The 2017 NFL Combine kicks off tomorrow, as draft hopefuls and the teams that want them will come together in Indianapolis to evaluate and be evaluated. The event will last until next Monday, and you can see the full schedule here.
For fun, speedsters at the Combine have extra incentive to put their names in the record books:
adidas offering an island (up to $1M cost) for player at combine who beats Chris Johnson's 4.24 40 in its shoes. Possible islands to win pic.twitter.com/01c1EbyNAG
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 27, 2017
Chris Johnson set a high bar with his 4.24 40-yard dash time, but Adidas is literally offering up an island to the player at the Combine who beats Johnson’s mark in a pair of their kicks. That $1 million dollar island might not seem like much, but Georgia running back Keith Marshall ran the 40 in 4.31 seconds in 2016 – and he wasn’t drafted until the seventh round (242nd overall) by Washington.
A current $330,000 cap hit means an island would be approximately three times more value than the first year of his rookie deal. I’ll be curious to see how many prospects take adidas up on its offer.
Other draft and Combine notes to peruse …
- The Bears’ recent focus has been on the impending exits of Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, but ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson writes the focus should shift to the Combine – specifically on quarterbacks and members of the secondary. All things considered, those are the two biggest positions of need for the Bears. And if they don’t get it turned around at those spots, head coach John Fox will likely be staring at a third consecutive losing season. Dickerson’s quarterback targets include North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, while cornerback Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State) and safety Jamal Adams (LSU) headline secondary members to keep an eye on. And we can’t forget about Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen – Dickerson writes that he might be the best available player when the Bears pick comes up at No. 3
- Not listed among Dickerson’s prospects to focus on at the Combine is DeShone Kizer, who NFL analyst Mike Mayock has at the top of his list of quarterback prospects. Mayock recently discussed why Kizer is the top quarterback prospect, and it’s interesting because Mayock doesn’t have any quarterbacks (Kizer included) ranked in the top 10 in the frat. Mayock does say there are four quarterbacks (Kizer, Watson, Trubisky, Pat Mahomes) with first-round talent, but no one in that quartet is ready to start in Week 1 because of the various holes in each player’s game. As for Kizer, Mayock says a quick release, smarts, and arm talent are attributes that give him the highest ceiling – even though he doesn’t like how Kizer’s game fell apart – at times – in the fourth quarter.
- Peter Schrager of NFL Network has each of the big four quarterbacks going in the first round of his pre-Combine mock draft. Schrager works the phones talking with scouts and talent evaluators to get a sense of a player’s value, and comes up with some interesting rankings. I won’t give it all away, but the Bears stay out of the quarterback derby by choosing Allen third overall. Kizer is the first quarterback off the board, while Watson and Mahomes go to teams that already have starting quarterbacks in place.
- With two pundits identifying Mahomes as a first-round pick, it’s time to ask if he’s really worth a first-round grade. Over at Pro Football Focus, Steve Palazzolo attempts to answer the question by putting Mahomes through an evaluation ringer. PFF’s fourth-rated Power-5 quarterback displayed a good instincts to go along with a combination of velocity, touch, and accuracy. He isn’t a polished product, and he tends to hurt his team with high-risk, high reward plays; however, numerous PFF analysts have Mahomes as their favorite quarterback to watch in 2016.
- Cleveland-area native Mitch Trubisky can make a claim for this draft class’ best quarterback. He seems to be locked into the top-5, which might put him in play for the Browns. Over at Bleacher Report, Joon Lee writes Trubisky wants to embrace the role of being the Browns’ savior. Four different quarterbacks threw touchdown passes for Cleveland last year, so like the Bears, the Browns are looking for stability at the position – and Trubisky could be their guy.
- Now that the Bears are in the market for a top-flight receiver, Bucky Brooks ranks the five best who will be available via the draft. Further, Brooks believes two of his top five receivers represent good team fits for the Bears. USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster draws an Anquan Boldin comparison from Brooks, who describes Smith-Schuster as a “Rugged pass catcher with a physical game that overwhelms defenders on the perimeter.” Dede Westbrook from Oklahoma is also on Brooks’ radar as a Bears fit, with a comparison to DeSean Jackson, too. Westbrook’s build leaves questions about his long-term durability, but his skills cannot be denied on the surface. John Ross already has been tied to some prior iterations of a Bears mock draft.
- The Bears could stand to improve at the tight end position as well, especially if they can draft a two-way threat with the ability to make big plays in the passing game. Over at Pro Football Weekly, Greg Gabriel dives deep into what he describes as a strong tight end class. O.J. Howard from Alabama is a clear cut number one, but the rest of the top five is full of talent. Still, the drop-off from Howard looks to be steep, even if there are other viable starting options in the draft.
- Mel Kiper Jr. has long been America’s go-to-guy for NFL Draft background and information. In a recent interview with Kalyn Kahler for MMQB, Kiper looks at the evolution of the draft from how it was to what it is today. The conversation takes a slew of random turns, from food to potential buzzworthy draft prospects, and everything in between.
- As if being a small school didn’t come with its own sat of concerns, Michael Marot writes about the plight of the little guy and highlights some things that can be done to get them noticed in a crowded field
- Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt will be worth keeping an eye on at the Combine. He isn’t the sure-fire star his brother J.J. Watt was coming out of college, but received a comparison to Clay Matthews III from Mike Mayock and seems to have the kind of skills that will help him stick around. An edge rusher who fits in a 3-4 defense, Watt has skills that could translate best in a 3-4 defense as an edge rusher. Some skills will translate to being a winner again. One mock draft has him going to the Packers at the end of the first round.
- Once the Combine gets wrapped up, Pro Day events with 2017 prospects will move to center stage as players try to boost each their own draft stocks in the weeks leading up to the draft. You can check out the scheduled Pro Days on campus here.