/NFL Scouting Combine Notebook: Meet This Years Small-School Draft Crush

NFL Scouting Combine Notebook: Meet This Years Small-School Draft Crush

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Denzel Mims, wide receiver, Baylor: Mims is our pick for biggest winner of the combine, following an outstanding Senior Bowl week with exceptional workouts. He has pushed his way toward the top of a crowded field of wide receivers.

Mekhi Becton, tackle, Louisville: Huge man run fast smash things get paid.

Ezra Cleveland, tackle, Boise State: Cleveland played through turf toe last year, so his film is a mixed bag. His elite jump and shuttle results will force teams to go back and look at his 2018 tape and perhaps grade 2019 on a curve.

Chase Claypool, wide receiver, Notre Dame: He entered the week looking as though he might need to switch to tight end. He ended the week drawing (unrealistic) Calvin Johnson comparisons. Marques Colston or Vincent Jackson may be more accurate comparisons for this burly, high-effort receiver who displayed some untapped speed and athleticism.

Khalil and Carlos Davis, defensive tackles, Nebraska: The Davis twins came into the combine looking like just another pair of mid-tier tackle prospects, with the quicker and more dynamic Khalil having the edge over his burlier brother. Their outstanding workout results suggest potential upside that should vault them into the middle rounds of the draft.

AJ Dillon, running back, Boston College: Nothing will boost your draft stock quite like putting up Derrick Henry-like workout results two months after Henry nearly dragged his team to the Super Bowl with one of the greatest playoff performances in history.

Willie Gay Jr., linebacker, Mississippi State: Gay had sprint and jump results to rival Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons. He’s a frenetic run-around guy on tape; teams may be a little more charitable about his over-aggressive blunders now that they know precisely how fast he runs around.

Antonio Gibson, wide receiver/running back, Memphis: Gibson’s 4.39-second 40 time verified the speed that’s evident on his sizzle reel. Teams looking for an all-purpose Alvin Kamara-type will be in a hurry to snap him up on Day 2 of the draft.

Justin Hebert, Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love, quarterbacks, Oregon, Oklahoma and Utah State: All three were fine in Indianapolis, as they were in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. But all three really benefited from the bottom falling out of the third-tier quarterback market. If a team wants a developmental quarterback with real starting potential after Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa are off the board, it’s either draft one of these three or wait for 2021.

Derrek Tuszka, edge-rusher, North Dakota State: Workout results are much more important for mid-major edge-rushers like Tuszka than for major-program guys. Tuszka’s jumps and cone-shuttle results prove that he can hang with the big guys, and they will add a glow to tape that shows Tuszka careening around the field, chasing down plays from behind and leaping to swat down passes.

Tristan Wirfs, tackle, Iowa: Combine Wirfs’ remarkable workout results with his game film, and he may be the best Iowa offensive line prospect ever. That’s saying something from a program that produced Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, Brandon Scherff, Ross Verba, John Alt, Riley Reiff, Robert Gallery (who was a mega prospect before his disappointing NFL career) and many other NFL starters and Pro Bowlers.

Austin Hooper, tight end, Atlanta Falcons: Hooper is about to crush free agency. He’s the best young tight end on the market, and this year’s draft class lacks a Travis Kelce in the making. Based on the steakhouse scuttlebutt, teams are lining up to make offers, not just because Hooper can help them, but because Hooper is the closest facsimile to Rob Gronkowski available, making him potential Tom Brady flypaper for a few teams.