This phase of the NFL’s calendar has garnered great of attention over the years, partly because fans are so eager for football to return (even though the season ended three weeks ago). The other main reason the NFL Combine draws so many viewers is because it grants access. 

Think about your favorite documentaries or concerts. What do the most enthralling ones have in common? Behind the scenes access. Given how buttoned-up the NFL is, them granting this kind of insight allows fans to feel like they are part of the evaluation process. That kind of empowerment, albeit illusionary, produces opinions that range from tepid to fierce. 

Therefore, it’s important to calibrate expectations when analyzing combine results. So much of a player’s “stock” is determined by their interviews and medical examinations—the parts us viewers don’t see. Those evaluations are so important because neither team personnel nor the prospect has to worry about public perception. 

When all the testing is finished and when you’re breaking down results, the first thing you ought to do is understand which test(s) are most applicable to that position. It’s incredible if an offensive lineman runs a sub-5 second 40-yard dash, but that’s not an accurate evaluation of what they will be asked to do, play in and play out. A lot of the best evaluations aren’t measured by numbers, but by movement. 

If a defensive back runs a blazing 40 time but has stiff hips in change of direction drills, his stock will probably fall. If a running back posts a sub-optimal 40 time but displays a great burst and change of direction in between cuts, eyes will be opened. In other words, it’s all relative. 

Here are some of the standout performances from last week’s NFL Combine. 

Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy set an NFL Combine record in the 40-yard dash when he ran the distance in 4.21 seconds. Nine players in total ran the 40 in less than 4.4 seconds, which has long been a barometer of game-breaking speed. Another Longhorn wideout, Adonai Mitchell, led the way for receivers in the broad jump, leaping 11’4”. 

Besides the 40-yard dash, the bench press seems to get the most attention. Only eight percent of those that tested (8/100) repped 225 pounds 30 times or more (three of which were centers). No quarterbacks tested on the bench. 

As far as on-field work, my two favorite performances came from Jared Verse (Edge, Florida State) and Joe Milton (Quarterback, Tennessee). Both guys displayed dominance and elite traits. Verse more so than Milton had a high stock going into combine week, but both boosted their draft value after their performance in Indianapolis. 

What does all of this mean for the Ravens? My first impression is that they’re in good shape because of how well this offensive tackle class is shaping up. With Ronnie Stanley’s health (and salary) becoming a detriment, and considering Morgan Moses just turned 33 on Sunday, this would be a great time to draft a starting-caliber tackle. Lamar is under contract for a long time, your two starters are still under contract themselves, and if the player you draft isn’t ready by Week 1, there’s no rush to play him. 

My favorite player at the position that the Ravens should have a chance at drafting is Arizona’s Jordan Morgan. He measured 6’5” and 311 pounds with a 32.875” arm and a 10.875” hand. The arm length is about where you’d expect top tackles to be, and the hand measurement is about an inch bigger than the average. Impressive attributes are only noteworthy if that player can produce value on the field. The two-time 1st-team Pac-12 selection allowed only eight sacks on 1,432 pass attempts during his three 3-year career at Arizona. His skills are more than functional.  

The other player that stood out to me as a potential Raven after a strong combine performance was the aforementioned Milton. The former Tennessee Volunteer looked ultra-smooth when he uncorked this deep ball that travelled nearly 60 yards in the air. The reason I’m mentioning him as a possible Ravens target is because even teams with franchise quarterbacks need a contingency plan at that position. 

Even if the Ravens bring back Tyler Huntley, they will still want to fortify that position, as recent seasons have been painful proof of what happens when your quarterback gets hurt. I don’t think it’s a disqualifier that Milton (6’5”, 235 pounds) is much bigger than Jackson (6’2”, 215 pounds) and can’t do what Jackson does, because no one can do what Jackson does. 

Milton was coached very well at Tennessee, as he benefited from the tutelage of Head Coach Josh Heupel (2000 AP Player of the Year) and Quarterbacks Coach Joey Halzle. Like Heupel, Halzle played at Oklahoma, and the two have been coaching together for well over a decade. Their connection is similar to that of Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy.

Speaking of Tennessee and quarterbacks, guess who the Ravens quarterbacks coach is now? Tee Martin, Tennessee’s 1998 National Championship quarterback. Bringing Milton to Baltimore in the middle rounds makes almost makes too much sense. 

Whatever the Ravens end up doing in seven weeks’ time, this combine will have played a big part. As has been the case for the last five years, Baltimore is in about as good of a situation as it can be. It has it’s quarterback, a full complement of draft picks, a strong nucleus in both talent and leadership, and motivation to avenge how last year ended. 

This may be the golden era of Ravens football. Make sure to take a moment and enjoy it. 

Michael Fast
Michael Fast

Born in Baltimore, Mike had long been drawn to sports of all kinds. Growing up watching Cal Ripken play ever day gave him a great example for which to attack every endeavor he undertakes.

When the Ravens came to town, though, that’s when Mike found his passion. Since that time, he’s tried to gain every bit of knowledge he could. Now as a high school coach, Mike is able to take his film study and appreciation of the game to a new level.

To engage with Mike on social media, follow him on Twitter @MikeFastNFL.