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The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell: What does the scouting combine really mean?

Once the scouting combine is over every year — and this year’s version concluded last week — NFL scouts, coaches and personnel executives are left with reams of new information to deal with, and to add to their previous evaluations.

So, what does that really mean? And what can a great combine performance really do for a draft prospect? For example, Texas receiver Xavier Worthy broke the combine record with a 4.1-second 40-yard dash. If he already plays extremely fast on the field, what does that add to his evaluation? Or if a player like Washington left tackle Troy Fautanu aces all his drills and crushes it in the meeting rooms with NFL teams, how does he really come out the other side in the minds of the people who are set to select him in the 2024 NFL draft?

In this week’s “Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” the guys get into what the scouting combine really means, their individual experiences at this year’s event, and how drill work really matches up to game tape and NFL transitions for multiple top prospects.

You can watch this week’s “Xs and Os” right here:

You can also listen and subscribe to the “Xs and Os” podcast on Spotify…

and on Apple Podcasts.

Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Wright’s calling card is explosiveness — last season, he gained 1,010 yards and scored four rushing touchdowns on just 136 carries. That’s a gaudy 7.4 yards per carry average, which shows up on tape. And at the combine, he ranked second behind Isaac Guerendo in the 40-yard dash with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, also leading the broad jump at 11’2″.

Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Big and fast is a good starting point for any receiver, and Mitchell was able to combine those two things in Indy to an impressive degree. When you run a 4.34 40-yard dash (third among all receivers) at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, that’s going to turn some heads.

And when you go back to watch the tape, it absolutely shows up. Last season, Mitchell caught 55 passes on 86 targets for 845 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he was responsible for 11 explosive plays on go, seam, and dig routes.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

4.21 40? Done. Might as well run right out of a stadium and into a moving car.

But as we have noted, Worthy’s record-breaking straight-line speed isn’t just on a track; he’ll be a nightmare for NFL cornerbacks if he can work the focus drops out of his game. Because the deep routes are… incendiary.

Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Legette ran a 4.39 40 at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, which is nearly as impressive as what Xavier Worthy did. I got to ask Legette about his best college play, and he brought up the drag route against Mississippi State, which he took 76 yards for a touchdown. He said, “I was just able to beat the defense — there were four defenders with great angles on me, and I was able to slip right past their man coverage.” 

By the way, he also had a 75-yard touchdown against Mississippi State on a vertical route to the boundary. 

And that all shows up on tape – with him, I felt that he’s one of those guys where the tape is good, and the drills add a level of frosting that may up his stock.

Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Not only did Washington’s left tackle do well in the drills and on the field, showing his quickness and agility, but he also reportedly crushed it in the meeting rooms. Over and over during combine week, that’s what you heard. And he allowed two sacks and 23 total pressures in an offense where Michael Penix jr. attempted 117 passes of 20 or more air yards. He ran a 5.01 40 with a 1.71 10-yard split at 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds. 

Fautanu had one block against Texas that I just loved – he faced EDGE Ethan Burke and tackle T’Vondre Sweat on a switch where Burke faced up on him and then dropped into coverage, with Sweat replacing him. And Fautanu just dropped their hands out with quick swipes. Negated both of them. That was a 77-yard pass from Penix to Ja’Lynn Polk.

Chop Robinson, EDGE, Penn State

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

When I watched Robinson pre-combine, I knew that he’d have to do well in the drills because so much of his game is just pure speed off the snap. And he performed well – at 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds, he ran the second-fastest 40 among edge defenders behind Alabama’s Dallas Turner at 4.48, his 1.54 10-yard split tied Turner’s for the fastest, and his 10’8” broad jump tied with Houston Christian’s Jalyx Hunt for the best in class, and his 4.25 20-yard shuttle was bested only my Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland, who has become one of my draft binkies for 2024. 

Robinson has some work to do with his upper body and his hands, but he is really tough to deal with when he’s just turning the edge. My question for him would be what do you do in the NFL when tackles who know how to deal with that take away your fastball? He did have a really nice arm-over inside move against Northwestern where he then chased the quarterback all the way to the sideline with that killer speed, so you start to see what could be there after a bit more coaching. 

The guy I really found intriguing from that Penn State edge group was Adisa Isaac – that dude is a twitched-up ball of fury to the quarterback. 

T'Vondre Sweat, DL, Texas

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Sweat weighed in at 366 pounds in Indianapolis, and he said during the week that he played at 365 last season. That didn’t stop him from amassing two sacks, 31 total pressures, and 26 stops last season, and it also didn’t stop him from running a 5.27-second 40-yard dash with a 1.80-second 10-yard split.

The athleticism is definitely there – he had a sack against TCU where he lined up at three-tech, and moved all the way to the center’s inside shoulder before getting to the quarterback quickly with a killer swim move.

Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Cooper had the third-fastest 40-yard dash among off-ball linebackers at 4.51 seconds, and his 1.54-second 10-yard split tied him with four others for the fastest at the position. Now, if you’ve watched Cooper at all, that doesn’t surprise you. He had a tackle for loss against Tennessee in which he just blew through the pocket and literally threw running back Dylan Sampson a good two yards to the side. Just threw him out of the club.

Payton Wilson, LB, North Carolina State

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Wilson proved his ability to win on all downs at North Carolina State; honestly, his injury history (head, ankle, shoulder) could be the only pause NFL teams would have. But here, he did everything he possibly could — his 4.43-second 40-yard dash was the fastest of the day, his 1.54-second 10-yard split tied him with Edgerrin Cooper and two others (Texas-El Paso’s Tyrice Knight and Temple’s Jordan Magee), and he was athletic in the field drills. His work in Indy will give NFL teams reason to reconsider his place on their boards.

This is a really versatile player – he had 11 tackles for loss, 22 total pressures, three interceptions, and three pass breakups last season. He reminds me a bit of Frankie Luvu of the Panthers, who I’ve really enjoyed watching the last three seasons. 

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire