The Draft prospects worked hard at the 2022 NFL Combine

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Michael Scott, Staff Writer

Every NFL athlete has a story.  Some are big name recruits coming out of high school, some played on Division II teams, and others did not play college football at all.  Despite their differences, all of these football players, if invited, are able to show off their talent at the NFL Combine—one week to run, jump, lift, throw, catch, and tackle in order to prove you are worth a draft pick in the NFL.

The 2022 NFL Combine took place at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, from March 1 to March 7.  The NFL invited more than 300 football players to the combine so that the players could showcase their ability to the scouts looking for their future players.  Each athlete competes in seven events: the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle.  The sprints are simple enough, where each player has two attempts, and the better time is recorded by the officials.  The bench press highlights strength to see how many reps each player can do of 225 lbs.  The vertical jump measures how high a player can jump relative to his height and the broad jump measures how far a player can jump forward.  Lastly, the three-cone drill tests the players’ agility, timing the athletes as they weave around three cones. 

As always, there were many players who stood out in these drills.  Baylor cornerback Kalon Barnes boosted his draft stock because he ran the second fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL Combine history, just .01 seconds behind receiver John Ross’ record.  His 4.23 time was followed by a 4.26 run by Texas-San Antonio cornerback Tariq Woolen, and a 4.28 run by Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton.  None of these players came into the Combine expecting to be signed, much less drafted, but after their stellar performances,  ESPN projects them signing.  Another mind-boggling performance was run by projected first-round draft pick Travon Walker.  The Georgia defensive end ran a 4.51 40-yard dash, despite being six-foot five and 275 lbs.  In the bench press event, four offensive linemen, Zion Johnson, Jamaree Salyer, Cole Strange, and Bernhard Raimann, were all able to get 30-plus reps at 225 lbs.

In football, raw strength, speed, and agility are only as important as how the player plays his position.  In a sport with 24 different positions, the NFL Combine puts the players’ athletic abilities to the test by challenging them in positional drills.  Top quarterback prospect Malik Willis, who played at Liberty, took advantage of these drills.  He showcased his arm strength, airing it out over 50 yards with the flick of a wrist.  Another quarterback who proved his worth was projected second-round draft pick out of Cincinnati, Desmond Ridder.  He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash on top of a 36-inch vertical and a 10.5foot broad jump.  His precision was on point, delivering near-perfect passes to all of his targets.  If teams were doubting this player before, it seems that the doubt has now vanished.  Western Michigan wide receiver, Skyy Moore, had some uncertainty following his solid standard drills, but he shone in the wide receiver drills with his great footwork and sense of where the ball was going to be.  At 320 lbs Ikem Ekwonu also showed scouts loads of potential.  The offensive tackle from North Carolina State should be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft, and his Combine performance can make a case for number one.  Ekwonu showed outstanding blocking potential, while displaying his polished footwork and reaction time. 

The NFL Draft spans from April 28 to April 30, so these players will have to wait to see if they will make it to the gridiron.