National Football League
Joel Klatt's winners and takeaways from the 2024 NFL Draft Combine
National Football League

Joel Klatt's winners and takeaways from the 2024 NFL Draft Combine

Published Mar. 5, 2024 3:25 p.m. ET

The NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, serving as an important benchmark in the draft process as we saw many exciting things happen over the weekend.

Like many, I used to think that the combine was a made-for-TV event that many NFL talent evaluators didn't care for, outside of the interviews. But my opinion on the importance of the NFL Combine has evolved in recent years.

When you evaluate these prospects, the vast majority of them aren't separated by much. This year isn't different as I believe there are many good players in what I find to be a deep draft. It's especially deep at quarterback, wide receiver and along the offensive line. 

The combine serves as a chance to break some ties teams might have in their evaluations of players. Sure, running a really fast 40-yard dash might not win you a ring. But it can help you separate from the other prospects at your position, which in turn, can help you get drafted higher. That means more money on your rookie contract, and if you're a first-round pick, that means millions of more dollars.


Now, several of the top prospects sat out of the drills at the combine. But Caleb Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr. and others had no upside of performing well at the combine. Williams could've aced all of the passing drills, but he can't improve his stock as the likely No. 1 pick in the draft. Harrison could've run the fastest 40-yard dash of all time, but he was already viewed as the best receiver and non-quarterback prospect in this draft.

Which players improved their draft stock the most at the NFL Combine?

For nearly everyone else though, they had something to prove this weekend in Indianapolis as they looked to help settle ties. Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels, who are projected to be top-three picks in the draft, didn't throw over the weekend. But all of the other quarterbacks did, and a few helped themselves in the process.

So, let's take a look at my winners and other thoughts from what happened over the weekend. 

The next three top quarterbacks solidified themselves as first-round talents

J.J. McCarthy threw the ball well in Indianapolis this weekend. He's going to be a really good NFL quarterback. For those of you that want to hate on McCarthy, that's fine. But I'm going to be pretty surprised if he's not drafted in the first 15 picks.

In fact, I might be surprised if McCarthy's not taken in the top 10 at this point. That's the type of momentum that he's generating. He plays a selfless brand of football and he's incredibly athletic. That guy spins it, he makes plays, he's a winner, and he doesn't care who gets the credit. Every organization in the NFL is looking for players like that, particularly at that position. McCarthy did a nice job over the weekend.

J.J. McCarthy Highlights

Michael Penix Jr. also had a good weekend at the combine. I knew this was going to happen for him too, really going all the way back to before the season when I said he was a dark horse candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. I've been singing his praises in terms of his passing ability for a while. He passes the ball beautifully and with leverage. He's always increasing the odds for his receiver to make a catch. So to see others marvel at how tight the spiral on his throws are was beautiful to see. The way he played and what Washington asked him to do is really going to translate to the NFL. 

Bo Nix reportedly slayed it in the interviews, like I knew he would. He's really like a point guard. He's accurate, athletic and does everything well. In my first mock draft, I had the Denver Broncos selecting him with the No. 12 overall pick. I still think that's a perfect marriage for both sides as he's the type of quarterback Sean Payton looks for. 

Xavier Worthy is legit

How about the guy who absolutely set the world on fire at the combine on Saturday?

Worthy ran a 4.21 in the 40-yard dash, the fastest ever in the history of the combine. That was fun to watch. I've known Worthy's been fast for a long time. Obviously, he was used in that manner at Texas, and he can catch the rock as well.

That's why I'm not necessarily concerned about the John Ross comparisons Worthy's been getting. Ross was an effective weapon at Washington for a season, and while it was a great season (81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns), it was just one season. Before that standout year in 2016, Ross didn't really play much.

Worthy, on the other hand, was really productive for three years at Texas and I think he's a more complete receiver than Ross was coming out of college. So, while you might hear those comparisons in the coming weeks, I think that's manufactured and not appropriate. Worthy can get it done catching the ball down the field. Obviously, that speed is incredible and so beneficial to helping him become a deep threat as well. 

In a deep group of wide receiver prospects, Worthy made himself a lot of money, possibly millions, by running a 4.21. Circling back to the point I made about the lack of risks some prospects make by participating in the combine, this was a tremendous reward. If Worthy is drafted in the first round or selected higher in the first round because of his 40 time, he'll make millions more as a result. 

Quinn Ewers throws a 42-yard DOT to Xavier Worthy as Texas extends its lead over Houston

That's a run that will help Worthy break ties come Draft Day. He's going higher now in the draft because of it, and that's why the combine is so important. 

Joe Milton's arm is impressive, but beware of drafting off arm strength and speed

Milton was the classic "look at him throw" prospect at the combine. As I've been going on and on about these metrics that can help break ties, that'll be the case for Milton.

But I don't care how far you can throw the football. I believe that's totally irrelevant. In terms of playing the position, it almost never happens. The passes that are thrown with 100 percent effort, like a fastball from an MLB pitcher or an all-out throw, you see less than five times in a season from a quarterback. Touch passes are at least 45 percent of your throws. Layering the ball accounts for another 20 percent of your throws.

You get what I'm saying. Your ability to throw the ball 80 yards doesn't matter. That doesn't mean I don't like Milton. In fact, I've been waiting for Milton to perform at the combine ever since I first saw him throw during warmups as a freshman at Michigan. It was clear then that he could throw the ball and he would be built for the combine.

But can Milton play the position? You have to go to the tape. I don't care what the radar said on his throw in the pass velocity drill. When you actually break down the way quarterbacks work, you don't throw the football, you pass the football. You pass with touch and leverage. Every single throw a quarterback makes requires decision-making. Do I change speeds? What's the proper trajectory that I put on this ball? What's the proper touch I put on this ball? Do I need to throw it on his back shoulder or his front shoulder?

You can boil all of that down to two things: Is the ball on time and on target? When it is, the offense can move efficiently. That's what the best quarterbacks in the NFL do.

I get it, the deep passes and the hard throws look really great in social media videos. But I don't care. The other great numbers that my winners from the weekend put up can translate into the NFL, at least to some degree. 

But throwing the ball 80 yards is really only applicable if you need to throw a Hail Mary from your own 40-yard line. It just doesn't matter, and I hope Milton gets evaluated for the way he played at Tennessee and the way he developed over his career. He was like Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh in the movie "Bull Durham," throwing the ball too hard without control.

Maybe I sound like an old man yelling at the clouds, and I'm contradicting what I wrote earlier, so let's move onto who else impressed me this weekend. 

Other winners

Michigan RB Blake Corum: Corum had a great day on Saturday.  He's so smooth when he runs on tape and that was only solidified in Indianapolis. Evaluators can check the box and say, "Yup, I saw that on tape." He also catches the ball really well, which I think is a really underrated part of his game. I think he has a chance to be the first running back drafted.

Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell: Hello, Quinyon! Mitchell helped settle tiebreakers among cornerbacks at the combine. A lot of people compare him to Alabama corner Terrion Arnold (I think they're a close evaluation on tape). While Arnold ran a 4.50 in the 40, Mitchell did even better, running a 4.33 and putting up some other great numbers. If teams view everything else between Mitchell and Arnold as equal, Mitchell might have separated himself with his athletic testing.

Penn State EDGE Chop Robinson: I thought Robinson did an incredible job and might have played himself into a possible top-12 pick. He came in heavier than people thought, weighing 254 pounds, which is good for him because he'll have his hand in the dirt a lot. He was also fast, running a 4.48 in the 40. That's explosive for a player his size. 

Alabama EDGE Dallas Turner: Turner absolutely slayed it at the combine. He's ready-made to be a player who can compete for Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had a 40.7-inch vertical, a 10-foot-7 broad jump, and ran a 4.46 in the 40. He's a machine that you draft in the top 10. I thought he and Robinson were the two best defensive players in Indianapolis. 

Joel Klatt is FOX Sports' lead college football game analyst and the host of the podcast "The Joel Klatt Show." Follow him on X/Twitter at @joelklatt and subscribe to the "Joel Klatt Show" on YouTube.


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