2022 NFL Combine: Preview, Schedule, How To Watch
Mountain West football prospects have plenty on the line when the NFL Combine begins tomorrow. Here’s how to watch and what to watch for.
The next stop on the road to the NFL Draft is here.
2022 NFL Combine
WHEN: Thursday, March 3 to Sunday, March 6
WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis, Indiana
TV/STREAMING: NFL Network
College football’s postseason all-star games are in the rear view and the NFL Draft is still about seven weeks away, but the NFL Combine gets underway in earnest on Thursday and the 14 Mountain West players invited to the proceedings have plenty to prove.
Who stands to gain the most with a strong showing in interviews and testing throughout the rest of the week? Who could go tumbling down draft boards with a lackluster showing? Here’s a quick breakdown of the questions facing many of the conference’s top prospects in Indianapolis.
Thursday – quarterbacks, wide receivers, tight ends
Nevada quarterback Carson Strong had a decent showing at the Senior Bowl but, relative to other Group of 5 prospects like Liberty’s Malik Willis and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, his lingering medical concerns and modest on-field performance in the pre-draft process have left a lot of prognosticators lukewarm about his standing in this year’s class. A strong showing at the combine could be the difference in where he’s ultimately picked on the NFL Draft’s second day later this spring.
Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir has a healthy number of supporters in his corner, especially after racking up one-on-one wins in seemingly every Senior Bowl practice. He didn’t get to see the field during the actual game, however, and most prognosticators seem confident in projecting him as a value pick out of the slot. He played both inside and outside for the Broncos, though, so proving that health isn’t a concern and putting together a good-enough showing in the vertical jump and bench press could help some front offices see more in his potential.
Conversely, Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs will have a golden opportunity to prove just how real of an outside deep threat he can be at the next level. Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network noted that Doubs ran a 4.72 40-yard dash when being recruited out of high school, so while that obviously didn’t stop him from being productive for the Wolf Pack, the improvement he can muster on that time will do a lot to determine his draft stock.
The trio of Mountain West tight ends in the combine — Colorado State’s Trey McBride, Nevada’s Cole Turner, and San Diego State’s Daniel Bellinger — share some of the same challenges. McBride is widely considered the most complete package of the trio, but how much athleticism will he be able to flash to boost a draft stock that’s fallen from late first round territory to Day Two? Turner obviously has the size and hops to be a credible red zone threat at the next level, but how much strength and agility can he flash to silence concerns about his ability to block and play inline? As for Bellinger, he was named his squad’s top tight end at the Senior Bowl after proving he had soft hands to go along with obvious blocking skills, so there’s nowhere to go but up if he can prove one more time that he’s a solid all-around contributor.
There are plenty of tight ends that Trey McBride (@mcbtrey) could have picked as a hero and influence. His childhood hero? @JoelDreessen a guy from my hometown https://t.co/0paExjA8hR #9sports #CSURams #NFLCombine
— 9NEWS Sports Denver (@9NEWSSports) March 3, 2022
San Diego State TE Daniel Bellinger is up next in Unpacking Future Packers, a countdown previewing the 2022 NFL draft for Packers Wire. https://t.co/48FdTjZ4r3
— The Packers Wire (@ThePackersWire) February 28, 2022
— 104-5 The Zone (@1045TheZone) March 2, 2022
Friday – offensive linemen, running backs
San Diego State can boast of a offensive line pair at this year’s combine, Zachary Thomas and William Dunkle. The big question for both will revolve around displays of explosiveness, whether that’s measured in 40-yard dash splits or the broad jump. Both have the requisite size to compete at the next level, but the little things make all the difference in the trenches.
At running back, San Diego State’s Greg Bell and Fresno State’s Ronnie Rivers will have to maximize what they can do at full strength (especially given their recent history of nagging injuries). Rivers is relatively undersized when compared to some at the position projected to be picked high in the draft, but he’s long since proven that he is a well-rounded athlete out of the backfield, with good hands and strength for his size, and it may just be a matter of proving he’s not a half-step too slow for the next level.
The same can be said of Bell, but the big difference is that, given he was listed as three inches taller than Rivers on the Aztecs’ 2021 roster, how much strength can he muster from that larger frame? He may not be a surprise first-round pick like predecessor Rashaad Penny, but a good showing with the bench press and broad jump could help his stock.
At the @NFL Combine I will be supporting @UpliftingAth with my Reps for Rare Diseases
Campaign. Donate for each inch I vertical jump and help me raise money and awareness for#RareDiseases! #WeTackleRare https://t.co/aAbPYTbGNu pic.twitter.com/9V6RF3f3no
— Ronnie Rivers (@lilronnie_20) February 28, 2022
Saturday – defensive linemen, linebackers
San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas was a nightmare to defend in college, but his buzz has been somewhat muted because he was unable to participate in the Senior Bowl after suffering a hamstring injury in practices early that week. The combine, then, is Thomas’s first chance to demonstrate that he’s back to 100% and has the tools — an explosive first step, lateral agility and upper body strength — to continue causing headaches off the edge in the NFL.
By contrast, Air Force’s Jordan Jackson has a long track record of productivity but has been the one Mountain West player with zero hype around him to date. The turnback he took in 2020 didn’t seem to affect his on-field performance last fall, and his measurements at the NFLPA Bowl — 6′ 4.5″ and 290 pounds — are above those of an average edge rusher at past combines. Whether that size is an asset or a detriment could come down to how well he does in exercises like the bench press and three-cone drill.
Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma looks like a safe bet to follow in the footsteps of both Logan Wilson and Cassh Maluia, but the former was widely expected to be selected while the latter was something of a surprise pick. Which camp will Muma ultimately fall into? Leading all Senior Bowl defenders in tackles is a point in Muma’s favor, though some questions remain about his lateral speed.
Sunday – specialists, defensive backs
Last, but not least, San Diego State punter Matt Araiza faces a much different quandry than everyone else who will take the field before him. The strength and agility drills may not matter quite as much for him as it does for other position groups, so the things that won’t be broadcast — interviews and other behind-the-scenes testing (suppose, for instance, a team asks about his thought process during and after the blocked punts in December’s Mountain West championship; how will he respond?) — will probably make or break whether a team is willing to take a flyer on him at some point.
Specialists usually spend the NFL Combine in the shadows.
But what about … Punt God?
— The Athletic CFB (@TheAthleticCFB) February 28, 2022