Physically, this was one of the best groups of wide receivers that I had ever seen in all my years of coming to the Combine. It was a combination of outstanding height and speed that was on display on Sunday here in Indianapolis.
The headliner of the group was Sammy Watkins who is ranked by many as the first one to come off the board in May. There was plenty of buzz pre Combine about what Watkins might run and when the unofficial times came out in the 4.3s, there were plenty of folks that were not surprised. I have to admit when watching him on tape, there are times where he does appear to be playing that fast. Later in the day, we learned that his official time was 4.43 which was still good enough.
Where Watkins didn't have the advantage of the receivers that worked before him, was the quality of quarterback throwing him the ball. I felt that Blake Bortles, Jimmy Garoppolo and A.J. McCarron did a much better job working with Odell Beckham, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans. Watkins was outstanding running routes and there was an ease in which he caught the ball when he had a clean shot at it.
Of the guys chasing him, I thought that Beckham and Evans were right there in the mix. Beckham had an official time of 4.43, while Evans clocked in at 4.53. In my film study, I was a big fan of both of these players and if either managed to make it to the 16th pick, I would have been on the table for either of them. I thought that Beckham was a little smoother in his routes, while it was a bit of a struggle for Evans, who does a much better job because of his size of running vertical routes down the field. Where I think the biggest difference of the two is, that I believe you can play Beckham at more spots in the formation. Matter of fact, in watching Evans play, you mainly see him line up on the right side of the formation, which is something odd that I need to explore.
I liked what I observed from Martavis Bryant with his combination of size and speed. I liked the way he caught the ball and for a team that runs a ton of screens, his routes were solid. Brandon Cooks also caught my eye, but because of his lack of height, might not be considered an every down receiver. On his tape, though, he is super productive and dangerous with the ball in his hands. He is one of those players that’s speed here at the Combine, shows up on tape.
Another receiver that struggled with the up and down quarterback play was Marqise Lee. It didn't matter the route, it appeared that Lee was having to fight to get a clean ball. He was having to adjust to the majority of his throws but he was able to make the best of it.
If there was a surprise for me, it happened to be how well that Jordan Matthews was able to run, because I did not see a guy that looked like he played as a 4.46. There were no questions about his ability to catch the ball and you saw that in the tape and in the drills, but by running that time, he has to be much more of a consideration earlier in the 2nd day.
The biggest loser in the day for the receivers, I thought, was Jarvis Landry and the hamstring injury that he suffered. I would have loved to see him run in the 4.5s and display some outstanding hands during the drills. His college tape is really outstanding and teams will no doubt use that as a measuring stick but with a really good 40 time, he would have put himself in better position.
Of the quarterbacks, I thought that Blake Bortles really helped himself with some really nice throws. His foot work and delivery was not all over the place like you would at times see during games. His touch and accuracy was spot on. He has to walk away from this Combine with the confidence that he can preform under a pressure situation and do it again back in Orlando.
I had my doubts coming into this Combine about Jimmy Garoppolo and A.J. McCarron but I thought that both carried themselves well. Neither player might be the most athletic but when it came to throwing the ball, rep after rep, there was no doubt that they had their "A" games working. Each player was able to make all the throws that were asked of them. I am one of those guys that really likes Aaron Murray and his overall game, but after seeing Garoppolo and McCarron live, I will need to go back and revisit their work.
If there were losers here at quarterback, I thought it was the guys that didn't throw here. Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Johnny Manziel. I understand that they want what is best for them but to not take advantage of the talented receivers in this Combine was a huge mistake in my books. Blake Bortles and Odell Beckham were on fire on Sunday and put on a heck of a show for these coaches and scouts.