All NFL Combine numbers and position-based percentile figures courtesy of Mockdraftable.com.
Iowa OL Tristan Wirfs
The top of this tackle class is neck-and-neck. As many as four different players have a case as OT1 and separating them can only be done by the smallest margins. Last weekend’s NFL Combine provide the best opportunity for one of these guys to separate themselves from the pack. When a race is this tight, something like elite athleticism is a good way to split hairs. Among the elites of this year’s tackle class, it was Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs who stepped up to the plate.
Wirfs jumped into the history books in Indy. With a 36.5 inch vertical, Wirfs broke the NFL Combine record among offensive linemen. That data goes back to 1999. Likewise, Wirfs hit 121 inches in the broad jump, which ties the NFL Combine record among offensive linemen. In a vacuum, making history is already quite impressive, but Wirfs hit those marks at 6-foot-5 and 320-pounds — an absolute mountain of a man.
The big man didn’t just jump well, either. Wirfs’ 4.85s 40-yard dash is in the 98th percentile among offensive linemen in Combine history. For reference, multiple-time All-Pro Trent Williams ran a 4.81s 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 315-pounds in 2010.
As for the agility drills, Wirfs couldn’t quite crack the records, but he did manage very impressive times for a player his size. Wirfs’ 7.65s three-cone drill ranks in the 71st percentile and his 4.68s short-shuttle ranks in the 60th percentile, both of which marks are above-average in a vacuum and closer to great when considering his weight. It’s more than fair to say Wirfs had one of the best offensive line outings at the Combine as we’ve seen in at least a decade.
Baylor WR Denzel Mims
Don’t make the Calvin Johnson comparisons. Please. For your sake, my sake, and everyone else’s sake, do not make the Calvin Johnson comparisons.
Sure, sure, Mims’ short-shuttle was lackluster, but the Baylor pass-catcher earned marks in the 90th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump, and three-cone drill. In fact, Mims had the best three-cone drill among all 2020 NFL Combine participants Granted, this was a particularly bad year for all participants of agility drills, but still, coming in first no matter the bar is impressive.
It’s unlikely Mims’ stellar Combine was enough to lift him above Jerry Jeudy and/or CeeDee Lamb, but it does firmly cement his case as WR3. Mims’ film at Baylor shows a fast, sharp vertical threat with absurd ability to pluck the ball out of the air from any angle. Mix that with an all-time stellar Combine and it’s tough to find anyone beyond Jeudy and Lamb who stack up.
North Dakota State DE Derrek Tuszka
At a Combine where just about nobody did well in the agility drills, Derrek Tuszka stood well above the rest of the EDGE class in the three-cone drill, which is thought to be a proxy for a player’s bend around the edge.
Tuszka was the only defensive linemen or defensive end to hit the sub-7.00 mark in the three-cone this year. In fact, at 6.87s, Tuszka has the sixth-best three-cone time for a defensive linemen since 2015, just beating out names such as Joey Bosa, Vic Beasley, and Danielle Hunter.
The rest of Tuszka’s day was above-average, too. While nothing quite came close to his 95th percentile (among EDGE) three-cone time, Tuszka cleared the 50th percentile mark in all of the other drills, including 70th-or-better percentile marks in the short-shuttle and broad jump. All in all, Tuszka proved himself a supremely bendy player with just enough explosive potential to warrant more interest than what he put on tape. Perhaps Tuszka launched himself into being one of the best Day 3 developmental pass-rushers this class has to offer.
Notre Dame WR/TE Chase Claypool
Looking at it now, it is easy to say Claypool crushed the NFL Combine. Weighing in at 6-foot-4 and 238-pounds, Claypool ran a 4.42s 40-yard dash, hit 40.5 inches in the vertical, and leaped 126 inches in the broad jump. Both his 40-yard dash and vertical jump marks cleared the 90th percentile at wide receiver … and was done at just under average tight end size. He absolutely made himself money.
Claypool weighing in at 238 pounds was not exactly the plan. Prior to weigh-ins, however, Claypool added eight pounds of water weight, which he apparently admitted to Brady Quinn of CBS Sports (via relay from NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah) during the week.
Claypool and his camp expected for him to weigh in at about 230 pounds — still close to tight end size, but still closer to just being a big wide receiver. Claypool added that weight through his own volition, perhaps believing that he could add the water weight for weigh-ins, shed it for the drills, and appear even more explosive for his “size” than he already is. A couple of added pounds in water weight could be an accident, but eight pounds over their expectation seems like a lot for this to have been an accident (as Quinn’s quote suggests it is).
Whether Claypool was supposed to add that weight or not, it worked out for him in the end considering analysts all over, both supporters and detractors of his, have hoisted up his Combine performance as one of the best this year.
Auburn DT Derrick Brown
If Derrick Brown had just struggled in the agility drills like everyone else, there wouldn’t be much reason to panic. It wasn’t just the three-cone and short-shuttle that got the best of Brown, though. Not a single drill went his way last week.
Brown’s 8.22s three-cone, which is in just the 3rd percentile among interior defensive linemen, is the obvious blunder. Even at 326 pounds, 8.22s is a disastrous time and is far worse than what should have been expected based on his film from Auburn. What’s worse is that only one of Brown’s other four key drills landed him above the 35th percentile.
Brown’s 4.79s short-shuttle comes in at the 18th percentile. Brown’s 27 inch vertical jump places in just the 22nd percentile. Brown’s 5.16 40-yard dash is in the 33rd percentile. The only drill in which Brown succeeded in was the broad jump, where he hit 108 inches to be in the 66th percentile. Again, there should be some adjustment made for the fact that Brown did his testing at a massive 6-foot-5 and 326-pounds, but even accounting for his size, Brown had a clearly below average day, especially for a prospect who is supposed to be elite.
Everyone who ran agility drills
This was the worst year for agility drills that I can remember since I started covering the NFL Draft in 2013. If this year was somehow worse than any year before 2013, I would believe it in a heartbeat.
The realization creeped up on draft writers all around the country as the week rolled on. When all the wide receivers did their drills early on, the initial thought was that maybe this was just a poor class for receivers running agility drills. But then the RBs struggled. And the LBs struggled. And the DL struggled. And the EDGEs struggled. With each passing position group going through their drills, it became clear that it wasn’t just one group of players struggling with these drills — it was the entire class.
It would be easy to buy that one position group was a dud, but for an entire class to fall short, something had to be up. What changed this year from previous Combines? The schedule.
Previously, players did all their drills during the early afternoon. It did not matter that some of the position groups’ drills ran up against other groups doing their media availability — the Combine wasn’t really a big TV event at the time. This year, however, media sessions were pushed to earlier in the morning, while the drills were pushed off into the evening and ran into almost midnight local time.
Word around Indy was that most of the players, particularly players in later groups on a given day, were at the facility for four, five, six hours before doing agility drills without really getting to eat, stretch, or keep themselves fresh the way they may have been able to do in previous years when there was no stalling out to get the drills on primetime.
Whether or not this is the actual reason the class as a whole had an oddly un-agile Combine, it’s tough to say, but given the schedule tweak was by far the biggest change about this year’s Combine compared to previous years, it doesn’t take a genius to piece together why the move to primetime may be the culprit here. Asking players to wait around that long before running the most important drills of their lives is absurdity. Do not be shocked when many of these players, particularly the great ones such as Jerry Jeudy, post considerably better times at their pro days.
Washington QB Jacob Eason
Jacob Eason’s athletic testing numbers were garbage, but that is not why he may have lost himself money over the past week. Rather than anything he did on the field, it was Eason’s interview process, both at the podium and behind closed doors, that hurt his stock.
According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, Eason struggled in team interviews throughout the week.
“(Eason) was too comfortable. He thought that he owned the room. He doesn’t understand the magnitude of all this.”
It’s funny to think about Eason being the guy who believes he controls the room considering his journey to even getting here. Eason was ousted as the starter at Georgia by a freshman Jake Fromm in 2017, transferred back to his home state to play for Washington after 2018, then had an up-and-down year in his only year (2019) as a starter since his middling freshman season at Georgia in 2016. Nothing about Eason’s journey suggests he has been “the guy” since being a five-star recruit coming out of high school. If that is where all this sense of control is coming from — oof.
Furthermore, Eason’s podium session during the media portion of the week was one of the worst among quarterbacks. I personally visited just about every QB podium throughout the day, save for Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow (let’s be honest, there would be no shortage of content on them whether I showed up there or not). Too many of Eason’s answers at the podium felt like a dismissal of the question or just a quick avenue to get to the next question.
In one instance, a reporter asked Eason about the differences between SEC defense and PAC defenses — a fair question that has roots given the SEC is more inclined to play heavier fronts and play match coverages, whereas the PAC enjoys their standard Cover 3 a lot. Eason’s answer, aside from a small bit on recruiting differences due to geography, was just that there are “small differences,” but that “football is football.” . . . Cool. That doesn’t tell anyone anything.
Shortly after, I asked a similar question, pestering Eason about the differences between Georgia’s offense and Washington’s offense. Again, there are legit differences here — Washington preferred more gun than Georgia did at the time, HC Chris Petersen’s offense is known for shifts/motions and putting weight on the QB’s shoulders, and Washington’s run game was not a feature of the offense the way it was in Georgia’s offense. But again, Eason’s answer was, “there are subtle differences in the terminology, but that’s with any offense … similar scheme with some different twists here and there, but at the end of the day it’s still football.”
Yes, Jacob, I know it’s still football.
To clarify, this is not about Eason being rude or a bad person. Rather, these podium sessions can be a good opportunity for players to open up, show what they know, and show how they can communicate that information to people that may not understand it as well as they do. Some of the other lesser quarterbacks, particularly Hawaii’s Cole McDonald and Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, were far more forthcoming with some of the questions they fielded, but with Eason, it feels like we didn’t learn a single thing from his 25-minute podium session. Elite quarterbacks with little to gain from podium sessions can get away with that, but a mid-tier prospect like Eason ought to be looking to boost himself up at every opportunity.