Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is spotlighting the prospects who make a mark -- for better or worse -- at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. On Saturday, the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends took the field. Here are Brooks' impressions from Indianapolis:
John Ross, Washington, WR: Whenever a prospect shatters the 40-yard dash record, scouts will take notice, especially when it's a blue-chip prospect with a polished overall game. That's why Ross is poised to make a serious climb up draft boards after posting a 4.22-second time in the 40 that confirmed his explosiveness as a playmaker. Though Ross was unable to finish the workout due to a series of cramps, he certainly caught scouts' attention with his blistering run down the track. He can save that energy for his pro day next Saturday (March 11).
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: The Heisman finalist continued to cement his reputation as a big-moment player with a strong performance here at the combine. Watson flashed his athleticism when he clocked a 4.66-second 40 that surprised scouts who were expecting the 6-foot-2, 221-pound dual threat to post times in the mid-4.7 range. While Watson was expected to check the box as an athlete, he showed evaluators he has the tools to be an effective quick-rhythm passer at the next level. He displayed pinpoint accuracy on short and intermediate routes, including speed outs, curls and digs following a traditional five-step drop. Although he missed the mark a bit on a few deep throws (go-routes), the Clemson star was so efficient as a connect-the-dots passer that scouts will still give him glowing marks for his work on the day.
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State: It might be time to pay closer attention to Godwin after he put on an impressive showing on Saturday. He posted a 4.42-second 40 that certainly surprised plenty of scouts in the stands. He followed up his outstanding track performance with a strong pass-catching exhibition that showcased his strong hands and exceptional ball skills. Godwin not only plucks the ball out of the air effortlessly but he does so while flashing ballerina-like footwork and body control along the sideline. With a strong career resume that suggests he has the tools to be an effective WR1, Godwin will continue to creep up the boards as one of the draft's hottest prospects heading into pro-day season.
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss: More NFL teams are looking for "H" tight ends with the speed, quickness and athleticism to create mismatches on the perimeter. Engram was certainly viewed as one of the best hybrid tight ends in the 2017 class following his solid week of work at the Senior Bowl. He cemented his status with a blistering 4.42-second 40 and a solid positional workout. Engram runs routes like a slot receiver, yet offers teams a big-bodied pass catcher with exceptional route-running skills to target on critical downs (third-down and red zone). Considering the impact that Jordan Reed and other hybrids have had on the game, Engram's stock is bound to rise following his performance in Indy.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami: The Hurricanes' QB1 didn't have his fastball working during the positional workout on the turf. Kaaya missed on a handful of throws at intermediate and deep range that highlighted some concerns about his arm strength and accuracy. In addition, he failed to address concerns about his athleticism when he elected to sit out the 40. While a workout doesn't replace the film, Kaaya's ho-hum showing will make it hard for scouts to sell him as a franchise quarterback in some rooms.
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech: The Hokies' big-play receiver was expected to dazzle evaluators with his speed and explosiveness in drills, but scouts came away disappointed in his athleticism after he posted a pair of 4.6s in the 40. He further damaged his stock with a handful of drops that raised more questions about his hands and pass-catching skills. Although Ford will have a chance to make amends for the poor performance at his pro day on March 15, he missed out on a chance to impress evaluators looking for a potential game-changer on the perimeter.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington: The small-school standout was enjoying a magic carpet ride up the charts following a spectacular week of work at the Senior Bowl. Scouts were discussing Kupp as a potential top 40 pick with plenty of teams viewing him as a potential WR2 in the right system. That narrative will certainly change after Kupp clocked a pair of 40-yard dashes in the 4.6-range and looked nothing like an explosive playmaker on the perimeter. Sure, the scouts will go back to film and assess his dominance against Big Sky competition, but the pedestrian 40 will make it hard to cast him as more than a WR3 in meetings.
The pass rushers and linebackers take center stage on Sunday. Scouts will take a long, hard look at Texas A&M's Myles Garrett to see if he is a really a super hero on the edge. After impressing scouts with his chiseled frame at the weigh-in, the Aggies' star simply needs to flash the speed, quickness and burst to blow past blockers on the edge. Tennessee's Derek Barnett, if he can participate after suffering an illness in Indy, and Stanford's Solomon Thomas will also have a chance to impress evaluators with their athleticism and movement skills. Each rusher is expected to exceed athletic expectations, which could lead to a surge up the charts.
At linebacker, Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan, Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham and Florida's Jarrad Davis will attempt to take advantage of Alabama's Reuben Foster's absence by blowing up the combine with their athletic feats. If they can show exceptional athleticism in drills, they could encourage a team to bypass Foster for one of them.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.