Fri, 03 Jul 2020

2020 NFL Scouting Combine Preview | Offense

Miami Dolphins
25 Feb 2020, 07:05 GMT+10

Though the official selection meeting is two months away, draft season is in full force. Las Vegas is this year's site, and with six of the top 70 picks belonging to Miami, Sin City will become Fin City on the final weekend in April.

It's Year 2 of the Brian Flores-Chris Grier collaboration. Closing 2019 with five victories in the final nine games, including three outright wins as double-digit underdogs, has Miami on an upward trajectory. With the second-most available cap space, and far-and-away the greatest draft capital, the Dolphins can roll that momentum into the 2020 season.

The workouts begin Thursday in Indianapolis starting with the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. The running backs and offensive linemen will take center stage on Friday. These are the top three players at each offensive position according to The Draft Network's official rankings.

Quarterbacks

Joe Burrow, LSU

Heisman Trophy winner, National Champion and potential No. 1 overall draft pick - everything came up aces this year for Joe Burrow. Leading college football's most potent offensive attack, Burrow slayed all 15 opponents he faced in 2019, including seven ranked teams. Burrow completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns.

Teaming up with Passing Game Coordinator Joe Brady, Burrow dominated the college ranks with a pro-style passing attack. Playing the role of point guard, Burrow distributed the football in the quick-game better than anybody. He was deadly accurate throwing the ball vertically, and made jaw-dropping plays outside the pocket and with his legs on a weekly basis.

"When I watch the LSU offense, it is a heavily schemed pro-style route tree that resembles the New Orleans Saints - in terms of how they put defensive coverages and defensive players in conflict," said ESPN analyst Matt Bowen. "And what that requires is for an elite-level quarterback to go through pro progressions, to find the voids in zone coverage and to find the matchups that are created within this offense."

Burrow won't compete in the on-field drills, but will be available for media and team interviews.

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Few collegiate quarterbacks have carried the hype that followed Tua Tagovailoa into the 2019 season. With a national title under his belt, Tagovailoa's first full season as a starter was transcendent. Playing for three coordinators in as many years, the precise southpaw modified the antiquated Crimson Tide attack into an aerial display to levels never before seen in college football.

The accolades and praise piled up from scouts, analysts, and former players. Trent Dilfer - via an article from The Athletic - lauded Tagovailoa's poise, work ethic, and talent from their time together at Nike's Elite 11 camp. "He has a poise like I've never see and that goes along with talent that you rarely ever see," the former Super Bowl Champion said. "His throwing motion is so efficient. He maximizes everything he draws from the ground. Zero wasted motion. Aaron (Rodgers) is the only one I've seen like this, and he grew into it. He wasn't like this at this stage."

Tagovailoa's junior season came to an abrupt end when a hip injury knocked the quarterback out of the Mississippi State game. As a result, Tua will not participate in the on-field drills at the Scouting Combine. His mission, as he said during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show, is to win the medicals. Tagovailoa's college production certainly speaks for itself. A consensus 2018 All-American, Tagovailoa finished his Alabama career with 87 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 12.7 yards per pass attempt and a 69.7 completion percentage.

Justin Herbert, Oregon

Justin Herbert's decorated Oregon career was punctuated with perhaps his two best showings in last year's Pac 12 Championship and Rose Bowl games. The Eugene native dreamed of leading his beloved Ducks to a New Year's Day win in Pasadena, and did it in unconventional fashion. Faster than he is quick, Herbert scampered for three touchdowns on the ground, tripling his season total entering the game.

Herbert finished his college career with 95 touchdown passes, 23 interceptions 10,541 yards. He put durability concerns to bed by starting all possible 27 games to close out his junior and senior seasons. The Oregon offense was a run-first attack that didn't always accentuate the quarterback's traits. Herbert has a howitzer of a right arm and shines with his back to the defense on play-action and bootleg concepts.

"He's definitely the best [quarterback] I've been around," Oregon Head Coach Mario Cristobal said. "He can do it all. He's loved by his teammates - everyone just thinks the world of him. He's a grinder."

Herbert will participate in the on-field drills this week, where he's a near-lock to impress. At 6-6, 240 pounds, the scouting combine is an event built for Justin Herbert.

Running Backs

D'Andre Swift, Georgia

Mocked to Miami by three NFL Network Draft Analysts -- Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Lance Zierlein - D'Andre Swift will provide an instant shot of offense for his new club. It only took 515 touches for this explosive back to pile up 3,551 yards from scrimmage. Swift put up big numbers without using up a lot of tread on the tires, primarily as a slashing zone runner.

Swift adds a dynamic pass catching element to the offense. His receiving prowess, paired with his work in pass protection makes the Georgia product a three-down player at the professional level. The loaded Bulldog offense flowed through its star tailback, according to Head Coach Kirby Smart. "He's the heart and soul," Smart said. "He's a leader. He's inspirational. The runs get the fans involved, but Swift gets the team involved with all the things he does and says."

All eyes will be on Swift's 40-yard dash. A time in the 4.4 range is a safe bet; breaking the 4.3 mark should solidify his first-round status.

J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Dobbins burst onto the college football scene with a dynamic freshman campaign, starting with a 181-yard debut performance. After a sophomore slump Dobbins returned to dominance, particularly in the Buckeyes' biggest games. He ripped off 1,018 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in Ohio State's six contests against ranked opponents.

Dobbins departs Columbus as the second all-time rushing leader in school history. Edging out Ezekiel Elliot and Eddie George, only Archie Griffin ran for more yards than the multi-faceted Dobbins. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah praised Dobbins for his work in the passing game. From his top-50 big board, "He had two tough drops against Clemson, but he was reliable in every other game I studied," Jeremiah said. "He is very aware in pass protection. He'll be a dependable starter immediately."

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

It's difficult to find better production than that of former Badger Back Jonathan Taylor. With 55 total touchdowns and 6,174 career rushing yards, the only question left for Taylor is his professional longevity. The focal point of the bruising Wisconsin ground game, Taylor has 968 touches on his resume. He rushed for better than 200 yards in 12 of his 41 collegiate games.

Taylor is built like an NFL back. He's 5-11 and 220 pounds with a compact build. He's a supreme athlete evident by his high school track career where he won state titles in the 100-meters and 4x100 relay. Taylor's peak athletic prowess is topped only by his character, which also comes with proof. Taylor was considering attending Harvard, but ultimately chose Wisconsin - the football world thanks Taylor.

Taylor's impact reverberated throughout the Badger locker room. "Not only was he the best college running back in the history of the game, but he was also the greatest person that's played college football," Wisconsin teammate Garrett Groshek said of Taylor.

Wide Receivers

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Route running has always been the most crucial trait for wide receivers, and nobody is crisper in that department than Alabama's Jerry Jeudy. Uncoverable throughout his time in college, Jeudy blends blazing speed with unparalleled change-of-direction skill. He creates separation better than any of his 2020 contemporaries and makes big plays after the catch.

The All-American wideout posted video game numbers during his time at Tuscaloosa. With a two-year total of 145 receptions, 2,478 yards and 24 touchdowns, Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award in 2018 and was a finalist for the nation's best wide receiver award this past season.

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

This year's receiver class is loaded with run-after-catch specialists. Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb has a case as the best of the loaded bunch. Pairing his jaw-dropping highlight reel with consistent, gaudy production, Lamb has a case to go off the board in the top 10. Wide receiver is arguably Miami's best position group, but a slide to pick 18 for Lamb could present Miami with too much value to pass up.

Lamb averaged 21.4 yards per reception this year bringing his three-year OU total to an even 19 YPR. He scored 33 total touchdowns and racked up 3,321 yards in his iconic Sooner career. The perception surrounding the consensus All-American is that a lack of top end speed will drop Lamb into that 10-20 range of this year's draft.

Henry Ruggs, Alabama

If John Ross' record-setting 4.22 40-yard dash time is to fall this weekend, Ruggs will be the one to take his place atop the throne. Ruggs broke the high school 7A 100-meter dash record in Alabama with a time of 10.58 seconds. That speed was on display each Saturday this fall; Ruggs often looks like his film is sped up in comparison to those chasing him.

Ruggs, the ultimate burner, used his track speed to carve up SEC defenses in his college career. Ruggs averaged 17.5 yards per reception in college with 25 touchdowns. Ruggs is more than a speed merchant, he's a crafty route runner. As sudden as he is fast, Ruggs is a difficult player to disrupt of the line and into the route.

Tight Ends

Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

Hopkins has a chance to separate from the tight end pack at the combine. Something of a souped-up wide receiver, Hopkins challenges the seam vertically and has the route running repertoire to run the full tree. His Purdue tape is full of highlight grabs and chunks of yardage after the catch.

At 6-4 and 241 pounds, Hopkins isn't the most imposing in-line blocker, but that's not for a lack of trying. He can get the job done in space on effort and positioning. Hopkins recorded 130 receptions, 1,945 yards and 16 touchdowns during his four years in college.

Hunter Bryant, Washington

Like Hopkins, Bryant is more receiver than additional in-line blocker. He's explosive in the open field and after the catch. He plays the ball in the air exceptionally well and has no issues competing at the top of the route pulling down contested throws.

Bryant can move about the formation - from wide splits, in the slot and even catching passes out of the backfield. Despite limited production in college, he's a mismatch piece at the next level. Bryant caught 85 passes for 1,394 yards and five touchdowns at Washington.

A reason for the minimal production - a season-ending knee injury that cut his 2018 campaign short at just five games. Bryant responded to the adversity with a breakout 825-yard season last fall.

Cole Kmet, Notre Dame

Playing at Notre Dame, Kmet was asked to play in-line more than his counterparts at Washington and Purdue, respectively. A smooth athlete with the most reliable hands in the tight end class, Kmet went for 515 yards and six touchdowns in a run-first Fighting Irish offense.

Using his 6-4 frame, Kmet offers imposing length working between the numbers. Two-sport athletes tend to offer more fluidity, and this former baseball star displays natural balance and feel for the position. He operated out of a three-point, in-line position with regularity and shined as a red zone threat in 2019.

Offensive Tackles

Jedrick Wills, Alabama

Wills' pole-position on expert's boards as the class' top tackle is a testament to the changing times of left tackle and right tackle distinctions in the NFL. Wills, a right tackle, has the most dominant tape of any lineman in this draft. Wills mows down bodies in the run game, but is even more impressive in his ability to mirror and move in pass protection.

A natural knee-bender, Wills easily recognizes games in the opposing pass rush and is quick to wall-off stunts, twists and delayed blitzers. He's a powerful striker that can end a rep early with a devastating shot across his man's bow. Wills is scheme-diverse with the mean-streak and intelligence to make multiple Pro Bowls at the next level.

Wills capped a tremendous career with a big performance in this year's Citrus Bowl, a game that others in his position might've chose to skip. "...I'd still play just because [I want] to be there for my brothers and play for the last time in an Alabama uniform."

Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Speculation is swirling that Wirfs could move inside to guard as a pro. At 6-5 and 322 pounds, Wirfs is built like a house. He has the length, thickness and anchor to play and succeed anywhere on the offensive line. He spent time at both right and left tackle at Iowa, finishing his career primarily on the right side.

Wirfs' hands are hammers. Once he snatches the defender, it's game over, as he turns and drives players out of their respective gap.

Wirfs' college coach thinks he can play anywhere, but guard might be the best option. "You play a guy like that inside, he's basically going to kill guys," Kirk Ferentz said. "He's a dominant player that way."

Mekhi Becton, Louisville

Becton's tape is akin to the unrealistic action shots of Michael Oher in the movie 'The Blindside' - only Becton isn't operating in a fictional world. In addition to rag-dolling defenders seemingly each week, Becton moves like a power forward on the hardwood - he features a rare blend of size and athleticism.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah slotted Becton as the fourth pick in his initial mock draft, citing Becton's 6-7, 370-pound frame. "He's a mauler in the run game, and he's shockingly nimble in pass protection," said NFLN's lead draft analyst.

This year was Becton's first as a full-time left tackle, and it was one of utter dominance. Previously, Becton alternated between left and right tackle based on the strong and weakside alignments. There's a good chance Becton solidifies his stock as a top 5 pick this week in Indianapolis. His workouts will stand out among a group of extremely gifted tackles.

Interior O-Line

Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU

Cushenberry anchored one of college football's best offensive lines en route to a perfect season culminating in a national championship. A two-year starter, Cushenberry's athletic profile - paired with his instincts for the position - could result in his name being called on the first night. With little wasted movement in his game, Cushenberry almost always takes the correct angle and opens big lanes in the run game.

Cushenberry finds a way through his ability to drop his lower half and hold up against bull rushes. That bend, coupled with flawless footwork, allows Cushenberry to recover on the rare occasions where he loses the rep initially.

Cushenberry was awarded the number 18 jersey by Coach Ed Orgeron - a distinction given to the team's two players that best exemplified a selfless attitude. Wearing number 18, a tradition that began in 2003, is synonymous with success at LSU, both on and off the field.

Caesar Ruiz, Michigan

Buzz words and phrases will be spoken aplenty this week in Indianapolis, none more prevalent than a player's ability to unlock his hips. However that skill set is framed, few players embody fluid hips better than Michigan's Caesar Ruiz. A controlled stick of dynamite when operating in space, Ruiz' ability to pull in the run game rivals any interior lineman in this class.

Ruiz started three years along Big Blue's offensive line. He has a thick, compact build that allows him to anchor against power. Starting at right guard in 2017, Ruiz transitioned back to his natural center position his final two years at Ann Arbor. "[Playing center is] something I've been doing my whole life," Ruiz said. "In high school, I'm used to making all the calls, I'm used to doing everything." Ruiz was 2017's top-rated center as a high school prospect.

Nick Harris, Washington

With rare movement traits, and an innate ability to operate out in space in wide zone concepts and in the screen game, Harris was drapped with post-season accolades this year. First-Team All Pac-12 and a Sports Illustrated Second-Team All Ameican, Harris excels at reach blocking. He has the lateral movement and initial hand placement to engage and control the rep despite limited length.

Harris developed an unbreakable bond with teammate Trey Adams, who credits Harris for teaching him some of the core traits of an offensive lineman. "Persistence, toughness, competitiveness, Adams said. "He played as a true freshman. He was 17 when he started against Alabama. So, I mean, that guy, he's seen it all. Off the field, too - being a good buddy, loyal, all that kind of stuff."

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