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Combine Breakdown

Combine Notes

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: March 3, 2020, 1:29 pm ET

INDIANAPOLIS

I peeled away from my media friends and spent the latter portion of Thursday night at Champps sports bar in Indy with the reps for Fresno State iOL Netane Muti. That day, Muti recorded 44 bench reps, the fourth-most in the history of the NFL Combine.

When I messaged Muti’s agent about that, I got an interesting response. Netane wasn’t happy. Netane was “f***ing P***ED.”

Wait, why?

“He repped 48 last week. He wanted the record.”

What a journey it’s been for the draft’s most mysterious offensive line prospect.

Coming out of the Hawaii prep ranks, Muti was a two-star defensive tackle prospect. He signed with the local Rainbow Warriors. When Hawaii put his application on hold, Muti flipped to Fresno State. An Achilles injury ended his true freshman season before it began, and the Bulldogs redshirted him in 2016.

The next year, 2017, turned out to be the only season Muti played even 250 snaps. Across 955, he graded out better than 80.0 as both a run-blocker and pass-blocker, extremely, extremely impressive for a redshirt freshman coming off injury playing a new position. All the more so because he didn’t give up a sack in 504 pass-pro reps. That’s the finesse stuff.

His run-blocking highlight reel from that year is #footballporn. We’re talking mutant-esque upper-body strength, Cain Marko from X-Men, the Juggernaut. Muti doesn’t care. Snap to whistle, you better avoid those hands, because once he touches you, you’re going backwards, and then you’re going to be looking up at the sky.

In 2018, Muti’s season ended after only 84 snaps with another Achilles injury. Last year, Muti played 234 before a Lisfranc injury shut him down. Four years into his college career, Muti had a tough decision to make.

Fresno State HC Jeff Tedford had just stepped down. The Bulldogs hired Kalen DeBoer, who spent one year as Indiana’s OC after holding the same job under Tedford between 2017-2018. DeBoer had coordinated the offense during Muti’s otherworldly 2017 season.

Recruiting Muti back was a top priority, and Fresno State’s new staff put on the full-court press. Up until the moment Muti declared, he was royally conflicted. Classic coin-flip decision, which happen more than you think with these kids. There were risks either way.

If Muti returned and played the whole year, he was probably going to lock in a Day 2 ticket in the 2021 draft. If he returned and got hurt, his stock was going to go up in flames. He’d played only 1,273 snaps over four years, suffering three season-ending injuries. A fourth may have evaporated his odds of hearing his name called for good.

Declaring was likewise risky. His per-snap charting numbers were almost as sterling as his highlight reel, but Muti had been available for only roughly a season-and-a-half of a college career. He’d been on the field for only a little more than 300 snaps between 2018-2019.

Muti ended up declaring, signing with Ascend Athletics. He was a limited participant at the NFL Combine, but he left an impression. At the one test he participated in, Muti heaved up the fourth-most bench reps in Combine history with 44. In the aftermath, Muti was irate that he hadn’t broken the record held by EKU DT Justin Ernest, who put up 51 in 1999. Muti had repped 48 the week before and felt he could crack 50 in the right flow.

During the media availability window, Muti briefly found himself trending on Twitter after talking about his affinity for In-N-Out, and how he had once polished off a 10x10 (10 patties, 10 pieces of cheese). The media apparently played patty-cake with him. He told his agents afterwards: That was way easier than I had thought! They had put him through a gauntlet of mock interview sessions with some real fastballs. Why are you declaring, Netane? Is your foot really healthy, Netane? What have you proven, Netane? After that, the media seemed like sweethearts.

Muti met with 27 teams at the NFL Scouting Combine. According to his reps, three of them, the Bengals, Raiders and Buccaneers, have shown the most interest early in the process. Way more than the bench press or meetings, evaluators were waiting on Muti’s medicals.

Muti got good news on that front. Per a source on his team, Muti was fully cleared by doctors in Indy. Both of his Achilles were cleared, while his foot was deemed about 90-percent coming off last year’s Lisfranc injury. Barring something unforeseen, Muti will be a full participant at FSU’s pro day on March 17.

At this point, the Lisfranc injury is the one to monitor. As it was explained to me, if you tear one Achilles, you have a higher chance of tearing the other. So Muti’s 2018 injury, to the opposite Achilles, can actually be seen as preventative from the perspective of his NFL future – the chance of re-tearing, on either side, is now less than five percent.

An interior super-sleeper not so long ago, Muti is now a top-three interior offensive linemen on a series of respected boards around the industry. Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner, the first in the industry to start banging the drum for Muti a year ago, ranks him as the class’ No. 33 overall player.

If Muti closes out the process strong, without a setback to his injured foot, I expect him to go in Round 3. I agree with Mike that he’s a fringe-Round 1 talent in a vacuum. But the medicals produce a risk profile that’ll drop him into Day 2, perhaps even Day 3. That may present a buy-low opportunity – this year’s interior class isn’t very good.

Ceiling-wise, I don’t see another 2020 iOL prospect in his neighborhood. Muti and his reps have seven weeks left to make the case to NFL teams that the risk profile isn’t as high as they may have thought heading in.


Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson told me on Tuesday that he wasn’t concerned that pulling out of athletic testing at the NFL Combine would send a bad signal to the NFL.

I’m not so sure.

Johnson, snubbed from the Senior Bowl, had previously removed himself from the Shrine Game… to “prepare for the Combine.” He didn’t get hurt in-between. He voluntarily yanked himself.

Now, look. Johnson only gets one process. He gets to do what he wants. It’s his prerogative.

But what exactly did he have to lose by testing? The NFL already expected him to test poorly. Doing so may have hurt his pride, but I don’t think it would have hurt his stock, because his stock isn’t trading very high right now. It merely would have given him one more bite of the apple in each individual test. Never forget the Orlando Brown Principle: We keep the best one!

At the NFL Scouting Combine, I was shown a text conversation from someone in the NFL Draft world that you know, a kingmaker type. This person basically said that Johnson was just a guy, a late Day 3 player with straightforward tape who was going to struggle to make a roster. These texts were sent over a month ago.

One of PFF’s highest-graded receivers the past few years but a bit limited as a big slot, Johnson has opted not to run during the pre-draft process. Perceptually, he’s running scared. All his roulette chips have now been pushed onto the circle of Minnesota’s pro day on March 25.

If you made me bet my life savings on Johnson either getting drafted in Rounds 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, or 6-7-UDFA, I’d now put my chips on 6-7-U.


Perhaps my oddest interview moment came when I complimented Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam on dominating the SEC as a freshman and he pedantically corrected me that he redshirted first.

Yeah, I know Aqua Man. I know.


If it wasn’t that, then it came from another SEC tight end.

Arkansas TE C.J. O’Grady was one of the week’s more honest interview subjects.

He admitted that he didn’t take always take the sport seriously in college, and that he was often out of shape.

He says he’s now in the best shape of his life.


Over the course of the week, I asked a small handful of national NFL Draft media members to name a prospect or two they’d done film work on who they knew they’d be higher on than consensus come Draft time. Not first-rounders… sleeper-types.

 

Here were the assorted answers I got:

Princeton QB Kevin Davidson

San Jose State QB Josh Love

Washington State QB Anthony Gordon

Florida State RB Cam Akers

Ohio State WR KJ Hill

SMU WR James Proche

Florida WR Van Jefferson

UMass TE Adam Trautman

FAU TE Harrison Bryant

UConn OT Matt Peart

Washington iOL Nick Harris

Fresno State iOL Netane Muti

Auburn iDL Marlon Davidson

Notre Dame EDGE Khalid Kareem

Mississippi State LB Willie Gay

Oregon LB Troy Dye

TCU CB Jeff Gladney

Leonoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger

Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr.

 

Okay, I brought Winfield up. But once I did, the two guys I was having burgers with went nuts and couldn’t stop talking about him for 10 minutes.

I’m also going to toss Clemson S K’Von Wallace onto the list as an honorable mention, as my colleague Derrik Klassen and I couldn’t stop talking about him as a guy who is getting overlooked for reasons that don’t have to do with his game.


Quick-hitter winners and losers at the NFL Scouting Combine. You can read winners simply as “stock up,” with losers conversely meaning the opposite. This list was accrued from participants. I had half a mind to fill the loser list with non-participants. Voluntary non-participants who aren’t first-round locks are half-losers in my book.

 

Winners:

Oregon QB Justin Herbert

Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts

Boston College RB A.J. Dillon

Appalachian State RB Darrynton Evans

Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor

FSU RB Cam Akers

Baylor WR Denzel Mims

Boise State WR John Hightower

Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk

Michigan WR Donavon Peoples-Jones

LSU WR Justin Jefferson

USC WR Michael Pittman

Notre Dame TE/WR Chase Claypool

Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam

UMass TE Adam Trautman

Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs

Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland

Kansas OT Hakeem Adeniji    

Louisville OT Mekhi Becton

Michigan iOL Cesar Ruiz

Oklahoma iDL Neville Gallimore

TCU iDL Ross Blacklock

Florida EDGE Jabari Zuniga

Syracuse EDGE Alton Robinson

NDSU EDGE Derrek Tuszka

Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons

Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks

Minnesota LB Carter Coughlin

Mississippi State LB Willie Gay

Clemson LB/S Tanner Muse

Florida CB CJ Henderson

Notre Dame CB Troy Pride

LSU CB Kristian Fulton

Southern Illinois S Jeremy Chin

Minnesota S Antoine Winfield

 

Losers:

Washington QB Jacob Eason

Georgia QB Jake Fromm

Utah RB Zack Moss

Maryland RB Anthony McFarland

Washington RB Salvon Ahmed

Colorado WR Laviska Shenault

Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings

Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy

Vanderbilt TE Jared Pinkney

USF TE Mitchell Wilcox

Washington OT Trey Adams

West Virginia OT Colton McKivitz

Kentucky iOL Logan Stenberg

Oregon iOL Calvin Throckmorton  

Auburn iDL Derrick Brown    

Iowa EDGE AJ Epenesa

Miami EDGE Trevon Hill

LSU LB Michael Divinity

FSU CB Stanford Samuels

Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler

Notre Dame S Jalen Elliott

Washington S Myles Bryant


SPARQ is a size-adjusted athletic-testing metric that gives an acceptable snapshot of each prospect’s athleticism. Below are notable early scores for skill position players from NFL Combine testing. These scores will be updated through the process, as pro day testing fills in blank boxes or replaces inferior test scores.

 

QB SPARQ percentile:

**Jalen Hurts: 95.6

*Justin Herbert: 91.6

*Cole McDonald: 86.3

*Jordan Love: 75.5

*Steven Montez: 75.4

*Shea Patterson: 57.5

*Nate Stanley: 34.2

*Jake Fromm: 22.4

*Jacob Eason: 16.7

 

*No bench

** No 3-cone, shuttle or bench

 

RB SPARQ percentile:

&AJ Dillon: 96.7

Jonathan Taylor: 89.9

**Darrynton Evans: 84.0

**Antonio Gibson: 83.3 (scored as WR)

Eno Benjamin: 72.3

**Clyde Edwards-Helaire: 71.5

***D'Andre Swift: 59.8

*Cam Akers: 54.1

Lamical Perine: 51.3

***Ke'Shawn Vaughn: 35.3

*Zack Moss: 27.6

 

*No bench

**No 3-cone or shuttle

***No 3-cone, shuttle or bench

&No shuttle

 

WR SPARQ percentile:

***Donovan Peoples-Jones: ~99

***Henry Ruggs: ~99

**Chase Claypool: ~98

Denzel Mims: 94.6

Jalen Reagor: 93.3

**Brandon Aiyuk: 89.4

Michael Pittman: 85.7

***Justin Jefferson: 81.8

Isaiah Hodgins: 70.7

**CeeDee Lamb: 70.5

*Devin Duvernay: 68.2

Antonio Gandy-Golden: 57.0

Gabriel Davis: 38.9

#Jerry Jeudy: 21.8

**K.J. Hill: 18.9

***Jauan Jennings: 8.4

 

*No bench

**No 3-cone or shuttle

*** No 3-cone, shuttle or bench

#No 3-cone or bench press

 

TE SPARQ percentile

*Cole Kmet: 77.4

Adam Trautman: 66.9

Brycen Hopkins: 50.7

*Stephen Sullivan: 47.2

C.J. O’Grady: 39.8

Hunter Bryant: 32.3

**Devin Asiasi: 31.9

Colby Parkinson: 18.0

Harrison Bryant: 14.7

 

*No bench

**No 3-cone or shuttle

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!