Rejoice! The Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl win is now officially ancient history—you don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s now time to look forward: The 2019 NFL combine is already here, and a rotating cast of Ringer staffers will provide you with a collection of five thoughts from each day in Indianapolis.
The NFL combine is often dismissed as the Underwear Olympics, but it’s a bad comparison. Winning an event at the Olympics brings honor for you, your family, and your country. Winning an event at the combine gets you Twitter clout. The goal is not even to win, but to impress a bunch of men in the stands intermittently staring at their Microsoft Surfaces (except Kliff Kingsbury, who obviously has a Mac). The combine is not the Olympics, it’s that scene in The Hunger Games where the contestants must show off their skills in front of the judges who aren’t paying attention because they’re hungry.
Like The Hunger Games training, the athletic testing at the NFL combine is an overhyped media machine promoting an event that is pretty dark. But every now and then there is an arrow shot through an apple that grabs everyone’s attention, so let’s look at the five best moments from the combine on Saturday that stood out more than a bull’s-eye.
1. The Ole Miss Receivers Are Going to Be a Thing
Avengers: Endgame will be released in theaters the same weekend as the NFL draft, and it’s unclear whether these two guys will be conscripted to play in the NFL or join the Hulk in fighting Thanos.
D.K. Metcalf is Mel Kiper Jr.’s top ranked wide receiver, linebacker, defensive end, strong safety and tight end prospect in this year’s draft. pic.twitter.com/NLcob3O97D— Field Yates (@FieldYates) February 11, 2019
D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown are the top two receivers in the draft according to many draft experts, including The Ringer’s Danny Kelly. They were also college teammates at Ole Miss. I’m not great at math, but is that an eight-pack?
This about to bigger than Odell and Jarvis Landry when they entered the draft . Two potential 1st round draft picks from the same school. @nfl I hope you’re ready . @olemissfb @exossports pic.twitter.com/UBEJDjZBNy— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) February 21, 2019
These photos, presumably leaked from the set of a Magic Mike sequel, actually undersold Metcalf’s body. Metcalf reportedly measured with 1.6 percent body fat, half of which I assume is the Krispy Kreme donut that he said was his only cheat food during his training period.SB Nation’s Richard Johnson put that 1.6 percent figure in perspective: The average body fat for receivers is roughly 12 percent. Being under 2 percent might not even be healthy. A body fat percentage under 2 percent is actually an impediment to playing in the NFL, not a benefit, because you get hit a lot. Also, that figure itself may not even be accurate. But those are details. Just look at this dude.
[scene: rookie dinner]— Andy (@AndyCarlsonShow) March 2, 2019
Veteran WR: Take care of the bill, rook.
DK Metcalf: YOU take care of the bill, rook.
Veteran WR: Yes, sir. *reaches for wallet* pic.twitter.com/H5lF0Ktomv
That is the prologue to Saturday, when Metcalf ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, tied for the second-fastest figure for any receiver or running back this year (Ohio State’s Parris Campbell is the fastest player measured at this year’s combine so far, though defensive backs run on Monday).
The usual caveats apply. The 40-yard dash is a silly drill. Nobody is sure why it is 40 yards, teams only use it because they started copying the Cowboys in the 1960s, and it does not involve wearing shoulder pads (or opponents trying to hit them in the solar plexus while they run). But using Speed Score, which factors in weight, is the best way to appreciate it.
DK Metcalf just ran a 4.33 40yd-dash at 228 lbs— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) March 2, 2019
That gives him a Speed Score of 129.7
Here's where that ranks among all WRs (800+ qualifying) to participate in the Combine since '00
1. Calvin Johnson (133.5)
2. Matt Jones (132.7) [See Avi]
4. Julio Jones (124.0)
Metcalf will get all of the hype, but Brown is right behind him in this receiver class. Brown’s 4.49 was slower than Metcalf’s, but Brown’s production in college far outpaced him. Metcalf averaged 62.9 yards per game in the last two seasons, while Brown has averaged 111.9 yards per game in that span. He also is his own best hype man.
Oh he slow , he can’t run . Shut up . WR1 . That was easy wok . https://t.co/gtvriKSHgF— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) March 2, 2019
The two could easily be the first two receivers gone in the draft. Get ready for Metcalf/Hulk memes.
2. Scouting, Old-School Style
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was seen timing the 40-yard dash by hand on Saturday despite electronic testing, which gives a far more accurate measurement, being in place since 1990.
Not many general managers time 40’s anymore. Respect to @steelers GM Kevin Colbert for being a true scout at heart. Not judging the guys that sit up in the suite and let their scouts do the timing but it’s cool that Colbert wants to get times on his own stopwatch. pic.twitter.com/60YJFYXpEn— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 2, 2019
The natural question is why? Is Kevin Colbert aware that computers time these runs? Did I mention the 40-yard dash is measured to the hundredth of a second? If Colbert is aware the race is already timed, is he suspicious of those times? If he is not aware, why has nobody told him? Is using his own stopwatch just an old habit that he can’t kick after being a scout for decades? Is a stopwatch the baby-boomer version of a fidget spinner?
Believe it or not, it’s pretty common for scouts to hand-time these races, apparently because they don’t trust each other and they prefer their less accurate, faster times. It’s like not trusting the blood pressure monitor during a checkup and taking your own pulse. Here is widely respected GM turned consultant Charlie Casserly timing a player.
No offense to Charlie, but I’m not looking at that 4.76 second time from the computer and thinking, “OK, but what did CHARLIE time him at?” Also, before you make the joke, yes, he helped hire the Jets general manager.
While Colbert and Co. were fighting the rise of the machines, Bill Belichick was making a fashion statement.
First, real strong Sith vibes from Belichick and Greg Schiano here. Second, that is a Johns Hopkins Nike lacrosse sweater with a customized “BB” on the side. Johns Hopkins lacrosse gear is Belichick’s favorite look, but this is clearly Belichick’s response to the “44” stitched on the arm of Obama’s Bomber jacket.
3. The Iowa Tight Ends Are Legit
Metcalf and Brown are going to get a lot of hype for being absurdly talented teammates that might both be first-rounders, but they aren’t alone. Iowa tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are excellent talents that had eye-opening performances on Saturday. Fant had the best 40-yard dash time (4.50 seconds), broad jump (10’7”), vertical jump (39 ½”), and three-cone drill time (6.81) of all tight ends. His 40-yard dash was better than most of the running backs (!). Athletically, he has a similar profile to the league’s rising star at the position, San Francisco’s George Kittle, who also went to Iowa.
George Kittle: 6-4, 247lbs, 4.52 forty-yard dash (96th percentile weight-adjusted speed)— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) March 2, 2019
Noah Fant: 6-5, 243lbs, 4.51 forty-yard dash (96th percentile)
The only tight end who could possibly be considered a better prospect than Fant is his own teammate, Hockenson. Hockenson had the second-best vertical and three-cone time after Fant. He’s certainly not perfect, as Shannon Sharpe noted on Twitter.
T.J Hockenson (top rated t.e) base is too narrow on this blocking drill and will be easily shed when he’s required to block. Trust me ,I know. I had that prob for yrs. #NFLCombine19— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) March 2, 2019
But the Iowa tight ends could both go in the first round, which is somewhat bizarre considering they combined for 51.6 yards per game last year. Iowa does not pass to its über-athletic tight ends; even Kittle logged just 604 yards on 42 catches in 19 games in his final two seasons at Iowa combined (yawn) but then produced 1,377 yards on 88 catches in 16 games while making some of the most athletic plays in the NFL in 2018. Fant and Hockenson put up similarly boring numbers, but they could have similar career arcs, too.
4. Tyree Jackson Is Going to Be Fun
Imagine if Paul Bunyan learned to play quarterback by watching YouTube, and you have a pretty good idea of how Tyree Jackson plays quarterback. Aside from the former Buffalo quarterback running the same 40-yard dash time as Georgia’s no. 1 receiver, Riley Ridley, Jackson also threw passes so hard during drills that Steve Smith had to tell him to chill.
5. The Player Who Didn’t Do Anything Still Made the Biggest News of the Day
Metcalf is the most viral player of this draft cycle, but the biggest news on Saturday came from Kimberly Jones of NFL Network, who reported that teams “almost universally” believe the Cardinals are going to take Kyler Murray no. 1 overall. I’ve traversed the Kyler rabbit hole before and you can read the deep dive on the conspiracy here and why it would be fun here, but the short version is Kyler is better suited for Kingsbury’s offense than Josh Rosen is because he’s a more accurate passer at all ranges and he can run. (Plus he hired the same agent as Kliff Kingsbury, and Cardinals general manager Steve Keim could get fired with another bad year, so he has nothing to lose if it doesn’t work.)
Kyler Murray said he is scheduled to meet at the combine this week with the Arizona Cardinals, who hold the No. 1 pick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 1, 2019
It’s possible the Cardinals are stirring the pot to create interest in Murray and raise the price of the no. 1 overall pick if they trade down, and they’ve informed Rosen of this plan behind the scenes. Kyler is a Content Machine, and perhaps the Cardinals are using that to sow misinformation. Or maybe they’re going to trade Rosen for a first-rounder and spice up the draft. Between Brown and Metcalf, Fant and Hockenson, and the possibility that two Oklahoma quarterbacks go no. 1 overall in back-to-back years, draft picks are suddenly coming in pairs. Just like the kids in The Hunger Games.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly referred to the school as John Hopkins University.