Jelani Woods
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks, tight ends, and receivers took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday.

We’re back!

After the 2021 event experienced a COVID-related cancelation, the NFL Scouting Combine returned this week at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Not all NFL Draft prospects worked out, but the ones who portrayed their physical abilities had a significant goal in mind: to impress the scouts, coaches, and executives of all 32 teams.

The on-field drills will last four days and commenced Thursday with quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers showing off their talents.

What did we see from these specific prospects on Day 1 of the annual event?

QB notes


Oh no! Kenny Pickett has small hands!

Relax — we go through this every year. Remember when they said Joe Burrow had small hands? Well, he just played in a Super Bowl and helped the Bengals go from the worst team in the league to Super Bowl runner-ups in two seasons.

But let’s get to the actual on-field work.

North Carolina’s Sam Howell was arguably the best deep-ball thrower of the night, having kept his footwork under control while putting a nice spin on the ball to accurately float it into his receiver’s grasp in stride.

The quarterback who many believe could be the first off the board, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, had a good night with the deep ball as well, hitting his target on flag routes near the sideline a multitude of times.

His fade route ball was additionally solid. Could Pickett go No. 6 overall to Carolina? Or potentially earlier if a quarterback-needy team, such as Washington, trades up?

Also, holy s**t, Carson Strong. The Nevada kid has a serious arm, and it may lead to him becoming a second-rounder in the upcoming draft.

And finally…one of the men of the night: Liberty’s Malik Willis.

The kid sets his feet the proper way, has a quicker-than-average release, and knows where to place it — all the traits you want in a deep ball.

Does Willis shoot up the boards as the draft creeps closer?

TE notes

Okay, so Maryland tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo is pretty fast, to say the least.

The Terrapin ran the fastest official 40-yard dash of all participating tight ends at 4.52.

Jelani Woods out of Virginia does intrigue me though and could be a fourth-rounder in this draft. Woods ran a 4.61 (the second-best official time) and sports tremendous size at 6-foot-7, 253 pounds.

While Trey McBride (Colorado State) didn’t run the 40, he was one of my favorite tight ends of the day. He portrayed notable burst coming into his route in passing drills and impressed when going against the blocking sled, showing great footwork in order to maximize his strength.

Grant Calcaterra (SMU) was another guy that caught my eye, especially in the gauntlet drill. He showed significant burst coming down the line and was poised when looking each pass in.

WR notes

Calvin Austin is only 5-foot-8.

Yes, 5-foot-8.

But he’s athletic as all hell.

The Memphis wideout recorded a phenomenal 39-inch vertical and an impressive 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump. His speed is also eye-popping — he ran a 4.32 40-yard dash Thursday.

Austin’s size is an issue — he only weighs 170 pounds. But the man can overcome that thanks to the athletic abilities he’s capable of portraying. He could definitely be a reliable WR2 or WR3 wherever he lands and might be an option in the slot as well as in the return game.

Austin only returned five punts for Memphis in 2021 but racked up 135 yards for an average of 27 yards per punt return.

One of the better wideouts in this draft, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, didn’t impress in the above metrics as much as Austin did. He recorded a 36-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump, as well as a 4.41 40-yard dash.

However, the Nittany Lion did put on a show during the gauntlet drill, impressing onlookers with his wide catch radius.

Through it all, Dotson is talented and could be a late first-rounder. My guess is he’ll reside in the early portion of the second round, but draft stocks are wildly fluid, and we still have over a month and a half before any team is on the clock.

In the latter group, Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave ran a 4.26 unofficial, 4.39 official.

Good Lord — what an athlete. He’s certainly a first-rounder in this class. Some team is going to be extremely lucky in late April. Could it be one of the local teams, such as the Jets?

And then, in came Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton…

It was a new record…until it became official. Current Giants receiver John Ross, who was a top-10 pick out of Washington in 2017, ran a 4.22 in that year’s combine before Thornton ran an unofficial 4.21 on Thursday.

However, the official time, per the NFL, was 4.28.

Fits for Giants, Jets

So we know the Jets won’t be heavily scouting a quarterback given they just drafted Zach Wilson last year.

The Giants seem committed to Daniel Jones for 2022 but are still talking with quarterbacks (as they should). Maybe their preference for Jones is just a smokescreen? It’s tough to tell — after all, this is indeed “smokescreen season.”

But regardless, I would be surprised if the Giants targeted any of the top quarterbacks in this draft.

The tight end position, however, could be a spot either team focuses on — even as early as the second round. The Jets need a talented pass-catcher for Wilson, while the state of the Giants’ tight end room is unclear due to the recent release of Kyle Rudolph and Evan Engram’s unknown future.

I could see the Jets targeting a tight end the earliest — possibly Trey McBride? As we stated earlier, he has a quick burst heading into his route and sports great strength. McBride caught 90 balls for 1,121 yards and one touchdown during the 2021 season. The Colorado State Ram could definitely be a beneficial passing-game complement to Jets receivers Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.

The Giants might not target a tight end until Rounds 4-5.

With that said…maybe Jelani Woods to Big Blue?

As we noted earlier, he sports great size and could use his superb height (6-foot-7) to be a reliable target down near the goal line.

As for the wideouts…what do we think about Calvin Austin out of Memphis?

He’s an athletic specimen — I mean, did you read the combine numbers we stated earlier?

The Jets could target him in the third round, but he may start to creep up to the second round as the draft inches closer. Will the Jets pass on a receiver (such as USC’s Drake London) at No. 10 overall and hone in on that position in the succeeding round?

Or, maybe the Jets trade back into the latter portion of the first round and take Arkansas’ Treylon Burks or Ohio State’s Chris Olave?

Only time will tell what general manager Joe Douglas decides to do.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.