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10 players who impressed at the 2018 NFL Combine

Posted Mar 5, 2018

Saquon Barkley and others solidify their lofty draft status

INDIANAPOLIS -- There was little disappointment created by some of the draft’s top prospects at the 2018 NFL Combine.

That emerged as one of the biggest themes from the annual scouting event, and it carried through in our selection of the 10 players who stood out the most.

RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)

It was hard to find a player who generated as much buzz as the former Penn State star, as he blew away the competition in most drills and conducted his media press conference with the poise of a seasoned veteran. A running back hasn’t been selected No. 1 in more than 20 years, but Barkley’s done everything he can to make it a major storyline heading into the draft.

QB Josh Allen (Wyoming)

After gathering some momentum with a strong second half in the Senior Bowl, Allen had one of the best on-field performances among a crowded group of talented signal-callers. He dropped some absolutely perfect passes on long balls and showed improvement in areas some believe could help his accuracy. “Even people that are coaches were buzzing about him that night,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “Just a huge arm and he showed it off.”

RB Nick Chubb (Georgia)

Overshadowed a bit by his running mate Sony Michel, Chubb had an impressive showing to bring back memories of the first half of his decorated career at Georgia. Before a knee injury during his sophomore year, Chubb was one of the nation’s most dynamic playmakers. What he did as a senior wasn’t too shabby (1,345 yards, 14 TDs), and he is an intriguing prospect for a team looking for a bruising, between-the-tackles runner.

OL Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)

Dubbed by many as one of the safest, sure-thing prospects in the draft, Nelson reaffirmed that notion in Indianapolis. He’s far and away the best offensive line prospect and is making a plausible case for a guard to land in the top 10 in this year’s draft.

WR D.J. Chark (LSU)

Riding a big-time performance at the Senior Bowl, Chark was one of the best athletes in a group of wide receivers that is light on elite talent but heavy on quality depth. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said no prospect, at any position, has helped himself more during the pre-draft process than Chark, who was a late-blooming deep threat for the Tigers.

TE Hayden Hurst (South Carolina)

Jeremiah called Hurst “the best in show … by a good margin” during tight end position drills Friday. The former MLB draft pick -- Hurst’s baseball career ended because of the “yips” -- had a decorated career in South Carolina, where he served as a team captain and landed on the All-SEC first team this past season. Odds are he’ll be the first tight end selected in a draft that’s a little lighter on talent at the position compared to last year.

LB Shaquem Griffin (Central Florida)

The best story of the weekend, Griffin, who had his left hand amputated at a young age, wowed at multiple points, as he put up 20 repetitions on the bench press and ran a blazing, 4.38-second 40-yard dash. When he participated and impressed at the 2018 Senior Bowl, Griffin wasn’t even sure if he’d be invited to the Combine. Now, he’s emerged as a possible Day 2 selection in the upcoming draft.

DT Da’Ron Payne (Alabama)

The big and menacing defensive tackle showed off his athleticism by posting a 4.95-second 40-yard dash and a variety of other promising numbers, especially for someone who measures at 6-foot-2 and 311 pounds like he does. In response to Payne’s 40-yard dash, Mayock said “wow” four times. He’s ranked second behind Washington’s Vita Vea in Mayock’s position rankings.

DE Bradley Chubb (North Carolina State)

He didn’t quite steal the show the way Myles Garrett did last year, but Chubb left Indianapolis as a player many believe will be a top-five selection. Mayock compares Chubb to Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa, who won 2016 defensive rookie of the year and is already considered one of the best at the position. Chubb believes he’s the best player in the draft. That may not be reflected by where he ultimately lands, but it’d be a surprise if he’s not the first pass rusher selected.

S Derwin James (Florida State)

James might not be as versatile as Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he could be exactly what a team wants if they’re looking for a prototypical, heavy-hitting thumper at the position. He posted top-10 numbers in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and vertical leap while measuring out at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. Jeremiah ranks James as the 11th-best prospect in the draft.

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