at the end of Day 3. From a production standpoint, Love piloted a fast-paced, pass-oriented system that led to him throwing the sixth-most passes in the FBS last season and finishing seventh in passing yardage.
He completed 61% of his passes for 3,923 yards and a 22/8 ratio while taking only 13 sacks and throwing away in 481 attempts, which accounted for the lowest sack-to-attempts ratio of any QB with over 400 attempts. Love was victimized by poor wide receiver play at times, as his WR's dropped 32 of his passes. His 87.6 PFF passing grade ranked 11th in the country amongst QB's with 300 attempts or more, which eclipsed the passing grades of notable combine invitees Jordan Love, Justin Herbert and Anthony Gordon. Love makes his money throwing in the 10-20 yard range where he grades out well above average.
We've seen air-raid style QB's post gaudy passing numbers that don't translate to the next level for two decades now and it's a stigma that Love will need to overcome. Of his eight interceptions last year, seven of them were thrown between the numbers illustrating his penchant for throwing in tight windows. He has a short, compact delivery that he generates acceptable velocity from. Love is a straight pocket-passer who struggles throwing on the run, strongly preferring to step into a rush and make a throw rather than scramble. He struggled under pressure, as most QB's do, posting an 83.7 passer rating as opposed to a 99.3 PR with a clean pocket.
Listening to opposing defensive Mountain West coaches describe Love, many point to his accuracy and willingness to throw the deep ball along with his poise orchestrating SJSU's system. You don't see Love looking over to the sidelines for guidance very often. His biggest drawback for NFL purposes is his size, as Love measures only 6'0/203. His size and skill set reminds me of a right-handed version of former Boise State QB Kellen Moore who was able to carve out a niche as a backup for six NFL seasons.
Running Backs - 30 invitees
Artavis Pierce - 5'11/198 - Oregon State
Pierce was a steady presence in the Oregon State backfield for the past four years, acting as a versatile compliment to starter Jermar Jefferson for the last two. In 2018 he dealt with elbow and rib injuries but still managed to rush 54 times for 408 yards, a 7.6 YPC in a supporting role for a 2-10 team. When Jefferson battled injuries this season, Pierce stepped into a primary role and excelled. He racked up 873 yards and a 6.0 YPC and showcasing strong receiving acumen in grabbing 23 passes.
At his best, Pierce is an explosive runner who reads his blocks adeptly and can make plays in the receiving game. Pierce showed that ability to make defenders miss the course of his senior season. His 87.7 Hands/Drops grade ranked 6th best in the country for running backs according to Pro Football Focus, which is the same grade DeAndre Swift garnered only Pierce actually ranked higher in PFF's overall receiving ability metric than the more heralded Swift. Pierce has been timed at 4.49 on the low side and 4.58 for his high, so his March 11th pro day will have some intrigue behind it. on screen passes while also making multiple leaping catches over trailing linebackers on sideline wheel routes during
Pierce's frame is slight and though he is elusive he isn't going to bulldoze any NFL linebackers. His physicality between the tackles is the reason why he was never truly given the keys to the Oregon State offense until his senior year despite demonstrable success on a per-snap basis. He's merely adequate as a pass blocker, grading out at a 56.4 on PFF's pass protection chart and durability at the next level is a concern. He's not cut out to be a 20+-carry workhorse. I see a Cadillac Williams style to his game.
Reggie Corbin - 5'10/200 - Illinois
If Reggie Corbin had declared for the 2019 Draft he would have been a combine-lock. The high school rugby national champion averaged a ridiculous 8.5 YPC en-route to a 1,028 yard, nine touchdown coming out party. His 2018 was a series of home runs where Corbin sifts his way through traffic then uses his elite speed to accelerate past converging safeties for huge gains. He displays good feet and timing while waiting for his blocks to develop, then darting through the ensuing hole. Shows a rare ability to cut sharply at high speed. Deadly when used in traps/counters. He has been timed in the high-4.9, low-4.5 range and that holds up on tape. Corbin was so dynamic in 2018 he received a 90.0 overall rushing grade on the year from PFF, which was a higher ranking than Zack Moss, Justice Hill, Damien Harris and Alexander Mattison.
Turn the page to 2019 when he sustained a hip injury early in their first game against Akron that seemed to affect Corbin's burst throughout the season as he ceded carries to Dre Brown. His YPG dipped to 4.7 YPC while his PFF grade dropped to 74.5, a far cry from his elite 90.0 status in 2018. His receptions also dropped from 16 to only three last year along with three drops. He's on the smaller side but is more thickly built than the aforementioned Pierce and runs with an aggression befitting his rugby background. Real questions persist as to whether or not Corbin can regain his previous form, but for him to not receive a combine invite at all is surprising. A solid round of testing could quell those concerns and merit Day 3 consideration.
Jonathan Ward - 6'0/202 - Central Michigan
2017 1,000 yard rusher Ward bounced-back from an injury-marred 2018 to rush for 1,108 yards, a 6.1 YPC and fifteen touchdowns in 2019 as part of a tandem backfield with emerging sophomore Kobe Lewis. Ward also displayed exceptional receiving ability by catching 48 passes for 470 yards in 2017 and 34 passes for 329 yards last season. Some of his passing game success can be attributed to his abnormally large for a RB 10 1/4 inch hand size.
His game tape is riddled with examples of his elusiveness as he avoided 41 tackles in his 184 carries and forced 12 more misses on his 34 receptions. He was able to break off chunk plays with regularity last year with 27 runs of 10-yards or more while also managing to stand-out in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl practices. At around 200 pounds with an upright running style, Ward is not pushing many gap-filling LB's backwards but that's not his game anyway.
Ward's main flaws stem from his poor physicality in pass protection, earning him a 44.1 pass blocking grade from PFF which puts him firmly in the below-average camp. It's plain to see that he is more comfortable releasing for a screen pass than sticking his nose into the chest of a blitzing linebacker. Another issue that cropped up this season was ball security. Ward fumbled eight times last year, a simply unacceptable number at any level. However when you did deeper into his career you find that Ward had only fumble three times from 2017-2018 and received an above average 80+ ball security grade from PFF in two-of-the-past three seasons prior to 2019.
Ward suffered a shoulder injury in early September that caused him to miss two games and nagged at him for the remainder of the season, giving rise to his backfield mate Lewis. Given the lack of a previous track record of turning the ball over, I'm confident that the shoulder ailment is the culprit for these recent fumbling maladies.
His pro day is slated for 3/20, if he runs a sub-4.5 he's a virtual-lock for Day 3. Even so, I feel like he deserves a look on tape alone as I'd love to see if his quickness could translate into an NFL role of some kind.
Wide Receivers - 55 invitees
George Campbell - (6'3/202) - West Virginia
Campbell was a true blue-chip prospect from the 2015 high school prep class, ranking as the #1 Athlete and 12th overall recruit in the country when he enrolled at Florida State. Unfortunately for Campbell knee and groin injuries cost him two full seasons of playing time as he was unable to realize his full potential at FSU before he transferred in 2019 to West Virginia.
He drew praise for his contributions in all phases of special teams which could help him stick at the next level, but it was his game-breaking ability in the receiving game that elevated Campbell in the eyes of scouts. He caught 19 passes for 469 yards and a robust 24.7 YPC to go with seven touchdowns for the Mountaineers in 2019, leading the NCAA in receptions-to-touchdowns ratio.
Campbell ran a 4.36 40 yd. dash time in high school which combined with his 6'3 height is a potentially lethal combination. He lined up all over the offensive formation, logging 151 snaps in the slot and 129 snaps out wide to utilize his stature against nickel backs that had trouble matching up with his size and speed. Campbell excels at adjusting to throws in the air and tracking deep balls, as you'd expect given his 24.7 YPC. Though he only played sparingly at FSU due to injury and coaching staff turnover, he showed impressive acceleration flagging down deep balls at WVU.
He doesn't extend his arms on the catch as much as I'd like to see and doesn't use his physical advantages to high-point passes as frequently as expected. These traits bear out in his usage as Campbell caught 16 of his 19 receptions between the numbers as opposed to out-leaping defenders on the sidelines. There isn't a lot of nuance to his route-running based on his usage at WVU. Durability will always remain a question mark with Campbell, but his superior physical attributes and ability to contribute in multiple phases of the game should get Campbell a long look from Draftniks.
Maurice Ffrench - 5'11/200 - Pitt
Ffrench burst on the scene upon Pitt OC Mark Whipple's arrival on campus fresh off his tenure as HC of UMass. Ffrench was utilized in the same manner as 2019 second-round pick Andy Isabella, breaking Larry Fitzgerald's single-season receptions record by catching 96 passes for 850 yards and four touchdowns for the Panthers. Pitt moved him all around the formation but he really shined when working the underneath-to-intermediate routes as his fast-twitch cutting ability made him a terror for opposing corners to stay with, avoiding 22 tackles and posting 41 receptions that resulted in a first down last season.
Ffrench ran a 4.4 last summer and has shown the ability to make tough catches in traffic, earning a well above average 82.3 hands grade by PFF. He is a very good punt/kick returner who will likely use his special teams contributions as a gateway to a roster spot at the next level.
Though elusive in space Ffrench doesn't show long-speed on tape and isn't comfortable tracking deep balls, catching only 2-of-12 passes 20+ yards down the field. He had ample success working out of the slot but lacks the outside skills to be a downfield threat along the sideline despite his speed. His 96 receptions are primarily due to scheme as his 8.8 YPC project Ffrench as a possession receiver and return specialist for NFL purposes. His pro day testing will determine whether or not Ffrench will be selected on Day 3 or if he will need to go the UDFA route.
Kirk Merritt - 5'11/205 - Arkansas State
It's easy to forget about Merritt's contributions to the Arkansas State passing attack with All-American WR Omar Bayless dominating on the outside. However the crafty slot receiver and kick returner helped to keep defenses from focusing solely on Bayless, catching 71 passes for 813 yards and twelve touchdowns in 2019 after snagging 83 passes for 999 yards the year prior.
Merritt isn't your typical Sun-Belt wide receiver who posted big numbers in a high-octane lower-division offense, as the four-star recruit originally signed with Oregon before transferring to Texas A&M and eventually landing with the Red Wolves. Athletically Merritt has all the tools in the shed as he posted a 4.43 40-time, a 4.03 20-yard shuttle run and a ridiculous 45.8 inch vertical at The Opening testing in 2014.
The athleticism shows on tape as he took multiple short crosses and slants to the house over his ASU career, showing the ability to split converging safeties who simply cannot keep up with his open-field acceleration. PFF awarded Merritt with a notable 2018 receiving rating of 82.1 and hands grades of 82.5 and 84.1 over his last two seasons, as he only dropped 7 passes in 210 targets while catching 154. Merritt showed a penchant for the deep ball, scoring six touchdowns on throws of 20+ air yards in 2019.
I'm puzzled how the NFL didn't see the potential value of a player with such advanced testing numbers and productivity that is backed up by analytics data. Witness the small-school bias inherent in the combine selection process when Merritt doesn't get an invite, but Notre Dame's diminutive walk on WR Chris Finke and his seven bench reps does.
Tight End - 20 invitees
Giovanni Ricci - 6'3/240 - Western Michigan
As we are targeting potential fantasy production as opposed to blocking acumen, Giovanni Ricci is well worth keeping tabs on thanks to his All-MAC worthy play this year. Originally a wide receiver recruit out of Loveland, Ohio Ricci was not highly recruited in high school before choosing to play at WMU. He spent the first couple of years bulking up from 210 pounds up to 240 pounds in order to play the flex tight end position.
He specialized in crossing routes and slants while not being tasked with too many over the shoulder throws. Ricci has a wide receiver's smooth gait when running across the field and does well separating from pursuing linebackers to get free. His 75.3 receiving grade from PFF is very respectable, even surpassing Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet's receiving grade of 73.4, and is best suited as a pass-catcher as opposed to a blocker.
Ricci was very productive for Western Michigan's 33.7 PPG offense, catching 51 passes for 642 yards and eight touchdowns. He is crafty while making the kinds of hard cuts you are accustomed to seeing from wide receivers. He is projected to run in the 4.7's at WMU's upcoming 3/19 pro day.
Criticisms stem from his lack of prototype tight end size and the seven drops he had this past season in 91 targets are a concern at the next level where tight ends need hands like glue to make contested catches. Ricci also doesn't make defenders miss very often, recording only 5 avoided tackles all season. His size means NFL scouts will want to see him run in the 4.65 range if at all possible, which is right around what Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins ran at the combine. If he tests slower than that at his size he will likely be left to UDFA status.
Jared Rice - 6'5/230 - Fresno State
In 2018 all the offensive pieces were in place in place for Jared Rice to excel. Fresno State had a talented and experienced quarterback in Marcus McMariyon, a dynamic field stretching wide receiver in Keeshawn Johnson and an offensive line that ranked 12th in FBS with only 12 sacks allowed on the year.
Rice exploded with the 4th most tight end receptions in FBS with 55, and the sixth most yards with 664, along with three touchdowns en route to being named a All-Mountain West Second-Team selection. He showed a keen ability to catch the ball outside his frame and a nice feel for picking apart zone coverage by seeking out pockets and making contested catches.
His balance and feet allowed him to shake 10 tackles and though light at 230 pounds, he showed enough strength to carry tacklers when fighting for first downs. Rice set the single season Fresno State tight end receiving record for a Fresno State offense that put up 34.6 PPG and won the 2018 Mountain West Conference Championship.
However in 2019 McMariyon and Johnson departed and the offense itself only returned 3 starters. Rice didn't display the same rapport with new QB Jorge Reyna that he did with McMariyon as the offense itself dropped from 422-to-388 YPG and from 34.6 PPG-to-30 PPG. Rice struggled early in the season, posting PFF receiving grades under 60.0 in six of Fresno State's first seven games. His YAC plummeted from 7.6 YAC to 5.3 YAC and his PFF seasonal receiving grade fell from a solid 70.8 to a sub-par 57.6.
His previous explosiveness was hampered by Reyna's inferior ball placement but Rice also looked stiffer in his hips with less agility than the previous year. Perhaps he was hampered by injury earlier in the season because his play improved as the season progressed, earning PFF grades above 64 in four of his last five contests and shaking six would-be tacklers in the process. He made his money in the middle of the field, catching 44-of-57 pass for 338 yards and six TD's between the hashes over the past two years and posted an above average 75.1 PFF hands grade on the year.
I'm positive the Jared Rice of 2018 would have been given a combine invite. However after a slow start last year he fell off the map and by the time the offense clicked and he performed well down the stretch, it feels like it was a case of too little, too late. He is speculated to be able to run in the 4.65-4.75 40-yard dash range but we won't know for sure until his pro day on 3/17. I'd like to see if Rice can stick in a passing down tight end role despite his lack of bulk.