Just about all the key front-office decision-makers and coaches from every NFL team were in Indianapolis to assess draft-eligible college players at the league’s scouting combine. Agents were on hand for an NFL Players Association seminar and might have sneaked in a conversation with a team or two.
John Ross: The University of Washington wide receiver became the king of the 40-yard dash, clocking 4.22 seconds to break the combine record previously held by Chris Johnson at 4.24 seconds. It didn’t win Ross his own island, since Adidas promised that prize only to a record-breaker wearing its brand of shoes and Ross was wearing Nike. But it certainly made everyone in the league take notice.
Ross can play. He isn’t a track guy who can’t catch. He was thought to be a likely first-round pick even before his exploits this past weekend. Now, one has to wonder if a team with a selection in the upper half of the first round will become fixated on his game-breaking speed.
Myles Garrett: The Texas A&M pass rusher did nothing to change the notion that he is a very viable option for the Cleveland Browns with the draft’s top overall choice. He ran his 40 in 4.64 seconds. He had a vertical leap of 41 inches. He had 33 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press so he’s plenty strong as well. Just as everyone knew Ross is fast, everyone knew Garrett is wildly athletic. But it never hurts to reinforce it.
Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey: Eyebrows were raised when Fournette weighed in at 240 pounds, despite his explanation that he was carrying five pounds of water weight that quickly would be shed. He put any fears to rest, however, when he was timed at 4.51 seconds in his 40-yard dash. McCaffrey showed superb all-around athleticism with his 4.48-second time in the 40, his 37.5-inch vertical leap and good performances in other drills. It’s a deep running back class and these two cemented their places at or very near the top of it.
Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky: Watson impressed many observers during the on-field passing drills and helped himself during the team-by-team interview process. There is no clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in this draft class but Watson might be inching ahead of the rest of the group at the top. Trubisky’s draft stock was boosted when he measured in at a shade above 6-2. Some teams are wary of quarterbacks smaller than that and there were suspicions that Trubisky would not reach the mark.
Reuben Foster: The Alabama linebacker was sent home, reportedly because of an incident with a hospital staffer while he was waiting to undergo a medical exam. Foster has been regarded as a player likely to be taken in the upper half of the first round. This certainly won’t disqualify him from that in the minds of most — if not all — interested teams. But it did put an unnecessary question mark by his name. His representatives reportedly sent an apology letter to all 32 franchises and invited teams to meet with him before Alabama’s pro-day workout for scouts.
Washington Redskins: Bruce Allen, the team president, said the Redskins were able to accomplish what they needed to accomplish even with general manager Scot McCloughan absent. “Everyone has a job to do,” Allen said as he walked through the convention center one afternoon. “They’re doing it.”
The Redskins even managed to hammer out a two-year contract extension through 2020 with coach Jay Gruden. Even so, McCloughan’s absence led many of those in Indianapolis to wonder what is happening internally with the organization. Agents and officials from other teams said they were unclear about McCloughan’s status, even though Allen said the GM could be back at work this week and others indicated that McCloughan was busily doing work back home in the D.C. area last week. The Redskins were in no hurry to provide clarity, and the stability that McCloughan’s arrival seemed to provide a couple years ago is an ever-more-distant memory now.