Five Takeaways: 2017 NFL Combine, Day 2

Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda and Jake Kring-Schreifels bring you five takeaways from the second day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday in Indianapolis.


1. The Redskins met with wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and John Ross among other visits with prospects.
While there have been a lot of names linked to the Redskins in mock drafts so far this year, there have been only three wide receivers pegged to go 17th-overall.

Check out these photos of Washington wide receiver, John Ross.

Western Michigan’s Corey Davis didn’t specify which of the nearly dozen teams he’s going to speak with this week, but both Smith-Schuster and Ross have spoken with Washington.

The Redskins, of course, used their first-round pick last year on wide receiver Josh Doctson and have Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris and Ryan Grant under contract for the 2017 season. But veterans Jamison Crowder and Rob Kelley are both going to hit the open market soon.

If Washington needs to replace either one or both, Smith-Schuster or Ross could become options.

Smith-Schuster was among the most productive wide receivers in college football over the last three years, collecting more than 200 receptions for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns. Additionally, he had 11 games of at least 100 receiving yards.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact he appeared in 39 games over that span while dealing with various painful injuries.

“I played through a broken hand and didn’t miss a game,” Smith-Schuster said. “Played through a torn thumb, didn’t miss a game. And just very competitive. Willing to work. Willing to put my body out there on a line.”

Ross, meanwhile, could be the fastest player in this year’s crop of wide receivers. The Washington product averaged nearly 22 yards per reception as a sophomore and more than 18 yards per reception during a junior campaign in which he caught 17 touchdown passes.

“I’m going to try. I’m going to try,” Ross said with a smile Friday when asked about breaking the 40-yard dash record. “I don’t want to say too much, like I’m everything. But I’m definitely going to go for it.

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(Stephen Czarda)

2. Ryan Switzer cites Jamison Crowder as one of many receivers proving height isn’t a limiting factor.The North Carolina slot receiver entered the NFL Combine at 5-foot-9 and 179 pounds, physical traits that no longer seem to be limiting immediate production in the NFL. Just look at Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

Crowder, at 5-foot-8, 182 pounds, was extremely productive for Washington as a rookie, breaking Art Monk’s record for receptions by a Redskins player in his first year, and took bigger steps in his second season, becoming a favorite target of quarterback Trent Williams. He’s one of many smaller players that are proving size isn’t a determining factor for early success.

“Yeah, Jamison’s done a great job obviously, and great football player, but there’s been a plethora of guys that have been successful in the league that are my size,” Switzer said. “Size isn’t an issue anymore in the NFL. I’m looking forward to being another one of those guys where maybe a guy next year that’s coming to the Combine say, ‘You look at a guy like Ryan Switzer, does that give you confidence?’ So I’m just looking forward to getting out there and utilizing my abilities.”

Switzer was named first team All-ACC in 2016 and proved extremely valuable, much like Crowder, as a punt returner, something he is hoping to show off to teams this weekend. 

“I’m a bit of a risk taker,” Switzer said if his returning.  “I may field some punts that others won’t, it’s gotten me into a little bit of trouble sometimes, but it’s also paid off for me. I think I have a little bit of spunk back there. It’s enabled me to have the career punt returning that I’ve had.”

(Jake Kring-Schreifels)

3. Mitch Trubisky hopes to stand out in what he thinks is a talented quarterback class.
As is the case every year, there’s a lot of conjecture of who is the best quarterback in a particular draft.

This year, Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer are currently projected to be the top three signal callers taken. While Trubisky certainly wants to be the first quarterback taken, the University of North Carolina product knows he’s up against some top-tier talent for that spot.

“Me and all the other guys here, I mean we've worked really hard, we've put the work in and I wish everyone the best of luck,” Trubisky said. “And I think there's a lot to say for what we've done in

our college careers. And who's to say this quarterback class can't be one of the best? Only the future will tell. I think there's a lot of talented guys here and that's what we're here to show and hopefully it will throughout our careers."

Trubisky’s name was linked to the Redskins in Will Brinson’s most recent mock draft this week, as the draft pundit believes he could be a long-term quarterback for Washington in the event Kirk Cousins departs.

During his junior season in 2016, Trubisky threw 30 touchdown passes to six interceptions while skyrocketing up draft boards.

"I just feel like the season I had last year and what I've shown on film and what I'm able to do that I have the tools to be successful in the NFL,” Trubisky said. “So I've been really well prepared at North Carolina, and I think my game is ready to take that next step. And I'm very excited throughout this process."

(Stephen Czarda)

4. O.J. Howard has studied Jordan Reed as he prepares for the draft“I hate plays that don’t involve the tight end,” said O.J. Howard, describing the only thing he doesn’t like about football, a question he was asked by on team during interviews this week.

Arguably the best tight end in the 2017 class, Howard was primarily a run-blocking tight end during his time at Alabama based on the offensive firepower they had in the backfield. But Howard impressed with his receiving ability at the Senior Bowl and wants to make an immediate impact with whichever team drafts him.

One of his primary influences has been tight end Greg Olsen, but Howard also referenced Redskins tight end Jordan Reed as a player that he’s studied recently – looking at his ability to catch the football as well as his impressive footwork.

At 6-foot-6, 249 pounds, Howard certainly has the size for the position and has enormous athletic ability. That seems to be more of a positive for teams, who can work with him to refine the rawer parts of his game. 

(Jake Kring-Schreifels)

5. Despite his injury, Jake Butt has no regrets about playing in the Orange Bowl.Michigan tight end Jake Butt suffered a torn ACL during the Orange Bowl in January, the type of injury that several draft-eligible running backs had avoided by skipping their team’s bowl games to better prepare for the NFL Combine and draft process.

Butt, however, told reporters on Friday that he has no regrets about playing for his team in his final game. Although he won’t be able to participate in any events in Indianapolis, Butt seemed thrilled just to get through the medical portions of the event.

“It’s still been special,” Butt said. “For me, I was excited to do all this medical stuff because I’m so far along in my rehab, I’m doing so well, I’m ahead of schedule. I know where the average man would be at this point in time and I know I’m ahead of that, so I’ve been really excited to show teams that. Aside from that, this is something you dream about as a kid, just getting to be out here and recognized with some of the best players in the country, that’s just been really special.”

Butt doesn’t project to be an elite starting tight end, but could still be a reliable option in the middle of the field and as a blocker. He said he should be ready to hit the field in about five and a half months.

“As far as getting cleared, that will be kind of something the team doctors will decide on,” Butt said. “I know I’ll be ready whenever they clear me.”

(Jake Kring-Schreifels)

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