The 2017 NFL Combine has come and gone. You’ve likely already heard about this year’s most impressive athletes.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
had the fastest 40 time ever for a Big Ten player.
Oh, and Texas A&M defensive end
If you’re a fan of college football, . These are players we’ve watched upwards of 30 to 40 times over the past few years. With that in mind, we’re getting a head start on predicting some of next year’s combine beasts based on their measurables and athletic accomplishments.
A few disclaimers before continuing. First, predicting next year’s combine standouts means we’re also predicting that, you know, the following players will declare for the draft and/or participate in the combine. It’s entirely possible the following names do neither, but we’re making educated forecasts. Second, this is not an prediction of NFL success.
Finally, there’s no way we’re going to identify everyone even though the list of combine winners is typically small. If there’s a freak out there you think will crush it at the combine next year, feel free to share.
With that out of the way, here are the players that, should they participate, will wow NFL scouts this time next year.
Florida State Seminoles
: James missed most of the 2016 season with a torn meniscus, but he’s already back to 100 percent. What stands out about James physically is that, as an incoming freshman in 2015, he had the size and build of someone who had already been through a college strength program. Sometimes that size can actually be a disadvantage — a fit issue of the square peg-round hole variety — but not for James. His combination of size and athleticism makes him one of the most versatile (and smart) defenders in college football.
, TE, School TBD: Hurd didn’t quite fit in at
as a running back, but there’s no denying his physical gifts. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he more closely fits the mold of a tight end — but he doesn’t necessarily run like one. His treadmill videos from last spring were insane with one topping out at just over 23 MPH. Imagine that block of muscle running at you that fast. It’ll be interesting to see how well he transitions to a new position. He has the makings of an athlete with a high ceiling that some team will want to coach up.
Penn State Nittany Lions
: Last season was a breakout year for Barkley, which is impressive because the running back field was loaded in college football. However, Barkley proved to be a complete back with power, breakaway speed, excellent hands and footwork that makes the dream work. Seriously. I have dreams about Barkley running a 3-cone drill. I don’t go to bed thinking about your team, but I do go to bed thinking about Barkley’s lateral quickness and his 4.33 40-yard dash.
Southern California Trojans
: If Darnold continues on the trajectory with which he (and USC) ended the 2016 season, look out. Scouts. Are. Going. To. Love. Him. Hell, he was already the talk of the 2017 NFL Combine, and he wasn’t even there. Darnold is big with a strong arm and has plenty of athleticism. His quiet confidence translates into an assassin-like presence on the field. He’s still growing as a player, but goodness, Darnold could fly up draft boards if he leaves after his redshirt sophomore year.
, WR, Texas A&M: Kirk has been tearing things up for A&M for the past two years despite inconsistencies at quarterback. He’s also a lethal return man. In the open field, Kirk is nearly impossible to bring down. He has exceptional speed and a twitch that will make just about anyone miss. His skill set is going to turn a lot of NFL heads one day.
Ohio State Buckeyes
: Hubbard could have gone pro — he’s three years removed from high school — but the one-time lacrosse player returns as the most freakish athlete the Buckeyes have on defense for next season. Hubbard has it all: size, length and explosiveness. Ohio State keeps churning out ridiculously good edge rushers and Hubbard has the skill set to be among the best.
Alabama Crimson Tide
: Brown made Bruce Feldman’s “Freak” list for 2015 and has some chops on the track team to help his stock. At 6-foot and nearly 200 pounds, Brown has good size for the cornerback spot. That’s coveted in this day and age where passing games rule and defenses need bigger, more physical corners to match up on the outside against No. 1 wideouts.
: I’m looking forward to two things here — Chubb in the bench press and Michel in the 40-yard dash. There’s a reason the Bulldogs have the best backfield coming into the ‘17 season. If only they can stay healthy at the same time. And let’s not forget that time Chubb showed off his ups, either.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
: The fifth-year senior is a giant at 6-foot-7 and 310 pounds with size 17 shoes. He can play either tackle spot. That’s going to raise the eyebrows for some NFL teams. His claim to fame is dunking on his first cousin,
. McGlinchey could have declared after last season and there was chatter of him being a first round pick.
: Surprise! Oregon has a fast guy. Nelson has been all over the place for the Ducks for the past few years. He’s not a big guy at a listed 5’9” and 170 pounds, but he’s incredibly versatile and a track star to boot. The combine is his type of setting. He’ll impress scouts with his speed and his utility player background will give him a chance somewhere.
: Name me another 311-pound player who can do a full split. And play basketball. And catch one-handed passes. And kick extra points. This list could go on and on. Wilkins is a monster who will check off all the boxes on his measurments and then show you things few men can do at that size.
Boston College Eagles
Oklahoma State Cowboys
, DE/OLB, LSU,
, RB, LSU;
, LB, Texas; Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama.