With the eve of the 2019 NFL Combine here, the most important job interview for 300+ former college stars is at hand. Each participant going to Indianapolis knows his weakness and what he must prove. For some, it’s on the field. For others, it’s in the interview room. For others, there are going to be some things they can do nothing about. Kyler Murray can’t study or work at being taller. Some others can’t go back and undo a bad incident or a bad game. But, knowing one’s weakness is vital for teams to unlock the true essence of the player. Teams have done their homework and now it’s time for the players to answer the questions. Here are offensive players that I want to know more about and the one question I want answered for each one.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray - “Is baseball truly out of your system?”
I was asked that question a few weeks ago on radio whether I thought it was out of Murray’s system. The one thing I came back to was that Murray could easily be in balmy, beautiful Arizona for A’s spring training and bathing in his $4.5M signing bonus that he got as a top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. But, he’s going to be spending the week in Indianapolis being poked, prodded, interviewed, cajoled and jostled in 20-30 degree weather as he prepares to play one of the most violent sports on earth. THAT alone, his presence, should answer that question but in his interviews, I’d really want to know straight from him whether it’s truly dead or whether a few tough games in November will make him yearn for baseball in February. Honestly, I don’t think it will, but I’d love to hear his private answer to that question.
Michigan State running back L.J. Scott - “Do you love football and why?”
Outside of nagging injuries over his last campaign at Michigan State, this one sits in my craw. I read an interview where Scott noted that he didn’t really love football. Now, there are a lot of people that don’t love their jobs, but in this sport, considering the pounding that running backs take, it’s imperative that there’s a desire to play this game at the highest level. I’ve seen plenty of pros over the past five years that should’ve never played in an NFL game, yet they’ve found a way because they just couldn’t stand to miss the competition. Scott can be a banger and a really intriguing NFL back but if he’s aloof or dismisses this aspect, he’s not going to be on some teams’ draft boards.
Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf, part one - “How’s the neck?”
The medicals will continue to tell Metcalf’s story. His 2018 season went up in smoke due to a neck injury so what story will his medicals tell teams? Presumably, he’s 100% healthy at this point, but his medicals will still be appointment viewing for interested teams. Now, on to something a bit sexier...
Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf, part two - “How fast will you run the 40?”
I mean, look at the man’s body. I saw him in Houston when Ole Miss was here for the Advocare Texas Kickoff v. Texas Tech and I was shocked when I found out it was him. Then, a photo circulated on social media and Metcalf was immediately pinned as a younger version of David Boston. Now, I don’t really care about how much he benches or any of his strength tests but if he rolls out a 4.4 at 235 lb., shut it down. He’ll be a top 15 pick. Or should be.
Missouri receiver Emmanuel Hall - Same question - “What’s your real 40-time?”
Hall strikes me as a guy that could really see his stock go through the roof because of his speed. That game speed is effortless and he runs by guys with, or without, the ball in his hands. But, what’s the real number? If he’s in the 4.3 range, with his size (6-0, 6-1, 195 lb.) he could easily get into day two territory. I see it with Will Fuller (Texans) when he’s healthy. He scares every defensive back on the field, perhaps even more so than DeAndre Hopkins, who just happens to be the best receiver on the planet. Hall has that same smoothly, explosive speed and the Combine gives him an opportunity to really show it off.
Northwestern State receiver Jazz Ferguson - “What happened at LSU?”
Ferguson is a a 6-5, 221 lb. pass catcher with feather-soft hands and a world of potential. LSU is a team that constantly needs a receiver of his ilk. In the worst way, really. Yet, Ferguson departed LSU for Northwestern State for his final year of college football. Why? I called one of Ferguson’s games this year and it’s clear he has next level assets but getting to the bottom of that question during interviews will provide a team some much needed guidance on Ferguson.
Iowa tight end Noah Fant - “How high can you go?”
It’s been rumored that Fant has posted a vertical jump of 42-inches, which if that happens, it’ll send a cosmic tidal wave through the midwest. He’s already 6-5 and he should test extremely well, but posting an NBA-player like vertical jump would solidify him as a first round prospect, given solid testing in all other areas.
Georgia tight end Isaac Nauta - “What happened in 2017?”
On the low, I really like Nauta and have ever since his days at IMG Academy. After a strong freshman season in which he caught 29 passes, he caught NINE passes in 2017 for the Bulldogs, a team that went all the way to the national championship game. So, that was a 15 game season and Nauta didn’t miss one...and he caught NINE passes? He rebounded to catch 30 as a junior (third on the squad) but his speed and athleticism shine on tape so nine catches in a 15 game season is a head scratcher.
Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard - “Can you maintain 300 lb. regularly?”
I’m one of the charter members of the Dillard fan club, even in his 275/80 lb. days at Washington State. He told me at the Senior Bowl that he hit 310 lb. which was his goal. He didn’t look worse for the wear or sloppy with the added weight, but can he hold at that weight? I see 315 lb. dudes get thrown on their you know what with regularity against the pass rushers in this league so it’s imperative that Dillard maintain that build/bulk.
Wisconsin offensive tackle David Edwards - “How much did the injuries change/impact you?”
Edwards was a hot name on early, EARLY mock drafts just after last year’s Draft took place. But, 2018 was a nightmare season for Edwards. He didn’t play well at all, but he played with myriad of injuries, including, but not limited to, a left shoulder injury in which Edwards suffered nerve damage. He kept playing, even though he wasn’t playing well, which told me something about Edwards. Before knowing fully about the injuries he suffered, I wasn’t a huge fan of Edwards, but when I went back and watched prior to the bowl game in 2017, I saw plenty to like about him. So, what kind of player can he be fully healthy? Furthermore, are the injuries of a recurring nature that’ll keep him off the field at this level?
Washington offensive tackle Kaleb McGary - “So, white tackles can jump?”
Woody Harrelson has no business here, that’s for sure. At the Senior Bowl, McGary told me that he would test well athletically; in fact, he mentioned to me that he did a 32-inch vertical jump at 6-7, 321 lb. when he first started training for next year and the Combine. If he does THAT this week? Oh boy! That said, if he tests as well as he anticipates, he could really blow the roof off. Say he does 30+ reps on 225 on the bench press, 31+ inches on vertical jump and 5.1 or better 40-yard dash (his trainer thinks he can go 4.8 in the 40) and he’s going to have some tackle-needy teams taking a long look in the first round because they know he’s not going to be there in the second round with those measurables.
Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams - “What happened on the night of 1/7/2019?”
Williams was back in his home state of California for the first time as a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was his last game. It was a soon-to-be coronation for the 15-0 Crimson Tide. It was the National Championship game v. Clemson. Then, Clelin Ferrell happened to Williams. These two faced one another all night long and it ended with Williams on social media on skates. GIF video of Williams getting stabbed right back into his quarterback’s lap made its way across the online landscape and it didn’t paint Williams in his best light, that’s for sure. It was a rare bad night or was it? Was it an indication of what/who Williams is at this point in his career? What happened? I can guarantee his interviews may not start with this question but it won’t be long before a team gets to it.
- John Harris 2/26/2019