2024 NFL Combine Standouts: Mel Kiper’s Top Performances

2024 NFL Combine Standouts: Mel Kiper's Top Performances

The 2024 NFL combine showcased some exceptional talent and even set a few records, including a blazing 40-yard dash by Texas’ Xavier Worthy. Notably, the wide receiver and offensive tackle classes lived up to expectations, demonstrating their depth and skill. Despite some key players opting out of workouts, over 300 prospects participated in on-field drills, medical evaluations, and interviews with representatives from all 32 teams. This event marks a crucial step towards the highly anticipated Round 1 of the draft, scheduled to commence on April 25.

2024 NFL Combine Standouts: Mel Kiper's Top Performances
2024 NFL Combine Standouts: Mel Kiper’s Top Performances

Who emerged as the standout performers during the on-field sessions of the combine? I’ve identified several players whose stock rose significantly after their impressive showings in Indianapolis. These selections focus on athletes who excelled and exceeded expectations based on pre-combine assessments, whether due to exceptional athleticism or on-field performance compared to their peers.

It’s essential to note that this analysis solely evaluates on-field performances. I will delve deeper into insights from league sources in the coming weeks to assess any potential concerns or standout interviews during the combine. Here are my draft risers, presented in no particular order:

  • Jaylen Wright, RB, Tennessee Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 210 pounds

The running back class of 2024 lacked a standout top prospect, unlike the previous year’s clear choice in Bijan Robinson. Heading into the combine, my top rankings were as follows:

  1. Jonathon Brooks, Texas
  2. Trey Benson, Florida State
  3. Audric Estime, Notre Dame

With Brooks sidelined due to a recent ACL injury, the door was open for other contenders to make their mark, including Jaylen Wright, my fourth-ranked back. Wright showcased his athleticism with an impressive 4.38 40-yard dash, ranking second among running backs. Additionally, his 11-foot-2 broad jump led the running back group, complemented by a 38-inch vertical leap, placing him among the top five. These stellar performances, particularly compared to Estime’s disappointing 40-yard dash time of 4.71, firmly position Wright as a top contender to be the first running back off the board in April’s draft. I currently assign him a third-round grade.

  • Edgerrin Cooper, LB, Texas A&M Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight: 230 pounds

Cooper, my top-ranked off-ball linebacker, affirmed his status as the best linebacker in the draft class with an impressive combine showing. His 34-inch arms, combined with a 4.51-second 40-yard dash (ranking third among linebackers) and a 34½-inch vertical jump (seventh at his position), showcased his athleticism and versatility. Cooper’s on-field performance aligns with his tape, demonstrating exceptional range and playmaking ability. Although he may be slightly undersized, his potential to develop into an every-down defender in the NFL is evident.

  • Jaylin Simpson, S, Auburn Height: 6-foot | Weight: 179 pounds

Simpson’s versatility as both a safety and cornerback caught the attention of NFL teams. With experience in both positions, he demonstrated his potential as a hybrid deep safety/nickel cornerback. Simpson’s impressive combine results include a 4.45 40-yard dash, 39½-inch vertical jump, and an 11-foot-1 broad jump, all ranking in the top three among safeties. Additionally, his long arms (32⅜ inches) contribute to his ability to disrupt passes, evident in his four interceptions last season. While he was previously ranked sixth among safeties, his performance suggests a potential rise in the draft, possibly into the third round.

  • Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 209 pounds

Despite Xavier Worthy’s record-setting 40-yard dash, Brian Thomas Jr. showcased his own impressive athleticism at the combine. With a 4.33-second 40-yard dash (second among receivers) and explosive performance off the line, Thomas validated his position as the 11th overall prospect in my pre-combine Big Board. While it may be challenging for him to ascend further in the rankings, his combine performance underscores his potential to emerge as a future top-tier wide receiver, even in a deep receiver class.

  • Dylan Laube, RB, New Hampshire Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 206 pounds

Laube’s diverse skill set and productivity at New Hampshire garnered attention despite questions about the level of competition he faced. His combine performance erased doubts, with a 4.54 40-yard dash, 37-inch vertical jump, and impressive 4.02-second shuttle (best among running backs). These results position him as a viable option for teams on Day 3 of the draft, potentially as a third-down back and special teams contributor.

These standout performances highlight the depth and talent present in the 2024 draft class, offering teams a wealth of options as they prepare for the upcoming draft. Stay tuned for further insights as I continue to gather feedback from league sources and evaluate prospects’ performances beyond the combine.

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