The 2018 NFL combine can change lives. The four-day event can make or break careers. It can vault players up or remove them from draft boards.
But for a few in attendance, it really doesn’t matter.
Here are some of the select few whose combine performances will do pretty much nothing to their stock as they prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
He is untouchable on the football field, and therefore untouchable as a draft prospect. Barkley is a revelation, and probably the best player in the draft.
His talent is through the roof. He’s versatile. He can run the ball and catch the ball. He can rush like Reggie Bush and Marshawn Lynch. Barkley was a truly astounding player to watch in college. And that’s why his combine numbers won’t matter.
If he runs a slow 40-yard dash time (which he won’t), scouts and general managers will see his tremendous game speed. If he tests poorly on the broad jump or the 3-cone drill, scouts will see his explosiveness and agility in the film. If he struggles in interviews, teams at the top of the draft will figure out how to work around those issue.
After putting up 1,271 rushing yards, 632 receiving yards and 21 total touchdowns in 2017, he is a lock to go in the top three picks, and will only fall because he plays running back, a position with diminishing value in the NFL.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
He’s not throwing. He’s basically in Indy so he doesn’t get fined.
Darnold may not be the sure-fire best quarterback prospect in this year’s draft, but he’s the one with the least questions. His accuracy was solid (unlike Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson). Darnold’s personality has never come into question (unlike Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield). Darnold’s frame is prototypical (unlike Mayfield). So he’ll surely ace the interviews. He’ll ace the measurements that matter. And he’ll get out of Indianapolis without anything to worry about.
Darnold is vanilla ice cream. And there are a lot of NFL folks who love vanilla ice cream.
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
At Notre Dame, he demonstrated he can play both left and right tackle. In the NFL, he may prove he can start at both places. But he’s not going to prove that at the combine. He’s likely to go in the middle of first round with a team hoping he can play left while knowing he may land at right. And he’s like many of the other first-round tackle prospects, who project more naturally to right tackle than left. But at least McGlinchey has upside on the left side (much like Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown).
McGlinchey won’t shock anyone. He won’t turn heads. He’s going to quietly go about business, and move one step closer to getting drafted between Nos. 10 and 20 overall.
Ronald Jones, RB, USC
This Jamaal Charles reincarnate will run a great 40-yard dash time. But he’ll stay ranked behind both Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice — and maybe a few others. He’ll go between Nos. 30 and 45 overall. His 40-yard dash time will be important, as speed is Jones’ trademark asset, which NFL teams will covet. But he doesn’t have to set a combine record.
In his final college season, Jones ran for 1,550 yards with 19 touchdowns on 5.9 yards per carry. His game tape in the Pac 12 has proved he’s an explosive commodity, which an NFL team should buy with a high second round pick. His draft stock won’t be volatile.
Shaquem Griffin, OLB, UCF
Griffin will likely draw cameras and coverage because he only has one hand. He was born with amniotic band syndrome, and had his hand amputated as a young child. He’s also a well-liked person, as he won over coaches at the Senior Bowl with his play and personality.
His story is a tremendous one, and he’s come out of his adversity as a solid football player. During his 2016 college season as the Defensive Player of the Year in the AAC, he recorded 92 tackles, 11.5 sacks, one interception, seven deflections and two forced fumbles. In 2017, he had 74 tackles, seven sacks, one interception, three pass deflections and two forced fumbles. At the Senior Bowl, he played well at defensive end, outside linebacker and safety.
He showed it all in Mobile: he’s a football guy. The combine won’t change that, and his name should get called on day three on the draft.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
At the Senior Bowl, he only reaffirmed that a) he has accuracy issues, and b) he wasn’t the most polished quarterback (even among the draft’s second tier of quarterbacks, but c) he’s got a howitzer hanging out of his right shoulder socket. So if he’s inaccurate at the combine, pundits may freak out. But scouts will only see the same issues they’ve been seeing on film — and they must be issues they think they can fix, because ESPN’s Mel Kiper continues to have Allen atop his mock drafts.
Allen can botch most of the combine. He’d only reinforce that he is who we thought he is: a raw talent with incredible potential.