With the 2020 NFL Combine now in the books for the four invitees from the Oklahoma Sooners, how about a few observations on what we all saw and what lies ahead for them?
If you’re drafting Jalen Hurts, you better have a plan
Hurts tested off-the-charts for a quarterback, which was one of the surest bets of the combine. The highlight was his blistering 4.59 40-yard dash, but he also impressed in the throwing portion of the workout.
Hurts has a reputation as an able student of the game, so nailing a series of rehearsed throws comes as little shock. Nor does it tell us much about his true proficiency as a passer. Nevertheless, that kind of performance and a solid round of interviews will inevitably spark some buzz for a prospect.
High praise for @JalenHurts as he goes through the drills in Indy #OUDNA— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) February 28, 2020
#NFLCombine on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/PxntJKbOq8
Now that the NFL intelligentsia has embraced the idea that teams can win with a Lamar Jackson-like player behind center, Hurts has the makings of fast-rising prospect. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report pegged Hurts as a second-round selection in his latest mock draft, which tracks with the comments of NFL.com analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks.
Sadly, Hurts is not that kind of player. He can punish teams on the ground. He simply doesn’t have the chops as a thrower, though, to be a full-time QB.
Drafting Hurts with the idea that he can be groomed from backup to future starter will burn a team. Using him like the New Orleans Saints use Taysom Hill is a far better option. Does that make Hurts worth a second-round pick? I honestly have no idea.
Pass on CeeDee Lamb at your own risk
Lamb’s combine performance was solid, including a respectable-but-not-amazing time in the 40-yard dash of 4.5 seconds. He did put his typical aerial maneuvers on display:
CeeDee Lamb had a FILTHY catch at the NFL combine @brgridiron— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 28, 2020
All things consider, Lamb will probably come off the board after Jerry Jeudy, the ultra-smooth and explosive wideout from Alabama. That will look like a mistake down the line. Jeudy is a fantastic prospect who will probably make some NFL franchise very happy. Lamb has All-Pro potential.
Lamb has never been about blowing anyone away with his physical gifts, which are substantial. He simply does everything well for a receiver: high-pointing down the field, getting off the line, making defenders miss. You will not find a hole in his game.
In a draft full of tantalizing prospects at receiver, Lamb should top the list.
Kenneth Murray is just getting started
Between Murray and Isaiah Simmons of Clemson, pro teams will have their choice this year of two prototype linebackers of the future. They’re not exactly jockeying for position on draft boards, though, as Simmons offers more versatility. Murray plays something closer to a typical inside backer.
While Simmons provided one of the biggest stories of the combine with his smoking 40-yard dash, Murray showed out as well with 21 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press and a 40 time of 4.52. Given his ability to both cover in the middle of the field and attack at the line of scrimmage, Murray’s testing probably solidified a spot in the first 32 picks. Don’t be shocked if he climbs out of the last few picks and closer to the middle of the first round – Murray will be even better with a little more seasoning as a pro than he was in college.
Neville Gallimore earned some money
Much like Murray, Gallimore played the best football of his college career in 2019 in the attacking scheme installed by defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. What he put on film during the season likely elevated Big Canada from the late rounds to the middle of the draft. What he did in Indianapolis might have him pushing up into the first round.
Neville Gallimore turned on the burners for round two!— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 29, 2020
Gallimore’s time of 4.79 seconds made him and Nebraska’s Khalil Davis the only defensive linemen to weigh at least 300 pounds and run the 40-yard dash in under 4.8 seconds. Gallimore also put up 23 reps on the bench press, making him one of the biggest winners of the combine’s opening weekend.
OU might have earned some defensive recruits
The Sooners haven’t seen one of their defensive players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Gerald McCoy in 2010. How do you think that plays in the living rooms of recruits on that side of the ball?
As mentioned above, OU likely has one first-round defensive pick in Murray and may have a second in Gallimore. Even if just one gets taken in the first round, count on OU’s recruiting team throwing the hype machine into overdrive.
Of course, programs like Bama and Clemson will think that’s cute, given their track record. Even so, the Sooners have to take whatever they can get when it comes to showing high school prospects that their defense is trending in the right direction.