The NFL Combine gives players a chance to showcase their talents in front of the very best scouts the NFL has to offer for all 32 teams. More than just the on-field drills and measurements, the Combine represents a hub of activity where players meet with every team, interview privately with some, and talk to the media about their experiences. The 2019 running back class is not a strong one. With no top-tier talent pressing for first-round selection, the mid-tier group is solid but has a lot of folks who are trying to separate themselves from a very big herd. Since it’s RAS season, we’re going to take a look at what the best Combine performances were for running backs, and some of the worst.
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Few players helped their draft stock more than Barnes, who was a relatively unheralded back out of a normally strong program in Kansas State. Barnes posted only a decent 40-yard dash of 4.59, which is fine for a guy pushing 226 pounds, but he went on to crush both explosiveness and agility drills. Teams looking for a Latavius Murray type of back may look to Barnes to add some explosion to a backfield that already has an established starter.
Karan Higdon, Michigan
Higdon was a bell cow for Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines, but I’m not sure any player further exceeded projections than he did. Few were expecting Higdon to measure fast, and he did. Not many expected his explosiveness to show out, but he did anyway. Looking at a late Day 3 selection for a team with an established backfield, Karan Higdon helped his stock immensely by showing that he can hang with the best athletes on the field. One ding to his day was his lack of participation in on-field drills, a concern since receiving wasn’t a staple of his game at Michigan and you’d think he’d want to showcase to teams that he could bring it there as well.
Miles Sanders, Penn State
I’m not sure what’s in the water down in Happy Valley, but Sanders was on fire during measurements. After Saquon Barkley nearly broke the RAS record last year, Sanders was gunning for it all the way, and though he came up short, he still managed to hit marks either above average or elite in every single metric. Sanders was already pretty well thought of in NFL circles, but now there’s going to be fan hype and the certain (but unwarranted) Barkley comps.
Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
Elijah Holyfield posted a very poor #RAS at the #2019NFLCombine with very, very poor speed and a terrible vert. He did not do agility drills, but knowing his style I don't think it would have helped.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 1, 2019
*Splits Projected* pic.twitter.com/cOdSxFgYRV
Getting mid-round hype entering the day, Holyfield bombed speed and explosion drills before wisely sitting out of the agility testing. Running a 4.79 is pretty much all you need to do to get teams to turn away. Even power backs are expected to have some kind of speed in case they break free, but you need explosion to do that and Holyfield flubbed that as well. Not a great day and it certainly pushed him further down in Day 3 if not out altogether.
Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
Devin Singletary posted a very poor #RAS at the #2019NFLCombine with very poor speed and agility scores, especially at his size, and just above average explosion.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 1, 2019
*Splits Projected* pic.twitter.com/DhrRcKrbgo
Singletary was one of the guys getting RB1 hype entering the offseason and that continued up until the Combine. With 67 college touchdowns over three seasons, it’s not hard to see why. When he measured in so tiny, the flags started to go up, and when he ran a 4.66, you could start counting the nails going into that draft coffin. Singletary may still find his way into Day 3, but it’s more likely the Combine pushed him down all the way into the third day of the draft, even in a weak class.
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Another guy with RB1 hype, another bad day. Montgomery showed decent size and poor speed, enough for people to start making Kareem Hunt comparisons. Those ended when he also posted poor explosiveness drills, making such a comp seem kind of silly since it already didn’t fit stylistically. He will probably still hear his name called on Day 2 of the draft, but this wasn’t the Combine performance he likely imagined.