How the Buffalo Bills 2017 draft class fared at the combine
The NFL combine will begin next week in Indianapolis which will truly get the hype machine in motion for the upcoming NFL draft.
There’s always some debate about the combine. There will be plenty of discussions between teams and players that fans and media will never know about. But what we do see on the field and during workouts, how important is it?
With that, here’s how the entire 2017 Buffalo Bills draft class fared at the 2017 combine:
Round 1, pick 27: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU
40 time: 4.47 seconds
Bench press: 16 reps
Vertical jump: 32 inches
Broad jump: 119.0 inches
Three-cone drill: 6.90 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.32 seconds
NFL.com grade: 6.0
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Full-time starter for better part of four years and one of the premier mirror-and-match cornerbacks in the game. Has the feet, athleticism and instincts for prolonged coverage responsibilities and his twitch will always have him near the throw. Best suited for all forms of man coverage. Should compete as special teams performer. Lacks run-support physicality to be an every-down corner, but he’s talented enough to challenge for slot duties right away.
Prior to the NFL draft, White was unknown to Buffalo. Now, he’s beloved. After trading back from 10th overall to 27th with Kansas City, head coach Sean McDermott made White his first-ever draft pick as a head coach. At the combine, White was pretty average. His 40 time was 13th-best among cornerbacks, while his vertical was 24th and his three-cone drill of 6.9 (nice) seconds was 10th. White didn’t blow anyone away, but he spent nearly his entire four-year career at LSU as a starter which was most telling about his abilities.
Round 2, pick 37: WR Zay Jones, East Carolina:
40 time: 4.45 seconds
Bench press: 15 reps
Vertical jump: 36.5 inches
Broad jump: 133.0 inches
Three-cone drill: 6.79 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.01 seconds
NFL.com grade: 5.71
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Possesses high football character and a desire to push himself forward. Record-breaking receptions totals in 2016 were due more to scheme and excessive targets than separation ability or top-end speed. As a one-on-one receiver on the pro level, he will have to prove he has the speed and quickness to uncover against man coverage if he is to become more than just wide receiver depth.
While Tre didn’t overly impress at the combine, Zay did. His 133 inch broad jump was tied for third-best and his 4.01 second shuttle was tied for second-best and only .01 off the top mark. Jones also tied for the seventh-best 40 time, despite a 6-foot-2 frame. Seeing Jones in person, you can just tell the guy has athleticism. However, he’ll have to prove some doubters wrong in year two. Hopefully Jones will be healthy as well (shoulder).
Round 2, pick 63: OL Dion Dawkins, Temple:
40 time: 5.11 seconds
Bench press: 26 reps
Vertical jump: 26 inches
Broad jump: 106.0 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.3 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.78 seconds
NFL.com grade: 5.8
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Quality tackle who operates with good balance and solid technique. Shows some good initial quickness and a smooth kick-slide out of his stance, but might be better in short areas as a guard rather than in open space as a tackle. He’s athletic enough to operate in space, but power appears to be his calling card. His wide-hand approach in pass protection could be a difficult habit to break, but he has the natural power to withstand bull rush that might come with that. Dawkins is a well-schooled, three-year starter who has chance to transition into an early starter.
Dawkins nearly had the best three-cone drill among all offensive lineman at the combine, only .01 off the top. His 26 bench reps was fifth-best among linemen as well. As Zierlein points out, Dawkins wasn’t viewed as a tackle coming out of the draft. But due to injury, it appears the Bills might have their new franchise left tackle now.
Round 5, pick 183: LB Matt Milano, Boston College:
40 time: 4.63 seconds
Bench press: 24 reps
Vertical jump: 35 inches
Broad jump: 126 inches
NFL.com grade: 5.37
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Undersized for the linebacker spot, but extremely tough and aggressive. A little tight-hipped and might struggle to finish tackles that aren’t right in front of him, but he brings as much pound-for-pound force behind his tackles as anyone in the draft. Productive player with good instincts and a nose for the ball. He has value as a 4-3 OLB and a 3-4 WILB, and should become a top contributor in coverage on special teams.
Milano was certainly and still is an undersized linebacker which contributed to his fall to the fifth-round. But at the combine, Milano proved he was an athlete. His bench press was tied for fourth-best, as was his broad jump. His vertical jump was tied for fifth-best among linebackers. Like Jones, both impressed in multiple drills and their rookie years went in totally different directions. Milano opted out of a few of the other drills at the combine as well.
Round 5, pick 171: QB Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh:
40 time: 4.82 seconds
Vertical jump: 31 inches
Broad jump: 110 inches
Three-cone drill: 7.14 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.31 seconds
Ball velocity: 53 mph
NFL.com grade: 5.8
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Peterman’s experience in a pro-style passing attack gives him a head start headed into the league. His physical attributes are just average, but his accuracy, composure and anticipation are what sets him apart from some of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Peterman’s tape is sure to catch the eye of at least a few teams in need of a quarterback and he should come off the board by day two with a chance to become a solid starting quarterback in the future.
Of Peterman’s combine numbers, his vertical jump of 31 inches was fifth-best among QBs. McDermott and Bills general manager Brandon Beane should have known that meant a five-interception performance, right? Kidding. But Peterman did do some throwing at the combine. No numbers on that, but, does it really matter? QBs and WRs connect on a lot of passes without defenders and without pads on during the festivities. The best pre-draft Peterman thing really has nothing to do with the combine. It’s Gruden’s QB camp:
Round 6, pick 191: LB Tanner Vallejo, Boise State:
40 time: 4.67 seconds
Vertical jump: 33.5 inches
Broad jump: 121 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.39 seconds
NFL.com grade: 5.11
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Vallejo’s outstanding production his sophomore season is one of the things keeping him alive in scouting circles. From a physical standpoint, he’s an undersized inside linebacker who lacks the long levers needed to keep offensive linemen off of him. His instincts and third-down ability are plusses, but he’ll need to find the right 3-4 fit or attempt to move to an outside linebacker role in a 4-3. Vallejo has NFL backup potential.
Like Milano, Vallejo had a 4.67 40 time, which was tied for eighth-best and on the quicker side. His vertical jump was sixth-best for all linebackers, but none of Vallejo’s other numbers stuck out. He didn’t make any impact on the field in 2017, either. McDermott took a late-round flier on him. He’ll need a nice offseason.