The Jeremiah takeaways. Three players who helped themselves at the Combine, per NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah:
- C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State, 6-3, 214: “Best pure passer in this draft, and he had what I’d call a graceful workout. I’ve been to workouts that are overpowering. Stroud was smooth and natural. He’s a born thrower.”
- Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt, 6-1, 281: “Not often a player’s taller than advertised at this event, but Kancey was. Delivered on the explosiveness we thought we’d see. In a passing league, a disruptive player like this won’t get out of the first round.”
- Charlie Jones, WR, Purdue, 5-11, 175. “Not a great receiver year, and he ran fast (4.43 seconds) and had a phenomenal overall workout. Might have worked himself into the third round.”
Sean Payton’s busy. The two most interesting Denver Broncos factoids I learned at the combine:
- Sean Payton hired a few of his former New Orleans employees for his new staff in Denver. There were two who he did not hire. His former administrative assistant/offensive assistant, Kevin Petry, was a valued aide to Payton, and the coach requested Petry to follow him to Denver. But when he put in a request with the Saints for Petry to join the Denver staff, New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis nixed it. Turns out Petry was too valuable to the Saints, and because it was a lateral move from one staff to the other, Loomis was within his rights to decline Payton’s request to hire Petry. The other employee? “I wanted to bring the hair stylist also,” said Payton. “She is fantastic.” I think Payton was kidding. I’m pretty sure he was kidding.
- Payton told me he’s going to put an old car front and center in the parking lot so that all players and coaches will see it. He said he’ll have the rearview mirror plus the side mirrors removed from the car. As he said at the Combine, he wants his players and his new organization to look ahead, and not behind, at the nightmare that was the 2022 Broncos season. So if you see a stripped-down old jalopy alongside some very nice vehicles in the Broncos parking lot this season, you’ll know why.
Tush push. I asked a lot of NFL people about the rugby-scrum type of formation the Eagles perfected last season. They were 37-of-41 on QB sneaks, many of which featured the quarterback being pushed from behind on short yardage. Sean Payton and Pete Carroll have each said if it remains legal, they intend on making it part of their playbook next season. For this 18-year-old offensive wrinkle to be outlawed, three-quarters of the league’s owners would have to vote to change it. So the Eagles and only eight other teams would have to vote to keep it for it to survive. I think I’ve got a good feel of the thinking of the Competition Committee, and I believe the group is mostly against assisting the ball carrier. But how adamant will the committee be as the league meetings in Arizona, when rules proposals come up for a vote, get closer? That’s the big question we don’t know yet. If the committee believes it doesn’t have a good chance to get support from 24 teams, it’s likely not to put the measure to a vote. My feeling is getting 24 votes would be a stretch. Two things committee members don’t like: One, this isn’t a football play. Two, the potential for injury. It’s only a matter of time before a defender acting as a projectile flies over the scrum and contacts a QB helmet-to-helmet with force, or a QB getting pushed by 450 pounds of pushers meets similar resistance from defensive tackles and separates a shoulder.
Quote of the Combine on the issue. Chargers coach Brandon Staley doesn’t consider this a very big deal, but he’s not keen on the potential for injury. He told me: “It’s what the law of physics says. If there’s a force coming from the offense, there will be an equal or greater response from the defense. And that’s concerning.”
On Jalen Carter. Lots of authorities had the Georgia defensive tackle as the top prospect in the draft entering the Combine. But oddly and perhaps significantly, on the day Carter reported to the Combine, the Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) Police issued an arrest warrant for Carter for reckless driving and racing in connection with the car-accident deaths of a Georgia player and recruiting staffer. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Carter left the scene of the crime and then misled police about the case. Carter left the Combine, turned himself into authorities in Georgia, then returned to the Combine and participated in interviews with teams Thursday night. Why do I question the timing of it all? The accident happened on Jan. 15. Exactly 45 days later, on the day he reported to the signature pre-draft event, the police issued the arrest warrant; Carter’s reputation and draft stock took a major hit. The seriousness of the charge—which Carter denies—could derail Carter’s career if proven. Aside from the legalities, when this happened is just odd. If Carter was highly regarded by the program and the community, would the case have been handled like this, giving him a black eye on the day of his big job interviews instead of three days before or three days after? “You’re not the only one to think that,” one GM told me Friday. “I believe it was absolutely calculated.” This, of course, comes on the heels of ESPN’s Todd McShay saying there were character concerns about Carter. Carter’s history at Georgia will be a story to be followed between now and draft weekend.
Free-agency? Meh. Assuming Lamar Jackson and Daniel Jones are either franchised or signed by the start of free-agency next week, it’s going to be a lean year for the unrestricted players without contracts. Philadelphia defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and corner James Bradberry, tackles Orlando Brown (KC) and Mike McGlinchey (Niners) and DBs Jamel Dean (Bucs) and Jordan Poyer (Bills) will be some of the sought-after ones in the early hours of the market. As one GM told me, this could be a year when teams hold their cash till the market settles.
The quarterbacks. Alabama’s Bryce Young, the leader in the clubhouse to be the first QB picked, didn’t work out here. C.J. Stroud (Ohio State), Anthony Richardson (Florida) and Will Levis (Kentucky) did. Stroud had a great throwing workout and Richardson had one of the most athletic workouts a quarterback at the Combine has ever had. Young is the most polished of the class, but he’s 5-10 1/8, and that surely will give some teams pause. Kyler Murray was the same height, exactly, four years ago, but still went one overall. The difference is Young doesn’t have the speed Murray has. “Young is the most pro-ready, we think,” said one GM whose team has a quarterback need. “But he doesn’t have one premier trait. He’s very good at a lot of things, but obviously he’s small.” Young, to me, on his size: “I definitely didn’t shrink any time recently. I’m comfortable with myself. I’m confident in my abilities. There’s a lot of people who have paved the way for smaller quarterbacks. A lot of people have done it at a really high level. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson are guys that definitely inspired me a lot growing up. It’s a good source of inspiration for me.”
Dot dot dot. The Derek Carr market is lukewarm. At best. “If there was a lot of love for him, he’d have been signed by now,” one GM said … A guy you’ve never heard of, a guy who probably won’t be drafted in round one, had one of the intriguing Combines. A 282-pound Northwestern defensive lineman, Adetomiwa Adebawore, ran the fastest time ever for a player weighing more than 275 pounds, 4.49 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His production didn’t match his starry Combine, so teams will go to work on him now—but he likely will be a hot player in the next seven weeks … Three undergrads from the University of Toronto won the $20,000 first prize in the NFL’s Big Data Bowl at the Combine. Eight groups were flown to Indianapolis to compete for the prize, asked to come up with new metrics using Next Gen Stats data to improve a specific part of game study. Hassaan Inayatali, Aaron White and Daniel Hocevar presented on quantifying pocket pressure and how it affects the quarterback … In a nine-day span beginning March 22 in Columbus, the four top quarterbacks will hold Pro Days. Then the hay will be in the barn for, in order, Stroud, Young, Levis and Richardson.
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column