Having spent most of my day yesterday watching the Combine coverage on the NFL Network, I thought I would share a few impressions. Yesterday was the on field workout day for quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. The Bears have needs in all three areas and, though none is immediately urgent, they are probably looking closely at the prospects at all three positions.
Of the wide receivers, the one that you never heard of that impressed me the most was Josh Doctson out of TCU. Dotson apparently surprised everyone with a 4.50 second 40 yard dash. What wasn’t a surprise was the smooth way that he moves at 6’2″, 202 lb nor the ease with which he catches the ball. He might be a hand full on the next level. Braxton Miller continued to get a lot of love from the media analysts even as he continued to show that he can’t catch the ball. He must have a hell of an agent.
Hunter Henry out of Arkansas got the most love of all of the tight ends but I’m not seeing it. The guy who continued to impress me the most was Ohio State’s Nick Vannett. Vannett had a very good Senior Bowl and he continues to show that he can move well despite his size. He looks to me like he’s going to be a good all around blocking and receiving tight end and one that should interest the Bears.
At quarterback Carson Wentz was, of course, the king of the class. Physically he’s the guy who is going to stand out in this type of environment and the smooth, quick way that he dropped back showed his comfort under center, having played in a pro style offense at North Dakota State. No surprises there. Also as you’d expect, California’s Jared Goff was smooth as well, though physically slight standing next to Wentz. Paxton Lynch out of Memphis was the raw, physical specimen that his reputation tells you that he is. All of these guys look like the NFL quality players that they’ve been cracked up to be.
Of the second level quarterbacks that the Bears are likely to be looking closely at, I liked Dak Prescott out of Mississippi a little better than I did after his Senior Bowl. I still have major questions about how he actually plays but in this environment he looked more like the type of third round prospect that scouts seem to think that he is. It’s now evident that Stanford’s Kevin Hogan just doesn’t have an NFL arm.
The other guy in this category who threw well was Arkansas’s Brandon Allen. While media commentators continued to go on and on about Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Christian Hackenberg, neither of which looked good and neither of which have shown me anything special on the field, Allen’s performance seemed to slip by almost unnoticed.
Actually, the fascination with Hackenberg is understandable. He has the physical tools and looked good his freshman year under then head coach at Penn State and now for the Texans, Bill O’Brien. As noted by field reporter Kimberly Jones during the broadcast, Hackenberg seems to be a polarizing prospect. Apparently, the scouts don’t like him but the coaches do. You could practically read their minds: “If O’Brien can get the most of this guy, then I should be able to as well, right?” It will be interesting to see where Hackenberg goes in April.
Nevertheless, Allen continues to get my attention. The comments of one unnamed scout, which were passed on by Jones, were of interest. After the first session, in which Cook, Goff and Hackenberg threw, the scout had virtually nothing good to say about any of the prospects (including Goff) but mentioned Allen as a guy who “threw well”. The comment went by the media analysts on hand without apparent notice.
I really couldn’t tell you if Allen has the stuff to start in the NFL. It looks to me like a definite “maybe” because he’s just a tad short at 6’1″ and he has small hands. His arm strength looks good but not great and he’s just not impressive physically the way that Wentz and Lynch are. Nevertheless if the Bears are looking for value at the position, Allen is a guy who could easily slip through the cracks to a spot where they feel comfortable taking him.