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2022 NFL combine: Who helped their fantasy stock the most?

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As discussed on a recent episode of You Pod to Win the Game, the combine makes big bucks for the league. So while traditionalists lament the extinction of the Wonderlic Test and social media debates the validity of the bench press, professional football continues to churn out money-making content at their own “mini-Olympics.”

Whatever you think of the combine … it’s not going away.

If anything, it’s only getting bigger. And the testing numbers that rookies post will only be more scrutinized. That makes this “offseason” event all the more crucial for fantasy football heads.

I wrote up 10 players that fantasy managers should track at the NFL combine last week. Now that all of the hands have been measured and the stopwatches have been reshelved, it’s time to reflect on which rookies took full advantage of their opportunities at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Here are the biggest winners from the 2022 NFL combine.

Desmond Ridder, QB, University of Cincinnati

Malik Willis — who is the odds-on favorite (+110) to be the first QB to come off the board next month — wowed in throwing drills and endeared himself to the masses. Yet, it was Desmond Ridder who made up the most ground, likely sneaking into the first round due in large part to his performance at the combine.

He may not have big-school buzz, but the former Bearcat showcased quality intangibles and sky-high athleticism in Indianapolis. Ridder formally met with 17 teams last Monday to open the combine. By EOD on Thursday, the 22-year-old had crushed numerous drills (most notably the 40-yard dash, where his 4.5 time bested numbers previously posted by Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes), earning a score of 82 for overall athleticism via Next Gen Stats.

Ridder was the biggest winner at the position and figures to be the third QB selected on April 28.

Alec Pierce, WR, University of Cincinnati

The Bearcats repped fly-over country with ferocity!

My Alec Pierce blurb from last week was met with … shall we say… skepticism by the always gracious commenters on Twitter. Pierce must have his notifications on because he quieted the haters with huge testing numbers. Not only did the 21-year-old crush the vert (40.5”) as expected, but he also recorded a 10’9” broad jump and ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash (at 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds!!!).

Size, Speed, and Explosiveness? Pierce is gone by Day 2.

Alec Pierce #WO24 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs a drill during the NFL combine
Alec Pierce silenced the doubters with his performance at the combine. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State

While we’re on the topic of big men who can move, let’s show some love to Christian Watson. The NDSU product — who is 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds — ran a brow-raising 4.36 (official) in the 40-yard dash, which was the sixth-fastest time among wideouts. He also performed well in the vertical jump (38.5”) and was the top finisher in the broad jump (11’4”). Per Next Gen Stats, those numbers earned the 22-year-old a max-99 athleticism score.

A field stretcher like Watson could be a boon to former teammate Trey Lance and the 49ers. San Fran’s first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft will be in the second round (No. 61 overall) — though, after last week, Watson may be off the board by then.

Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Garrett Wilson and Treylon Burks have been, up until this point, the consensus No. 1 and No. 2-ranked wideouts in this year’s class. Burks’ testing numbers underwhelmed and while I doubt he’ll slide down rankings (the Jets don’t seem bothered), it’s worth mentioning that Wilson did perform well and probably boosted his stock as a result.

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With a top-eight time in the 40-yard dash (4.38) the Buckeye showcased his long speed and after-the-catch potential. Add in elite ball skills as well as eye-popping body control (which he also demonstrated at Lucas Oil Stadium) and Wilson could be everything Baker Mayfield has been dreaming about.

By the way, the Browns pick at No. 13 in the first round. (Though Yahoo’s Eric Edholm believes New Orleans is a more realistic destination for the Ohio State standout.)

Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The above-mentioned Wilson wasn’t the only Buckeye to show out in Indy. Teammate Chris Olave finished just one-hundredth of a second behind Watson, recording an official time of 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. It was only the second time since 2006 that two WRs from the same team both posted sub 4.4 times. Not to mention the fact that — before adjustments — Olave was initially believed to have served up 4.26 speed.

The buzz surrounding this dynamic duo is only helping their individual causes. For his part, Olave is a crisp route runner who can work all three levels of the field and gives off Calvin Ridley-like vibes. He could make an immediate impact for fantasy were he selected by Philly (No. 19) or Tampa Bay (No. 27).

Calvin Austin, WR, University of Memphis

Calvin Austin was on my initial list of players to track ahead of the combine, but I cut him in favor of Skyy Moore (who impressed with an official 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash). Austin blazed on the field, posting the third-fasted 40 time (4.32) among WRs. He also recorded the third-highest vert (39”) and the second-best broad jump (11’3”). At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Austin needed elite testing numbers to stand out in a class brimming with size.

The comps for Austin have been interesting, ranging from Taylor Gabriel to Isaiah McKenzie. After his showing in Indy, it’s unlikely he’ll make it to Day 3. For fantasy purposes, however, it’s unlikely that he’ll prove to be a consistent producer.

Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

John Ross’ career arguably peaked at the 2017 combine when he made history by recording the fastest 40 time (4.22) in NFL history. While Ross’ fantasy utility has cratered since then (tall shouts to the DFS mavericks who rolled him out in Week 4, though), blazing creates buzz, which is why Tyquan Thornton deserves some snaps.

Before adjustments, it was believed the Baylor product broke Ross’ record with a 4.21 time. His official time, however, was reported as 4.28, making him the fastest man in the 2022 class. With so many speedy rookie WRs available, it’s unlikely that Thornton will get much of a boost, but he remains someone to pin for future DFS potential.

Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State

Jackrabbit stans already knew about Pierre Strong’s speed. After last Friday, the world has been informed. Strong ran a 4.37 40-yard-dash, tying Rutgers’ Isiah Pacheco and recording the fastest time among RBs. The small-school standout didn’t stop there. He additionally demonstrated his burst in the vert (36”) and broad (10’4”) jumps, making him a top-seven finisher in all three events.

Strong has put together a noteworthy offseason with an impressive performance at the East-West Shrine Game as well. He was likely a fourth-round pick, but could now sneak into the third.

Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State

As outlined in last week’s preview article, Breece Hall and Isaiah Spiller are the top-two consensus picks at the position. After last Friday, however, Hall likely solidified his spot as the class’ RB1. Spiller, who was hampered by a strained abductor muscle, opted not to run the 40-yard dash or participate in the three-cone drill while struggling through the vert (30”) and broad (9’6”) jumps.

Meanwhile, Hall crushed the testing portion of the event, leading the position with a 40” vert while also delivering top-six numbers in the broad jump (10’6”) and 40-yard dash (4.39). Those numbers, in tandem with his college tape/production, figure to make Hall an impact player in redraft leagues… regardless of where he lands in reality.

Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA

Not only did Greg Dulcich participate in all of the combine drills (which was historically rare this year), but he also smashed each of them. His best numbers came via the broad jump (10’2”) where he finished with the second-highest score. But he also posted top-four stats in the three-cone drill (7.05) and 20-yard shuttle (4.37) while clocking the sixth-best time in the 40-yard dash (4.69).

At 6-foot-4 and 243 pounds, Dulcich possesses adequate size for the position (my dude put on 40 pounds since arriving at UCLA as a WR walk-on) as well as above-average speed and lateral quickness.

He isn’t likely to pop for fantasy in Year One, but his athletic traits and evolving route technique could make him a fantasy factor sooner rather than later (particularly if he stays in Los Angeles).

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