Mid-Week NFL Combine Headlines

Derrik Klassen
Rotoworld

Ben Bartch experiments with unique weight-gain strategy

Workout and weight gain/loss regiments can be weird. People, be they athletes or otherwise, will go to great lengths in order to hit whatever their physical goal is. Sometimes that entails a strict diet, sometimes that entails unusual workout routines, and sometimes that entails … mixing Gatorade and peanut butter?

St. John’s OL Ben Bartch went to the absolute extreme to accelerate his weight gain as he was converting from tight end to offensive tackle. With just a few months between the end of spring ball, when he was told he would be moving to tackle, and the beginning of fall camps, Bartch took the “efficient” approach with his food consumption and threw together the most nauseating concoction imaginable. 

The first five ingredients on the list are only marginally disgusting. Sure, eggs mixing with peanut butter and grits is a little strange, but it’s a degree of strange that is palatable. I wouldn’t do it, but I “get it” for someone in a hurry to put on weight and muscle. 

But Gatorade?? What flavor? Grape? Cherry? Lime? What flavor could possibly be anything less than a complete taste bud disaster?

Well, according to Bartch himself, it didn’t matter. 

“Throw it all in and just plug my nose. I'd gag sometimes. But that's what you have to do”

Nauseating or not, the sinister smoothie seemed to do the trick for Bartch. He packed on 70 pounds, found success at his new position, and eventually turned that position switch into a chance at an NFL career. Let’s just hope no other player has to go to the same diet-related lengths to make their dreams come true. 

Jalen Hurts shoots down any non-QB talk; was not asked to play as a non-QB

Every draft class comes with a quarterback or two whose narrative becomes: “should they switch positions?” More often than not, that player is a black quarterback, and in most cases the proposition is absurd, like with Lamar Jackson coming out of Louisville. 

This year’s player subject to that kind of speculation is former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Since Hurts is a good running back-like athlete and not nearly a talented enough passer to be considered a high-end quarterback prospect, many have suggested he switch positions, potentially to running back or H-back. While that is not entirely out of the question, perhaps a few years down the line, Hurts is still a better quarterback than a good handful of the other guys who will be drafted late or picked up as priority undrafted free agents this year. There is no need to make him switch positions right away. Judging from NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL doesn’t seem to think an immediate switch is necessary, either. 

Pelissero reported that no NFL teams requested that Hurts work out at any position besides quarterback. It is a tad surprising that not even a single team reached out for the possibility, but it does signal that Hurts may have just earned enough respect as a passer for what he did as a freshman at Alabama and as a senior at Oklahoma to warrant every team being willing to let him give it a go at quarterback. 

And honestly, there is no reason not to let him start at quarterback. If things work out, whoever drafts Hurts gets a competent, mistake-free backup who can keep the offense afloat. If Hurts does indeed fail as a legit quarterback, then it’s entirely plausible he becomes another (perhaps a better) Taysom Hill

A dozen or so prospects were requested to switch positions for some of the NFL Combine drills

 

Unlike Jalen Hurts, a handful of prospects were asked to switch positions for the week to see how they fare. Technically any of these players can deny the requests, and some of them surely will, but a handful of them make too much sense for the players to not at least give it a go. 

Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool is the obvious one. Claypool weighed in earlier this week at 6-foot-4 and 238-pounds, which puts him just a few pounds out of legit TE weight. Considering Claypool has been likened by everyone as a “tight end masquerading as a wide receiver,” it’s only natural that NFL teams want to just see him play the real thing. In reality, a good chunk of his snaps won’t even change considering Claypool is already comfortable playing a “big slot” role anyway. 

The other two fairly normal requests are for the two safeties to move to linebacker, Clemson’s Tanner Muse and Lenoir-Rhyne Kyle Dugger. Both safeties are thick for their position at around 220 pounds and both players are best known for coming downhill to make aggressive tackles. Dugger is a bit more highly regarded as a pure safety and likely has a better chance to find a home there, but Muse should absolutely be answering the NFL’s call to move into the box. 

Aside from those three, however, many of the position switches are odd. Antonio Gibson to running back is sensible long-term, but aside from that, many of the requests are clearly experimentational rather than legitimately wanting players to transition right now. 

Lucas Niang hip updates appear positive

TCU OT Lucas Niang was on his way to being a top-50 pick before a hip surgery in November derailed his entire pre-draft process. Niang has not been able to do anything since the season and will not be participating in drills at the NFL Combine. As a result, Niang has sort of fallen to the side, while guys like Mekhi Becton and Josh Jones have shot up the ranks. 

However, as far as his health goes, Niang is in a good spot. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Niang has not faced any issues or setbacks since his surgery. Of course, that does not mean he is suddenly ready for the NFL Combine, but it does at least suggest Niang is on track to participate in OTAs and fall camps once the season gets rolling. 

Teams may individually cross off or move down Niang for their own medical reasons, but at least in the broad scope, Niang shouldn’t lose any more of his stock as result of this injury. In a stacked offensive tackle class, not losing any more ground is a major boon for Niang and his potential early earnings. 

Ron Rivera / Washington brought in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa for meetings

Washington drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round ten months ago. At the time, owner Dan Snyder postured as if he was all in on Haskins moving forward, but one coaching change later, it appears Washington could be starting over again. 

New head coach Ron Rivera speaking about meeting with quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa as “more than due diligence” means one of two things:

  1. Rivera took the job in part because he was promised autonomy with the QB position right away and does not necessarily want to roll with Haskins, therefore his interest in this year’s top players is legit

  2. In saying they are interested in the top QBs, Washington may just be trying to garner trade offers for the second-overall pick, which would then give them the option between a king’s ransom (possibly) or Chase Young, either of which is a clear win

This is merely the start of the Washington / quarterback prospect drama this offseason, so there is not enough ammo to feel comfortable either way about trying to predict what Washington’s hand is. However, there need not be any Arizona Cardinals parallels drawn here. 

Following the 2018 season, Arizona were in a unique spot. Their first-year coaching staff was a disaster that faced midseason firings and their 10th-overall quarterback, while largely failed by everything around him, was awful by almost any measure, both objectively and subjectively. The Cardinals then took a swing on a young Air Raid head coach (Kliff Kingsbury) with a middling head coaching record in the Big 12 — a move that had no real comparison at the time and must have been done at least in part because Kingsbury was promised a reset at quarterback since Arizona had the first overall pick. Keep in mind, Kingsbury was hired as USC's OC just shortly before bolting for the Arizona gig. 

Rivera is not a “home run swing” kind of hire. That is not to say Rivera is a bad hire, but he is a known quantity who was brought in to re-stabilize the organization, not be some all-or-nothing gamble like the Kingsbury hire in Arizona. That alone makes me cautious in believing Washington’s situation is anything like Arizona’s, especially considering Haskins looked plenty serviceable for a rookie (whereas Rosen was an unmitigated disaster). None of the pieces that allowed for Arizona’s unique decision are there for Washington, so assuming they will be following Arizona's "trend" is a stretch. 

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