The NFL combine is an intriguing event. It’s the place rumors get started and squashed, where prospects are elevated and devalued, where the true personalities of players come center stage without the institutional constraint of being seen and not heard as a student-athlete.
And everyone once in a while, one of these kids says something in an interview that draws your attention because it’s so outlandish or newsworthy. Or both.
If you have seen Ohio State defensive end Chase Young play, you know he’s an absolute beast, a supremely talented player with the speed and skill of a force of nature. When he’s at his best, he is basically unblockable, a real headache for offensive linemen and coordinators.
But as vital a position as speed rusher is in the game – some view it second only to quarterback – its not one that receives as much expert promotion as QB, which seems to dominate every Heisman Trophy vote and college draft.
For that reason, many casual fans likely believe the top QBs are not only the best prospects in the draft, but the best athletes.
Of course, we know that’s not the case. And on Thursday, Young told us he doesn’t believe it, either.
“I definitely think I’m the best player in the draft,” Young said at the NFL combine. “I think I showed it on my tape. Every game, I think I showed it. I definitely think I put my best foot forward this year, I grinded hard. Two of my biggest things are hard work and dedication and I’m going to bring those two to the NFL with me.”
We tend to agree, although its not always the case. You’d have to say Kyler Murray was likely the best athlete in the 2019 Draft, better on his feet than defensive end Nick Bosa, who was the second pick by the San Francisco 49ers.
If circumstances were different, and there wasn’t such a great need at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, we’d bet the house Young would be the first player taken this season. But he won’t be because the Bengals need Joe Burrow more than they need defensive help at this point of their reboot.
Keep in mind, Young registered 27 sacks over the last two seasons, the defensive equivalent of a 2,000-yard rushing season. He picked up four against Wisconsin and three against Penn State in 2019 when he led the nation with 16 1/2 sacks. And he compiled his numbers despite missing two games because of eligibility issues.
That’s convinced him there’s nothing he needs to do this week to enhance the hype. So he’ll save all the good stuff for Pro Day in Columbus, Ohio. But even then, he’s going to limit his exposure to position drills. You won’t see Young pumping out 40-yard dashes in shorts and tight shirts.
“Me and my team decided to do that just because that Day 1 when I step on the field I want to be football ready,” Young said on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “I’m not trying to compete to be a combine player. I need to be a football player. Just know when I step on that field Day 1, I’ll be ready.”
Once the Bengals take Burrow, the Washington Redskins will be free to take Young at No. 2. There has been some ridiculous talk lately that Washington, which drafted QB Dwayne Haskins in the first round in 2019, may have some interest in Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. But that’s likely designed to generate possible trade packages for the pick.
“I feel I can do everything, I’ll do anything a team needs me to do,” Young said. ” … If they want me to move in to three tech and rush the passer, outside, stand up, I can do it. Drop back, check tight ends, check the back I can do it. Play linebacker I can do it, I feel like I’m going to come in with that mindset.”
If there is one aspect of Young’s resume some feel has fallen short its he didn’t have a sack in his final three games. Those were the biggest games of the season, against Michigan, the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin and the national semifinal game against Clemson.
“I’m not really tripping on numbers I could have put up,” Young said. “I put up some pretty good numbers so far, I led the nation in sacks missing two games. What I did was enough.
“If you know football you would see who they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy, but you know a lot of people may not really know how to study the tape, they may not know how to watch football, but if you know, you know. Being the best defensive end is not about sacks, it’s about being the most destructive player on the field, you can do that without sacks.”