Former Mountaineers Complete Combine, Now Eye Pro Day
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the most part, the six Mountaineer football players who participated in the recent NFL Combine in Indianapolis seemed to improve their stock in the eyes of the NFL coaches, administrators and scouts who were observing their every move.
With those workouts behind them, the next critical moment in the NFL evaluation for the former West Virginia players will come on their Pro Day, which will be held on the WVU campus on March 21. At that point, they’ll get another opportunity to perform in front of NFL scouts as they try to make an impression ahead of the NFL Draft, which this year runs from April 25-27 and will take place in Nashville.
Here is a look at how each WVU alum did at the Combine:
Yodny Cajuste (Offensive Tackle: WVU-listed size 6-5, 321 lbs.; Combine-listed size 6-4 7/8, 312 lbs.; Combine 40 DNP, Combine bench 32 reps, Combine vertical DNP, Combine broad jump DNP, Combine 3-cone DNP, Combine 20-yd shuttle DNP)
Combine results – Incomplete
Cajuste, who missed WVU’s bowl game because of an ankle injury, only participated in one drill at the Combine – the bench press. He did very well there with 32 reps of 225 pounds. It was the fourth most among all offensive linemen at this year’s Combine. That was a number sure to impress the pro teams, but the important test for Cajuste came behind closed doors where he underwent a battery of medical exams. Having suffered knee, ankle and hamstring injuries through his four seasons as a starter for WVU, NFL clubs are going to pore over his medical records and make sure he has a clean bill of health. The NFL makes a lot of the Combine information public, but the medical exams include information shared only with the team personnel.
NFL expert on Cajuste – “For those that doubt him, his medical history is one of the factors. I don’t think he falls out of the second round, and I am sure he is going to work out well. Teams taking a tackle have to look at him.”
Will Grier (Quarterback, WVU-listed size 6-2, 212 lbs.; Combine-listed size 6-2 1/2, 217 lbs.; Combine 40 4.84, Combine bench DNP, Combine vertical 34”, Combine broad jump 112”, Combine 3-cone DNP, Combine 20-yd shuttle 4.28)
Combine results – No Change
Some of the scouts stated concerns about Grier’s accuracy at the Senior Bowl, and that continued to be a criticism from some at the Combine. His numbers in terms of size and speed all were good for an NFL quarterback, but unless he shows better accuracy at his pro day and personal workouts, he could slide down draft boards.
NFL expert on Grier – “He’s not great in the pocket under pressure. Sometimes in Holgorsen’s system, guys were wide open and when they aren’t, his quarterbacks can struggle to find them. On the other hand, QBs get pushed up in the draft all the time.”
Gary Jennings (Wide Receiver; WVU-listed size 6-2, 215 lbs.; Combine-listed size 6-1, 214 lbs.; Combine 40 4.42, Combine bench 20 reps, Combine vertical 37”, Combine broad jump 127”, Combine 3-cone 7.32, Combine 20-yd shuttle 4.15)
Combine results – Helped
No Mountaineer has improved his draft status more this offseason than Jennings. Despite such a productive college career (seven in WVU history with 168 receptions), most NFL scouts seemingly had him pegged to go undrafted this year. But after a good Senior Bowl and an even better Combine, where he showed a good combination of strength and speed, he definitely seems to be on many draft charts now.
NFL expert on Jennings – “He’ll go late in the draft, but he might go in front of (David) Sills.”
David Long (Linebacker; WVU-listed size 5-11, 221 lbs.; Combine-listed size 5-11, 227 lbs.; Combine 40 4.45, Combine bench 15 reps, Combine vertical 39.5”, Combine broad jump 120”, Combine 3-cone DNP, Combine 20-yd shuttle DNP)
Combine results – Helped
Long did exactly what he needed to do at the Combine – post very good speed and power numbers. He ran the fourth fastest 40 among all linebackers in Indianapolis this year, and his vertical was the second best in that group. While Long remains smallish for an NFL linebacker, he’s not much different than those at that position who are expected to be drafted high – Michigan’s Devin Bush (5-11, 234 lbs) and LSU’s Devin White (6-0, 237 lbs.). Long isn’t projected as going in the first round, unlike that pair, but some NFL clubs view the Mountaineer linebacker as being a cheaper version – smallish, fast and productive – and thus in some ways more valuable because he’ll come with less expense.
NFL expert on Long – “He is super productive, and he does everything you want out of a linebacker. He blitzes well, he’s a sure tackler, and he makes tackles for losses. The question is, how fast is he? Some teams have a threshold on size. One pro team, their linebackers have to be 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2. They won’t take anyone shorter. Teams running a 3-4 system may pick him, or a team running a Tampa 2 system may get him as an outside backer.”
David Sills (Wide Receiver; WVU-listed size 6-4, 204 lbs.; Combine-listed size 6-3 1/4, 211 lbs.; Combine 40 4.57, Combine bench 14 reps, Combine vertical 37.5”, Combine broad jump 117”, Combine 3-cone 6.97, Combine 20-yd shuttle 4.28)
Combine results – Hurt
Sills’ performance in Indianapolis didn’t kill his NFL dreams, but it didn’t help his draft status much either. Of the 35 wide receivers who ran the 40 at the Combine this year, only nine clocked a slower time than Sills (4.57). He also has concerns about his strength, and while his 14 bench reps were in the middle of the pack in terms of receivers, a big number in that category could have helped him overcome that worry. He didn’t put it to rest.
NFL expert on Sills – “I think he is a Day Three pick. He doesn’t catch it well in traffic, but he catches it in the red zone and on fades really well. Teams felt like they could get physical with him, and he’ll have to show he can fight that off.”
Trevon Wesco (Tight End WVU-listed size 6-4, 275 lbs.; Combine-listed size 6-3 1/2, 267 lbs., Combine 40 4.89, Combine bench 24 reps, Combine vertical 31”, Combine broad jump 117”, Combine 3-cone 7.18, Combine 20-yd shuttle 4.38)
Combine results – No Change
Of the 20 tight ends who participated in the 40 in Indianapolis this year, only three were clocked slower than Wesco. For a catch-first tight end, such a time (4.89) would have been a killer. For instance, Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who is projected to be a first-round pick, ran a 4.50, which is outstanding for a 6-foot-4, 249-pound athlete. But Fant’s strengths are running routes and catching the ball, not blocking. He’s basically a wide receiver in a bigger body, so he needed a fast 40, which is exactly what he posted. Wesco, who was the heaviest tight end at the Combine this year at 267 pounds, is viewed as mainly a blocker who is also athletic enough to catch the ball. Thus his middling 40-time won’t impact him much. His 24 reps on the bench, which was the best among all the tight ends, was just as important to him as the speed drills. His ability to block from both the tight end and fullback positions is what will get him drafted, and that status didn’t change in Indianapolis.
NFL expert on Wesco – “He is probably a fourth- or fifth-round guy. He’s a bigger guy. He played really strong this year.”