There’s really only one place in the world you can learn about the importance of the hip swivel of a supremely conditioned athlete who is wearing little more than underwear.
The NFL Combine, which concluded Monday in Indianapolis, is the place league coaches and executives migrate every winter to dig deep into the physical condition and psychological makeup of potential draft picks and free agents.
One NFL team reportedly asked Texas cornerback Kris Boyd whether he had two testicles. We’re not kidding.
It is a truly bizarre event, one during which every measurable is assessed with a stopwatch and educated eye. How fast, how high, how mobile, how accurate and how powerful. It’s all there for the football world to gawk at.
Here’s an example of news that made headlines: Did you know quarterback Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, clocked in at 5 feet, 10 1/8 inches tall and 207 pounds?
This is very important intelligence since Murray is considered a top candidate to be selected first overall by the Arizona Cardinals. Some consider him too small to stand up to the physicality of the league.
Now everyone knows he would be one of the shortest starting quarterbacks in league history. In his advantage is that he compares favorably to two of the NFL’s top QBs, Drew Brees (6-0 ¼, 213) of the New Orleans Saints and Seattle’s Russell Wilson (5-10 5/8, 204).
If Murray didn’t have the such a strong arm and ability to run – 4,361 yards passing, 1,001 rushing – this would likely knock him down a few rungs in the first round. His highly rated QB counterparts, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (6-3 3/8, 231), Drew Lock of Missouri (6-3 ¾, 228) and Duke’s Daniel Jones (6-5 1/8, 221) tower above him.
“He’s (Murray) a great athlete and has had a great career,” said John Elway, the general manager and president of football operations of the Denver Broncos. “The one year he played at Oklahoma was great and shows he’s a great athlete. Obviously the size is always the question, but we’ve seen guys that have had success in the league that are not necessarily the prototypes as far as when it comes to height. He’s got the ability to be a great player.”
What Murray’s size does portend is a career exclusively as a shotgun QB, as opposed to the prototypical drop back passer Haskins, Jones and Lock figure to be.
Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, the former ESPN analyst who annually previewed the draft with his entertaining seminars with the top QB prospects, agrees with Elway.
“I think [height] has been proved to not be as much of a factor maybe as it was years ago,” Gruden said.
Murray’s size wasn’t the only noteworthy stat to come from the Combine.
Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, who is 6-5 7/8ths, 260 pounds, ripped off a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash. Not only was it the fastest time for a defensive lineman in 13 years, it was faster than all but two of the 23 running backs who ran for the scouts.
To put it into perspective, Sweat’s time bested Jadeveon Clowney’s 4.53 in 2014. Clowney was the first player taken in the 2014 draft. ESPN tells us Sweat’s time was even faster than Odell Beckham, Jr. who ran a 4.43 in 2014.
And there was Alabama’s defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. He was advised by his agent not to participate in any of the Combine drills, as some players do. But Williams ignored the advice and ran a 4.83, the second-fastest 40 by anyone over 300 pounds since 2006.
Sweat and Williams have now thrust themselves into the conversation for first overall pick, especially considering Arizona took QB Josh Rosen in the first round in 2017.
If that’s the case, where does that leave Ohio State’s defensive lineman Nick Bosa? There are a few pundits who already have him penciled in as Arizona’s top pick.
“I’ve been talking myself up pretty good to [NFL teams],” said Bosa, whose brother, Joey, was the third overall pick in 2016 by the San Diego Chargers.
Bosa made news during the college football season by leaving the Buckeyes to heal a core muscle and prevent other injuries. He appears to have made the right decision.
“I felt it. I know what a serious injury is. I knew my season was in jeopardy,” he said.
Bosa worked out on Sunday and was scheduled to meet with the Cardinals, as well as other teams picking in the top eight, later in the day.
He injured himself in the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ win over TCU on Sept. 15 and has surgery five days later. At that point, he was told he’d need three months to recover.
“I was lying in bed and I could barely get up,” Bosa said. “It was one of the darkest moments of my life so far … for me just to talk to my family and them bring me up and just know … that I still have amazing blessings and a bright future.”
In his three games, Bosa had four sacks, six tackles for loss and was leading the team in tackles.
Of course, the news out of the Combine isn’t all positive. Aside from players who underperform, there are others that get hurt, putting their draft status into question.
Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawerence injured his hamstring running the 40. And Ohio State corner Kendall Sheffield tore a pectoral muscle lifting weights. Both are considered first-round talents.