Indianapolis — It’s the beginning of March and that means one thing, its time for the NFL Combine. As the players get measured down to their hand size, and grown men ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ to young men in what has been called by some people the 'Underwear Olympics', prospects will see their draft stock rise and fall after being put under the microscope that is the field drills in Indianapolis.
While all of these prospects could be put under the ‘physical freak’ category because, quite frankly, most of these young men aren’t cut from the same cloth of normal every day people. However, there are the select few prospects who could be argued are cut from the clothe of Superman’s cape, compared to the other prospects.
Myles Garrett is an obvious freak athlete and is expected to put up combine numbers comparable to Jadeveon Clowney from a few years ago. Malik McDowell is another that falls in the ‘freak athlete’ category, and is expected to test very well in the coming days given he weighed in at 295 pounds. One athlete who defines what it means to be an above and beyond athlete even for a football player and will show it today is Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1759698-henderson-has-drawn-inter... Njoku, who was recently measured in at 6-foot-4, 246 pounds, with a stupid long arm length of 35-¼” and 10-inch hands, is fully expected to blow the roof off Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday in the field drills. This isn’t surprising for anyone who has followed Njoku’s career as an athlete.
In 2014, as a high school senior at Cedar Grove High School in New Jersey, Njoku cleared 6-feet-11 inches to claim the national champion in boys’ high jump. Fast forward to this past season, and one can see Njoku breaking off big play after big play, even using his high jump skills as he dove and did a front flip in October over a poor Pitt defender.
When asked yesterday about potentially setting the vertical jump record at the combine, Njoku smiled and said he wasn’t sure, but was guaranteeing something special from the broad jump.
"Mostly, I'm looking forward to the broad (jump) because I think I'm going to break a record tomorrow," Njoku said Friday. "So, we'll see."
When asked to call his shot and put a number on the broad jump, Njoku smiled and said, "Far.".
Njoku, being just a redshirt sophomore, has made a striking transition since he joined the Hurricanes to go from being just an athlete, to a full-fledged football star. He went from weighing at 220 pounds as a freshman big body wide receiver, to just weighing in at nearly 250 pounds when weighed in at the Combine.
Njoku is still raw as a tight end that is obviously adjusting to his playing weight change. Most of Njoku’s work and damage was done in underneath routes or routes close to the line of scrimmage, where he would get the ball in his hands and, as a huge athlete, would be a problem in space for defenders. He will need to continue to progress as a route runner if he is going to gain separation from NFL-level defenders on Sundays.
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While Njoku will never be a phenomenal blocking tight end, his willingness on tape to engage with defenders on the line of scrimmage or at the second level at least shows he does not shy from contact. Also as he continues to add weight and strength to his frame as he transitions into an NFL tight end, he will become more proficient in the trenches. He has a lot of work to do with his leverage and hand placement in his blocks, but it’s not his blocking that has people buzzing about him in Indianapolis.
This year’s tight end class is considered to be one of the best tight end classes in the last decade. With great players that could go in the first round all the way to prospects who could go early to mid day three and develop into productive tight ends playing on Sundays. GM John Elway and the Denver Broncos would be wise to dip into this class and come away with a difference maker.
With the consistently banged up Virgil Green on the last year of his contract, and the relative unknowns of Jeff Heuerman and A.J. Derby, Elway may very well take a tight end early and Njoku is absolutely on the table despite being somewhat raw still as a football player. When asked why he left early as a somewhat raw redshirt sophomore in such a strong class, Njoku responded with a defiant smile.
“I love competing, and once I was told that and people said I should stay due to the strong [tight end] class it made me want to go because I want to go against the greats," Njoku said.
O.J. Howard, the consensus No. 1 tight end in this class, better watch himself, because it sounds like Njoku may be coming for him and may just end up coming to Denver as the Broncos’ first round draft pick.
UPDATE: Although David Njoku was a top performer at the Combine in three areas — vertical jump, broad jump and 3-cone drill — he did not break the broad jump record. He clocked 12-feet-1 inches, which fell almost two inches shy of the record set by Byron Jones in 2015 (12-feet-2.75 inches).
Nick Kendell is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @NickKendellMHH.
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