Pats Draft 2017: Combine Snubs Who Showed ‘Em, Part II

In part one of our annual Combine Snubs series, we saw some speedy receivers and strong defenders who used their college pro days to prove they would have belonged at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. In part two, we continue our search for small school standouts and big school back-ups who, despite getting snubbed, could still hear their names called on draft weekend (or soon thereafter).

Testing talk (40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, etc.) can turn into some kind of secret twin-sister language if you’re unfamiliar; you can see it spelled out on the NFL Combine web page.

As always, a big thank you to long-time pro scout Gil Brandt for his invaluable pro day page, the most comprehensive look at college pro days throughout the nation.

Let’s get to the athletes…

OFFENSE

Running Up That Hill: Sometimes, quarterbacks who excel in college don’t project to do nearly as well in the NFL (Blessed Be Tebow Forever). Taysom Hill tried out as a running back at BYU’s pro day, and the former QB did well. Measuring 6-2, 221 (which, in terms of QB physique, would make him more fire plug than lamppost), Hill ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, which would have made him the fourth-fastest running back at the combine, just ahead of Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. Hill’s 38.5-inch vertical jump would have been second-best among RBs, while his 7.03-second 3-cone drill (tied, eighth), 10-foot-2 broad jump (eighth), and 4.37-second 20-yard shuttle (tied, 10th) all would have gained top 10 running back scores.

Hill had a lot of experience running the football: his career rushing total of 2,815 is the most ever for a Cougar QB. One issue that might prevent him from getting drafted is his age: following a two-year mission after high school and a redshirt year, Hill will turn 27 years old in August.

Fun Fact: Hill served his LDS mission in Sydney, Australia, which sounds absolutely awesome. If you go, just remember that not all koalas are cuddly.

Catcher In The Riley: This guy is no phony. A smaller receiver at 5-9, 185, Iowa’s Riley McCarron had the kind of workout that will get scouts talking. Running a 4.36-second 40 would have made him the third-fastest wide receiver at the combine, tied for fifth overall. His quickness tests made a summer housefly seem logy, with a 3.99-second 20-yard shuttle (top receiver, tied for third overall) and 6.57-second 3-cone (tied, first receiver; tied, second overall). His 40.5-inch vertical would have been third-best for receivers.

Not exactly sure why McCarron failed to make combine invite lists, but one reason may have been Iowa’s lack of passing in 2016. The slot receiver received All-Big Ten Honorable Mention, leading the Hawkeyes with 42 receptions for 517 yards (12.3 avg.) and four TDs. He also returned seven punts for 148 yards (21.1) and one touchdown (this 55-yarder vs. Illinois).

Fun Fact: McCarron lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track at Wahlert High in Dubuque, Iowa, where as a junior he won the state title in the 100-meter dash.

Last Wilson Testament: If you get one final shot to impress NFL scouts, you’ve got to take it. Not many did it better than Houston’s Brandon Wilson (5-11, 198), who played cornerback throughout his college career and switched to halfback for the Las Vegas Bowl in lieu of injuries. Wilson would have done well testing at both positions, as his 4.38-second 40 would have come in second for running backs, fourth for corners. His 41-inch vertical would have been the best at either position, while his 11-1 broad jump would have come in first for running backs, second for corners. Benching 225 pounds 24 times would have made him top corner, tied for second running back.

As a team captain at Houston, Wilson made American Athletic Conference Second Team with 42 tackles (four for loss) and two sacks, breaking up five passes with one interception. He returned 21 kicks for 510 yards (24.3 avg.) and made conference Special Teams Player of the Week in September with a 109-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal attempt vs. Oklahoma.

Fun Fact: In his career, Wilson scored eight touchdowns in six different ways, including rushing (two), kick returns (two), fumble return, interception return, and blocked field goal return. His missed field goal return can be seen in this clip. (This is what setting up a wall on a kick return looks like.)

So This Guy Swoopes In: Well, well, another quarterback seeking a different position. At 6-4, 247 pounds, Texas’ Tyrone Swoopes looks like a pass-catching tight end, and he’s trying to make the switch for the draft. His 4.68 40 would have tied for ninth combine tight end, his 4.39 20-yard shuttle eighth, his 35-inch vertical tied for fifth. Most impressive was his 6.89 3-cone time, which would have come in second for tight ends in Indy. Used as a running QB in short-yardage situations (called the “18-wheeler” package, which, I mean – you can’t do better than that), Swoopes had 174 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. His best performance came early in the season vs. 10th-ranked (and highly overrated) Notre Dame, when he rushed 13 times for 53 yards and three TDs in a 50-47 double-OT win. Swoopes started 12 games at QB as a sophomore, passing for 2,409 yards.

Serving Trey: Maryland running back Trey Edmunds (6-1, 223) had a heaping helping of attention after a 4.43-second 40 that would have made him the fourth-fastest back at the combine (especially notable considering the guy just ahead of him, Tarik Cohen of North Carolina A&T, measures 5-6, 175). Edmunds also had a 35.5-inch vertical and a 10-2 broad jump, both good for eighth-best back. Though his 7.25-second 3-cone showed a change-of-direction skill that seems only slightly better than an oil tanker, it still would have tied for 10th-best RB at the combine. Edmunds, a transfer from West Virginia, played in only five games for the Terps last year before fracturing his foot. He opened the season with a rushing touchdown and a special teams TD (blocked punt return) vs. Howard. You can watch that scoop-and-score on the BTN Network page.

Fun Fact: “Scoop And Score” would be a great name for an ice cream parlor/singles bar.

Fun, Related Fact: I did not sleep all that well last night.

Let’s Hear It For The BoiseWhat to do with Thomas Sperbeck, wide receiver from Boise State? On the one hand, the six-foot, 187-pound receiver ran a 4.59-second 40, jumped a 32-inch vertical, and leapt a 9-4 broad jump, none of which would have dented the top 15 for receivers at the combine. On the other hand, his 4.05-second 20-yard shuttle would have made top five receiver, while his 6.71 3-cone would have made top four. That kind of quickness could get him a look at camp this summer, as could his 2016 stats. Sperbeck made the All-Mountain West First Team (second year in a row), leading all conference receivers with 80 receptions and 97.8 yards per game (his 1,272 yards total came in second). He finished his career as BSU’s all-time leader in receiving yards (3,601).

Fun Fact: Sperbeck had three pass attempts in 2016, connecting on all three for touchdowns. Here’s video of him completing a four-yarder to then-freshman QB Brett Rypien in 2015.

Fun, Wicked-Athletic Fact: His senior year at Jesuit High (Carmichael, CA), Sperbeck led the football team in passing, rushing, scoring, and tackles.

Fun, I-Kinda-Thought-So Fact: For fans my age, yes, Brett Rypien is related to former Washington quarterback Mark Rypien, his uncle.

Tech A Chance On Me: Most fullback candidates don’t get drafted, but – especially with the success of teams like New England who utilize the position well – Texas Tech  fullback/tight end Tyler Scalzi could get a call for camp. Scalzi (6-3, 238) put up an astounding 37 reps on the bench, which bested all combine running backs by seven and would have beaten the top overall mark this year. Scalzi also put up a 10-6 broad jump that would have been fourth-best running back at the combine, and a respectable a 32.5-inch vertical.

Used mainly as a blocker on special teams, Scalzi put up more zeroes in his career than Nolan Ryan’s scorekeeper. He’s a strong, powerful player who could make a roster as a special-teamer and run package blocker.

Fun Fact: Scalzi hails from Flower Mound, Texas, ranked number one in the “Best Cities For Families” report from ApartmentList.

Gray Area: Not sure where athlete Deanté Gray will end up, position-wise, but the 5-9, 183-pound returner/receiver/cornerback reportedly ran a sub-4.40 40 at TCU’s pro day. In 2016, he had 10 receptions for 119 yards, and also rushed five times for 37 yards (74 avg.). Gray averaged 22.5 yards on kick returns (19 for 427). As a freshman Frog, Gray won Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors after returning five punts for a total of 160 yards, including one 70-yard touchdown. This past season on defense, he tallied 11 tackles (one for loss), and one pass break-up.

Crossan Over The Goal Line: Tip of the cap to NESN’s Zack Cox for his report on Dalton Crossan, a New Hampshire running back/receiver/returner/possible equipment guy who had a notable pro day. Crossan (5-10, 202) ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, which would have only made him 12th-best back at the combine, but his 4.14-second 20-yard shuttle would have been the top score for combine running backs, while his 6.85-second 3-cone would have come in third at the position. Among combine backs, Crossan’s 21 bench reps (tied, sixth), 35-inch vertical (tied, 10th), 10-foot-2 broad jump (eighth) all would have made top 10. At UNH, Crossan made All-Colonial Athletic Association Second Team with 233 rushes for 1,281 yards (5.5 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, along with 42 catches for 266 yards and four TDs. He also averaged 21.5 yards per kick return.

Fun, Patriots-Related Fact: According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, Crossan’s pro day was actually run by the Patriots.

Fun, Patriots-Related Fact, Part II: Crossan was ranked nationally as a high school lacrosse player, getting offered a full scholarship to play at Michigan. (I’m pretty sure Bill Belichick knows this.)

All I Remember’s An “Excuse Me, Miss”: The best part of the Combine Snubs series involves finding players with unusual backgrounds, and offensive lineman Jeremy Liggins (6-3, 315) out of Ole Miss fits this description well. As a junior college transfer out of Northeast Mississippi Community College, Liggins played tight end in 2014 with a role as wildcat QB in short-yardage situations. By October of 2015, he got several snaps at tackle. He entered the fall of 2016 as the team’s top left tackle. Liggins demonstrated the type of athleticism one might expect from a former QB, running a 4.92-second 40 that would have been second-fastest for combine linemen. His 31-inch vertical jump would have tied for second-best, while his 9-foot-4 broad jump would have made third OL. A 4.7-second short shuttle would have come in 10th. Ole Miss’ offense averaged 464.3 total yards per game last season.

Fun Fact: As a 265-pound quarterback at Lafayette High in Oxnard, Miss., Liggins won 32 straight games and two straight 4A state championships. He showed off his arm at Mississppi’s pro day, throwing the football almost 70 yards.

DEFENSE

Let’s Geaux Malveaux: Defensive end Cam Malveaux did well at Houston’s pro day, beginning with his lanky, 6-6, 273-pound measurements that could give opposing linemen waking nightmares of giant squid. Malveaux ran a notable 4.69 40, which would have tied for 11th at the combine among defensive linemen (as we’ve said before, the combine fails to differentiate between pass-rushing defensive hybrids and run-stuffing nose tackles). His 37.5-inch vertical would have been the third-highest for D-linemen, while his 10-foot-5 broad jump would have tied for sixth. For the Cougars (hey, I thought BYU were the Cougars), Malveaux – a team captain with Wilson – had 21 tackles total, with 7.5 of them going for loss (one sack), and two fumble recoveries.

Fun Fact: Two of Malveaux’s top games came against Navy (two tackles for loss in 2016, six tackles in 2015), so you’ve got to figure Coach Belichick has heard this guy’s name.

Cruel To Be Kai: I’m at my wit’s end wondering what safeties have to do to get invited to the combine. BYU’s Kai Nacua (6-1, 205) ran a 4.48-second 40, good for sixth best combine safety. His testing would have made top six at the position with a 39-inch vertical (third-best safety), 10-7 broad jump (fifth-best), 4.14 20-yard shuttle (fourth) and 6.87 3-cone (tied, sixth). For the Cougars (seriously, BYU and/or Houston – pick a new mascot!) in 2016, Nacua tallied 48 tackles (1.5 for loss), six interceptions, and a forced fumble. He had 14 interceptions for his career.

Fun Fact: According to Gil Brandt’s BYU pro day report, Nacua had a private workout scheduled with New England on April 3.

How Does It Feel? Would you like a little Dylan? Here’s an undersized one: linebacker Dylan Cole (6-1, 239), who put up the kind of numbers at Missouri State’s pro day that would have made him one of the most athletic linebackers in the combine. Cole’s 4.52-second 40 would have made him the second-fastest linebacker, behind only Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers (4.46). Cole also leapt 39 inches vertically – which would have topped all other linebackers – and 10 feet, five inches horizontally, good for a tie at fifth. His 6.82-second 3-cone (second-best LB) and a 4.19 20-yard shuttle (fourth-best) also shone. Add 32 bench presses, which would have beaten the combine-best LB Ben Gideon’s 27 and come in eighth overall, and you’ve got a snub so bad it would make a pug’s nose recoil. (I mean, really: look at this face.)

Playing at the FCS level, a player needs to stand out. Cole was a ketchup stain on a white tie, making Walter Camp FCS All-American and All-Missouri Valley First Team for the Bears with 142 total tackles (eight for loss) six passes defensed, and three forced fumbles.

Fun Fact: Cole was an all-state running back for Logan-Rogersville High in Missouri in 2011 with 225 carries for 2,002 yards rushing (8.9 avg.) and 33 touchdowns.

Whoa-Oh, Black Bear, Bam-Ba-LamYeah, that one’s a reach. Speaking of reaches, Maine’s Patrick Ricard has a better-than-average one at 6-3, 300 pounds, and the defensive lineman had some solid scores at his pro day, with a 5.00-second 40, 36-inch vertical (tied for fourth-best combine D-lineman) and a respectable 4.55 20-yard shuttle. He stood out in the bench press with 33, which would have tied for second-best DL at the combine. At Maine, Ricard made All-Colonial Athletic Association First Team with 50 tackles (15.5 for loss) and 5.5 sacks.

Besides his testing, a big reason he’s included here is that the only team to send an NFL rep to the Black Bears’ pro day was New England. Which, you know, kind of makes sense.

Fun Fact: Ricard won the Central Mass. DII Super Bowl with David Prouty High (located in Spencer) in 2009.

Fun, Follow-Up Fact: David Prouty helped start the high school in the late 1880s. His family had begun a wire mill and a shoe factory earlier in the century.

Harper’s Bizarre: Well, not that weird, but it’s still a bit odd that safety Jarrod Harper (6-0, 210) wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, considering his West Virginia pro day results. Harper ran a 4.56 40, which would have tied for ninth-best among combine safeties. He had a 9-11 broad jump (tied, 11th safety), and tied for second-best among the nation’s top safeties with a 6.72 3-cone and a 4.13 20-yard shuttle. As a senior, Harper had 71 tackles (55 solo), including three for loss for the 10-3 Mountaineers.

Howard Huge: He might not be that big, actually, as a six-foot, 301-pound defensive lineman, but Darrien Howard loomed large at West Virginia’s pro day. His 4.97 40, 26 bench reps (tied, 10th DL), 29-inch vertical, 9-4 broad jump, 7.17 3-cone (tied, 13th), and 4.69 20-yard shuttle all would have fit in well among DLs above 300 pounds. As a senior at WVU, Howard totaled 66 tackles (40 solo), including six for loss. He added one forced fumble.

What’d I Miss? Looks like LSU safety Rickey Jefferson (5-11, 204) missed out on an opportunity to exhibit his skills at the combine, as his 4.55 40 (tied, eighth safety), 17 bench reps (also tied, eighth), 35.5-inch vertical (sixth), 10-foot broad jump (tied, 10th), and 7.00-second 3-cone drill (10th) would have all made top 10 in Indy. At LSU, Jefferson had 22 tackles, one interception, and one pass break-up. He played special teams, manning both punt and kickoff coverage squads.

Fun (But Not So Much That As The Opposite Of That) Fact: In 2013, 18-year-old Jefferson was arrested for allegedly attacking a plain-clothes police officer who was arresting his buddy during Mardi Gras. Eh. Live and learn.

We Can Leave Your Friends Behind: Honoring the request for more names at the safety dance, Orion Stewart (6-0, 203) of Baylor gets added to the list of snubs who stood out. Stewart’s 4.58 40-yard dash would have come in 12th for safeties in Indy, but his other results would have made top 10 at the position, including a 37.5-inch vertical (tied, third), 10-5 broad jump (tied, fifth), 4.11 20-yard shuttle (second) and 7.05 3-cone (10th). Stewart made All-Big 12 Honorable Mention last season, notching 76 total tackles (five for loss), with six interceptions and five pass break-ups.

Below, some comparative numbers between invitees and snubs (aka “Good Heavens, John Ross is fast”):

TOP COMBINE VS. SNUBS RESULTS (Combine In Italics)

40-Yard Dash

4.22 seconds – John Ross, Washington WR

4.35 seconds – Francis Owusu, Stanford WR

4.38 seconds – Anthony Nash, Duke WR

4.39 seconds – Dominique Reed, Arkansas WR

Bench Press

38 reps – Hunter Dimick, Utah DE

37 reps – Tyler Scalzi, Texas Tech FB/TE

35 reps – Isaac Asiata, Utah OG; Carl Lawson, Auburn DE

33 reps – Patrick Ricard, Maine DL

Vertical Jump

44.0 inches – Obi Melifonwu, UConn S

41.0 inches – Brandon Wilson, Houston RB/CB

40.0 inches – Xavier Coleman, Portland State CB

Broad Jump

11-foot-9 – Obi Melifonwu, UConn S

11-foot-1 – Jason Thompson, Utah S; Brandon Wilson, Houston RB/CB

3-Cone Drill

6.56 seconds – Kevin King, Washington CB

6.57 seconds –  Jason Thompson, Utah S; Riley McCarron, Iowa WR

20-yard Shuttle

3.89 seconds – Kevin King, Washington CB

3.99 seconds – Riley McCarron, Iowa WR

4.01 seconds – Jason Thompson, Utah S

Please look for our final pre-draft wrap-up soon, including our last, best shot at “That Guy” Patriots draft picks.

Chris Warner ran a 4.9 40, 30 years and 80 pounds ago. He can be reached at chris.warner@patriotsdaily.com and @cwarn89 on Twitter.

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