Prospects at 10 positions who saw their stock rise at the 2023 scouting combine
Now that all the prospects have all gone through their interviews, measurables and drills at the 2023 scouting combine. It’s time to look at which guys won the days at their positions.
There are a few players that proved that they are valued correctly, and some other prospects who showed that they should be considered a little higher in the draft.
Let’s dive into how some of these prospects were able to show their skills and why it shouldn’t have been a surprise!
Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The edge from Georgia completely stole the show by running an official 4.39 forty and recording a 41.5-inch vertical at 6-foot-2, 238-pounds. To put it into perspective an average forty-time for someone that plays his position is 4.70. His time was faster than DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs!
His athleticism shouldn’t have been a surprise though. He’s been able to run down the most athletic quarterbacks in college football.
…one of my favorite Nolan Smith snaps. Just blown away with this kid on/off the field. CEO type of prospect, IMO pic.twitter.com/vwhvk1K0oN
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 3, 2023
“At the point of attack, I like to get after it, and I play like my hair is on fire!” is what Smith said during interviews.
Which brings us to the one part of his game where some see as a concern is when he’s head up against offensive linemen. He’s four inches shorter than the above average NFL offensive tackle. He does show a lot of grit, but length can become one of his downfalls if he is unable to build his pass rush arsenal. Smith has only produced nine sacks over the last two years, despite being one of the top edge rushers in the league.
Any team that needs an edge who can drop into coverage and chase down running quarterbacks, Smith is their guy. He has the ability to take on pulling guards in the run game and protect the edge.
Nolan Smith is physical too. Takes on the pulling guard with force pic.twitter.com/QDWTPnGUEt
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 2, 2023
The reason why Smith won his combine workouts is because despite the lack of production when it comes to sacks, he knows what he is and that’s an athletic freak on the edge. So he definitely moved himself up a few spots in the draft with his speed and athleticism.
Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL/EDGE, Northwestern
(Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)
After seeing Adebawore preform at the Senior Bowl, we all knew he was a monster in the trenches, but sometimes that strength doesn’t translate to individual drills. As a 282-pound defensive end, we weren’t expecting him to run a 4.54 forty-yard dash.
Yet here we are!
Adetomiwa Adebawore going crazy!
+ 4.54 forty (93rd percentile)
+ 282 pounds (88th percentile)
+ Size adjusted 40 (99th percentile)
Senior out of Northwestern. pic.twitter.com/k02c6hlLo9
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) March 2, 2023
We knew he was a strong guy, but his measurables only solidified that you can put him anywhere on the defensive line. In college, he played everywhere.
Left tackle: 120 snaps
Right tackle: 141 snaps
Left end: 33 snaps
Right end: 42 snaps
Left end outside: 184 snaps
Right end outside: 173 snaps
Any team that is using a 3-4 defense can line him up at the edge paired with an outside linebacker, and their side will be pretty difficult to stop. But he was asked which system he is more comfortable in, and he said 4-3.
With his ability to drop back into space, edge would be a great fit for him, but as mentioned, he can really line up anywhere.
In the 2022 season he logged 28 tackles, 27 stops against the run. When rushing the passer, he totaled 31 pressures, six sacks and three quarterback hits.
Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
If there was any doubt that Bryan Bresee is going in Round 1, it’s been erased after his combine performance. He’s a 6-foot-5 298-pound beast who ran a 4.86 40-yard dash. Which is in the 94th percentile among defensive tackles his size.
Throughout the season he was normally lining up on the left side in a 3-tecnique up against offensive guards. He has quick feet when moving laterally and he’s able to control his gaps and close quickly on backs.
We shouldn’t be surprised when it comes to his athleticism. During his collegiate career he logged 28 solo tackles, nine sacks, three passes defensed, one force fumble, one interception. He is literally everywhere.
Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
We knew that Jack Campbell could play because it shows on his tape; but we weren’t sure if he would test well. On film, he quickly penetrates gaps, has great depth in coverage, sheds blocks with ease, but these attributes doesn’t always mean you are athletic.
#Iowa LB Jack Campbell.
Really impressive testing numbers at 6-foot-5, 249 pounds.
10.8 Broad Jump
Instinctive, physical in the box. Runs clean lines to the ball. Gets to depth in zone coverage. ST upside in the NFL. High-end intangibles. pic.twitter.com/aqzRZAgHup
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 3, 2023
It means you are a good football player. The reason why the combine is important is to see if that good football player can hang with the speed of the players in the NFL.
Well Campbell proved that he can!
He clocked a 4.65 forty-yard dash, 37.5″ vertical (2nd highest), and 10’8″ broad jump (2nd highest). Not only did he prove that he can test well, but in the drills, he showed a lot of fluidity and quick feet.
Jack Campbell Wave Drill pic.twitter.com/MHWuDWM0CK
— Alex 👋 (@Dubs408) March 3, 2023
Whichever team lands him he will be lucky. Campbell has 83 tackles and 51 stops in his 13-game 2022 season. He has an impressive 70.6 quarterback rating when targeted. As a pass rusher he totaled 15 pressures and 10 hurries, per PFF.
Sydney Brown, S, Illinois
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
We already knew that Sydney Brown was one of the top ten safeties on the board, but after the combine, he may have moved up a few spots.
According to Next Gen States, Brown received the number one athleticism score among defensive backs at the combine. Brown jumped a 10’10 broad (1st among safeties) and logged a 40.5 vertical (3rd among safeties). In addition, he clocked a 4.47 official forty-yard dash.
Some say that Brown undersized, at only 5-foot-10 but he makes up for it in strength. When you are a strong safety, size doesn’t matter as much.
A strong safety’s job is to get downhill fast and get to the ball. The best ones can break fast using their instincts and reaction time.
It’s not limited to coverage.
Reps like this are why Illinois’ Sydney Brown generated so much buzz among NFL scouts at @seniorbowl. 👀
Many viewed him as “just a box safety” but showed legit man-cover & elite finishing skills in Mobile. Brown could now be Top-5 DS drafted in April.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/lk44eJnTnR
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 23, 2023
This is where he may be considered undersized, especially when lined up across from 6-foot-5 tight-ends. But his speed and strength should make up for it. He can also line up just about anywhere on the field. Here is his snap count from 2022, per PFF:
Defensive line: 25 snaps
Box: 444 snaps
Slot Corner: 177 snaps
Wide Corner: 36 snaps
Free Safety: 52 snaps
Brown is great at attacking the ball. In the 2022 season he started 12 games and intercepted six passes (tied for third in FBS), made 59 tackles, 3.5 for loss and had seven pass breakups.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
(Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch)
If there was one defender who raised his stock the most at the combine, it was Deonte Banks. On film he shows an incredible ability to mirror receivers down field, especially when defending the shorter routes in the route tree. Most players with a 6-foot frame aren’t as quick, but he plays with 5-foot-10 quickness. Because of his size, he doesn’t get moved off the line easily when lined up in press coverage nor when he is fighting for leverage when defending a deep ball.
One part of his game that jumped out on film was when he blitzes the quarterback; there are no-tells. He bursts off the line of scrimmage without showing any signs of a blitz.
This shouldn’t have been a surprise considering what he showed on film.
Banks was originally mocked to go in the second round, but now, many are considering him to be the fifth or six off the board. In my opinion he put himself ahead of Kelee Ringo.
In the 2022 season, Banks has allowed a 71.4 QB rating when targeted. He also has 25 solo tackles, one interception and eight passes defensed in only five games this season.
Anthony Richardson QB, Florida
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Everyone has been aware of how athletic Anthony Richardson is. So, the argument is, did he really raise his stock because we already knew the type of player he is. The answer still, is yes!
He undoubtedly had the strongest best arm at the NFL Combine.
After running a 4.44 40, and mixing in a record breaking vertical jump for QB’s, Anthony Richardson casually throws a pass over 60 yards in the air, with what appears to be a very fluid, controlled motion.
— John Ellis (@1PantherPlace) March 4, 2023
Fans watching at the combine were basically cheering for the deepest throw. And they roared in amazement after Richardson let it go. While sitting in the stands, you could hear and watch how effortlessly the ball came out of Richardson’s hands; especially compared to the other quarterbacks who were giving it their all.
Again, we already expected this, considering it’s what he did at Florida.
Watching Justin Shorter (#4) to get ready for Shrine Bowl and I keep getting distracted by the sheer AUDACITY of Anthony Richardson's arm pic.twitter.com/Jxu46POLuG
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) January 25, 2023
In 2022, he threw for 2,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 131.0 passer rating.
At the combine, Richardson was able to just solidify his athleticism and prove to everyone that he is indeed electric.
This may have moved him up a few spots in the NFL Draft, but the real question still remains if he can accurately throw between defenders on his second or third read.
Only time will tell!
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Racking up thousands of yards in college doesn’t make you the top prospect, but it does help. Bryce Ford-Wheaton is a guy who never exceeded 700 yards in a single season, but he had the length and speed that impressed at the combine.
Weighing in at 221-pounds, standing at 6-foot-3, Ford-Wheaton ran a 4.38 forty-yard dash (4th fastest). He mirrors a guy that is currently in the league, Christian Watson.
#Packers’ Christian Watson:
• 208 lbs
• 4.36 40-yard dash
• 38.5” vertical
WVU’s Bryce Ford-Wheaton:
• 221 lbs
• 4.38 40-yard dash
• 41” vertical
— Daire Carragher (@DaireCarragher) March 4, 2023
We know this may be a stretch to compare the two solely based on measurables, but that is what is done during draft time! One of the comparable attributes might be Ford-Wheaton’s strong hands.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton is having a solid day at the combine and is likely a guy you should start to familiarize yourself with.
He will climb draft boards quickly.
X-WR size ✅ #FantasyFootball pic.twitter.com/NSxav3flwc
— Jeremy (@PopesFFH) March 4, 2023
Ford-Wheaton has showed an ability to go up and get it, especially in the redzone; jumping a whopping 41″ inches in the vertical, which is first among wide receivers.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton 📈 pic.twitter.com/yzQBVeb4Nm
— The GOAT House (@GoatHouseNFL) March 5, 2023
One area where Ford-Wheaton struggles, is separating off the line of scrimmage. Here is what he had to say when asked about it. “Press man is kinda different. We don’t see a lot of that in the Big 12. The corners are really just trying to mess up your timing and mess up your route, and defeating that at the line and getting a lot of separation is harder, but I know that’s what it is in the league. So I’m getting adjusted to it and getting better day by day,”
Even though parts of his game are still in question, he did a great job at the combine and there is a good chance he moved a few spots up the board.
Zack Kuntz, TE, Old Dominion
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Even though Darnell Washington put on a show during the combine, Zack Kuntz also put up some impressive numbers. His 4.55 forty time was second only to Miami Hurricane’s Will Mallory, who ran a 4.54.
Kuntz also registered a 40″ vertical and a 10″9′ broad jump, and both were the highest among the tight end group.
.@ODUFootball TE Zack Kuntz is the tallest player (6' 7 3/8") with a 40+ inch vertical jump at the Combine since 2003. 🔥
📺: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork
📱: Stream on NFL+ pic.twitter.com/7v68TKRbNJ
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2023
Kuntz will get a lot of looks from teams from his size alone. He creates mismatches and he’s a red zone threat.
Not only did he smash the measurables, but he also looked fluid during drills. We also saw this on film throughout the season, especially when running deep routes. He can move defenders out of his way with a single twitch.
Zack Kuntz 👀 pic.twitter.com/889p8s3yVi
— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) February 26, 2023
Over his last 18 games, Kuntz has 856 yards, seven touchdowns averaging 10 yards per reception. Most evaluators had him as a day 3 draft selection, but after his combine performance, we shouldn’t be surprised if a team decides to take him day 2.
Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
To nobody’s surprise, Tyjae Spears made my list, even without a forty-yard dash. To be honest, he really didn’t need to run because we already know how fast he plays. He has more than enough tape out there showing him outrun defenders. What makes Spears special is his lateral, short area quickness.
Tyjae Spears would look really good in a Saints uniform https://t.co/eMbNLadpoM pic.twitter.com/j2KCpmFJ0O
— Boot Krewe Media (@BootKreweMedia) March 4, 2023
Being a running back is not just about how you can outrun defenders, but they also have to block and run routes. Spears was able to run fluid routes with sudden movements.
To no one's surprise, Tyjae Spears has been running excellent routes thus far. pic.twitter.com/4S7kxTpPEZ
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) March 5, 2023
Spears is not looking to be a one trick pony. He wants to be on the field for all phases of an offense. One area where he needs to improve is his blocking. Since he is only 5-foot-9, taking a hit in the backfield all comes down to heart.
I had a chance to ask him about one hit he took during the Senior Bowl, and on the next play he got right back up and continued to fight.
Pass pro isn’t passive. Excellent reps from Tyjae Spears v Aubrey Miller.
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) February 2, 2023
“You gotta be a dawg, I was heated after that rep, I got kind of mad so, it’s all just being a dawg for real, I couldn’t go out like that!”