You might have missed it amid an extraordinarily action-packed and ultimately delicious end to last week for UNC sports, but the NFL also held its Scouting Combine from last Thursday-Sunday. UNC had five representatives at the event, all there to show what they can bring to the table if and when a professional team drafts them next month: quarterback Sam Howell, running back Ty Chandler, offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu, offensive guard Marcus McKethan, and linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel. Here’s a recap of how they did and what’s being said about them. I’ll try to be brief; we’ll have fuller scouting reports and draft profiles closer to the draft itself.
- Howell didn’t go through any of the athletic testing, citing a minor calf strain he’d sustained at the Senior Bowl. He’ll test at his Pro Day, which will be on March 28th. He did measure out at 6 feet and 5/8ths of an inch and 218 pounds, which is more or less what was expected. His hand size had already been confirmed at the Senior Bowl, but we got it again here: 9 1/8”. In short, there’s nothing about his size that looks debilitating for his ability to play in the NFL.
Howell did throw, though, and mostly didn’t really separate himself — a couple of nice deep balls, a bad miss or two on a speed out to his right, good timing on in-breaking routes. Where he did stand out was in the newly added velocity test, where he led all passers with a 59 mile-per-hour ball. This confirms the observation from the Senior Bowl where he led all passers in spin rate; Howell’s got a heck of an arm. Obviously, all the top quarterbacks are going to talk to every quarterback-needy team, so there’s not much to really consider about Howell’s stock based on his interviews. He did share a funny story, though, about the Eagles asking him to shoot at a mini-hoop in their office:
#UNC QB Sam Howell was asked if he’s had any strange questions from teams. No strange questions, but said the Eagles had him shoot a basketball on a mini hoop.
“I only made like 2 of 5, so I’m probably not high on their board right now” pic.twitter.com/7q3oyexQbg
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) March 2, 2022
After the Combine, it does seem that a previously very muddled quarterback class has a little more clarity as far as how teams are ranking it — Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis are the top 2, then Howell, Matt Corral of Ole Miss, and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati make up the next tier, though how evaluators rank them varies wildly. Ridder helped himself with great athletic testing, so he’s probably got a leg up on the other two, but Howell still has his Pro Day to change that.
- Ty Chandler, as a running back, is highly dependent on his testing to stick out as an NFL prospect, and fortunately for him, he delivered, posting a blazing fast 4.38 40-yard dash (tying for the 2nd-best time for the position) that establishes him as somebody who can be a legitimate speed threat from the backfield. He didn’t do agility testing; I assume we’ll see that at his Pro Day (side note: a lot of prospects skipped something or other this particular Combine because of the strange, condensed setup, with bench presses and speed testing on the same day, among other things). He’s certainly being talked about as a possible value pick on Day 3 for his speed, special teams ability, and the threat he poses as a receiver out of the backfield.
- Joshua Ezeudu was probably the most impressive UNC prospect at the Combine relative to their draft stock, which was probably to be expected. Coming in at 6’4 and 308 pounds, down from the 325 listed on his UNC page, Ezeudu did everything but bench press (nearly every offensive lineman opted out of bench pressing so they could be at 100% for the drills and speed/agility measurements; you can’t inflate bench press numbers the way teams might do for timed tests at pro days) and tested at least above average for a guard in everything he did. He ran a decent 5.19 40, had pretty good explosiveness metrics with a 28.5-inch vertical and 8’9” broad jump, and an excellent short-shuttle time of 4.56 seconds. Offensive linemen probably also have the most relevant workout segments in the Combine, so here’s a quick compilation of those:
Ezeudu is mostly being looked at as a guard, after splitting time between guard and tackle for the last two years for UNC. He did measure out with 34-inch arms, which is enough to quell any questions about if he’s got the length to play tackle in a pinch.
- Marcus McKethan was one of the few offensive linemen who did bench; he’s in a position where he’ll likely do whatever he thinks he needs to just to get eyes on him. Twenty-seven reps is a very good number for him, especially with 35.5-inch arms (massive for a guard), combined with an eyebrow-raising 9’2” broad jump that’s only more impressive when you see him coming in at 6’6, 340 pounds — you’d like to see him at about 325, given his college tape at 340, but alas. Here’s a quick compilation of his drill work:
- Jeremiah Gemmel was definitely at the Combine, but there’s very little to show for it — no video of him doing anything, no testing other than anthropometric measurements, no mention of meeting with teams. After he decided not to go to the Senior Bowl, either, I’m very curious about Gemmel’s pre-draft process that hardly seems to exist. Hopefully, we’ll learn more at UNC’s Pro Day. At just under 6’1 and 226 pounds, Gemmel’s built more like an NFL safety than a linebacker, so he’ll have to show off some functional strength to prove he can play at the off-ball linebacker position in the league, because safety wouldn’t be a good fit for him athletically or traits-wise.