My favorite thing about the combine is getting concrete, carefully measured numbers for players that we’ve watched for years but only had BS numbers on from what their colleges measured and reported or numbers from SPARQ tests when they were juniors in high school.
I wish we could get numbers on more players, but the combine didn’t invite many Big 12 players this year. Many people took that as a big knock on the Big 12, I think it was more just a knock on that particular class of Big 12 players. A lot of the best players in the league are coming back next year and I can think of a few guys that will have major NFL attention that weren’t up for notice yet such as OL Orlando Brown and Connor Williams. I’m also a bit surprised that Denzel Johnson didn’t get an invite.
If you head to SB Nation you can see full results but here’s just a few that stood out to me.
Rasul Douglas, WVU
Douglas was my DPOY last year in the B12, which was personally disappointing since I had Malik Jefferson there on my preseason ballot and he wasn’t even close. Jordan Willis had a strong case but we’ll get to him in a moment.
Douglas measured in at 6-2, 209 and ran a 4.6 40. West Virginia used him some in zone and some in press-man and he was pretty dang effective at both. Sadly we don’t have a shuttle time for him or a vertical but this gives you a sense of the kind of size and athleticism that can make for a top corner in the Big 12. Douglas was a four-star out of his JUCO program but I don’t know if he was even ranked out of high school.
Jordan Willis, KSU
It seems like every year there’s some dude out of K-State that’s an overlooked freak athlete. The perception of the program is generally that they are all maxed out, hard-working kids or troubled JUCOs that found a home but that’s not really accurate. As I’ve noted in my class breakdowns of the Wildcats over the years, they often get their share of great athletes as well and Willis is just the most recent example.
He measured in at 6-4, 255, ran a 4.53 40, posted a 39″ vertical, and ran a 4.08 shuttle. If a dude did that at a Nike event with SPARQ testing he’d get offers from every major program in the nation the next day.
As it happens, Willis was also dominant on the field at K-State with 11.5 sacks this season and 8.5 the year before. The Wildcats got him as a 3-star out of Missouri back in the day and he played sparingly as a freshman, more as a soph, and then dominated in his last two seasons.
Patrick Mahomes, Tech
Mahomes did pretty much exactly what I thought in the measurements. He came in at 6-2, 225, ran a 4.8 40 but lept 30″ in the vertical and ran a 4.08 shuttle. You’ll never catch Mahomes if he has horizontal space to work in but he won’t kill you running through a vertical seam.
In the NFL the latter point won’t matter since it’ll be his ability to hit passing windows down the field after buying time with lateral cuts that will be featured, much as it was at Tech. I’ve heard a lot of talk about how much of an adjustment he’ll be facing in the NFL but I don’t exactly see what people are talking about.
To me the best signs of a QB succeeding in the NFL are his ability to master his college system and wield it on the field and his accuracy. The NFL is a different animal than the college game and demonstrating the ability to understand the complexities of NFL schemes by being entrusted with a lot in your college offense is probably a better sign than showing rote memorization of something simple. Accuracy is an obvious issue, you have to beat a lot of man coverage in the NFL. I think Mahomes brings accuracy and off-schedule playmaking to the NFL, mastery of a system is something we’ll have to wait and see on but he seemed to have a lot on his plate at Tech.
Samaje Perine, OU
Perine’s numbers simply weren’t that amazing for a dude that is the record holder for rushing yardage at a place like Oklahoma. He came in at 5-11, 233 and ran a 4.65 with a 33″ vertical and a 4.37 shuttle. His speed score, a useful Football Outsiders metric which combines weight and speed to determine how much force a player is bringing to the line of scrimmage, was 99.7 which makes him about average for an NFL back.
Obviously with those numbers he’s a very good athlete with a solid amount of explosiveness in a wide and compact frame, but perhaps those things were magnified by two factors in the Big 12. First, the fact that he was often running on smaller defenders and second, the quality of his own OL.
In 2014 when he was a freshman Perine was playing with FB Aaron Ripkowski (in the NFL) and TE/H-back Blake Bell (in the NFL) as well as an OL that went from left to right:
Tyrus Thompson: 6-5, 331. Senior. 6th round pick currently in the NFL.
Adam Shead: 6-4, 315. Redshirt senior. Didn’t make it in NFL.
Ty Darlington: 6-3, 286. Junior. Didn’t make it in NFL.
Nila Kasitati: 6-4, 313. Redshirt junior. Currently in the NFL.
Daryl Williams: 6-5, 327. Senior. 4th round pick currently in the NFL.
That was a massive and highly experienced unit that the Sooners put on the field complete with Bell and Ripkowski helping to plow the road in conjunction with these monsters. Perine was good but a lot of backs would have killed in that setting.
The 2015 OL wasn’t as good, not shocking since they had to replace all of these guys except Kasitati and Darlington, both of whom I believed were injured some that year. In 2016 the Sooners had a pretty good OL again with monsters like Orlando Brown, Dru Samia, and Ben Powers mashing people up front.
The point is, if you put an average NFL back with Perine’s size working behind NFL-caliber blockers in the Big 12 you’re going to see results. I think we might find something similar with D’Onta Foreman who often looked like a heroic beast in Big 12 play but is probably fairly comparable to Perine in actual skill and athleticism.
Next year the Sooners return their TE/FB combo again with Dmitri Flowers and Mark Andrews, they bring back the entire starting OL, and they return QB Baker Mayfield. I’ll bet you that whoever wins the starting RB job for Oklahoma is going to be made to look very good again whether he’s truly elite or not.