For the first time in a number of years, the Texas Longhorns sent a sizable contingent of six former players to the 2018 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which wrapped up on Monday.
Here’s how each of those players performed.
Running back Chris Warren III
Of all the former Longhorns in attendance, Warren had the most difficult task — convincing NFL scouts that he can play his preferred position of running back at the next level. Carrying nearly 250 pounds on his frame, Warren wasn’t able to help himself with his 40 time of 4.70 seconds, almost a full one tenth of a second slower than his laser-time effort in high school.
However, his shuttle time of 4.18 was one of the best in attendance and at odds with the evidence of his short-area quickness on film. Warren also posted a strong time in the three-cone drill.
Here’s a long thread from an evaluator breaking down Warren and his strengths and weaknesses. Can he become a short-yardage running back? He converted at a high rate at Texas, but was also pushed into the end zone by teammates on three of his six touchdowns last season. Can he improve his vision and bend better to reduce the striking surface to defenders and win the leverage battle?
At this point, he’ll probably have to look for a good fit as an undrafted free agent and a team that could use help at running back and H-back could take a flier on him. Since Warren is a unique prospect from a physical standpoint, an NFL team will have to think outside the box a little bit to find
Offensive tackle Connor Williams
Coming off a knee injury that cost him seven games during his junior season, Williams needed to show that he was healthy and the type of athlete who could remain outside to keep his stock near the first-round range.
Williams measured at 6’5 and 296 pounds — his height is ideal for the position and though his weight wasn’t where it will likely need to be to compete in the NFL, it did allow him to maximize his testing ability.
And the former collegiate All-American did exactly that, running one of the faster 40 times for all linemen in attendance at 5.05 and posting the fifth-best broad jump. With 26 reps on the bench press, Williams didn’t go anything to hurt himself in the strength department.
There are still be some questions about his junior film and whether his arms are long enough to play tackle — the worst-case scenario is that he ends up similar to Justin Blalock, the former Texas offensive tackle who had a long career as a guard in the NFL.
However, Williams solidified an opportunity come off the board in the first round to a franchise looking for a tackle, especially since Orlando Brown turned in one of the most abysmal Combine performances in recent history. NFL.com hasn’t dropped Brown out of the middle of the first round, but it does have Williams going to the home-state Cowboys at No. 19.
Linebacker Malik Jefferson
Back in high school, Jefferson solidified his status as a freak athlete with an incredible showing at The Opening in 2014. To a large extent, Jefferson was able to recreate his testing success after gaining about 20 pounds of muscle in college.
With a 4.52 in the 40, Jefferson was the third-fastest linebacker in attendance and posted a 36-inch vertical and a broad that placed him fourth in his position group. In the field drills, Jefferson looked fluid in changing direction and flipping his hips.
ICYMI: Malik Jefferson #NFLCombine recap from Sunday workouts. @NFL #ThisIsTexas #HookEm pic.twitter.com/HeWjC8iq6T— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) March 5, 2018
Jefferson also out-repped Williams in the bench press.
The areas that are keeping Jefferson out of the first round in mock drafts are the ones that he could’t address at the Combine — his ability to defeat blocks at the second level and some of the other technical and instinctual elements of playing linebacker.
A team will take a chance on Jefferson on the second day of the draft because of his physical skills, in part because the state’s former No. 1 prospect tested as well as anticipated, but his upside will depend on Jefferson’s ability to growth past his current weaknesses.
Cornerback Holton Hill
Following a late-season suspension that effectively ended his Texas career, the interview process for Hill was almost as important as the testing process — he had to convince NFL teams that he won’t be a problem off the field.
During the testing portions, the 6’3, 200-pounder proved that he’s an elite athlete with as much potential as any of the Texas draft prospects. Hill ran a 4.49 40-yard dash and posted a 4.16 shuttle, though both numbers were mitigated to some extent by the bevy of absurdly fast cornerbacks in this draft class.
A 31-inch vertical leap was oddly out of line with Hill’s other testing results, but likely won’t matter much when combined with excellent junior film. Whether Hill hears his name called on the second day will depend on a team taking a risk on his mental makeup, but Hill definitely helped his cause in that regard while in Indianapolis. An organization that trusts its ability to mold Hill to its culture could have a steal — the Patriots or Seahawks could be ideal destinations.
Safety DeShon Elliott
In some regards, Elliott was in the same position as Jefferson, but with lower expectations — prove that he’s a good enough athlete to translate to the NFL. In running a 4.58 40-yard dash and posting a strong 36-inch vertical, Elliott didn’t disappoint. There was never much hope that he would prove himself one of the fastest safeties in the draft class, he just had to keep from hurting himself.
Since Elliott will need a specific role that minimizes his exposure to one-on-one coverage against faster wide receivers and doesn’t ask him to transition consistently since his hips are kind of tight, his projection on the third day of the draft hasn’t changed at all. There are, however, some mock drafts that have him as high as the third round.
Punter Michael Dickson
Since the testing portion of the Combine doesn’t apply to specialists like Dickson, he was mostly there have have his height and weight taken and for NFL teams to do stupid, pointless things like engage in a staring contest. Yes, that’s a real thing that happened.
Dickson also punted, but who really cares about that after the incredible season he had as a junior, which earned him the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best player at his position?
It was a dream come true to compete against the best at the NFL combine. pic.twitter.com/OXqaoZtSqW— Michael Dickson (@mdcksn) March 5, 2018