The pre-draft process wrapped up a big step this past weekend, with the 2018 Senior Bowl concluding the all-star game portion of the festivities. The next step is the NFL Combine, set for late February in Indianapolis.
The All Star games provide players one last chance to engage in significant football activities against opponents. This is particularly helpful for small school prospects. A strong performance against a boost in competition can be the difference between day three status and bigger bucks on day two.
The Combine on the other hand, provides a chance for more pure athletes to shine. While there are football-related drills, the Combine provides a chance for players to shine outside of the pads. It will generally be taken with a certain grain of salt, but we will also hear about player X climbing draft boards because a ran a faster 40 than expected, or pumped a few more reps on the bench press.
Which brings me to SB Nation’s latest 2018 NFL mock draft. Dan Kadar has the San Francisco 49ers selecting Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson at No. 9. He previously had the 49ers selecting Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, but he offered an interesting angle on why Jackson might go over Ward.
This may seem high for Jackson, but he’s a player who should star in the offseason process. He gets the nod over Denzel Ward because the Ohio State cornerback isn’t as big, and those corners sometimes drop in the first round.
This kind of thinking does not surprise me at all. We often seen instances where a superior player gets knocked because of size or some other issue. Ward does not have prototypical size for the kind of press corner the 49ers might be looking for, but his film shows a player who is incredibly aggressive and physical.
And it’s not like his physicality has come against tiny players. Here is the 5’10 Ward defending 6’6 Troy Fumagalli off the line.
Denzel Ward is so fluid. Flips his hips just in time for the INT pic.twitter.com/GeqzkKrRQR— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) December 3, 2017
This is merely one example. Teams could very well be concerned his physicality will not translate well to the more rigorous NFL. I do have at least a little bit of faith that the 49ers front office will look at the whole picture, and not just the process over the next three months of the Combine, Pro Days, private workouts, and interviews. That is all plenty important, but film from college is absolutely critical.