As we up here in New England try to shovel our way out of the annually misleading first days of spring, it seemed like a good time to post a pre-draft column.
Welcome, dear readers, to the first of this year’s Snubs lists, featuring the athletes who used pro days to show NFL Combine scouts should have given them a shot. (Or, at least, to prove they would have fit right in.)
I feel like I should be making an underdog, Caddyshack-style reference here, but I’ve got nothing, so instead I’ll refer you to the Netflix biopic of Caddyshack and Animal House co-writer Doug Kenney: A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Funny, crazy, and sad, much like the man himself.
Where were we? Ah, yes: In last year’s Snubs columns (Part I here, Part II here), we noted the pro day prowess of Riley McCarron, Austin Carr, Max Rich, Caleb Kidder, Josh Augusta, and Jason Thompson, all of whom ended up on the New England roster for at least a brief time. (Note: Thanks to reader Matt M. for pointing those out.) So, which overlooked overachiever could make it to Foxboro this summer? We’ll take a look below.
For a rundown of the various pro day drills, you can check out this handy reference on NFL.com. If you don’t want to bother, just please keep in mind that the bench press refers to how many times a player can put up 225 pounds, while the 20-yard shuttle (5-10-5) and 3-cone drill (or “L” drill) measure quickness.
Thanks as always to NFL lifetime scout Gil Brandt for his NFL.com pro day schedule page with Twitter updates, as well as WalterFootball.com for their results postings. Tip of the cap to Herosports.com for their FCS updates as well. Lastly, thanks to NFL.com for their Combine Top Performances page.
Okey-doke, let’s do this. Part One!
Not Good At Everything, But Not Badet Much: Hey, remember a few weeks ago in the post-combine “That Guy” column, where I said I loved Oklahoma receiver Jeff Badet as a Seventh-Round receiver? (This link may refresh your memory.) Well, it appears Badet may have run himself into a higher draft spot, as the 6-0, 178-pound pass-catcher blitzed a 4.27 40-yard dash, which would have been the speediest time at this year’s combine. His 39.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-11 broad jump would have both come in second for receivers. Badet added a surprisingly wiry 16 bench press reps, tied for 11th best WR. Badet, a Kentucky transfer, caught 26 passes totaling 400 yards and three touchdowns at OU. He also returned 15 kicks for a 20.9 average, with a long of 70.
Catch As Catch Kanoff: Mentioning Princeton quarterback Chad Kanoff here, not because of his pro day numbers (though he did fine), but because the 6-4, 219-pounder apparently did quite well passing the ball in front of scouts. Most importantly, Kanoff – a California kid who chose Princeton over Vanderbilt – had himself a heck of a season, earning Ivy League Player of the Year with a record-breaking 3,474 yards and 73.2 completion percentage.
Triple J Comin’ At Ya: Here’s where I ask myself, how old am I? Receiver J. J. Jones (5-10, 175) of the University of West Georgia had a solid pro day, running a 4.35-second 40 that would have fared second-best among receivers at the combine. Jones’ numbers that would have made top 10 for combine receivers included his 38-inch vertical (fourth), 10-foot-8 broad jump (sixth), and 6.83-second 3-cone (seventh). In 2017, Jones caught 24 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He also shone as a returner for the Wolves, averaging 10.5 yards per punt (28 for 293) with a TD, and 32.5 yards per kickoff return (eight for 260) with a long of 73.
This Is A Cody Red: Guard Cody O’Connell did two remarkable things at Washington State’s pro day. He measured 6-9, 352 pounds, and then he ran a 4.80-second 40, which would have been the fastest time for combine offensive linemen. For the heck of it, he added a 34.5-inch vertical, which also would have bested all combine OLs. Putting up 28 bench reps would have tied for sixth. O’Connell earned All-American honors twice starting at left guard.
Which all begs the question: how in the name of Sweet Jesu did the combine scouts skip this specimen? I don’t know, man. I don’t know how this works.
Ah, well. Video here of O’Connell off the field might make you a fan.
Looking Purdy Good: Purdue offensive tackle David Steinmetz made strong first impressions with his size (6-7, 320). His respectable 26 bench reps (a combine tie for 11th offensive lineman) got overshadowed by his 33-inch vertical (fourth-best among combine OLs) and his 9-foot-7 broad jump (second best for OLs). Steinmetz, who hails from Grafton, Mass., transferred to Purdue for his final year of eligibility after graduating from URI. He has played both tackle positions.
Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want To See You: This quote might ring a bell (heh), and it fits in nicely with the pro day performance of Pennsylvania receiver Justin Watson (6-3, 213), who probably hasn’t done this well in a test since he took the SATs. (Ah, yes: a joke about the Ivy League. So clever.) Watson’s 4.42-second 40 would have tied for fifth-fastest receiver at the combine, while his 40-inch vertical would have tied for highest among all combine receivers (with LSU’s D. J. Chark). Other top 10 numbers include his 20 bench reps (fourth receiver), 10-foot-4 broad jump (sixth WR) and 4.19-second 20-yard shuttle (eighth WR). His 7.00-second 3-cone drill won’t dazzle anyone with quickness, but it aligns with other, bigger pro receivers (former Patriot Michael Floyd, 6-3, 220, put up a 7.11 at Notre Dame’s pro day).
Watson became the Penn career record holder in receptions (286), receiving yards (3,777), receiving TDs (33), and all-purpose yards (4,116). He also holds the school record for receptions in a single season (89 in 2016); his 81 catches in 2017 and 74 in 2015 hold the fourth and sixth all-time spots, respectively. First Team All-Ivy, which, I mean … of course.
Tapping Temple: Receiver Keith Kirkwood, a bigger guy at 6-3, 221, did solid work at his pro day, submitting a 4.45-second 40 that would have made top 10 at the combine for wide receivers. His 10-5 broad jump (sixth) and 35-inch vertical (14th) would have both made top 15 for wideouts. His 6.94 3-cone and 4.43-second 20-yard shuttle would have been outside that top range, but his numbers compare favorably with current Patriots receiver Kenny Britt (6-3, 218), who ran a 4.56 40 and 4.47 20-yard shuttle and had a 10-4 broad jump. Kirkwood caught 39 passes for the Owls, totaling 575 yards (14.74 avg.) and seven touchdowns.
Fun Fact: Kirkwood played only one year of football in high school, focusing on hoops. He averaged 17 points and 15 rebounds per game his junior year, helping Neptune (NJ) High win a championship.
I Ain’t Saying He’s A Golditch, But He Ain’t Messing With No Broke Finger: Colorado State offensive lineman Zack Golditch (6-4, 298) had to contend with a finger injury suffered during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, forcing him to skip the bench press. He did, however, put up a 9-6 broad jump that would have placed second among combine offensive linemen, as well as a 32.5-inch vertical that would have placed him third. At CSU, Steinmetz was named First Team All-Mountain West by league coaches. Steinmetz, who has been starting since the beginning of his sophomore year, helped block for the 11th-ranked offense in the country, averaging 492.5 yards per game.
Codey Banks An Agent, Or Something: Not sure how much of a chance the average Division II Southeastern Oklahoma State player has to make it to the NFL, but there’s something about Codey McElroy (6-6, 250) that has promise beyond his 4.69-second 40 that would have come in fifth for combine tight ends. After getting drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2014, McElroy (24 years old) left baseball and walked on as a basketball player at Oklahoma State. This past August, he decided to play football for the first time since junior high (an article in NewsOK here), and he caught 14 passes for 173 yards and five touchdowns. I mean, not the most focused individual, but it seems there’s some potential, there.
Fun Fact: The SOSU mascot is The Savage Storm. In his next career, this may also become McElroy’s pro wrestling name.
Keep Austin? Weird: It would seem strange to bring another fullback into training camp, but Austin Ramesh (6-1, 255) out of Wisconsin brings the kind of foot speed rarely seen in backs his size. His 4.78-second 40 would not have made top 15 among combine running backs, but his 6.75-second 3-cone would have been the quickest among all combine RBs. His 24 bench reps would have made top four for the position. For the Badgers, Ramesh didn’t exactly tote the rock like an overworked geologist, carrying only 17 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns (he went 34 for 147 and five TDs for his career). He caught six passes last year, 13 for his career. His Badger class had four straight seasons with 10 wins or more.
For Getting There, A Marshall: Well, this super-clunky movie reference comes due to Marshall linebacker Davon Durant (6-2, 240), whose 33 bench reps would have bested all combine linebackers this year by five. Durant also had some notable jumps: 10-3 broad, good for seventh-best linebacker at the combine; and a 37-inch vertical, sixth-best LB at the combine. In 2017, Durant had 28 tackles (six for loss), 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
You Got Ivy Hard, You Got Ivy Tough, You Got Ivy Stronger: All I know, Love will save the day. Oh, are we back? Some strong performances by a couple of Ivy League defenders this month, which we shall deliver in fancy, old-school-approved bullet points…
• Foye Oluokun, Yale linebacker, had the type of pro day that could see him get drafted. The 6-1, 230-pounder ran a 4.48 40, which – along with his 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle – would have placed him second among combine linebackers. His 37-inch vertical and 10-foot-3 broad jump would have both placed sixth at the position. A Second Team All-Ivy selection, Oluokon had 50 tackles last year (nine for loss), with three sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception for the Ivy League Champions.
• Cameron Roane, Columbia defensive back (6-0, 195), ran a 4.42-second 40, top eight for combine corners. He also had 19 bench press reps (top three CB), a 39-inch vertical (tied for second), and a 10-foot-10 broad jump (top three). Roane made First Team All-Ivy last season after compiling 25 tackles and nine passes defensed.
Al Quiet On The Eastern Front: You may not have heard much about Eastern Washington defensive end Albert Havili, but his pro day could help him get some time in the spotlight. The 6-2, 255-pounder put up 29 reps on the bench, which would have been second-most for edge defenders. He also had a 4.82-second 40 time, top 15 at the position. At EWU, Havili made All-Big Sky in 2017 with 61 tackles, five sacks, and eight quarterback hurries.
What About Bobcat? The Patriots have some familiarity with Montana State, as linebacker Dane Fletcher spent four seasons with New England after signing with the club as a rookie free agent in 2010. Another Bobcat on the radar? Safety Bryson McCabe (6-0, 205) would have tied for 12th-best 40 among combine safeties at 4.56 seconds. He also would have made top 10 safety with the following: 10-2 broad jump (eighth), 39.5-inch vertical (sixth), 6.75-second 3-cone (fourth). McCabe had 87 tackles last year at MSU, with one interception and six pass break-ups.
Da Do Run Run, Ronnie, Da Do Run, Ronnie: Sound advice for cornerback Ronnie Scott (5-10, 175), who highlighted Alabama State’s pro day with a 4.38-second 40, tied for top six among combine corners. Scott really wowed scouts with his vertical, as his 41-inch bid for the clouds would have bested all other combine corners by half an inch. Scott had only 20 tackles last season, a number minimized by the fact that opponents knew better than to throw his way: he had six pass break-ups and three interceptions, along with a whopping 162 interception return yards on the season.
Sharif Don’t Like It – Rock The Combine: I think it’s not kosher that combine scouts failed to invite Temple’s Sharif Finch (6-4, 251), especially after his pro day showed he would have fit right in among defensive ends. His 4.65-second 40 would have made top six at the position, while his 7.00 3-cone would have come in fourth. His 4.45 20-yard shuttle and 9-9 broad jump both would have gotten 12th place for edge defenders, while his 31-inch vertical would have slotted at 15. Last season, Finch had 51 tackles (a team-leading 14.5 for loss) and 7.5 sacks. In his career at Temple, he managed to block five punts.
Fun Fact: In 2017, Finch earned APEX Predator of the Week honors vs. Villanova. There can be no better name for a football award.
If You Key On Anyone, Keion Crossen: Western Carolina’s Keion Crossen worked out at Wake Forest’s pro day, and the 5-9, 178-pound cornerback garnered attention. His 4.32 40 would have tied for top overall combine time with three other cornerbacks. His 39.5-inch vertical would have come in second among corners, his 6.67-second 3-cone would have come in third at the position, and his 4.15 20-yard shuttle would have tied for ninth CB. Crossen had 67 tackles for the Catamounts last season (one for loss), along with seven pass break-ups.
Tech A Chance On Me: The Patriots have brought in Georgia Tech defenders before, including rookie free agent linebacker Gary Guyton (2008) and seventh-round tackle Darryl Richard (2009). Now they could take a flyer on defensive end Antonio Simmons (6-2, 252), who ran a 4.50 40 and benched 30 reps, both of which would have given him second-best scores among edge defenders at the combine. Simmons’ 30.5 vertical leap would have just missed top 15. In 2017, Simmons totaled 31 tackles (eight for loss), 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and a blocked kick for the Ramblin’ Wreck.
Chip Ahoy: Central Michigan defensive end Joe Ostman (6-2, 253) would have gotten some notice alongside combine edge defenders. First off, the former Chippewa tied for the most bench reps among ends with 31. While his 4.80-second 40 would have tied for 14th at the position, his 36.5-inch vertical would have been third-best, and his 7.02 3-cone and 10-2 broad jump would have both come in fourth. Ostman made All-Mid American Conference Second Team Defense with 69 tackles (13.5 for loss) and nine sacks.
More Combine Snubs to come in the middle of April once pro days wrap up. The NFL draft begins Thursday, April 26.
My God. Still so far away. Guess I should get back to shoveling the driveway. In the meantime, check out how our snubs are faring as compared to the invitees.
TOP COMBINE VS. SNUB RESULTS (Combine in Italics)
4.27 seconds – Jeff Badet, Oklahoma WR
4.32 seconds – Donte Jackson, LSU CB
4.32 seconds – Keion Crossen, Wake Forest CB
4.35 seconds – J. J. Jones, West Georgia WR
4.38 seconds – Ronnie Scott, Alabama State CB
42 reps – Harrison Phillips, Stanford DT
33 reps – Davon Durant, Marshall DE
41.5 inches – Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech S
41 inches – Ronnie Scott, Alabama State CB
40 inches – Justin Watson, Penn WR
39.5 inches – Jeff Badet, Oklahoma WR; Keion Crossen, Wake Forest CB; Bryson McCabe, Montana St. S
11-foot-4 – Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB
10-foot-11 – Jeff Badet, Oklahoma WR
6.28 seconds – Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma CB
6.67 seconds – Keion Crossen, Wake Forest CB
3.94 seconds – Grant Haley, Penn State CB; Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma CB
4.15 seconds – Keion Crossen, Wake Forest CB
Chris Warner probably should have been a fan therapist, but that job’s already taken. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cwarn89.