Key questions the 11 Longhorns at the NFL Combine will have to answer

On3 imageby:Joe Cook02/26/24

josephcook89

Eleven Longhorns are scheduled to participate in this week’s NFL Scouting Combine, and each Texas football product has questions from the league’s 32 franchises they’ll need to answer in Indianapolis in order to solidify or strengthen their draft stock.

[Join Inside Texas and get ONE MONTH of Longhorn intel for just $1!]

Jonathon Brooks, RB

How’s the knee?

Considering Brooks is still recovering from knee surgery, he won’t be able to do any of the drills at the combine. But the combine is more than just the on-field tests. Teams meet with players to learn more about them that might not be obvious from the game tape.

Brooks will be asked about his injured knee and the answers teams receive not just from Brooks himself but also from NFL medical tests will be critical. The film that shows Brooks rushing for 1139 yards in 10 contests is a big reason why the Hallettsville native is considered RB1 in the upcoming draft even with his injury.

The amount of progress Brooks has made in his rehab will go a long way in determining if Brooks is the first running back off the board.

Keilan Robinson, RB

What do you offer away from special teams?

Steve Sarkisian obviously thought highly enough of Robinson to pursue him out of the transfer portal in ahead of the 2021 season Though incredibly athletic, there were more complete running backs ahead of Robinson in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Robinson still carved out a “gadget” role, making use of improved hands and taking advantage of opportunities in space during his time at Texas.

Despite his gifts, Robinson was 10th on the team in 2023 in standard down touches. Those were split between 12 carries and eight receptions. What he displayed in those touches and often on special teams was evidence of his athleticism.

The pool of extremely athletic players with special teams experience, of both returners and tacklers, is deep for the league’s 32 franchises. Robinson undoubtedly provides third-phase ability. What else can he offer?

Adonai Mitchell, WR

Are you first-round good?

Mitchell went from potential to production with his 2023 campaign. His exploits in previous College Football Playoff appearances hinted at what he could do. His ability to perform game after game after game in the 2023 season, including again in the College Football Playoff, has him considered among the top 32 prospects in the entire draft.

Mitchell has tremendous body control, fantastic hands, and the requisite athletic ability for teams. He has the production to back it up, too. His blocking, though rough to start the year, improved by the week.

Is that enough to earn a first-round selection?

There are other highly-regarded receivers in this draft like Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, and Rome Odunze. Even Mitchell’s teammate, Xavier Worthy, is battling for a spot in the first round.

Does Mitchell’s prior track record plus his athletic testing propel him into the first round? It’s an opportunity there for the taking for Mitchell.

Jordan Whittington, WR

Do you have an elite physical trait?

No one will question Whittington’s football character. Nor will anyone question his drive to play football and play it well even after injuries put his Texas career in jeopardy.

But despite all that, Sarkisian and company felt comfortable regularly rotating Whittington out of the game in order to use 12 personnel in 2023. Sometimes the situation called for it, and obviously Sarkisian likes to run a lot of different personnel packages. But Whittington being the receiver that was subbed off indicated he was not an utterly indispensable part of the offense that the Longhorns simply could not afford to take off the field.

That’s even with his fantastic blocking ability and his physical attributes of a certain quality. But what exactly is his best physical trait? Strength? Speed? Quickness at his size?

Whittington is a player currently thought to be in the undrafted free agent ranks. If he is able to wow in a certain area at the combine, it may help him jump into the draft.

Xavier Worthy, WR

4.29?

In 2019, Worthy ran a 10.55 100m in a +2.7 wind. His wind-legal personal record was 10.65, a mark he ran in the CIF state finals during his sophomore year.

He was able to post a 22.05 200m during the early portions of the 2020 season before COVID cancelled most sports in California for most of the rest of his high school career. After signing with Michigan in the 2021 class, Worthy got out of his letter of intent and joined the Longhorns. In Austin, his three-year career was one of the best by a receiver in school history.

There are some deep ball tracking concerns, for sure. But any NFL franchise that drafts Worthy won’t force him to do something he’s not comfortable with.

Worthy’s speed is what the NFL wants to know about. They know he’s fast even without track times. But if he’s fast, and otherworldly 4.29 fast at that, he might be able to write his name in the first round in ink.

Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE

Are you TE2?

Sanders’ three-year development from someone who only played on the field goal unit to one of the most feared tight ends in college football was the product of hard work from Sanders and Jeff Banks, plus smart deployment in Sarkisian’s offense.

While Sanders isn’t going to be the first tight end taken in the draft barring something catastrophic happening to Brock Bowers, he can use the combine to flash his catch radius, straight line speed, and physicality to ensure he’s the first tight end taken after Bowers.

Christian Jones, OL

Are you up for guard?

Jones made the most of his sixth season, going from extremely raw, run-first blocker to complete right tackle with plenty of road bumps and successes along the way. His 2023 was a flourish, one where he played right tackle at an all-conference level for a team that made the College Football Playoff.

While his college tackle exploits are notable, Jones’ future may see him play more guard. Teams value pass protection from the interior especially with the way more and more defenses try to create pass rush with defensive tackles. He could play a variety of positions for a team and has roster value in that regard, but his playing time future is likely to be at guard.

Byron Murphy, DT

Are you the next Calijah Kancey?

Teams once had near-unbreakable molds for every position, especially at defensive tackle. Murphy, who was listed at 6-foot-1 and 308 pounds, is a bit lighter than teams typically preferred for nose tackle.

There are several things Murphy has going for him. Of course, his standout play that earned him Big 12 defensive lineman of the year honors is the primary one. The NFL becoming a passing league helps Murphy as well considering he was one of the best interior pass rushers in the nation.

But teams becoming more willing to sacrifice certain size specs will help Murphy the most, especially after he posts fantastic testing numbers at the combine. Kancey was a mold-breaker in last year’s draft and showed teams are willing to sacrifice certain aspects if the play is too much to ignore.

Murphy should reap the benefit of that at the Combine, especially combined with the fact that he’s one of the youngest players in the draft.

T’Vondre Sweat, DT

Just how much do you weigh?

Sweat erased any motor concerns with his 2023 season that saw him earn Big 12 defensive player of the year, unanimous All-American, and Outland Trophy honors. He, alongside Murphy, formed a feared tackle duo and provided Texas with one of the best run defenses in the nation.

As he’s gone through the draft process, he has so far remained mum on just how much he weighs. After he was listed at 362 pounds by Texas, Sweat didn’t weigh in at the Senior Bowl and didn’t reveal to Inside Texas just how much he weighs.

That said, Sweat has slimmed down, something that should help him test well at the combine. How much has he slimmed down? That answer will be revealed in Indianapolis.

Jaylan Ford, LB

What’s your best physical trait?

Ford’s development from three-star late-cycle flip to one of the best Longhorn linebackers this century was the result of being able to apply strong instincts and make plays on the football few other LBs knew how to make.

That of course has a value at the next level, but so too does getting into position to make those plays and being in the right spot. Ford is an easy mover and should post quality strength numbers, but teams will be curious to know what his best physical trait is.

He has the requisite size and instincts to play football successfully at the next level, but teams will want to know if he has the physical traits needed to keep up with the modern game on a consistent basis.

Ryan Watts, DB

Are you willing to make safety work?

At the recent East-West Shrine Bowl, Watts repped some at safety and some at corner. A tremendous college cornerback, Watts likely knows his coverage skills may not translate well to staying with the elite athletes at receiver in the NFL.

But at safety? If Watts can combine that coverage ability with acumen closer to the hashmarks and within the box, teams may be willing to use a pick on the long-armed defender.

[Subscribe to the brand new Inside Texas YouTube channel!]

Watts will have a chance to show he has the physical traits and also the want-to to play a new position at the Combine.

You may also like