I don’t know if you saw, because the NFL decided for some reason to move all of its events to primetime instead of during work hours so we could distract ourselves, but the NFL Scouting Combine was last week, and two standout Tar Heels participated: Jason Strowbridge and Charlie Heck. Both of them had previously gotten themselves noticed at pre-Combine events like the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine game, so the arrow was already pointing up for them. Here’s how things stand a week after the event, with UNC’s Pro Day to follow (last year, it was the last week of March, so I’d expect this year to follow suit).
Strowbridge was one of the hottest names going after a week of Senior Bowl practices, showing up as almost unblockable in every workout released to the public. He raised eyebrows by measuring in at about 265 pounds, which would lend much more to playing a 4-3 defensive end than the 3-tech position he played in college, but it turned out that he did have the bend and hands to rush from the outside. This made his weigh-in at the Combine, just a couple of weeks later, a little bit confusing: at 275, he becomes a bit of a tweener: heavy for an edge rusher, light for a 3- or 5-tech. There isn’t a ton of clarity on what position he’s expecting to play as a professional; he was getting comps to players like Deatrich Wise at his DE weight, which would be a good outcome for him, but his combine raised some questions. He tested pretty well overall, though many of his results probably back up the notion that he needs to play with his hand on the ground: his 3-cone score in particular is something you’d like to see be a lot better for an edge rusher. Here’s a look at his spider chart via Mockdraftable:
As you can see, he clearly fits right in to the wide net of “defensive lineman,” but things change pretty drastically when you try to narrow the search to either just defensive ends or defensive tackles. I believe in Strowbridge’s ability to be a productive NFL player, but a coaching staff will have to figure out where to put him and how to manage his body. I’ve seen meetings reported between him and the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Los Angeles Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs, and would be surprised if the Patriots, with their recent affinity for big defensive ends like Wise and Trey Flowers, also hadn’t taken a look that hasn’t been reported. The Detroit Lions also have some familiarity with him after Matt Patricia spent some time coaching him at the Senior Bowl. In interviews with the media, Strowbridge said most teams he’d talked to see him as an edge rusher, so that’s an interesting data point.
He did shine in drills, and instead of describing stuff, I’ll just let you see it:
And this highlight-reel big man pick:
Heck struggled some at the Senior Bowl, but he was also a much later invitee than most of the attendees, so some of his struggles, it’s probably fair to say, probably came as much from ability to prepare as from his own ability as a player. Still, he came to the Combine with something to prove, and he mostly succeeded with a very good Combine for him. We knew that, at a legit 6’8, he was probably going to be the tallest person at the event, and that he was able to post a 40-yard dash in the 73rd percentile despite hauling all that body mass around is legitimately impressive. His arms and hands easily hit benchmarks for offensive tackles as well. His agility scores were fairly low, but at his position, it’s much more about explosion than agility, and his broad jump (92nd percentile) and 40 time showed that he has that in spades. His bench press was a little worrying, but longer-armed players frequently don’t do great at the Combine’s bench press and there are starting to be reports that teams don’t care about it unless it’s an extreme outlier. Here’s Heck’s spider chart, which earned him profile comps to players like Mike McGlinchey and King Dunlap:
Heck spent a while only having interviewed with the Chiefs (his dad is their offensive line coach, and according to him, it wasn’t a serious interview so much as father-son hanging out), he’s also met with the Los Angeles Chargers, according to reports. Again, there are probably meetings that happened that weren’t reported, and it’s early in the pre-draft process yet: there’s still lots of traveling to do.
Here are some on-field clips, where Heck displayed his fluidity at such a massive size:
Charlie Heck had a good week of practice at the @seniorbowl and now at the Combine. He ran a 5.16 in the 40. Heck’s father played with the #Bears and he told us it would be a dream for him to play with Chicago pic.twitter.com/5a0iLdpAa4— Bears Barroom (@BearsBarroom) February 29, 2020
Best of luck to these two and UNC’s other draft hopefuls! The NFL Draft will begin on April 23rd this year.