NFL Combine winners and losers: Willis, Davis raise draft stock originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Young NFL hopefuls were at center stage over the last week at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
Some showed up and improved their draft stock, while others are leaving Indianapolis disappointed in their performances. Prospects were tested both physically and mentally at the combine, completing a series of interviews with teams and media as well as on-field drills at Lucas Oil Stadium.
So, whose arrow is pointing up after the combine? And who has work to do at their pro days before April’s draft?
Here’s a look at four winners and four losers from the combine:
Winner: Malik Willis, Liberty QB
The Liberty quarterback was a star at the combine – on and off the field. Willis had all eyes on him and he delivered, with mostly accurate throws on deep shots and slants. Even though he didn’t run the 40-yard dash, the NFL already knows how fast and athletic the 22-year-old Willis is.
Perhaps even more impressive than his drill work was Willis’ interviews, which reportedly left teams extremely impressed. And one of the coolest moments of the combine was what Willis did when he thought nobody was watching. Take a look:
Willis could very well be the first quarterback off the board in April.
Loser: Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh QB
It might be unfair to categorize Pickett as a combine loser after his on-field work in Indy. He made all the throws with touch and accuracy, and he is firmly entrenched as a first-round quarterback.
So, why would he possibly be considered a loser? Well, it’s the hand size. Everyone has speculated about Pickett’s hands since the draft process began. His hands were measured at 8.5 inches, smaller than any current NFL quarterback. Cold-weather teams have to wonder if he can avoid fumbles, which he had 26 of in college at Pittsburgh.
Winner: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati CB
Aside from having the best nickname among all prospects, Gardner has emerged as the class’ top cornerback. The 21-year-old Cincinnati product was avoided at all costs this season, with quarterbacks rarely throwing in his direction. At the combine, he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and moved well considering his 6-foot-3 frame. Gardner is creeping into the top-10 pick conversation after two corners were selected in that range last year (Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain II).
Loser: Treylon Burks, Arkansas WR
The Arkansas receiver had a shot to cement himself as the WR1 of this class, and he was unable to do it in Indy. Burks ran a 4.55 40-yard dash, which was good but not great for a 6-foot-3, 225-pound wideout. Experts weren’t wowed by his 32-inch vertical, 10-foot-2 broad jump and up-and-down on-field drills. Burks is still a first-round pick – and he could be the first receiver off the board – but he didn’t solidify that status at the combine.
Winner: Jordan Davis, Georgia DT
Coming in at just over 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, Davis was quite literally the biggest attraction at the combine. The Georgia defensive tackle ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash, the fastest ever for a player over 330 pounds. His standing broad jump of 10-foot-3 was a record for players over 300 pounds. On top of that, his drill work was strong and he appeared to have great stamina. Davis should feel great leaving Indy as a sure-fire first-round pick.
Loser: DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M DL
Leal was seen as a first-round pick entering the 2021 season, even landing in the top-10 in some way-too-early mock drafts. The Texas A&M product didn’t quite live up to the hype, but still had a solid season on the Aggies’ defensive line. With a five-second 40-yard dash and inconsistent field work, Leal likely won’t know his draft fate until Day 2.
Winner: Chris Olave, Ohio State WR
The smoothest route-runner in the draft lived up to his billing at the combine. Olave made a handful of impressive catches during on-field drills after running a 4.39 40-yard dash. Along with Burks and fellow Ohio State weapon Garrett Wilson, Olave should be in the conversation to be the first receiver drafted next month. He might not have the highest ceiling of the three, but he likely has the highest floor.
Loser: Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky WR
Before the combine, Robinson was a sneaky mid-round receiver who was creeping into the first two rounds. But after measuring at just 5-foot-8 – three inches shorter than his listed height – there are some concerns. Only two wideouts shorter than 5-foot-9 have ever recorded 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Now, his height doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive pro player – it just lowers his stock and raises more questions among evaluators.