The 2017 NFL Combine wrapped up yesterday and brought the preliminary evaluation process by the NFL Draft "experts" to a close. Four Iowa players were invited to the Combine: C.J. Beathard, George Kittle, Jaleel Johnson and Desmond King. Every player is projected to be drafted into the NFL, with King and Johnson having a shot at making the first round. Here's a recap on their performances.
Beathard officially checks in at 6’2, 219 pounds, and is given a grade of 5.0 by NFL.com, which equates to “back end of the roster.” He’s compared to Tom Savage and the bottom line is that he “Could be a career backup who finds himself in the action at some point down the road.” As sort of a disclaimer, every “official” evaluation that is referenced from NFL.com was completed by Lance Zierlein, a sports talk show host in Houston and NFL “analyst.” The final line of his Wikipedia introduction is rather humorous. Also, note that these evaluations are actually completed before the Combine.
Beathard recorded a 31 inch vertical, tied with Pitt’s Nathan Peterman as the sixth best. Some highlight names ahead of Beathard included Deshaun Watson, Josh Dobbs and Trevor Knight. Also ahead of Beathard was Mitch Leidner, who despite once being labeled a first round quarterback by Todd McShay, has a grade of 4.85, which equates to “should be in an NFL training camp.” Beathard recorded a 113-inch long jump, which was near the bottom of participants but still ahead of DeShone Kizer because Notre Dame went 4-8 last season and that’s what’s important. Here’s some actual footage from a guy’s TV:
More CJ Beathard pic.twitter.com/wl8HQhKjD3— QB Film Room (@QBFilmRoom) March 4, 2017
The general buzz on Twitter was that Beathard impressed with his actual throwing drills and Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout thinks he helped his cause with his performance:
Quick thoughts after attending 1st QB session. Kaaya most polished;Kizer=wow arm but erratic footwork. Beathard, Dobbs, Knight helped cause.— Rob Rang (@RobRang) March 4, 2017
A trend throughout Beathard’s evaluations is the overall concern about his health and whether or not he’s injury prone. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash due to his bad hamstring but plans to at Iowa’s pro day. The consensus is that Beathard will be a late round NFL Draft pick with the upside to become a backup.
Kittle officially checks in at 6’4, 247 pounds, and is given a grade of 5.4 by NFL.com, which equates to “backup or eventual starter .” He’s compared to Charles Clay and the bottom line is that “Kittle has the athleticism and blocking ability to become an effective move tight end if paired in the right system.”
Mr. Zierlein might’ve been a little low on Kittle, who was a top performer in two out of the four drills he participated in. Kittle ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, good for third among tight ends. He also had a 132-inch broad jump (standing long jump), which was also good for third. Kittle’s vertical jump of 35 inches was just out of the top 5 but the bad news is that his 18 bench press reps were second to last.
Regardless, his speed and athleticism impressed some people, including Matt Bowen:
Impressive workout for Iowa TE George Kittle. Posted an official 4.52 40-yard dash time. 35" vertical jump. 11'... https://t.co/huMcn4Vk8I— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 4, 2017
As compared to other Hawkeye tight ends:
George Kittle 4.52 in combine 40 today. Dallas Clark ran a 4.65, Moeaki 4.69, Fiedorowicz 4.76, and Chandler 4.79 at the combine.— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) March 4, 2017
Speed alone shouldn’t define a tight end, but it’s fair to say that with his performance at the combine, Kittle should be going a little higher than the 7th round or free agency, as CBS Sports projects.
Jaleel officially checks in at 6’3, 309 pounds, and is given a grade of 5.67 by NFL.com, which equates to backup or eventual starter. He’s compared to Ziggy Hood and the bottom line is that “Johnson has the talent to become an eventual starter as a three-technique in a penetrating defensive front and could fight for rotational reps early on as a rookie.”
Jaleel’s combine was…not the best. He finished near the bottom in every workout aside from the 3 cone drill, where he finished 10th. Twitter responded in kind:
Jaleel Johnson with a historically poor 10-yard split is not surprising at all, but feel bad for the kid. He's just not explosive at all.— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) March 5, 2017
The only thing worse than Jaleel Johnson's combine workout is @LukeEasterling's ability to text back....— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 7, 2017
The consensus on Johnson is that even with his poor NFL Combine performance, the tape from his senior year speaks for itself. As Jon Ledyard wrote in his evaluation:
Deciding between (Caleb) Brantley and Johnson is basically choosing which you value more: pass rush and splash plays, or snap-to-snap consistency and high football IQ against the run. Johnson might be the best defensive lineman in the draft at identifying and attacking blocking schemes with masterful technique, but he isn’t quite the explosive athlete and fluid pass rusher that Brantley is.
Ledyard has Jaleel going early in the second round, whereas CBS Sports has him in the third. There was hope that he’d have a strong combine and sneak into the first round but after this performance, it’s likely that he won’t see his name called until either the late second or early third rounds.
King officially checks in at 5'10, 206 pounds and is given a grade of 5.8 by NFL.com, which equates to " could become early NFL starter". He's compared to Jairus Byrd (WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT THEY'RE BEING COMPARED TO?) and the bottom line is that King is "a likely second-day (Rounds 2-3) selection and could be targeted as a zone corner or a safety with early starting potential."
King's combine was also...not the best. He finished near the middle in nearly every workout and didn't run the 40-yard dash due to injury. Alternatively, the injury could explain away his mediocre performance. Here's some video that was not pulled from a guy's TV:
Iowa DB Desmond King didn't run a 40 but looked pretty good here pic.twitter.com/y6dAfSc5hC— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) March 6, 2017
Re: That video, here's what Matt Bowen had to say:
Solid rep for Desmond King. Hips. Footwork. Track the ball. https://t.co/eOogdcywsP— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 6, 2017
There has been concern about King's "straight-line" speed by Draft "experts" for a long time and his performance at the Combine didn't do much to dispel that sentiment. He'll get another shot at Iowa's pro-day, where he'll actually run his 40, but for now it looks like King is a fringe first round to second round Draft pick. Does he end up at cornerback or safety? That's to be determined by the team that drafts him.
If you’re looking to grade Iowa’s performance at the Combine you could probably give them a C or C+. Beathard was a bit better than people expected and Kittle absolutely blew the doors off of his “projections.” Jaleel…did the opposite and King also didn’t show the experts anything worth talking about.
That being said, how important is the NFL Combine and what does it tell anyone that they aren’t able to see in game tape? We’re aware that C.J. Beathard is injury prone and isn’t the most mobile QB on earth. We’re also aware that he has solid arm strength and accuracy when given appropriate time in the pocket. Did Kittle’s performance REALLY surprise Iowa fans? He played football under an offensive coordinator that was nothing short of incompetent when it came to tight end usage. We knew that King wasn’t the fastest player on the field. It’s his fundamentals and discipline that make him great. Jaleel? Well…it isn’t so easy to explain away Jaleel’s Combine but we’ll see how he does at Iowa’s pro day.
The first round of the NFL Draft begins on April 27th at 7:00 PM CT and will be broadcast on ESPN.