Joniak: Top Talent Explodes At NFL Combine As Bears Observe

Jeff Joniak
February 27, 2020 - 8:40 pm
Chase Claypool

Wide receiver Chase Claypool of Notre Dame runs a drill during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)


INDIANAPOLIS (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Here are the news and notes from the NFL Combine on Wednesday.

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-There have been some insane performances so far by the offensive skill position players. TCU receiver Jalen Reagor is on his way to having an explosive combine, predicting and then delivering a 42-inch vertical and 11-foot, 6-inch broad jump. He will run extremely fast as well. The receivers are laying down some really fast 40s, as expected, and Bears GM Ryan Pace is vetting the deepest position group at the Combine. The Bears passing game would be enhanced with some top-end speed at the receiver positon.

-Some of the highlights from the first day of testing at the Combine include some impressive numbers for the tight ends in the 40-yard dash, a position the Bears could be interested in drafting. 

-St. Viator product Cole Kmet from Notre Dame ran a 4.70, but Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins and LSU’s Stephen Sullivan each ran a sparkling 4.66. There was a scintillating  performance by Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool, who ran a 4.42 (at 6’4”, 238 pounds) and is being asked to run some tight-end drills.

-Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam timed out at 4.49 in his 40-yard dash at 258 pounds, the best in his group. Among players at least 6’5” and 250 pounds, it is the second-fastest time at the combine since 2003, behind only 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat (4.41) and fastest for a tight end since Evan Engram of the Giants (4.42) in 2017.

-Okwuegbunam grew up in Springfield and attended Sacred Heart Griffin high school.

-The John Mackey Award finalist in 2018 caught 23 touchdowns, second-most in Missouri history. He battled a shoulder injury during the season, but his career average of 12.1-yards-per-catch in 33-games is an eye-catcher. He was a red-zone demon, scoring 16 of his 23 touchdowns inside the twenty. That is the best in the nation.

-Fresno State guard Netane Muti out of Hawaii benched 44 reps of 225 pounds, after playing just five games over the last two years due to a ruptured Achilles tendon and Lisfranc foot injury.

-LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson says he’s the most valuable player in the draft. “It’s obvious. I’m going to be honest. And we all know that. When you hire somebody, do you want to hire someone who speaks one language? Or do you want to hire somebody that speaks three languages? I speak three languages," Chaisson said. "I can pass rush, drop in coverage and cover anybody you want me to cover, and I can play the run. No offensive lineman will ever just move me off the ball and bully me."

-After missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL, Chaisson returned to record 6.5 sacks in 2019 and used former LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter as a reference point for successful transition to the NFL with limited sack numbers. Hunter had 4.5 sacks in his entire college career and now is one of the premier and dangerous edge rushers in the NFL in the Bears division with the Vikings.

-Much like Julius Peppers in 2002, Ohio State’s Chase Young might be the second player selected in 2020. And like Peppers, Young is a premier edge rusher and he feels the best player -- period -- in the draft. “Every game, I think I showed it,” Young said. “I definitely think I put my best foot forward this year, I grinded hard. Two of my biggest things are hard work and dedication, and I'm going to bring those two to the NFL with me."

-I came away really impressed with Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. He is a good soul and has a big heart. First of all, Murray told his story Thursday about helping raising three special-needs children his parents adopted when he was 11. Last year, he helped an unconscious woman who was bleeding after a car accident as he was driving home. He started CPR and revived her.

-As a player, Murray is a fast, athletic, long leader at linebacker. He said he plays with a “hunter's mentality.”

-Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa grew up in Edwardsville and from an early age was tutored on the finer points of using his power and explosiveness to beat blockers to the quarterback from his father, who also played at Iowa under the late Hayden Fry.  

-Epenesa is fond of Bears outside linebacker Kahlil Mack and how he uses his arm length to beat tackles and get to the quarterback. “Guys like Mack use the long arm," said Epenesa. “It’s something that I’ve watched and detailed very closely because I’ve seen him throw some people around with just using his speed and sticking his arm out there and getting into the chest. He’s able to move people.”

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.