Piggybacking off of Tuesday’s look at Myles Garrett and the improvements players from the past two draft classes have made since high school, I thought it would be fun to see how well we can predict who the “winners” and “losers” will be this weekend. Nike’s SPARQ combines do not include two key pro drills - the broad jump and the three-cone - but I was able to find at least partial results for 118 prospects tested on the vertical jump, 40-yard dash and 20-yard “short” shuttle. High schoolers are not tested for 225-pound bench press reps, but about a quarter of this sample did perform a powerball toss, which can be used as a rough approximation of the bench. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have enough powerball data to determine positional averages as I did with the vert, 40 and short shuttle.
Before I burn everyone’s eyes with another spreadsheet though, let’s run through some position by position predictions based on the digging I’ve done this week.
Winner: Deshaun Watson
Loser: DeShone Kizer
First I’ll preface: I don’t believe the athletic testing is as crucial for quarterbacks as it is for most other positions. The QBs will be judged more so on how well they throw the ball, how they mesh with personnel people in interviews, and probably their Wonderlic results. There does appear to be some correlation between three-cone and broad jump and NFL success, but again, those are not tested at the high school combines.
Baylor’s Seth Russell posted the best SPARQ numbers of any passer in the class, but I believe he is still working his way back from a late season leg injury. That leaves Watson, who I expect will have shaved a couple tenths of a second off of his 4.89 40, and should at least match his other, already solid results.
I’ve seen Kizer compared to Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, and the high school numbers suggest a player who will test closer to the latter. I believe Kizer will meet or surpass the 4.77 40 and 30.5” vertical that Carson Wentz posted a year ago, though the Notre Dame product will be hard-pressed to match Wentz’s numbers in the agility drills.
Winner: Elijah Hood
Loser: Wayne Gallman
Hood’s tested speed and agility as a 221-pound high schooler would be impressive even if they have not changed at all. He weighed 232 pounds on Wednesday, and unless he’s lost a step, he should have a very good weekend.
Gallman has never struck me as fast, explosive or agile. Translation: he’s just a guy to me. He runs hard and has a pretty well-rounded game but those who are very high on him are going to be disappointed by his test results.
Winner: Malachi Dupre
Loser: Zay Jones
Curtis Samuel, Speedy Noil, and Kermit Whitfield are going to dazzle with their speed, but Dupre is my pick for “winner” because of his superior height and length. Given his high-end explosiveness, it’s fair to estimate improvement in his 40 time, and his ability after the catch suggests he should at least match his shuttle time.
Jones has been a riser since the Senior Bowl, even landing in some top-five receiver rankings. But his 5.08 40 as a 170-pound high schooler is not indicative of a player who will test out well. Even if Jones cuts his 40 by half a second, he’ll check in at 4.58, a pedestrian time for his positional group.
Winner: Bucky Hodges
Loser: Evan Engram
O.J. Howard already won the Senior Bowl, so I wanted to spread the wealth. I expect Hodges, a former high school QB, to measure, run and jump well, and generate some real buzz of his own.
I don’t actually think Engram will bomb this weekend, but his 4.95 40 and mediocre vert and shuttle as a 210-pound high school senior do not suggest a freakish athlete. I think he’ll do fine in most departments, but time more slowly than we’d like to see out of a 235-240 “flex” tight end prospect.
Winner: Cam Robinson
Loser: Zach Banner
Robinson already weighed in at 6’6” 322 pounds with 35 1/2” arms, so he’s off to a good start. I expect his testing numbers to be solid, if not spectacular, for a guy his size. Mike Mayock is calling Robinson a guard, and some teams almost certainly have an eye on moving him to the right side, but in a supposedly weak class of offensive tackles, I believe Robinson will lock up the top OT spot on most boards by the end of the weekend.
Banner is a massive dude whose father, Lincoln Kennedy, was an accomplished NFL lineman himself. But if Banner is still up over 350 pounds (hell, even if he’s over 330), he will be ticketed for guard. Given that heft, I’m penciling him in at or near the bottom of O-line group in every test.
Winner: Solomon Thomas
Loser: Carl Lawson
Thomas’ high school vertical and short shuttle at over 250 pounds suggest to me that he will be able to improve on that 4.95 40 by three-tenths of a second or more. Knowing he’s now about 20 pounds heavier, if his other testing numbers remain steady, he will be one of the overall winners at the event. Those who have a top five or ten grade on Thomas will feel vindicated.
Lawson not only may disappoint in the athletic testing, but he is also likely to take a hit in the medical checks. He’ll at least be heavily scrutinized. Credit to Lawson for posting a strong season after two injury-riddled years, but I think he will face a fall into the middle of later part of Day Two.
Winner: Eddie Vanderdoes
Loser: Jaleel Johnson
I’m not sure how much these athletic tests matter for guys like Vanderdoes and Johnson, but I believe that the former will continue to build on the momentum he started to generate at the Senior Bowl. Johnson, meanwhile, will need to demonstrate vast improvement across the board to keep his supporters from wavering.
Winner: Raekwon McMillan
Loser: Connor Harris
McMillan was a hot shot recruit who flashed early at Ohio State, but by his role in he defense never lended itself to splashy production. The rumor mill has him knocking his 40 time down into the 4.6s, which seems reasonable given the athleticism he’s shown in the past. If he tests as well as I expect, McMillan will solidify himself as a Day Two, and probable second round pick.
Harris is a squatty, short-armed ‘backer from a DII, so he’s already facing long odds to get drafted. But he has completely changed his body since high school, packing on almost 60 pounds, so who really knows what we’re getting here.
Winner: Kevin King
Loser: Treston Decoud
I’ve heard Washington’s King compared to Kevin Johnson as far as anticipated combine results go. Two years ago, Johnson ran a 4.52 with a 41 1/2” vert and a 3.89 shuttle, so this comp feels right on the money to me.
At 6’2” 203 and with 33 1/8” ams (per the Shrine Game), Decoud has desirable size for a corner. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s unlikely he will have improved his 40 time by more than 0.4 seconds, from a 5.00 flat down into the high 4.5s. Speed is viewed as critical for his position, so even if he lands in the low 4.6s, Decoud will be ticketed for late round/undrafted free agency status.
Winner: Marcus Williams
Loser: Lorenzo Jerome
Williams was the best testing safety in this class across the board, with a 4.43 40, a 4.06 shuttle, and a near-40” vertical. If he matches those numbers and his arms are long enough, he’ll get some looks at corner in workouts. It’s a similar situation to fellow freak Sean Davis last year, and like Davis, Williams should come off the board in the second or third round.
Jerome lit up the all-star circuit with two interceptions each in the NFLPA Bowl and Senior Bowl, but the former high school QB’s SPARQ numbers don’t offer the promise of an eye-popping combine.
I’m not sure how predictive these numbers will prove to be. As I mentioned earlier this week, 51 players selected during the first two days of the 2015 and 2016 drafts improved their verticals by an average of two inches, their 40 times by 0.05 seconds, and their shuttles by an average of about one-tenth of a second. There were extremes on either side of the coin, so the study is a work in progress. Still, it’s fun to see how much some players can better themselves in college, and if the already outstanding athletes remained on the high end.
You can follow along with me on the sheet below. Players are sorted alphabetically by position, and by 40 times (fastest to slowest). The top score in each position group is in green, the low score is in red. Blue is above average, yellow is middle-of-the-road, and orange is below average. Athletic testing for this year’s NFL combine begins this Friday and continues throughout the weekend and into next Monday.
(Editor’s note) Apparently you cannot color code the tables, but check out Justin’s work here.
High School Sparq Testing
|NC St||Jack Tocho||CB||6000||175||34.9||4.63||4.47|
|Okl St||Ashton Lampkin||CB||5110||175||28.8||4.83||5.06|
|Ore St||Treston Decoud||CB||6010||165||24.7||5.00||4.34|
|Okl St||Vincent Taylor||DL||6020||267||25.4||5.07||4.75|
|Miss St||D.J. Jones||DL||6010||287||27.1||5.13||5.03|
|Ten St||Jessamen Dunker||OL||6060||315||24.3||5.13||5.02|
|NC St||Matt Dayes||RB||5080||193||26.5||4.71||4.51|
|Okl St||Chris Carson||RB||6010||190||33.5||4.84||4.28|
|St Fr||Lorenzo Jerome||S||5110||176||26.2||4.90||4.60|
|Ole Miss||Evan Engram||TE||6030||210||30.6||4.95||4.53|