By: Barry Barnes, Founder
In the 2017 NFL Draft, no NFL Regional Combine player from the annual workouts was drafted. Still, NFL teams host the most athletes in the platform’s history with 121, including the same amount of rookies this time last year with 38.
Despite the slow start of signings, NFL Football Operations continues to experience success through its Combine Series. Out of the 780 participants of the RC, 38 Rookies are heading towards training camp, approving their percentage of signees by .1 percent from a year ago (4.9).
Realistically, all 38 players have a shot in making their respective clubs’ roster because they played significant roles for their collegiate programs, and the moment is not too big for them.
18 offensive rookies, including two quarterbacks in San Francisco 49ers Nick Mullens and Pittsburgh Steelers Bart Houston. Mullens is solid across the board, while Houston is big kid with a huge arm.
The offensive line gems look promising as Denver Broncos rookie tackle Elijah Wilkerson wants to get at someone.
Green Bay Packers signed five rookies from the RC this season, and it will not be a surprise if they all make their roster due to their incredible skill set. Wide receiver Montay Crockett possesses great speed with playmaking abilities. Running backs William Stanback name speaks for itself as the 6-0, 231-pound ball carrier has decent speed and power.
And rookie cornerbacks Donatello Brown and Raysean Pringle, who converted from a running back, look to provide depth in the secondary, while rookie guard Thomas Evans can potentially bring balance to the offensive line.
Keelan Cole of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Giovanni Pascascio of the Tennessee Titans and Reggie Davis of the Atlanta Falcons is leading the way for rookie receiving core of the 2017 RC class, however, the tight end position looks more promising than ever before – starting with Robert Tonyan Jr. of the Detroit Lions.
The defensive side of the ball continues to lead the way for the RC with athletic talents across the board.
Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Nigel Harris and Cleveland Browns linebacker B.J. Bello appears to be thin, but they are freakishly talented. Linebacker Abner Logan (Buffalo Bills) and, when healthy, defensive end Corey Vereen (New England Patriots) look to bring physicality to their clubs.
The secondary looks strong, especially from the safety position. Safety Jason Thompson is turning heads in New England, while Deshawntee “Ironhead” Gallon just wants to knock off some heads off for the Arizona Cardinals.
The first annual Pro Player Combine welcomed 150 former NFL players, and 12 athletes signed to clubs.
Due to the growing relationship with the UK, the NFL desires to have more capable foreign-born athletes in the league.
Through the vehicles of the NFL Regional Combine and Pro Player Combine, four foreign-born players were signed in defensive end Alex Jenkins (New Orleans Saints), England rugby star turned tight end Alex Gray (Atlanta Falcons), linebacker Eric Nzeocha (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and defensive end Efe Obada (Carolina Panthers). Currently, 52 Foreign-born gems represent the Shield, including 12 Canadians, which dominates the other countries globally.
The relationship between NFL Ops and NFL teams has never been better.
At the infantry stage of the RC, NFL teams did not overwhelmingly flock to the scattered workout sights, largely due to the taping of the sessions. Despite the taping of the trials, the average amount of attended team for the workouts has raised from two to its highest, this year, of at least seven clubs.
Dating back to the eligibility rule changes that were instituted by the NFL Ops in 2015, all 32 teams have embraced the process of the RC because it is a proven outlet to discover untapped talents – who most likely would not be in the league today.
Los Angeles Rams All-Pro punter Johnny Hekker, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Seth Roberts, Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown and Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, to name a few, are all benefactors of the process. Several of these standouts will experience a significant payday after the 2017 campaign.
The NFL Regional Combine platform has quietly changed the landscape on how teams can find talent for their organizations. Spanning from NFL Ops and the actually RC players, they all will see the fruits of their labor in 2017.