On the first full day of the combine tight ends and offensive lineman undergo height, weight, and body composition measurements as well as medical exams, media sessions and interviews with NFL teams. All the athletic drills start Saturday (40-time, shuttle, bench, etc) so the first two days are a bit dull, but that doesn’t mean players can’t impact their draft stock. Here is a breakdown of day 1’s winners and losers:
TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame (6’6, 270) – Passed the eye test. I wasn’t there (sigh) but multiple coaches have stated that Niklas was the most impressive looking tight end at the weigh-in. He also had the 2nd longest arm length (34 1/8″) and big enough hands (10″). A former linebacker, Niklas has only been a tight end for two seasons and is already a solid blocker. He has shown flashes of being a weapon in the passing game but needs some work on his route running. Niklas has a lot of upside and winning the weigh-in might bump him into the 2nd round if he can put up a decent 40 time this weekend (4.7-4.8).
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washinton (6’5, 252) - Showed up about 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season and if he backs that up with a 40 time less than the expected 4.75 range, Seferian-Jenkins could sneak into the back-end of the 1st round with his hometown Seahawks a definite possibility with the 32nd pick. Seferian-Jenkins was grilled about his DUI last year, but handled it well and vowed that he is a changed man.
TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon (6’4, 242) – So far so good for Lyerla, whose presser and interview are arguably more important than his athletic measurements this weekend. As expected Lyerla got drilled with questions about his decision to leave Oregon early in the 2013 season and his off-field drug issues. It’s clear Lyerla was coached well for this press conference, but he still had to handle the pressure and answer the questions. Lyerla answered every question thrown his way with what looked like sincerity. Lyerla’s physical measurements also helped his cause as his 10 1/4″ hands were tied for the 3rd largest of all tight ends measured. Lyerla might have the most to gain this weekend of any player and he is off to a good start.
G David Yankey, Stanford (6’6, 315) - A taller than expected 6’6. With that much height, Yankey could potentially swing outside and play tackle. That type of versatility will help his stock, maybe enough to get into the back-end of the 1st round.
TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina (6’4, 250 ) – Ebron was in the middle of the pack in both arm length (33 1/4″) and hand size (10″), but he made some waves today with his prediction that he will run the 40 faster than former NC teammate and current Bengal Gio Bernand who ran it in 4. 5 flat last year. If Ebron can actually beat Bernard’s time and clock an under 4.5 40 time, he has a shot to go in the top 10 of the draft. The last tight end close to his size that ran the 40 in under 4.5 was Vernon Davis (4.35) who ended up being the 6th overall pick and is having a pretty nice NFL career so far.
TE Xavier Grimble, USC (6’4, 257) – Underrated TE prospect with huge hands. Grimble had the 3rd biggest hand measurement (10 1/4″) which could boost him over some of the other mid-round TE prospects (Rodgers, Lynch).
T Luke Lucas, Kansas St (6’8, 315) - Lucas measured as the tallest tackle prospect at the combine with the longest arms by far! His 36 3/4″ arm length was over an inch longer than the next closest guy, Cyrus Kouandijo (35 5/8). Lucas is raw but with that kind of size he will get taken in the middle rounds as a developmental tackle prospect.
T Michael Schofield, Michigan (6’6, 301) - Stock continues to rise after a strong Senior Bowl with a 6’6 height measurement. Schofield was listed by Michigan as being 6’4 and was considered by most to be a guard prospect. Adding two inches to his height gives him prototype tackle size and should boost his draft stock into the 3rd-4th round range.
TE Crockett Gilmore, Colorado St (6’6, 250) - Another guy whose draft stock is climbing due to a strong Senior Bowl performance, Gilmore’s hands were the 2nd biggest measured of all tight ends (10 3/8″).
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (6’5, 265) – It’s hard to know how much stock teams put in arm length and hand size for tight ends, but the fact that Amaro had the smallest hands of all tight ends at the combine (9″) can’t help his cause.
T Taylor Lewan, Michigan (6’7, 309) – It’s clear teams are concerned about Lewan’s maturity and on/off field aggression. He didn’t do much to ease those concerns today. Lewan was grilled about his tendency to play past the whistle on the field and about his involvement in a rape case off the field. Lewan answered all the questions thrown his way, but did it with a flippant manner that gave the impression he wasn’t taking this seriously. It’s not a good sign that he can’t even fake sincerity for the purpose of his draft stock.
TE Jake Murphy, Utah (6’4, 249) – Dale Murphy’s son, who I like as a potential UFA target for Bears had the 2nd shortest arms (31 3/4) of any tight end measured. Again, I don’t know how much stock teams put in tight end arm length, but it would seem to negatively impact both his blocking ability and his catch radius.
G Anthony Steen, Alabama (6’3, 314) – Steen gets the T-Rex award for the shortest arms of any lineman at the combine (30 1/2″). It might not seem like a big deal, but long arms help establish distance from a pass rusher and maintain leverage. It definitely seems important to NFL teams; In 2012 tackle prospect Riley Reiff dropped from a projected top 10 pick to 23rd in the draft due to concerns over his arm length (33 1/4) and the same exact thing happened to Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga in 2010. Arm length isn’t as important for a guard as it is for a tackle, but NFL teams prefer guards with around 32″ arm length.