NFL Combine ratings come in at disappointing numbers

Everyone knows that the XFL has seen a ratings’ dip. The numbers bear it out and there’s no argument that the numbers aren’t great. If that’s the case then logic would say that other sporting events should be trying to have viewership numbers better …

Everyone knows that the XFL has seen a ratings’ dip. The numbers bear it out and there’s no argument that the numbers aren’t great. If that’s the case then logic would say that other sporting events should be trying to have viewership numbers better than what the XFL is offering. In fact, if the XFL is leading into said sporting event, it should have at least the same amount of viewers, maybe more. Yet, we know that didn’t happen and that should be a concern. See, the XFL was on ABC and it led directly to the NFL Draft Combine. Yes, the same combine that is the next big thing for the NFL when it comes to its revenue growth models — outside of adding more regular season and playoff games obviously. The combine is supposed to be the next version of the NFL Draft. It’s supposed to be a big show. It’s supposed to move around the country. People are supposed to tune in and watch. That didn’t happen. NFL Draft Combine ratings were up only three-percent from last year.

The NFL even moved the combine to primetime. It definitely did not move the combine for a paltry three percent increase in viewership. It made the move because it was supposed to be the next step for monetizing the workouts. The problem is that it didn’t even outrate the NFL.

There are other problems associated with moving the combine. Some players didn’t perform as well due to the scheduling. That’s unfair to the players. Agents should be a bit angry that the NFL moved the combine to get more interest and expose more viewers to the ins and outs of the NFL Draft process and all their players got was this lousy t-shirt — and some bad numbers for scouts and coaches to question which could cause players to drop in the draft and therefore lose money.

Maybe this is a learning experience for the NFL. They probably need to figure out a way to market the event better. They need something to make it more exciting because fans can only watch so many players run in a straight line in workout gear until they get the point. Only the real diehards are looking at players run three-cone drills, test their vertical leap and make broad jumps. Most fans don’t even know what’s good and what’s bad.

This could be the start of something. The league and television partner — ESPN/ABC in this case — may be thinking that this year was a test-run and next year there will be more viewers. Maybe next year, they will add some excitement, more graphics, something to make it must-see television. Three percent increases won’t do it for the league. Ratings worse than the XFL isn’t what the NFL wants. If the combine is the next big thing, then they need to figure out how to make it more watchable.

Watch: Utah’s Javelin Guidry lights up NFL Scouting Combine in the 40

Utah’s Javelin Guidry burned in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The javelin is a field event. However, at Utah, it means track and speed sprinting. Javelin Guidry burned down the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine Sunday, clocking 4.29.

So, who is Guidry? He’s a 5-foot-9, 191-pound cornerback. He did 21 reps of 225 pounds, too. So, that means strength and speed.

A lot of info from his Utah bio:

2019: Honorable mention All-Pac-12 … played in all 14 games with 12 starts at nickel back … 48 tackles … tied for third on the team with six pass breakups …

2018–Honorable mention All-Pac-12 … played in all 14 games with nine starts at nickel back … 42 tackles (3.5 TFL, 0.5 sack) … tied for eighth in the Pac-12 and second on the team with nine pass breakups … 10 passes defended (9 PBU, 1 INT) … honorable mention Pac-12 All-Academic.

2017–Played in all 13 games with four starts at nickel back (USC, ASU, Oregon, West Virginia) as a true freshman … 31 tackles (1.0 TFL) … five passes defended (4 PBU, 1 INT) … five tackles and a touchdown on a 14-yard interception return against Arizona.

Check out his run in a high school sprint:

Watch: Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons runs 4.39 40 at NFL Scouting Combine

Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons put on quite a show at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons opened eyes of many during the college football season. The 6-foot-3 5/8, 238-pounder put on a stunning performance Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

First up, check out this broad jump:

That measured 11 feet and it was only an opening act. Simmons then ran the 40 and his time was stunning … for anyone.

Overall:

That translates him to not being around long in the first round of the NFL Draft.

On Chase Young, and why sacks don’t always matter

Ohio State’s Chase Young is perhaps the best defensive prospect in this draft class. So, let’s talk about more than his sack numbers.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State edge-rusher Chase Young has a resume that’s just about unassailable. In 2019, despite serving a two-game suspension after it was discovered that he violated the NCAA’s (utterly stupid) rules by accepting a loan from a family friend, he broke the Buckeyes’ single-season sack record with 16.5. Young also did this despite going without a sack in his final three games — against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Clemson — which has made him the consensus best defensive player in his draft class. You could argue for cornerback Jeffrey Okudah, Young’s Ohio State teammate, or Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, but it’s Young who will most likely be taken off the board before any other defender in the 2020 draft.

Still, when it comes time to evaluate prospects, part of the process is to nitpick and tear them apart. In that regard, the sackless streak will undoubtedly come up. Young was asked about it during his media session at the scouting combine this week, and his answer was not only defitive, but absolutely correct in his case.

“I had a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of pressures,” he said. “If you understand football, you would see that. You’ll see how they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy. A lot of people might not know how to really study a tape or may not know how to watch football, but if you know football,  I made an impact in those games.

“Being the best defensive end isn’t about sacks, it’s about being the most disruptive player on the field. You can do that without having a sack.”

Dec 7, 2019, INDIANAPOLIS: Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young (2) grabs the arm of Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Jack Coan (17) as he throws during the fourth quarter in the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Young has a point. It wasn’t just about the 16.5 sacks, which he accomplished in just 320 pass-rushing snaps, down from 470 in 2018. Young also had seven quarterback hits and 31 quarterback hurries, which projects to 10 hits and 46 hurries, pretty much in line with his 2018 totals of 14 and 50, if you give him the same amount of snaps. Sports Info Solutions’ tracking is even more favorable. Per SiS, Young led all draft-eligible edge-rushers with a Sack Rate of 5.4%, which means that 5.4% of his pass rushes resulted in a sack. He also had a pressure rate of 20%. And SiS had Young with the same number of quarterback hits (29) as he had in 2018.

It’s not like Young was shut out or shut down in a traditional sense through that three-game stretch — as Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan said during his combine media session, the Wolverines altered their entire offensive game plan just to deal with Young.

“We knew our game plan was we were going to slide to where he was and they figured out that really early, so they started putting him to the 3-technique side where he usually plays on the weak side, so they kind of shut that off, so we were sliding to the 3-technique and the guard wasn’t able to help because the 3-technique was playing outside. They found out our game plan so we started incorporating chip stuff in there. It kinda started working. He did get me one time on an inside move in empty protection and thankfully it was a quick throw. We were just trying to give him different looks. You do what you can to eliminate one of the best players in the country and that’s what we did. He’s a great physical player. Lot of respect for him. He’s going to do great things in the NFL.

Michigan did on a lot of sliding to Young in certain situations, and let’s just say there were some creative interpretations of the NCAA’s holding and intential grounding rules in that game. As to how to defend him individually, Runyan talked about working speed against speed. Which not every offensive lineman can do against this kind of quickness.

“I just relied on my technique. Chase is a phenomenal player, obviously. I kinda understood his game from evaluating film. He’s a huge body, that’s pretty evident. I kinda knew his game. He’s not that big bull-rushing guy. He’s going to try to beat you with speed. When he does beat you with speed, he’s going to burn you and he’s going to hit the quarterback hard. He got me one time and he planted [quarterback] Shea [Patterson]. Shea got the ball off in time and I felt so bad because I heard him pick him up and put him on the ground. I heard Shea exhale and that felt so bad. I looked at Shea and apologized to him right there. It was third down. I was able to get in a rhythm against him. I knew I had to get off on the snap count. I felt like I did pretty good for myself going against the second overall pick, seemingly.”

Against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, Young had a number of impactful pressures. At times, he was able to rock quarterback Trevor Lawrence off his spot to cause an incompletion. On other occasions, Young’s hurries would have caused an incompletion were it not for some unfortunate breakdowns in the defensive backfield.

So, and this is true for any pass-rusher at any level of football, let’s please leave the subject of sacks aside as the ultimate arbiter of quality and impact. It’s a piece of the puzzle, and there are enough advanced metrics proving that point to elevate the discussion.

Touchdown Wire editor Doug Farrar previously covered football for Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the Washington Post, and Football Outsiders. His first book, “The Genius of Desperation,” a schematic history of professional football, was published by Triumph Books in 2018 and won the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Nelson Ross Award for “Outstanding recent achievement in pro football research and historiography.”

Watch: Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs puts on stunning show at NFL Scouting Combine

Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs put on quite the exhibition at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs checked in at a tidy 6-foot-4 7/8 and 320 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The huge Hawkeye lineman put on quite the show in Indianpolis, wowing scouts and executives with his agility and ability.

Wirfs pumped out 24 reps of 225 pounds to start his show.

He then nailed this vertical jump, which was the best for a lineman since 2003.

As a matter of perspective, there were 15 wide receivers who had better springs than Wirfs. The Hawkeye star had a higher leao than Oklahoma wide receiver Ceedee Lamb (34.5) and Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (35), among others.

He followed it up with a 10-foot-1-inch broad jump, which equaled the mark for an offensive lineman at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In 2019, Wirfs, who is projected as a mid-first rounder by Draftwire.com, was  named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Wirfs only gave up two quarterback hits all season. He had shown his strength in the weight room, too.

An extended interview with Wirfs from Indianapolis.

 

Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah upbraids reporter after ‘sloppy’ comment about his game

One combine reporter discovered what NCAA receivers have known for a long time: Testing Jeffrey Okudah is a big mistake.

INDIANAPOLIS — Transitioning from covering the NFL to covering the draft isn’t always easy. If you’re in the pro football stratosphere non-stop from July to February, and you then have to whipsaw over to college players you may or may not have watched right away, you could show up at the scouting combine and get poleaxed by a high draft prospect as a result of your asking a woefully inaccurate question about that player’s overall game.

This happened to one poor reporter who was at the podium for Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah on Friday morning. Were it not for his teammate Chase Young, Okudah would be the consensus best defensive player in this draft class. Last season, per Pro Football Focus, Okudah allowed just 27 catches on 58 targets for 282 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 45.3. Over the last two seasons, he has allowed just 45 of his 106 targets to be completed. Those targets have yielded opposing quarterbacks have managed a passer rating of 52.9.
Okudah hasn’t allowed more than 50 yards receiving in any of the 27 games played over those last two seasons. There’s no such thing as a lockdown cornerback on every snap, but Okudah is certainly the closest thing to it in this draft class.

But there was one guy at the podium who saw it a different way.

“Sometimes, you have a tendency to get kind of sloppy,” the reporter asked. “How are you looking to improve that?”

“Sloppy in what way?” Okudah responded.

“Sloppy in kinda… penalties and stuff like that,” the reporter said.

“I had zero pass interferences, zero holdings,” Okudah concluded. “Put the tape on again; you might see something else.”

Is Okudah a physical cornerback? Absolutely. It’s why he’s been compared to everyone from Jalen Ramsey to Aqib Talib to Richard Sherman as an ideal modern boundary cornerback. Like those guys, will he have to learn a different kind of physicality to get away with things other cornerbacks may not? That’s entirely possible. But to call a technician like Okudah “sloppy” just isn’t a good look in any way. Hopefully, this unfortunate gentleman will take this as a lesson, and at least learn to crib off the right scouting reports next time if he isn’t watching the tape.

Watch: Auburn’s Marlon Davidson provides ultimate sound bite at NFL Scouting Combine

Auburn’s Marlon Davidson had an incredible sound bite at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

Auburn defensive end Marlon Davidson knows how to punish opponents and the 6-foot-3, 303-pounder also is adept at delivering great quotes for the assembled media.

When asked what he loved most about football, Davidson responded:

“What do I love most about the game? I love most about the game is that — this is true now, OK, this is true — I love most about the game that I can literally go out there and hit a man consistently and pound him, and the police not come. That is the most enjoyable moment about ball, to just go out there and really abuse somebody, and they won’t say nothing about it in the press or anything. I ain’t on no headlines, in handcuffs, no mugshots, no nothing. I’m out here just physically abusing my man.”

Davidson was in on 174 tackles in his four years with War Eagle. He had 6.5 of his 14.5 sacks in 2019. Also, he had 28 tackles for loss.

As for what being an NFL player will afford him:

“It’s going to be great, man. Just being able to have that much money in my bank account and just being able to provide for my family the way my mother did — even though she was working a 9-5 every day, waking up and just going to do what she had to do for the house. So you know, just being able to provide, have that backbone and that secure safety line to get what the family needs, and then also just have so you can be like, ‘Man, I don’t have to worry about nothing for the rest of my life.’ I’m a smart man; I’m going to invest my money, of course. I’m not going to go out there and be the one guy that gets drafted high and then be broke at the end of the day. That’s not me. I’m a country kid. I come from the trees. You don’t need too much. Get you a pair of shoes and go play ball, and we’re good.”

And what exactly does it mean to be a dog?

“I mean, it’s kind of hard to put in words. You can’t tell people that you’re a dog. You have to show people. Now, you turn on the film, you’re going to look and see every play. You’re going to see 3, and 3 gonna be doing his thing. That’s for sure. Now I just have that attitude about me, man. My mindset is to go dominate no matter what. That’s what I do.”

Here is a bit of a highlight reel of Davidson, who is projected as a second day draft choice,

Alabama DBs Xavier McKinney and Shyheim Carter give scouting reports on Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III

For Alabama defensive backs Xavier McKinney and Shyheim Carter, playing against Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III made them infinitely better.

INDIANAPOLIS — One of the reasons Alabama has had so many outstanding defensive backs during Nick Saban’s tenure is the simple fact that Alabama has also had a ton of great receivers during Nick Saban’s tenure. For multi-position DBs such as Shyheim Carter and Xavier McKinney, their times with the Crimson Tide was defined in part by the requirements to cover Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Not an easy thing, which is why Carter said flat-out during his Friday media session that no other receivers gave him more headaches than his own.

“The receivers at our school,” he said. “Man, it’s hard. It’s definitely hard. But they bring out the best in you every day. You really have to be on your Ps and Qs. You can never take a play off, or you’ll get beaten for a touchdown. Then, it’s the band playing in the background. It’s great going against those guys every day. You get a chance to showcase your talent in practice, and then you do it in a game, and for me, the practices were harder than the games. Then, there are 100,000 people in the stadium, and you’re just out there playing. Practice is like, that’s where you really play the game.”

Nov 23, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Shyheim Carter (5) smiles for a photo during Senior day before the start of their game against the Western Carolina Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium. (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

And then, if you do get beaten on a play, there’s the inevitable jawing. Followed by the inevitable Nick Saban yelling. Not a pleasant experience.

“Oh, yeah. It’s a great competition. When the receivers beat us, or we shut the receivers down, they talk a little bit. Coach Saban, he really doesn’t like that. He’ll get on everyone about that.”

Getting beaten, or hearing the talk? Which doesn’t Saban like?

“He doesn’t like either, actually. He coaches hard. If you get beat on a technique, you’d better do it the right way next time. But if we’re like, jawing at each other? He definitely gets on us.”

With that in mind, I asked both Carter and McKinney for scouting reports on Jeudy, the premier route-runner in this draft class, and Ruggs, who is clearly the No. 1 speed-burner.

Carter on Jeudy: “Oh, man… quick-twitch guy, he’ll get in and out of his breaks, and you can never really tell when he’s getting in and out of his breaks. It all looks the same. He’s just a really hard guy to cover. You’ve definitely got to be on your Ps and Qs on every play. Even when it’s a run, he’ll do a great job of selling the double-move, selling the play-action. Yeah, he’s just fast.”

So with him, I asked, the hardest thing is that you don’t really know what you’re getting off the line based off what he does. What his release is.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard.”

What about Ruggs,” I asked Carter. We know he’s fast.

“Obviously, yeah,” Carter said with a laugh. “But he’ll go up and make the contested catches; he’ll definitely come down with it. He’ll get in and out of his breaks really well, too. He’s so fast – with guys like that, you try to deny them the ball as much as you can, because if he gets the ball in his hands, he can go.

He’ll take a screen and just house it whenever he wants, I said.

“Right, exactly.”

INDIANAPOLIS — Alabama defensive back Xavier McKinney speaks during his media session at the 2020 scouting combine. (Doug Farrar/USA Today Sports Media Group)

“That was a great group of receivers,” McKinney said when asked about that particular challenge. “Going into the NFL, that will really help me improve, knowing that I played against a lot of good receivers during my time at ‘Bama.”

McKinney on Jeudy: “Fast. Quick. Runs good routes. Can catch the ball. A good all-around receiver. That’s somebody that… I faced him every day in practice, and he’s a nightmare. I’ll tell you that. Being able to practice against him has made me better in so many ways. It’s sharpened me and helped me improve my game. I’ve also helped him improve his game, so being able to face a guy like Jerry, it’s been nothing but a blessing.

What about Ruggs? “Man, all of those guys. I’d face them every day in practice. We’d go two-on-two slot coverage, and those are the guys I want to go against, continuously. Those guys, and then [receiver Jaylen] Waddle… just knowing that those guys would make me better is something that I like. I like competing, and you want to go against those guys as much as you can.”

Both Jeudy and Ruggs project to be high first-round talents in the NFL. McKinney does as well, and while Carter might be more of a third-day guy, there’s no question that these turf wars every day in practice made everyone involved better players.

Touchdown Wire editor Doug Farrar previously covered football for Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the Washington Post, and Football Outsiders. His first book, “The Genius of Desperation,” a schematic history of professional football, was published by Triumph Books in 2018 and won the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Nelson Ross Award for “Outstanding recent achievement in pro football research and historiography.”

Watch: Arizona State punter Michael Turk bench-presses 225 pounds 25 times

Arizona State punter Michael Turk put on an impressive performance at the NFL Scouting Combine … but not with his legs.

Arizona State’s Michael Turk hopes to make an NFL career with his legs. After Thursday, scouts are probably intested in his upper body, too.

In one of the more unexpected feats of strength at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, the 6-foot-1, 228-pound punter pushed out 25 reps of 225 pounds in the bench-press exercise.

Per NFL.com:

Turk’s effort is a modern record, as it’s the most reps by a punter since 2003, per NFL Research. Tennessee’s Trevor Daniel posted 23 reps in 2018. Tennessee’s Trevor Daniel posted 23 reps in 2018. Turk began to struggle on the 21st rep but managed to deliver four more before finishing.

That doesn’t figure to do him any good as a punter, but it will give him some bragging rights among combine participants. His total was more than that of 19 offensive linemen at the combine, including top prospects such as Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs (24) and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (23).

Turk didn’t start his college career at a football powerhouse. As a freshman in 2017, he kicked for Lafayette and then transferred to the Sun Devils. He sat out 2018 because of the transfer rules and played for ASU in 2019.

He made quite an impression for Herman Edwards. On 67 punts, 36 were inside the 20. He also had 23 boots of 50 yards or more with a long of 75. Overall, Turk averaged 46 yards per kick.

He also has NFL genes in his family:

  • Trained in the offseason with his uncle, former NFL punter Matt Turk, who played 17 seasons in the NFL.
  • His other uncle, Daniel Turk, spent 15 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman.

Watch: Did Alabama’s Henry Ruggs break John Ross’ 40 record at the NFL Scouting Combine?

Did Alabama’s Henry Ruggs break the mark of 4.22 set by John Ross at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2017?

John Ross can breathe easily for another year. Alabama’s Henry Ruggs was the player believed to have a shot at lowering the Cincinnati Bengals’ mark of 4.22 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04qabU6DsZI

The Crimson Tide wideout gave it a good go but was not able to threaten the mark of the former Washington star. Ruggs ran a 4.28 in the 40 in his first attempt in Indianapolis. His second run came in a few ticks slower, at 4.31.

Some more history of the 40 at the Combine:

Here’s a look of how Ruggs vs. Ross looks:

NFL players were impressed: