Risers, top prospects and best performances: Kiper & McShay on Day 1 at the NFL combine

    Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.

  • ESPN College Football and NFL Draft Analyst
  • Joined ESPN in 2006
  • Played quarterback in high school and was a backup QB for the University of Richmond.

Drills at the 2020 NFL combine kicked off Thursday, with the top quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends in the 2020 NFL draft class showcasing their skills in front of all 32 teams. And while LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who are expected to be top-five picks in April’s draft, didn’t work out, there was plenty of action in Indianapolis.

ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay recap Day 1 of the combine, evaluating the top performances from all three positions, picking prospects rising (and potentially falling) and breaking down notable under-the-radar performances. They’ll also look ahead to Day 2 of workouts, with the running backs and offensive linemen working out Friday.

What was the biggest takeaway from Thursday’s workouts?

McShay: OK, we didn’t break the 40-yard dash record, but man, this receiving group is as talented as we thought. Henry Ruggs III ran a 4.27, five one-hundredths off John Ross III’s 2017 record of 4.22. He has easy speed, and he somehow looked like he could have run even faster than he did. Seriously. The big names in this deep receiving class — Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Ruggs and Justin Jefferson — showed up, and a few of the Day 2 guys popped. As we’ve been saying all along: If you need a receiver this year, all you’ll have are options come April.

Kiper: The receiver class is incredibly deep, Todd; there are going to be some receivers with fourth-round grades on my board going late on Day 3. But let me focus on the quarterbacks here, because it was an interesting day without Burrow or Tagovailoa going through workouts. And my biggest takeaway is that there could be five quarterbacks in the first round, just like there were in 2018, with Justin Herbert, Jordan Love and Jacob Eason rounding out the list. Once free agency shakes out next month, we’ll have a much better feel for which teams in Round 1 need quarterbacks. But prepare yourself for a fun night on April 23.

Biggest risers from Day 1

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

I put Jefferson to the Packers at No. 30 in my Mock Draft 2.0, but I was too low on him. I didn’t expect him to run a 4.43 40, which solidified his spot in Round 1, and he could move all the way up to the top 15. That’s a phenomenal time for the 6-foot-1 Jefferson. He had an unbelievable season, catching 111 passes with 18 touchdowns from Burrow, and he emerged as a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver. He can move all around the field, lining up outside or in the slot. In a loaded class of top-tier wideouts, don’t leave out Jefferson as one of the top three off the board. — Kiper

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

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