The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine kicked off Thursday night, with quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends taking the field in the first session of what is now a prime time event.
With a stacked group of wideouts stealing the show, here's a look at five takeaways from the night's action.
For as many impressive performances we saw, nobody made themselves more money than Denzel Mims and Chase Claypool.
Anyone who watched Mims play at Baylor knew he was athletic. But few could have expected the elite profile he put together with some ridiculous test scores at the combine. Mims posted a 4.38 40-yard dash, a 38.5-inch vertical, a 131-inch broad jump and, perhaps most impressively, a 6.66 3-cone time. That combination of size, speed, explosiveness, and elite short-area quickness is unheard of for a receiver who weighs in at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds.
This kind of athletic upside, combined with everything he showed on the field in college, should put him in the first-round conversation. Mims lasting any later than that could make for some incredible value on Day 2.
Claypool is a bit of a different story. Checking in at a particularly imposing 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, the potential to create physical mismatches against NFL defensive backs was always apparent. The athleticism was more of an unknown, but you can now check that box for him, too.
The Notre Dame product turned heads in the 40 with an official 4.42 time. That puts him alongside Calvin Johnson as one of only two receivers since 2006 to post a sub-4.45 run after measuring in at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds or bigger, according to NFL research. He continued to put his explosiveness on display with a 40.5-inch vertical, another insane number for a player of his size.
Claypool was probably a Day 3 pick coming into the combine. While there's no shortage of competition at the receiver position this year, it would be no surprise to see him begin earning buzz as early as the second round. Athletes like this just don't come around all that often.
A high-character prospect who was a tremendous leader at Alabama and Oklahoma, there was no doubt Jalen Hurts would shine during his team interviews this week in Indianapolis. We even got a sneak peek at his acumen on the board in this clip with Steve Mariucci.
The on-field portion was where he could really boost his draft stock, though, and it couldn't have gone much better than it did.
Throwing against air certainly won't tell you everything you need to know about a quarterback, but the accuracy and touch he displayed throughout the passing drills, and particularly on downfield throws, can only be considered a positive step in beginning to answer questions surrounding his ceiling as a pure passer.
The athleticism that contributed to him running for 1,323 yards and 21 touchdowns last season was demonstrated with a time of 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and the explosiveness was made even more clear with strong showings in the vertical and broad jump.
Hurts is one of the more compelling prospects in this draft. He's not a Day 1 pick, but he could come off the board any time after that, and the strides he made as a passer in an outstanding 2019 season has to have coaches wondering how much further they can take his development. He's an intriguing option to draft and develop behind another short-term starter.
Henry Ruggs III was the man we were all waiting to see Thursday night, and he certainly did not disappoint.
The 4.27 40-yard dash is what everyone will be talking about, and for good reason. He didn't come all that close to challenging John Ross' combine record, as many had hoped, but Ruggs is silly fast. From the moment he steps on an NFL field, he'll be one of the league's most dangerous deep threats.
But the overall athletic profile is about much more than straight-line speed. With a 42-inch vertical jump, tied with Jalen Reagor for second among receivers, and a 131-inch broad, it's clear the explosiveness is real, too.
All of this is to say that, as if there was any doubt, Ruggs should be locked in as a first-round pick in April. There's no shortage of teams selecting in the 20s who could use a game-breaker like him, but he could be off the board long before then.
Jordan Love has consistently been "the other guy" in the first-round conversation to this point in the draft process. In the minds of most, there's Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, a gap, and then the Utah State standout.
But the upside that comes with his undeniable physical tools - which were on display with some effortless throws during on-field drills - can lead to the kind of rise that sees a quarterback taken far earlier than anyone could have expected on draft day. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported during Thursday's broadcast that he was generating more buzz than any other signal-caller this week in Indianapolis.
The comparisons to Patrick Mahomes, fair or not, certainly aren't hurting him on that front. To be clear, Love is not Mahomes - nobody is. But it's easy to see how scouts and team executives, after missing on Mahomes the first time around, might latch on to the possibility of an elite ceiling after watching some of Love's similarly ridiculous throws. The upside is certainly there, and it'll be interesting to see whether that is enough for him to close the gap on Justin Herbert as the QB3 in this class.
The lack of hype surrounding Donovan Peoples-Jones in the pre-draft process has been completely understandable. It's tough to stand out in such a loaded class of receivers when you've got a concerning lack of production working against you. But production is only part of the equation.
There are countless examples of athletes who end up far more impactful at the professional level than they were in college, many of whom, like Peoples-Jones, are able to point to an unfavorable situation that did little to unlock their potential. Michigan's offense wasn't doing its skill players any favors.
As he showed at the combine, the former five-star recruit is dripping with the kind of athletic upside that will make him worth a gamble on draft weekend. His jaw-dropping 44.5-inch vertical is the second-best receiver mark since 2006. He also led this year's receiver class in the broad jump (139), and his 4.48 40-yard dash is plenty good for a 6-foot-2, 212-pound playmaker who can also win with quickness when the ball is in his hands, either as a return man or after the catch.
Peoples-Jones is another wild-card talent who could end up vastly outplaying his draft position in the right situation. With the surplus of receiver talent potentially pushing him even further down the board, the payoff could be even more significant.