INDIANAPOLIS -- Offensive linemen -- my favorite group to watch -- joined running backs for Day 2 of workouts at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. The backs' speed and agility is always fun to behold, but the massive humans known affectionally as "hog mollies" prove they are excellent athletes on a pound-for-pound basis each year.
Most of the running backs and offensive linemen met expectations on Friday night by showing the same level of athleticism they displayed during their college careers, but some stood out from the pack.
Below I list several prospects that looked even more agile and mobile than expected during their agility tests and on-field workouts. I also note others who might have cost themselves some draft position with their performances.
With Alabama's Evan Neal not working out during the combine, there was an informal competition between the other top-rated offensive linemen, Ekonwu and Mississippi State's Charles Cross. Both ran sub-5.0-second 40-yard dashes, but the former member of the Wolfpack gets the slight edge, staying low out of his stance and looking smooth and quick during the various pulling and pass protection drills. Ekwonu showed a strong punch and exhibited very good lateral agility in mirror drills and also flashed redirect skills when required. Measuring exactly 6-foot-4 might not meet the standards some teams have for the tackle position, but Tristan Wirfs and Rashawn Slater have shown that it is not smart to overlook outside linemen with average height.
Lucas did nearly everything well Friday night, starting with a 4.92 40 time at 315 pounds. Those movement skills carried over to the drills, where he looked more agile than I anticipated coming into the event. Lucas ran low and fluidly, only having a slight pause in his change of direction in one drill. The pop that his hands made when hitting the pads was a plus, and his experience in pass protection showed in his kick-slide and redirect ability.
The former Tiger had the best workout among participants in the second group of offensive linemen who worked out on Friday. He ran a 4.93 40 at 311 pounds. His ability to hit pads with power and move smoothly throughout drills was not surprising given his excellent Memphis tape and work at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Parham moved with an athletic bend throughout each drill, dropping his hips to maintain balance and change directions. He snapped a ball on some reps, meaning teams believe he could have center/guard versatility at the next level. Any interested squad will need to choose him before too long on Day 2 to secure his services.
The headlines after Friday's workout might laud Breece Hall for his 4.39 40 time and 40-inch vertical, but Strong's 4.37 40 and 36-inch hops, as well as his superior on-field work, gave him the best all-around evening among RBs. Hall's straight-line speed was confirmed, as was his hip tightness in position drills, which means I still expect him to be a second-round pick with great potential as a breakaway threat. Strong, on the other hand, really helped himself. Not only did he show off long speed with and without the ball in his hands, but also when getting into flat and downfield routes. His foot quickness in bag drills was very good and the former Jackrabbit also showed an excellent second-level shake. Throw in reliable hands as a receiver, adjusting to passes thrown a bit behind him and over his head, and the FCS star proved himself worthy of a top-100 selection.
Walker staked his claim to the No. 1 spot at running back on Friday night. His 4.38 40-yard-dash time at 211 pounds matches what he showed while earning the 2021 Doak Walker Award as college football's top back. Walker's 34-inch vertical and 10-foot-2 broad jump were solid, if not spectacular. His quick feet in agility drills were noteworthy, however, and he caught the ball well for a back who made just 19 grabs in three years at Wake Forest and Michigan State. Combining his 2021 tape with his confirmed speed might land him an early spot on Day 2 of the draft, and he might not have to wait for Breece Hall to come off the board first.
While there's no doubt Green will be a top-50 selection, he needed an exceptional performance to prove to teams that he can play tackle in the NFL and he came up a bit short. Green's movement during drills was good at times, but he also displayed average stop-start ability, which will be an issue playing against elite edge rushers. His agility and suddenness did not match up with that of Cross, Ekwonu or even Lucas, which means he will likely continue to be projected as a guard. That might cost him a first-round slot, though I'm confident that Green's toughness and power inside will make him a very good starter inside as a rookie.
Spiller's game is built on speed and agility, but he chose not to run the 40-yard dash and only achieved average test results (30-inch vertical, 9-foot-6 broad jump). He looked good at times catching the ball and getting over the bags in drills, but the 6-foot back ran with a high pad level and did not look any more explosive than the other top backs. If Spiller runs well at his pro day, he might be able to grab a top-50 selection -- but this workout did not move him any closer to achieving that status.
West is fighting to work his way into a potential late Day 2 selection. However, his combine workout did not portend that early of a selection. West started off with an unimpressive 5.27 40-yard dash at 296 pounds. Throughout the position drills, he exhibited stiff hips and a lack of quick-twitch athleticism needed to change directions quickly. While he's unlikely to be using a big kick-slide on the interior, his lack of lateral agility in pass protection drills could be an issue against stunts and quicker defensive tackles trying to cross his face.