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Cover 3: Takeaways from 2019 NFL Combine

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With the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine officially wrapped up, we give our takeaways from the week in Indianapolis.

JOHN SCHMEELK: I know Cover 3 answers should usually have a large theme but instead I’m going to give you the impressions I had walking away from Indianapolis in rapid fire bullet point form:

  • I went in thinking two-thirds of the first 30 players selected in this draft will be on the defensive side of the ball. Last week didn’t change my thinking. This is a deep defensive draft. There could be as few as five skill position players (wide receiver, tight end, running back) taken in the first round of the draft.
  • The consensus seems to be that Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams and Josh Allen are the three best players in the draft, but after that it gets a little cloudy on who comes next. You have the two quarterbacks and the offensive tackle class, but even the next best pass rusher seems to be in the eye of the beholder. I got votes for Clelin (pronounced CLEE-lin) Ferrell (who didn’t run the 40), Jachai Polite (a lot more before the weekend than after), Brian Burns (who tested very well) and Rashan Gary (also tested very well). Ed Oliver, who also tested well, could also be in the mix for some teams.
  • Of all the possible first-round offensive tackles, Florida’s right tackle Jawaan Taylor generated the most buzz. He could be the first offensive tackle off the board. He will have stiff competition from Cody Ford, Jonah Williams, Andre Dillard, Greg Little and Dalton Risner. All of those players could be first round picks, but one or two could get pushed into the second round in a deep class, much like Will Hernandez was last year.
  • Watching Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins at the podium, he seems at ease in front of a huge crowd and answered all questions calmly and thoughtfully. Being the face of a franchise is a huge responsibility for a young quarterback, and he seemed up to the challenge.
  • I look forward to putting on the tape of linebackers Devin White and Devin Bush. Both guys are phenomenal athletes at linebacker, and I look forward to seeing how each played on Saturdays this year. This is a big person draft. My prediction is that more than half the players selected in the first round, possibly as many as 20, will be offensive linemen, interior defensive linemen, or pass rushers.

DAN SALOMONE: Eli Manning is back. The only offseason question bigger than who the Giants will draft was what their plans were for their 38-year-old, two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. We got the answer – we think. “I fully expect him (to return),” coach Pat Shurmur said Wednesday at the combine. Speaking a little over an hour later, general manager Dave Gettleman also said, “Well, it’s a never-ending process.” He cited free agency, which opens on March 13, and talked about the different models of succession that Shurmur also referenced. In particular, Gettleman mentioned what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes, who sat for a year behind a veteran and became league MVP the following season.

Gettleman said any confusion created at the podium meant he did his job successfully. Away from the microphones and cameras is a different story. The Giants know they need to find someone worthy enough to take up the torch, but until they find that player, it is imperative to give Manning the proper help. As we saw at the combine, there is plenty of that to be found in this draft class by means of hog mollies on both sides of the ball. While last year we left Indianapolis knowing how highly Shurmur and Gettleman thought of Saquon Barkley and the running back position, there was nothing like that this time around. Granted, they picked second in 2018. In 2019, they are sixth, which opens them up to a more complicated chain reaction that we won’t see play out until April 25.

The lasting impression I took away from the 2019 combine was not what prospect ran the fastest or who proclaimed himself as the No. 1 pick. It was Gettleman talking about his “dream” to gift the Giants their next franchise quarterback, like his mentor Ernie Accorsi did in 2004 when he bet the house on Manning. Gettleman said he has a vision. He is lounging in Cape Cod, years down the road, watching the QB he drafted lead the Giants on another postseason run. “And then enjoy the hell out of it,” he said. What we don’t know is if he was picturing someone he saw in Indianapolis this past week.

LANCE MEDOW: Personally, I’m not a fan of the NFL Scouting Combine. Never have been. I just don’t see a whole lot of substance in watching prospects run around in their underwear when they’ll ultimately be competing in full pads and helmets. If you’re going to evaluate football players through a series of drills, shouldn’t they be tested within the actual elements they’ll be playing? That’s why a player’s performance during the course of a collegiate season is far more substantive than what you see at the combine. 

With all that being said, if there’s any major takeaway from this year’s festivities, Kyler Murray’s measurements would top the list given all the chatter surrounding the former Oklahoma quarterback entering the combine. Interestingly, Murray measured at 5-10 1/8, slightly taller than he was listed in college. He also weighed in at 207 pounds, heavier than his college weight. Despite those numbers, there will still be conversation about his height and weight moving forward, so I’m not so sure his measurements quieted the skeptics. If anything, it created more comparisons to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, which I think are completely off-base considering Wilson was a four-year starter at North Carolina State and Wisconsin, whereas Murray started just one season at Oklahoma. The sample sizes are completely different.

The other major takeaway is further confirmation that there’s a great deal of talent, athleticism and versatility on the defensive line in this year’s class. Case in point, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams ran a 4.83 40-yard dash. If you don’t think that’s impressive, he’s only 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 303 pounds. It’s the fourth-fastest time by a 300-plus pound defensive lineman at the combine since 2003. Then there’s Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, who posted the fastest time ever by a defensive lineman: 4.41 seconds. He topped every single wide receiver at the combine with the exception of seven. It’s fair to say that speed is a nice complement to his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame.

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