Combine Crunch - Measure Twice
In attendance in Indianapolis is a voluminous wide receiver group. Over 50 of ‘em! Wideouts earn a copious amount of hype from the combine. Henry Ruggs running in the 4-3’s has dominated the conversation. He will run very fast! Also water is wet and Ryan Fitzpatrick will start NFL games in the upcoming season. What’s frustrating is nobody seems to care that Ruggs has phenom hand size!
Henry Ruggs profiles similar to a player like Will Fuller. That’s not a stretch. Henry Ruggs measured in with over 10 inch hands. That puts him in the elite hand size bucket. Top of the spectrum. Will Fuller on the other “hand” is at the bottom of that spectrum. 8 and ¼ hands! Ruggs stacks up with Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen and Nuke Hopkins who all have 10 inch mitts!
I suppose I’m arguing that forty times for wide receivers are over emphasized. I prefer speed scores. It’s all relative. Adjusting everything for weight and then applying context. Does this player require X to do Y at the next level?
When we approach the drills I try and correlate what a receiver does with each test. If a wide out profiles to be a contested catch, red zone guy then I’ll pay attention to his vertical. A slot wide receiver on the other hand I’m more interested in the shuttle and cone drills. Seeing anybody show acceleration, change of direction and the ability to do damage in tight spaces is encouraging. Seeing a slot wide receiver excel in that facet of the game could be necessary for them to translate to the NFL. The exceptions (Players who test poorly) like Julians Edelman and the Rams duo in Cooper Kupp and Bobby Woods. They need exceptional volume and situations to become fantasy gold. Both.
Back to the combine! Our only data points at the moment are the measurements. For degenerates like myself that’s more than enough to get the thoughts forming and opinions percolating. Not unlike Quarterbacks, there's one measurement that stands above the rest. I ranted about it already. Hand size! Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks showed that the top 10 wide receivers in the NFL from 2019 (receptions) had an average of 9 and ¾ inch hand size. So we do chase hand size to an extent.
If I only talked hand size we wouldn’t be here long. This class doesn’t “hand” us an abundance of pickle jar openers. Instead let’s explore some of the prospects and what their expectations are at the next level. Do they have vital physical makeup?
Antonio Gibson is who I have to start with. I’m scared. Once regarded as the new Memphis hotness. Unfortunately Antonio Gibson showed up to the combine as a wide receiver! (We want him to be a running back) In what I can only describe as comeuppance he measured out like a pure running back. He came in shorter than expected but heavier. The trump card for his position trajectory is hand size. Gibson falls short of the bar for hand size. 8 and ⅝ inch hands. Only a handful of wide receivers at the combine came in under 9 inches. Other than a pair of sub 5’11 wide outs who will go undrafted; Gibson has the smallest hands at the position.
The upside remains though. In a world of positionless football, if a team spends capital on Antonio Gibson in the draft, he makes for a perfect running back in today's game. He’s extremely elusive and in his limited sample he showed big play upside turning 11 of his 33 carries into 10+ yards. In the passing game he had almost 20 yards per reception meanwhile his quarterback had almost a perfect rating when targeting him. Antonio Gibson also broke 33 tackles on his 71 touches in 2019 according to PFF.
Collin Johnson made some noise during the senior bowl. He has small hands for his size! More shocking are his arms. That can go a long way to determining a player's catch radius. It can confirm or deny parts of their game as well. Collin Johnson measures out just shy of 6 '6 (AKA a praying mantis on the field) Let's blow past his 9 inch hands. His arms measured smaller than Brandon Aiyuk who's over half a foot shorter than he is! Johnson is the WR 29 in my rookie ranks.
Brandon Ayiuk is a different story. He’s my WR 5! You know that friend who gets all mad once a band he loves gains popularity. That’s how I feel about Aiyuk. All season he’s looked better at Arizona State than N’Keal Harry ever did. He won’t show up on any breakout age leaderboards but Harry was the team's stud. An elite high school recruit- NFL bound. Meanwhile Aiyuk had the opposite career arc. He worked his way up from the JUCO level. Aiyuk finished 2018 strong and blew up in 2019. He’s far from a one hit wonder. Brandon Aiyuk has all the tools to be a first round pick in the NFL draft. Did I stutter?
He started putting the proof in the pudding on day one. Brandon Aiyuk has the 5th best arm size at the combine among wide receivers despite being under 6'0 tall! Among wideouts who will get drafted in the top 4 rounds of the NFL draft only gigantic Tee Higgins and XL Denzel Mims have bigger arms than Brandon Aiyuk. His 9 and ¾ inch hands are icing on the cake. Giving him sure hands and a big catch radius could make him unstoppable in the right situation. Aiyuk had the 5th most yards after catch in CFB. His 10.9 yards after the catch per reception was tops in this wide receiver class. Brandon Aiyuk also had the most yards after contact among this group.
Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb both come in under 6'2 and both are sub 200 lbs. Neither have upper echelon hand size. Both should stay in the same slots of dynasty rankings no matter what happens. There’s a subtle overtone of Lamb’s draft stock though. A month ago he was talked about as a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. With the combine buzz brewing; I’m leaning towards the over.
Sticking with rivalries! Jalen Raegor packed on some weight. Will he still shock and awe in the 40-yard? He’s up to 206 lbs. It really heats up the Henry Ruggs Jalen Raeger debate. I could care less who runs faster or if either, (More Likely Ruggs), breaks John Ross’ record. We already know that Ruggs wins the hand size portion and Raegor wins in the speed score round. He weighed in 17 lbs heavier than Ruggs and their athletic numbers could be very comparable across the board.
I love Jalen Raegor. He's the mystery box in this draft. All the raw tools combined with a hard to study situation in college. Let’s let JR’s combine speak for itself though. I want to address a negative. Raegor’s drop issues. We know his catchable target rate was bottom 5 in college football. Nevertheless Jalen Raegor still dropped 7 of his 50 catchable targets in 2019 according to PFF. The Gauntlet drill will be a nail biter for him. I don’t foresee an outcome to the combine where Jalen Raegor falls outside my top 5 rookie wide receivers but I am curious how he looks in some of the drills involving footballs.
Henry Ruggs may have lost the weight-debate to his… mate. But he more than compensated in the hands department. Both players have plus hand size but Henry Ruggs has freakishly big hands. Biggest amongst these top names in this potent wide receiver class. He’s the guy who we all know will blow up the combine. The question is how high will his floor get for NFL draft capital. Colts? Broncos at 15 overall? Once upon a time mocking him to the Eagles felt so right. Now that Eagles landing spot seems drastically unrealistic.
Gabriel Davis came in far heavier than I had him in my notes and I like it. His modest 216 lbs will make Gabe’s speed score jump off the page post combine. I do have in my notes he could shock the world by blazing in the 40-yard dash. One thing sticks out with Gabriel Davis! He ran almost 80% of his routes from the slot at UCF last year. The perplexion is Davis has the size and speed that usually profiles as an X receiver. Gabriel Davis could make an exponential leap the next time I edit my rookie rankings. How the NFL values him will be telling for his fantasy value. To quote Ron Burgundy “I am very aroused”.
Quintez Cephus (He’s a long story) Measuring day hurt his stock. Very small mitts and probably fails to get selected in the NFL draft in April now. Cephus had a tumultuous college career off the field. In 2019 Quintez Cephus came back to college and posted career highs across the board and dominated in the contested catch arena for Wisconsin. Day one of the combine was his opportunity to get back on the map (Hands don’t fail me now) However in this deep class with little room for error, failing to hit the 9 inch hand threshold can make a fringe player like him become dead to me instantaneously. Too harsh?
Lynn Bowden Jr. is one of my crushes. Bias forewarned. He played quarterback in high school and played some recently in college at Kentucky. I’m praying for fantasy’s sake that he's a satellite back at the next level. Lynn Bowden defines the new age. He can be used wherever and however. Bowden Jr’s hand size leaves the door wide receiver open! 9 ¾ inch hands are the equivalent of the average amongst the top 10 wide receivers in the NFL last year in catches. Lynn-Bo came in shorter than expected but that’s unimportant. I’m very interested in how he tests though. LBJ (I feel like somebody might already have that nickname) He has the intangibles and versatility the combine fails to recognize at times. Bowden Jr. played some wild cat, took jet sweeps, and he’s literally played the majority of skill positions. No Matter what he’s listed as on the depth chart Bowden Jr. will make people miss at the next level. He will be a known commodity in dynasty circles before rookie drafts commence.
Chase Claypool! The Canadian! He came into the combine with the frame of a lumberjack! He’s one of the guys to… Chase in deep tight end premium dynasty leagues. Late in the rookie draft. Looking at his tale of the tape it behooves us to say “Woah he could be a tight end”. That is the conversation surrounding Claypool. He stands 6’4 and he’s 240 lbs! That’s heavier than Evan Engram at the combine. Claypool has almost 10 inch hands and has the arm size needed. He could make it happen. He has little upside as a wide receiver. Chase Claypool won’t last one day vs NFL cornerbacks. Tight end is the only way. If we’re looking for reasons Claypool should “move” to tight end; his 13 touchdowns in 2019 could enter the argument.
John Hightower out of Boise state caused me to double check. I looked at his weight and had to check a second outlet to make sure it was reported correctly. I had him as a sub 180 lbs guy like K.J. Hamler. Unlike Hamstring Hamler. Hightower’s made steam early on. Weighing in at almost 190 lbs! He also has some of the bigger hands at 9 3/4" I already liked Johnny High and now his measurables are making me salivate. His huge average depth of target and YPRR by themselves make him one of the best sleepers in this class.
Lawrence Cager has the smallest hands to height ratio I've seen in a while. He came in at almost 6’5 and 220 lbs. His hands came in under 9 inches (8 7/8”) It might be the final blow to his up and down status. He was a different prospect once he transferred to Georgia. Heading into combine week Cager was somebody I had my eye on. I thought his speed score would impress making him a watch. There’s also been injuries in his college career so he gets chalked up on the medical check board. I may have lost interest already though.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was a huge prospect coming out of high school. I’d bet he’s pushed by the community as a sleeper of this draft based on some of his physical tools. We see that annually and with respect, I feel like it’s the devy community who remembers a player being highly touted coming out of high school. Peoples-Jones fits the bill. He has some of the physical tools in the arsenal. No question. That's why he was highly recruited. On Monday he weighed 212 lbs and slapped down his whopping 10 1/8" hands. Close to the biggest in this class. Having said that DPJ needs top 3 round NFL draft capital or a spectacular landing spot. In my early rookie rankings Peoples-Jones is WR 20.
Isaiah Hodgins is fast and his speed score will pop. Hodgins has almost 10" hands and was one of the only wideouts to break a 33 inch arm length. Isaiah Hodgins has contested catch upside and NFL lineage! (His dad played fullback in the NFL)