By Shan Reddy
This past weekend’s 2019 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis saw the nation’s top collegiate football players try out for NFL coaches in hopes of improving their stocks for the upcoming NFL draft in April. While players from Clemson and Michigan showed out in workouts all weekend long and exceeded expectations in the combine drills, Stanford’s seven participants put on disappointingly average performances.
Wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, punter Jake Bailey, offensive guard Nate Herbig, cornerback Alijah Holder, running back Bryce Love, senior linebacker Bobby Okereke and tight end Kaden Smith all headed to the combine after receiving invites early last month. Arcega-Whiteside did not participate in on field drills or testing, and Love only participated in the bench press as he continues to recover from his ACL injury. Both participated in team interviews.
The combine is traditionally seen as a means of evaluating incoming NFL players’ athleticism — or lack thereof — and rankings in drills often reflect the order in which players are drafted. In addition to team interviews, press conferences and individual workouts, the NFL combine consists of seven core drills: the 40-yard dash, the bench press, the vertical jump, the broad jump, the three-cone drill, the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard shuttle.
Juniors Herbig and Smith were Stanford’s only underclassmen to declare for the draft; before this weekend, they were both projected to be picked in the third or fourth rounds of April’s NFL draft. However, their disappointing performances at the combine may have confirmed the fears of many evaluators who had concerns about each player’s athleticism.
Standing 6-foot-3 and a half and weighing in at 335 pounds, Herbig ran the slowest 40-yard dash of any of the 260 players who participated in the event regardless of position. This was expected, as brute strength trumps all in the interior offensive line.
“[Herbig is] built like a refrigerator with thick arms on it,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein in his most recent scouting report. “He has the desire to finish … teams will be drawn to his mass.”
Herbig also had the second-worst broad jump of the combine, the second-worst vertical jump, fifth-worst three-cone time and fourth-worst 20-yard shuttle. However, he showed off his strength with the 29 reps on the bench press, a mark good for sixth-most among offensive linemen and ninth-most among all players at the combine.
Smith came into the event ranked ninth among tight ends according to Zierlein, but did little to help his ranking at the combine. The 6-foot-5 two-time Pac-12 All-Academic team honoree ranked in the bottom three in every event among tight ends, including a broad jump of 108.0 inches that ranked dead last. “He doesn’t really separate, but he catches everything,” NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah said after Smith’s 40-yard dash.
Senior linebacker Bobby Okereke ranked ninth among linebackers in the 40-yard dash and tenth in the vertical jump, broad jump and short shuttle, times that were average but expected. Okereke’s productivity and instincts at the inside linebacker position have garnered him praise in scouting circles, and he is currently being mocked in the second or third rounds of the draft.
Stanford’s bright spot at the the combine came in Monday morning’s three-cone drills, in which senior defensive back Alijah Holder put up the second-best time for his position group and the fourth-best time among all players at the combine. Holder has prototypical size for the position and was named an All-Pac-12 honorable mention in his senior season.
Though Love and Arcega-Whiteside did not participate in field drills, they excelled in interviews. Arcega-Whiteside received high praises from former Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith Sr. and analyst Charles Davis in a video clip posted on NFL.com after the combine.
With the combine now in the books, Stanford’s annual pro day later this month will be the last chance for the Cardinal’s draft prospects to solidify their stocks for NFL scouts before next month’s draft.
Contact Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu.