News, notes and nuggets from NFL Network coverage of Day One of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:
LIMITED VISIBILITY: Notre Dame's Jack Coan and Kent State's Dustin Crum were the only quarterbacks who ran the 40-yard dash in the first group.
EJ Perry (Brown), Kenny Pickett (Pitt), Brock Purdy (Iowa State), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Skylar Thompson (Kansas State) and Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky) ran in the second group of QBs.
Malik Willis (Liberty) didn't run with the second group.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah assessed Pickett's first unofficial time of 4.67 as "phenomenal."
Ridder bettered that at 4.49, unofficially.
NFL Network reporter Stacey Dales said North Carolina's Sam Howell was still getting over a calf tweak sustained in the Senior Bowl, and Mississippi's Matt Corral had recovered from an ankle injury suffered in the Sugar Bowl but still didn't intend to run or throw for the scouts until his Pro Day on March 24.
PASSING FANCY: Howell threw passes in wide receiver and quarterback drills.
"The ball does come outta his hand pretty nice," Jeremiah observed.
"No doubt," NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner agreed. "That ball is coming off, it's smooth and it's got a really good pace on it."
Howell impressed but still may have been upstaged.
"Threw well, from what I'm hearing from quarterbacks coaches and offensive coordinators that I'm texting with," the NFL Network's Peter Schrager said. "There was a hope he was going to come in and wow us with the deep pass, and he is a very accurate deep passer. But I think Cole Kelley, who was in his group out of Southeastern Louisiana, was ripping passes and might have taken some of the steam out of what Howell did."
TELL IT TO THE HAND: Pickett's much-anticipated hand size (he had declined to have a measurement taken at the Senior Bowl) came in at eight-and-a-half inches.
The last quarterback to be drafted in the first round with an 8.5 figure in that department was Michael Vick (first overall in 2001).
Pickett's 8.5 was the third-smallest hand size recorded at the Combine since 2003.
"It matters," Schrager said. "Everyone says it doesn't matter; it matters. When you want to grip it and rip it in New England or Buffalo in a cold weather game in December, it does matter.
"I think of all these quarterbacks he might be most ready to start Day One. But if anyone tells you the hand size stuff is an absolute joke; no, no, no, it matters."
Jeremiah has Pickett ranked No. 1 at quarterback and No. 28 overall.
"He has 26 fumbles in 49 games, which is a very large number," Jeremiah said. "I think a lot of it, when he moves around in the pocket his hands separate. If he can just keep his off hand on the ball when he's climbing and moving around in the pocket, I think he'll be ale to eliminate some of those fumbles.
The minimum requirement for quarterback hand size among scouts has traditionally been 9.0.
"The NFL ball's a little bit bigger, so you start there," Jeremiah said. "And you think about guys in cold weather, wet weather, you typically want bigger hands. It's a discussion that's taking place.
"I would put it this way, there are some teams that's very important to and it's a big deal to them and they believe in that wholeheartedly. Other teams are more flexible."
AS ADVERTISED: Willis didn't run but he threw, and he showed off his arm strength in the process.
"You can see the velocity, that is not an issue," Jeremiah maintained. "Good night."
Later there was this from NFL Network host Rich Eisen: "See his deep ball … oh, boy, that's beautiful … spectacular throw."
And this from NFL Network analyst Steve Smith Sr.: "Rich, call that what that is, that was a dime."
Willis has the skills but isn't perceived as a plug-and-play prospect coming out of Liberty.
"There's a lot to dream on with Malik Willis," Jeremiah said. "I think he's just gonna require some patience."
SPEED THRILLS: Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton flirted with a record initially and the wide receivers collectively set one eventually.
Thornton posted an unofficial time of 4.21 in his first 40. That would have been enough to eclipse the fastest 40 recorded at the Combine since 2003 (John Ross, Washington, 4.22, 2017).
Officially, Thornton wound up having to settle for a 4.28. But that still made him one of nine wide receivers to clock a sub-4.4 time, and that surpassed the Combine-record seven that had done so at the wide receiver position in 2019.
"So many teams are trying to find that guy to take the top off the defense and be able to free everybody else up," Jeremiah noted. "We've got a lot of candidates to do that in this draft.
"The wide receivers kinda stole the show with how fast they ran."
The wide receivers ran fast and also caught a lot of well-thrown passes.
"I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball really well," Jeremiah assessed. "In a year where so many are questioning the quarterback talent it was a pretty good display out there."
VALUE PICKS: Chris Rose of the NFL Network pointed out teams in search of an outstanding tight end need not necessarily invest a high-round pick toward that end this time around.
"Let's remember guys like (San Francisco's George) Kittle, (Kansas City's Travis) Kelce, (Las Vegas' Darren) Waller, (Baltimore's Mark) Andrews, none of them went before the third round. So you're talking about the elite guys at this position heading toward the middle rounds."
Added Jeremiah: "The middle rounds of this draft, third, fourth, fifth rounds, I believe you can get starters with this group of tight ends."
BROTHERLY LOVE: Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward was in Indianapolis to watch his brother Connor, who played multiple positions at Michigan State and worked out with the tight ends at the Combine.
Cam got some air time while Connor was running his 40-yard dashes, and was also interviewed by Dales.
"Seeing this side of the coin is pretty cool," Cam said.
Cam, a former first-round pick of the Steelers in 2011 (31st overall), had this to say when asked what advice he'd offered Connor: "Just enjoy it, be in the moment. I know everybody makes a big deal about the Combine, which they should. But it's just a piece to the puzzle. Wherever you get drafted, you have to do the work and just be excited you're at this level."
BACK IN ACTION: Steelers scout Mark Gorscak was back in Indy, whistle at the ready, running the 40-yard dashes as he seemingly has forever.
"I ran into Mark this morning," Jeremiah reported. "He was like a caged animal after a year off (no Combine was held last year). He's been whistle-training. He's ready to go. I heard rumors he was volunteering as a traffic cop just to stay in shape."
Gorscak was honored with the 2022 C.O. Brocato Memorial Award for Lifetime Service to NFL Scouting on Wednesday in Indianapolis at the annual Inside the League Scouting Seminar.
UP NEXT: Offensive linemen and running backs will take the field on Day Two in Indy.a