This 2017 NFL Draft hosts an exciting selection of skill position players for fantasy football enthusiasts, especially at the running back and tight end positions, though there are certainly some exciting options at quarterback and wide receiver as well. And unlike last year’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis, we had some surprisingly good performances from some players, and some surprisingly poor performances from others (we’re looking at you, Dalvin Cook).

In a continuation of last year, we’re formatting our Combine review like our popular Stock Watch feature, as we think it allows us the best way to present the data.

Upgrades

Combine performance has made us more optimistic about these particular players.

Quarterbacks

Deshaun Watson (Clemson) – Watson obviously made some questionable decisions on tape this past season, but one thing that constantly showed up was his willingness to prepare and compete. That showed up at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. All the top QBs threw, and though obviously they’re throwing in a controlled environment, we don’t think any of the top passers showed as much polish as Watson, as he was consistently accurate with good touch and mechanics. As for the workouts, he checked in with below-average height (6’2”), but had decent hand size (9.75”) and was well above average across the board in the 40 (4.66 seconds), three-cone (6.87 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.25 seconds), and broad jump (116”). According to mockdraftable.com, Watson’s top athletic comparable is Donovan McNabb, which we think fits physically. McNabb was a more gifted arm talent, but Watson may have more overall polish as a passer than McNabb did coming out. We saw nothing to convince us that Watson isn’t our favorite QB in this class, all things considered.

Trubisky looked fairly identical to Deshaun Watson in most of the drills, but his release stood out and had a fairly impressive Combine.Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina) – Since the Combine isn’t really the spot to be basing your evaluations on for passers, Trubisky’s biggest headline from Indianapolis may be the fact that he prefers to be called “Mitchell” and not “Mitch.” But what Trubisky did on the field was pretty impressive too. First of all, his measured drills showed a fantastic athlete who may not have been given the proper credit for it in one year as the Tar Heels’ starter. With a 4.67-second 40-yard dash, 116” broad jump, 4.25-second 20-yard shuttle, and 6.87-second three-cone, Trubisky athletically looked pretty much identical to Deshaun Watson. But Trubisky’s height of 6’2” – just like Watson – is right on the cusp of what NFL teams look for, and his hand size (9.5”) is slightly below average for the position. Nonetheless, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah noted in particular how quick and sharp Trubisky’s release was when he was throwing, and Trubisky certainly performed well enough throwing in shorts and a T-shirt that his stock certainly didn’t take a hit.

Running Backs

Christian McCaffrey (Stanford) – We’re already fans of McCaffrey, as is pretty much any college football fan with a pulse. But McCaffrey’s Combine performance simply highlights why we like him. McCaffrey’s 4.48-second 40-yard dash showed more than enough vertical speed to run away from opponents, it’s his outrageous 6.57-second three-cone drill that highlights McCaffrey’s most notable skill – his suddenness and elusiveness in a short area. McCaffrey put that on display in college, when he made defenders miss with the ball in his hands, and shook would-be cover players out of their shoes when running routes. At 5’11” and 202 pounds with tiny 9” hands, McCaffrey has some frame issues, but his Combine performance in the areas that matter if you already liked McCaffrey simply put a bigger star on him.

Leonard Fournette (LSU) – We didn’t get any agility drills out of Fournette in Indianapolis, but what we saw was impressive enough. Fournette measured in at 6’0” and a massive 240 pounds, but ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, which is absolutely absurd for his size (and it shows up on tape, as well). Like Christian McCaffrey, nothing Fournette did at the Combine is particularly surprising given his film, and it would have been nice to see him at least try the agility drills, but a guy his size who can move like that – even in a straight line – is simply not natural.

Alvin Kamara (Tennessee) – Like Leonard Fournette, we didn’t get any agility drills out of Kamara at the Combine, but we did get enough to at least consider the fact that his recent hype train is justified. A “bit player” at Tennessee who functioned more as a James White/Tevin Coleman type of rotational back, Kamara has never had 20 or more touches in a game but on tape flashes the ability to make explosive plays separated from the formation. And his outrageous 131” broad jump at the Combine suggests he has incredible lower-body explosiveness, even if he underwhelmed a bit with a 4.56-second 40. For what it’s worth, Kamara’s very long 32.75” arms suggest the ability to catch the ball away from his body. It’s that short-area burst that will get him early-round consideration in April’s NFL Draft – remember that Kenyan Drake was the third RB off the board last year.

Jeremy McNichols (Boise State) – There are a few RBs slipping through the cracks this year because the class is so deep, but it’ll be harder to ignore McNichols after an insanely productive college career and very strong showing at the NFL Combine. Coming off a junior season in which he posted 2183 yards from scrimmage and 27 TDs (after 1797 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore), McNichols had one of the most well rounded Combine performances of any RB. He ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash (same as Dalvin Cook), jumped 121” in the broad jump, and showed strong lateral agility with a 6.93-second three-cone drill. Moreover, at 5’9” and 214 pounds, he’s solidly built. McNichols deserves to hear his name talked about more with the top prospects in the class, especially given how good a receiver he was at Boise.

Wide Receivers

John Ross set a new record with a 4.22 second 40-yard dash, beating out Chris Johnson's old record of 4.24. He did cramp up after the run and he does have some durability issues, but we have to place Ross close to the likes of Mike Williams and Corey Davis now.John Ross (Washington) – Ross broke the Combine Saturday by smashing Chris Johnson’s 40-time record. He became the new 40-yard dash champion with his historic 4.22 run to best Johnson’s old 4.24 time. He also put up great numbers in the vertical (37”) and broad jumps (11’1”) before he had to shut it down because of cramping after his record run. Ross still has durability questions because he’s had surgeries to both knees and he’ll need shoulder surgery after the Combine to fix his labrum. He told the media on Friday that his medicals checked out, which is certainly a positive. Ross has easily locked himself in as a first-round pick now, and he could go in the first 20 picks. The gap between Ross and Mike Williams/Corey Davis is much smaller now.

Chris Godwin (Penn State) – Godwin may have been the biggest winner from the Combine with an unexpected but impressive Combine performance. Most draft observers expected him to run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard dash, so most were stunned when he ran a 4.42 and had the best 20-yard shuttle at 4.00. He also had an impressive 36-inch vertical, and he tied for the most reps (19) in the bench press – we’re counting Billy Brown as a TE prospect. Godwin tore it up in drills too, running an impressive gauntlet drill. He is arguably the best in this year’s class in contested-catch situations, and he showed Saturday he’s a lot more athletic than most thought going into the Combine. Godwin has been overlooked in a fairly deep class of WRs, but he’s now locked in as a Day 2 pick.

Zay Jones (East Carolina) – Many draftniks have wondered if Jones is just a product of the pass-heavy East Carolina system, which helped Justin Hardy also put up gaudy numbers. Jones has proven to be much more athletic than his former teammate. Zay eased the concerns about his speed and quickness at the Combine, posting a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and elite times in the 20-yard (4.01) and 60-yard (11.17) shuttle runs. He also had one of the top broad jumps at 11’1” and a solid 36½” vertical. Jones wasn’t expected to be one of the elite athletes at the position in Indy, but he certainly was. He kept the momentum he gained at the Senior Bowl going, which will likely make him a Day 2 pick.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC) – Smith-Schuster has been compared a lot to Anquan Boldin leading up to the Combine. At 6’1”, 215 pounds, he showed he has a little more juice than he’s been given credit for, running a better 40-time than most expected at 4.54. He also posted a solid number in the broad jump (10”) and a slightly disappointing vertical (32½”). Smith-Schuster did struggle through a back issue in 2016, but he looked much healthier in the drills at the Combine and he likely solidified his spot as a Day 2 pick.

Tight Ends

O.J. Howard (Alabama) – Top RB prospect Leonard Fournette ran an impressive 4.51 40-time at 6’1”, 240 pounds. A day later, top TE prospect Howard ran the same time despite checking in 11 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller. He also posted the best times at the position in the 3-cone drill (6.85 seconds), 20-yard (4.16), and 60-yard shuttle runs (11.46). He was a little below average with a 30’ vertical, but he had an excellent 10”1’ broad jump. According to mockdraftable.com, Howard ranks in the top 15% at the position in height, 40-yard dash, broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. In one of the most loaded TE classes in recent history, Howard is still leading the way after the Combine.

The former high-jumper and Miami Hurricane Njoku had a great showing at the Combine, narrowing the gap between himself and top TE OJ Howard.David Njoku (Miami) – Njoku started only 9 times in two seasons at Miami, but he’s quickly rising up draft boards and the Combine didn’t slow down his momentum. He checked in with freaky long arms at 35¼”, and he measured out at 6’4”, 246 pounds with 10” hands. Njoku was a national champion in the high jump in high school, so it was no surprise that he killed the jumps with a 37½” vertical and a 11’1” broad jump. According to mockdraftable.com, Njoku ranks in the top 10% at the position in arm length, broad jump, and vertical jump. O.J. Howard is still the top TE in the class right now, but Njoku is definitely applying some pressure.

Evan Engram (Mississippi) – It looks like O.J. Howard and David Njoku are locks for the first round, and Engram’s performance at the Combine has him fighting to be a Day 1 selection. He ran a blistering 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, which was the third-fastest time for the position since 2006. He actually had a better time than WRs A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins, and only 4 WRs from this class timed better than him. Engram didn’t disappoint in the jumps either, with a 36” vertical and 10’5” broad jump. It’s not surprising that he also did well in the receiving gauntlet because of his athletic ability. Engram did check in at just 6’3”, 234 pounds, so there are questions if he’s big enough to be a three-down TE. He’s been compared to Jordan Reed in the draft process, and he’s certainly athletic enough to be a matchup nightmare no matter where he lines up.

 

Downgrades

Combine performance has made us less optimistic about these particular players.

Quarterbacks

None of note.

Running Backs

Dalvin Cook (Florida State) – There’s no way around it – considering he’s regarded as perhaps the best “all-around” back in the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook’s Combine performance was a major disappointment. And that may be understating it. Cook’s positives probably begin and end with his 4.49-second 40-yard dash, which is very good, though more “expected” of someone his size (5’10”, 210 pounds). It’s everything else that’s an issue. Cook’s agility drills weren’t just poor, they were downright awful – 4.53 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, and 7.27 seconds in the three-cone. We’ll give Cook credit for actually running the drills when a lot of other top RB prospect didn’t, but at this point we bet he wishes he hadn’t. Cook’s tape is still impressive, but those times in the agility drills are bad for any RB, of any size. He’ll have to answer for them. There’s no doubt his draft stock took a hit.

Jamaal Williams (BYU) – A deeper dive into Williams’ tape revealed a player who had some serious issues – he went down on first contact a lot, and when actually in the open field he looked awkward and stiff, much like a small and less gifted Latavius Murray. Well, his Combine performance isn’t likely to assuage those concerns. Williams’ 4.59-second 40-yard dash was sub-average, and his 4.53-second 20-yard shuttle and 7.25-second three-cone drill were both awful for the position. Consider also that his 212-pound frame is small for his size (6’0”). Williams’ 123” broad jump suggests excellent lower-body power, but that trait didn’t often show up on film. He’s the type of player who needed a big Combine to help his mediocre tape, and he didn’t have it.

Corey Clement (Wisconsin) – Clement was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl, but he had a poor Combine. He ran a really slow 4.68 40, posted a subpar 115” broad jump, and didn’t run in the agility drills. A guy who has kind of fallen through the cracks in what is generally considered an excellent RB class, Clement certainly didn’t do anything to separate himself from the mid-late round pack with a poor Combine showing. At the least, his 220-pound frame offers a team size.

Wide Receivers

Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) – Kupp performed extremely well at the Senior Bowl, but he couldn’t keep the momentum going at the Combine. He had an absolutely dreadful performance in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.62, and his 31” vertical was better than only 7% of the position, according to mockdraftable.com. His broad jump wasn’t much better at 9’8”, and he showed very little explosiveness during the drills. Kupp once looked like small-school guy who would go on Day 2, but he’s likely locked himself in as a Day 3 option now.

Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech) – Ford looked like a WR who would run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard dash based on his size (6’1”, 194 pounds) and his tape, but he came out of Indy with a disappointing 4.62. He also had a disappointing 4.34 in the 20-yard shuttle, and he struggled in the receiving drills. They only area where he tested well-above average came in the broad jump, with a leap of 10’7”. With so many other receivers helping their cause in Indy, Ford likely saw himself fall into Day 3.

Tight Ends

Jordan Leggett (Clemson) – The 2017 tight end class is loaded and most of the top options impressed during workouts in Indy. Leggett is one TE who did little to help or hurt himself. He decided to skip the 40-yard dash, and he had just an average vertical jump (33”) and a weak broad jump (9’6”). He did perform well in the receiving gauntlet but struggled a bit when he had to put his hand in the ground for blocking drills. According to mockdraftable.com, Leggett is an above-average athlete in most categories, but he ranks in the top quarter of TEs in just hand size (10⅜"). Leggett is likely going to be one of safer options coming out of the draft, but he doesn’t have the athletic ceiling that other TEs in this class offer.

Jake Butt (Michigan) – Butt was a noticeable absentee at the Combine workouts – he did measure in at 6’5”, 246 pounds. It looked like he might be the third TE off the board before he tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Now, it looks like he might not go off the board until the third day of the draft. Butt has been a victim of some circumstances out of his control. He’s obviously plummeting because of his knee injury, but this TE class is also one of the best in recent history and they didn’t disappoint at the Combine.

 

Holding Steady

These players have been in the news in one way or another, but we think their draft stock remains largely unchanged. 

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) – If you love Mahomes, there’s likely nothing that happened at the Combine that will change that. Conversely, if you had big questions about his transition from a freelancer in Texas Tech’s offense to the NFL, you aren’t changing your mind on that either. Mahomes may have more natural arm talent than any QB in this class, as he throws with easy velocity (it’s worth noting his father was an MLB pitcher). Because of that arm talent and the wide-open offense in which he played, Mahomes got away with some very sloppy footwork and mechanics in college, and even when throwing against air at the Combine in Indianapolis, those old trends continued to show up, though Mahomes was generally pretty accurate even with the sloppy feet. Moreover, Mahomes’ 6’2” frame is right on the cusp of what NFL teams look for, and his 9.25” hands are considered small for the position. But Mahomes’ elusiveness on tape also showed up in Combine numbers, as he posted excellent scores in both the 20-yard shuttle (4.08 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.88 seconds).

Running Backs

Wayne Gallman (Clemson) – If you like Gallman on film, it’s because of his competitiveness, blocking, and instant third-down readiness, not necessarily because any traits pop off the tape in terms of extreme athleticism. Nonetheless, he posted below-average times in the 40 (4.60 seconds), 20-yard shuttle (4.28 seconds), and three-cone drill (7.17 seconds). His 120” broad jump suggests positive lower-body power, which does show up on film, and he was above average in both height and weight (6’0”, 215 pounds). Despite an overall subpar showing, we’re holding Gallman steady because we doubt the things coaches like about him are seriously going to take a hit now that he actually ran tests at the Combine.

Donnel Pumphrey (San Diego St.) – We already knew Pumphrey was small – at 5’8” and 176 pounds, he actually weighed in at the Combine bigger than he has been in the past. What we would have liked to see from Division I’s all time leading rusher was a more rounded Combine performance, but he didn’t even run the agility drills after posting a solid 40 (4.48 seconds) and mediocre broad jump (117”). And the problem is that with a guy his size, Pumphrey likely needed a more impressive showing to make him anything more than a 6th- or 7th-round pick, if he’s draftable at all. It’s a shame because he’s so tough and competitive, but his size completely limits a team’s ability to evaluate him as a serious prospect. And though relative to his peers a 4.48-second 40 is good, for a guy his size, he likely needed to be more impressive.

Wide Receivers

Taywan Taylor (Western Kentucky) – Taylor had an up-and-down Combine performance. Checking in at 5’11” and 203 pounds, he ran a solid 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, which is slightly slower than he looked on tape, albeit against lesser competition in Conference USA. Taylor did have the best time in the 3-cone drill at 6.53, and he had an excellent broad jump (11”) and a solid vertical (33½”). His broad jump and 3-cone drill actually ranked him among the top 4% at the position, according to mockdraftable.com. We’re not going to be too concerned about his 40-time, especially since he excelled in other areas at the Combine, so he didn’t really change his draft status too much.

Curtis Samuel (Ohio State) – Samuel would’ve been the talk of the WR group most years, but he got completely overshadowed by John Ross’ record-breaking 40-time (4.22). Still, Samuel’s performance was nothing to sniff at, running a blistering 4.31 in the 40-yard dash. He also did well in the bench press (18 reps) and in the vertical jump (37”), but he did surprisingly disappoint in the agility drills in the 20-yard shuttle (4.33) and 3-cone drill (7.09). At 5’11”, 196 pounds, Samuel doesn’t really have a position, and he’ll need to land with the right team to take advantage of him as a chess piece.

Tight Ends

Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech) – This year’s TE class has a number of fascinating athletes, and Hodges is one of the more intriguing ones who has flown a bit under the radar. He’s played almost exclusively out wide or in the slot as a receiver, but he’s got a ridiculous frame to build off (6’6”, 257 pounds) to transition inside. He’s yet another freak TE in this class, setting a new position record for the broad jump with a leap of 11”2’, and he was the top TE in the vertical with 39” jump. Hodges also ran an impressive 4.57 in the 40-yard dash. He did struggle a bit in the gauntlet and blocking drills, and he had surprisingly short arms (32½") for his frame, but most teams will see a prospect they can work with in Hodges.

 

Watch List

Keep an eye on these players and situations. It may be too early to make a call one way or the other on them, but they are situations worth watching.

Quarterbacks

We're closely watching DeShone Kizer, who looks like the ideal pocket passer but also has a lot of question marks surrounding other aspects of his play.DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) – If there’s any competition for Patrick Mahomes in terms of arm talent in this draft class, it’s likely Kizer, and that was obvious watching Kizer throw in Indianapolis. The issue is that while Kizer showed more consistent footwork and mechanics than Mahomes, Kizer was also generally more inaccurate than Mahomes, which opens up questions about the correctability of Kizer’s inconsistencies. However, if you’re a “QB height truther,” Kizer is pretty much your only option of the consensus top-four QBs in this class. While Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Mitchell Trubisky all checked in at 6’2”, Kizer is 6’4” and 233 pounds. And for his size, he also ran an impressive 4.83-second 40-yard dash, though his lateral agility was nonexistent (4.53-second 20-yard shuttle, 7.4-second three-cone drill). Physically, Kizer most looks the part of the traditional strong-armed pocket passer in this class, but if he’s going to reach his high ceiling, he needs to answer a lot of questions.

Running Backs

Kareem Hunt (Toledo) – There’s no doubt this one hurts, because Hunt is absolutely one of our favorite backs on tape and will continue to be so because he’s so damn fun to watch. But Hunt’s 4.62-second 40 was subpar, and his broad jump of 119” was merely solid, though not what we’d call “good.” Moreover, Hunt didn’t run the agility drills, and his performance in other areas certainly offers plenty of fuel to speculation on why that may be so. However, we’re “watching” Hunt because of a bizarre weight question – Toledo listed him at 225 pounds, he weighed 208 at the Senior Bowl in February (where he had a massive game), and was all the way up to 216 at the Combine. What is Hunt’s ideal playing weight, and did gaining 8 pounds in a month have a serious negative effect on his timed speed? Straight-line speed isn’t Hunt’s game on tape (short-area elusiveness and nasty competitiveness are), but his 40 time is certainly disappointing nonetheless.

Joe Williams (Utah) – Williams has one of the more fascinating stories of any player in this year’s draft class. Williams abruptly retired from Utah’s football team in September, only to return a month later and post some outrageous numbers down the stretch. Williams then showed well in the Combine, posting fantastic scores in the 40-yard dash (4.41 seconds) and the broad jump (125”), suggesting fantastic lower-body burst. Williams’ agility drills were more concerning, and he obviously had to answer a ton of questions about his commitment to the game in Combine interviews, but his production in college and fantastic lower-body strength should get him drafted, even if he turns 24 early in his rookie season.

Wide Receivers

Mike Williams (Clemson) – Williams decided to skip the 40-yard dash at the Combine, so the big question if he would run in the 4.5s or in the 4.6s will have to go unanswered until his Clemson pro day. He did have a slightly disappointing 32½” vertical and a solid broad jump (10’1”). Williams checked in at a massive 6’3”, 218 pounds, and we’ve seen plenty of big WRs have success with slower 40 times. But if he checks in at his pro day with a time in the low 4.6s or in the 4.7s, we’d have to be a little worried about him.

Corey Davis (Western Michigan) – We didn’t get to see complete workouts from the top two WRs in this year’s class between Davis and Mike Williams. Davis was forced to skip all activities because of ankle surgery, which he needed after he suffered an injury while training in January. On Friday, Davis described the injury as a high ankle sprain with two torn ligaments, which he had repaired six weeks ago. He likely won’t be able to participate at Western Michigan’s pro day either. It’s a less than ideal scenario for getting a complete evaluation of Davis, but at least there is plenty of film to watch of him from the past four years.

Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech) – Henderson looked fast on tape last season, but he played against lesser competition coming out of Louisiana Tech. Well, that speed translated to the turf in Indy, as he clocked a 4.46 40-time. He also had great results in the vertical (36”) and broad jump (10’11”). However, he did struggle in the 3-cone drill (7.18), 20-yard (4.35), and 60-yard shuttle runs (11.79). His numbers from the Combine suggest that he’s more of a straight-line athlete on the outside, but he measure in at just 5’11”, 199 pounds and played a lot out of the slot in college. Henderson is certainly an athlete we’re keeping an eye on, but we’re not exactly sure how he translates to the NFL.

Tight Ends

Adam Shaheen (Ashland) – Shaheen has come out of nowhere to become yet another intriguing prospect in this year’s TE class. He started his college athletic career as a basketball player at Division II Pitt-Johnstown, before eventually transferring to Ashland for football. Shaheen is absolutely massive at 6’6”, 278 pounds – that’s huge even for the position – and he ran a fairly impressive 4.79 in the 40-yard dash. He also led the group with 24 reps in the bench press and had an impressive 10’1” leap in the broad jump. Shaheen looked athletic against incredibly weak competition the last two years, so it was good to see some of the athleticism translate at the Combine.

Managing Editor Joe Dolan and Senior Writer Tom Brolley contributed to this piece.