NFL Combine winners & losers: Chase Claypool dominates on Day 1 of workouts

Workouts for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine began Thursday with quarterbacks, tight ends and receivers taking the spotlight. 

LSU’s Joe Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, chose not to throw during his workout. Ohio State defensive lineman Chase Young and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa also will not be working out, but there still are more than enough storylines to follow at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. 

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Sporting News is tracking the winners and losers from the NFL Combine. Here is a look after Day 1 of workouts: 

NFL Combine winners & losers

Thursday, Feb. 27: Quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends

Winners: Chase Claypool

Claypool, a 6-4, 238-pound receiver from Notre Dame, was the talk of Day 1. He improved his stock by running a 4.42 on his second 40-yard dash to go with 19 reps in the bench press and a 40.5-inch vertical jump. His enticing potential as a wideout/tight end hybrid could push him into first-round consideration for a team looking to create mismatches.

He wasn’t the only former Fighting Irish pass-catcher who impressed. Tight end Cole Kmet ran a 4.7 and led all tight ends with a 37-inch vertical. Even Chris Finke, a potential slot receiver, ran a 4.57 with a 40-inch vertical. It’s a nod to the program’s player development under Brian Kelly. 

Winner: Jalen Hurts 

Hurts made it clear in the interview portion that he will play quarterback at the next level. He then showed why in his workout. He ran a 4.54 in the 40, the fastest at the position. His footwork and delivery looked polished during the workout portion. The Heisman Trophy finalist did not look all that different than the other quarterbacks in his group, which included Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.

Loser: QBs looking to go third 

Burrow and Tagovailoa are generally considered the first two QBs who will go off the board; the others did not jump off the page enough to clinch being third. Herbert remains the best bet after a solid performance. Fromm was consistent and Eason was decent. Utah State’s Jordan Love had the best night of the bunch, though, and might be that third quarterback in the end. None of those quarterbacks were off the charts, however. That means there could be some surprises on draft night after Burrow and Tagovailoa.

Winner: Albert Okwuegbunam 

This is not a jaw-dropping tight end class, but the Missouri tight end provided the first eye-opening moment with a 4.49 in the 40. That is the fourth-fastest time by a tight end since 2003, and it’s in elite company with Vernon Davis, who ran a 4.38 in 2006 and became the No. 6 pick in that year’s draft. Okwuegbunam’s production for the Tigers declined with each season after a breakout freshman year in which he caught 11 touchdowns. He had 23 career TDs on just 98 catches, though, and an impressive workout should vault him up draft boards. 

Winner: Justin Jefferson 

Jefferson, one of the Burrow’s favorite targets at LSU last season, flashed at the right time. The 6-1, 202-pound receiver ran a 4.43 in the 40 and stood out in the on-field portion. That will make him an attractive addition to any offense. Jefferson had 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns for the 2019 national champions. He won’t need those $100 bills from Odell Beckham Jr. going forward; Jefferson will be making more than enough money soon.

Losers: Harrison Bryant and Adam Trautman 

These sleepers did not take advantage of the spotlight. Bryant won the Mackey Award last year as the nation’s top tight end after wrapping a fantastic career with Florida Atlantic. He ran a 4.73 in the 40 and managed 13 in the bench press, totals that might cause teams to hesitate. Trautman has the reputation of being a hidden gem after catching 23 touchdowns at FCS Dayton the last two seasons, but he ran a 4.8 in the 40 and hit 18 on the bench press. He did have a 6.78 in the three-cone drill, which was the best among tight ends. Both prospects might have to wait a little longer than expected on draft night.

Winner: Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy 

Ruggs didn’t break the 40-yard dash record, but he clocked in at 4.28 and 4.31, respectively, on his two runs. Ruggs suffered a quad injury in the process, but that shouldn’t affect his status. Jeudy, who was Alabama’s most consistent receiver the past two years, ran a 4.45. That was faster than Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, who ran a 4.50. Crimson Tide receivers have a proven track record with stars such as Julio Jones and Amari Cooper, and Ruggs and Jeudy both figure to join those two as first-rounders. 

Loser: Laviska Shenault

Shenault was a stud at Colorado, but he did not have a great performance at the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.59 on his first try and didn’t run a second time. Shenault appeared to suffer an injury, which would allow him some wiggle room. He can make up for it at Colorado’s Pro Day, but in a draft flush with receiver talent, this performance might lead to a slip down the board. 

Friday, Feb. 28: Running backs, offensive linemen and specialists

(Winners and losers among running backs, offensive linemen and specialists will be added upon conclusion of Friday night’s workouts.)

Saturday, Feb. 29: Linebackers, defensive linemen

(Winners and losers among linebackers, defensive linemen will be added upon conclusion of Saturday night’s workouts.)

Sunday, March 1: Defensive backs

(Winners and losers among defensive backs will be added upon conclusion of Sunday’s workouts.)

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