However, the day was capped off by the stories of two prospects that are, unfortunately, headed in opposite directions. One who will take the field tomorrow in defensive drills with a ton of momentum on his side despite a major physical limitation, and the other who was sent home today because of a potentially serious health concern.
Mike Gesicki - TE, Penn St. - (6'5", 247)
For the second straight day, a former Nittany Lion stood out among his peers by putting up eye-opening numbers at the NFL combine. The former New Jersey high school basketball and volleyball star posted a positional best vertical jump of 41.5" and tied for first among all tight ends by running a 4.54 40-time. By comparison, Jimmy Graham (6'6", 250 at his combine) ran a 4.56 and had a vertical jump of 38.5'. With his off-the-charts testing and overall solid performance in on-field drills today, Gesicki might have moved to the top of the tight end list and possibly locked himself into the 1st round come April. One obvious landing place could be New England to either pair with Rob Gronkowski or replace him should "Gronk" decide to retire, as is rumored.
D.J. Chark - WR, LSU (6'3", 199)
Building on an already solid post-season (one of the stars of January's Senior Bowl), Chark had a fantastic day on Saturday, running fast (4.34), jumping high (40" vertical), showing smooth route-running ability and displaying great hands. With his unique combination of size, speed, and pass-catching ability, Chark is making a strong case to be considered one of the top 3 receivers in the draft. Though his college numbers don't jump off the page, it's important to consider that the QB play at LSU over the last decade or so has been abysmal. The question that evaluators must ask and answer is: Does Chark have the tools to develop into a prolific NFL receiver much like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry have after their relatively pedestrian years at Baton Rouge?
Hayden Hurst - TE, South Carolina (6'4", 250)
Hurst didn't test nearly as well as Gesicki but had a very solid day overall. Currently listed as the top tight end according to NFL Network's draft expert Mike Mayock, Hurst tied for the 3rd-fastest 40-time with a 4.67 and looked very smooth throughout the drills. Since he is more of a complete tight end than Gesicki right now, he probably did just enough to hold on to his top ranking. At the very least, he likely sowed up a spot on the 2nd day of the draft.
Josh Allen - QB, Wyoming (6'5", 237)
One of the more polarizing prospects in this draft class, Josh Allen not only showed off his huge arm today but also managed to display enough touch and accuracy to make scouts sit up and take notice. The issue with Allen, of course, is whether or not his unique physical gifts can translate to consistent QB play when it actually matters, and not just in shorts and a t-shirt. Compared to the other throwers in attendance today, however, Allen stood apart with his excellent footwork and ability to drive the ball downfield with consistent accuracy. Speaking of accuracy, Allen's collegiate struggles in this area (a career completion percentage of 56.2%) have been a constant source of criticism from experts and fans alike. However, it's important to note that the man who owns the 5th overall pick in this draft, GM John Elway of the Denver Broncos, had a professional career completion percentage of 56.9 and never hit the 60% mark until his 11th year in the league (63.2% in 1993). Point being, the Hall of Fame QB and 2X Super Bowl winner might have a very different perspective on this whole business of accuracy than the rest of us.
Shaquem Griffin - LB, UCF (6'0", 227)
In one of the feel-good stories of this or any year, Central Florida's Griffin posted 20 reps on the bench. Normally, 20 reps on the bench for any position would not be considered headline news, but due to a prenatal condition, Griffen was born without a left hand. Seeing him perform at such a high level on the field during the 2017 season and today in the weight room using a prosthetic on his left arm to pump out 20 reps, has been incredibly inspirational to watch. Regardless of what happens tomorrow during the on-field drills, he's already proven to be a winner.
Lamar Jackson - QB, Louisville (6'2", 216)
Despite Jackson being one of my favorite collegiate players over the last few years, I have to add him to the top of the "loser" list today. He had a golden opportunity to really shine in two areas, and he failed in both. First, for whatever reason, he chose not to run his 40, which of course would've not only demonstrated his greatest physical asset (blazing football speed), but likely would've set him apart from just about every QB in every draft class since Michael Vick. Secondly, he had the chance to show scouts, executives and fans alike how much he has progressed as a QB since the end of the 2017 college season. Instead, he looked very unsure of himself, struggled with his footwork, and often looked as though he was aiming his throws instead of just letting it rip. With a more balanced performance, he had the chance to make a case for being a 1st round quarterback. After today's performance, however, one can see why rumors of some teams wanting him to work out as a WR were swirling around Lucas Oil Stadium this week.
Courtland Sutton - WR, SMU (6'4", 218)
Much like Jackson, Sutton had the chance to solidify a higher spot in the draft with a great workout, but he wasn't able to deliver today. His official 40 time of 4.54 wasn't bad, especially for a 6'4" receiver. However, he seemed to be fighting the ball throughout the day in general and during the gauntlet drill specifically. Sutton had a real opportunity to close the gap between himself and the perceived top WR in this draft, Alabama's Calvin Ridley, but seems to have fallen short with a so-so workout. Meanwhile, WR prospects like Chark, Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown, Maryland's D.J. Moore, and Texas A&M's Christian Kirk all had big days, possibly passing Sutton on some teams' draft boards.
Maurice Hurst - DL, Michigan (6'1', 292)
Considering what happened to him today, it feels cruel to add Hurst to this list. That said, the harsh reality is that the NFL combine is a big job interview, and Hurst was sent home because of a heart condition that was discovered during the medical check. The good news is that he will undergo further testing this week and hopefully, receive a more positive diagnosis. Ideally, Hurst will be fine in the long run and ready to play in the season opener for some team.