Ikem Ekwonu
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive linemen and running backs were in Indianapolis for Friday’s edition of the NFL Scouting Combine.

Day 2!

The on-field work for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine commenced Thursday with quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends hitting the gridiron.

We witnessed great deep-ball throws from Liberty’s Malik Willis and Nevada’s Carson Strong, impressive 40-yard dash times from Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo and Virginia tight end Jelani Woods, and an unofficial 40-yard dash record from Baylor wideout Tyquan Thornton at 4.21 seconds (although, the official time was 4.28 — still impressive).

Friday’s edition of the event was a bit different — offensive linemen and running backs took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium to impress scouts. A number of linemen — Alabama tackle Evan Neal, NC State tackle Ikem Ekwonu and Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross — could find themselves as top-10 picks.

How did these position groups fare in Indianapolis on Friday?

OL notes


Arguably the biggest name in the 2022 NFL Draft as far as offensive linemen are concerned is Ikem Ekwonu, who started the day great.

The potential No. 1 overall pick ran a 4.93 as his best 40-yard dash time, however his mark was not the best of the offensive linemen in the first group. Nebraska center Cam Jurgens actually ran a 4.92 (4.91 unofficial).

Ekwonu did, in fact, portray swift footwork and good lateral movement in the five-yard wave drill, which took place after the initial group’s 40-yard dash drill.

I was additionally impressed with the athleticism of Nebraska’s Jurgens, who has quick feet, a good burst, and positive hip control, all of which he portrayed in the short pull drill.

Charles Cross portrayed tremendous footwork during the kick slide redirect drill. Swift and in-control movement is the key to succeeding in this specific workout.

There’s a chance Cross is OT3 in the upcoming draft.

Boston College interior lineman Zion Johnson additionally showed great lateral movement in this drill, which surely impressed onlookers.

In the second O-line group of the night, Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning ran an impressive 4.91 40-yard dash. There’s a real chance Penning is a first-rounder — possibly a late first-rounder but I wouldn’t be surprised if he crept up to the middle portion of the top 32.

 

Washington center Luke Wattenberg is someone that impressed me during the long pull drill, as he showed his quickness to get out in space following the snap. The Husky could possibly be off the board in one of the middle rounds.

RB notes

I’m just going to preface this: the 2022 running back class isn’t strong.

We thought the quarterback class was weak, but I’d be surprised if a running back was taken prior to the latter half of the second round.

It’s just one of those years — no Nick Chubb or Derrick Henry expected in this class.

However, Breece Hall out of Iowa State, who could be the top back taken, impressed during the 40-yard dash, running a 4.44 (unofficially).

Hall may end up a late second-rounder.

But…would you guess a kid from South Dakota State would have the fasest unofficial 40 time of all the running backs?

Yes — Pierre Strong Jr. ran a 4.39

Where will he land at the next level?

Also, could James Cook be as successful as his older brother, Dalvin?

Sure looks like he has the elusiveness to succeed at the next level, as shown in the below video…

Fits for Giants, Jets

Could Ikem Ekwonu slide to the Jets at No. 4 overall? Or to the Giants at No. 5?

He was clearly one of the top offensive lineman that did on-field work Friday and has a chance to go No. 1 to Jacksonville.

But there’s a chance Ekwonu’s draft stock drops — we see it with different prospects every single year.

Ekwonu would be an immediate starter at right tackle for the Giants — he and 2020 first-round left tackle Andrew Thomas would be solid bookends for Daniel Jones (or whoever is under center for Big Blue).

If Ikem went to the Jets, however, he would probably bump inside to guard due to Gang Green’s employment of Mekhi Becton and George Fant. However, I’m not sure the Jets using a No. 4 overall pick on an eventual interior lineman would be a beneficial move, which is why I believe it would be a superior value pick if the Giants were to acquire him at No. 5.

Regardless, Ekwonu is arguably the top tackle in this draft. Where he ends up remains to be seen.

Or, maybe the Giants could go edge rusher at No. 5 and then trade back from the No. 7 pick, gain extra draft capital, and draft Trevor Penning? The Northern Iowa tackle, who was part of the second O-lineman group on Friday, might ascend the draft boards as we get closer and closer to that annual event in late April.

Penning ran an official 4.91 40-yard dash Friday.

Another name to focus on (and another guy that could end up a Giant or Jet) is Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, although the Hawkeye did not work out at the combine. There’s the possibility the Jets draft him at No. 10 overall, but the Giants could also trade back from their seventh overall pick and potentially take Linderbaum in the No. 12-15 range of the opening round.

As far as runnings backs go, I can’t see either team targeting one in any of the first four rounds.

The Giants are reportedly not expected to trade Saquon Barkley, so unless that’s just a smokescreen, it’s looking as if Barkley will be RB1 for the Giants in 2022. Michael Carter is also expected to be the Jets’ top back after a promising 2021 rookie season.

However, there is one running back I have my eye on that was a stud at the collegiate level, and that’s Tyler Badie of Missouri, who ran a 4.49 40-yard dash Friday.

Badie is a feirce competitor who greatly combines speed and strength. While he doesn’t sport tremendous size at 5-foot-8, 197 pounds, he was able to record sensational numbers in the SEC this past season, rushing for 1,612 yards (6.0 yards per carry) with 14 touchdowns. He additionally caught 54 balls for 330 yards and another four scores through the air.

Badie was a first-team All-SEC selection and second-team All-American for the Tigers in 2021.

Maybe general manager Joe Douglas, in the fifth round, adds Badie to the Jets running back committee to be another reliable weapon for Zach Wilson?

Either team could also look to add to their running back room in the later rounds of the draft and/or following the draft’s conclusion via undrafted free agency. And at that point, it’s basically the act of taking flyers on different players.

Follow Ryan Honey on Twitter: @RyanHoneyESNY

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Ryan Honey is a senior NFL analyst, betting writer, and podcaster for Elite Sports NY. He hosts the Wide Right Podcast, which serves as both a New York Giants podcast and sports betting show.