In the lead-up to the NFL Draft, college players are judged on many things: statistics, accolades, years of game film and anything else teams can get their hands on. However, there may be no single weekend as important as the NFL Combine.
This year, the combine invited four Texas Football players: wide receivers Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, safety Brandon Jones and defensive lineman Malcolm Roach. With none of them rated as first-round prospects, the stakes are high as these players try to improve their draft status and potential earnings. Here are some of this weekend’s most important results:
Devin Duvernay - Wide receiver
The importance of speed in football can seem cliche to an outsider. The axioms “you can’t teach speed” or “speed kills” are commonly tossed around. However, this is backed up by data — the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs had the fastest average speed of any WR group in the NFL, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Because of this, Devin Duvernay’s 40-yard dash time of 4.39 on Thursday may have made him a lot of money. While it’s not like Duvernay’s speed was a secret, as he was the 2015 Texas 6A champion in the 100-meter dash, it’s important he separates himself from the rest of what may be the deepest wide receiver class in recent memory. Duvernay’s time was faster than high-profile prospects like Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, LSU’s Justin Jefferson and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy.
Malcolm Roach — Defensive line
Roach has garnered attention this offseason for his comments made to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about his displeasure with former Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s defensive scheme. After finishing with just three sacks this year, Roach said he thought the scheme held him back. Because of this lack of production, Roach perhaps wasn’t getting as much attention as other prospects heading into the weekend.
Now, that might change. Roach ran the 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds with an impressive 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds, all while weighing in at 297 pounds. For context, New Orleans Saints wide receiver and former Longhorn Lil’Jordan Humphrey ran his 40 at 4.75 seconds last year at 210 pounds. Beyond that, Roach looked nimble in on-field drills, holding his own with edge rushers sizeably lighter than him.
While there is uncertainty as to where Roach will end up playing on the defensive line, he could fit the profile of other former members of the Longhorn defensive front who have gone on to have success in the pros such as Poona Ford and Charles Omenihu.
Collin Johnson — Wide receiver
There’s at least one obvious thing that separates Collin Johnson from other receiver prospects — his height. Coming in at an official measurement of 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Johnson was the tallest receiver at the combine. Johnson also put up an impressive 17 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, tied with other top prospects Jalen Reagor and Laviska Shenault.
However, a hip injury kept Johnson from running or participating in on-field drills. His injuries also kept him out of several key games last season for the Longhorns, so NFL scouts may be concerned about his longevity. Either way, Johnson can still show out for scouts at Texas’ pro day in April.
Brandon Jones — Safety
Also hampered by injury was Brandon Jones, who has been on the mend since having surgery to repair a torn labrum after the season. However, Jones’ story shows the importance of the combine beyond what we get to see on TV.
While the in-person interview portion of the combine garners little media coverage, this process may bear just as much importance as the rest of the event. Since Jones knew he wasn’t going to be able to participate in on-field drills, he prepared differently. Jones revealed in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller that he spent the offseason watching film of all 32 NFL teams leading up to the combine, a feat that may have turned heads from scouts. Miller has Jones rated as his best tackling safety at the combine, which makes sense given he led the Longhorns in tackles last year.