News, notes and nuggets from NFL Network coverage of Day Two of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis:
STATING HIS CASE: The NFL Network's Stacey Dales reported at the outset of the broadcast Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal wouldn't be working out for the scouts until the Crimson Tide's Pro Day on March 30.
Neal has been identified on plenty of mock drafts as the potential first-overall pick.
N.C. State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu has, as well, and Ekwonu was heard from as well as seen on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Ekwonu, 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, ran a 4.93 40-yard dash.
"He actually told us this week, 'I wouldn't be shocked if I'm the first overall,' that's how confident this young man is," Dales said. "And he said, 'I love finding someone I can just go and hit,' that's the mindset of 'Ickey' Ekwonu."
Dales said Ekwonu identified his dream spot as left tackle.
"You see him play guard and it's about as fun a tape as you'll ever see when you go back to last year, the first four games and watch him just destroy people at guard," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I think he could be an All-Pro guard if he wanted to be but, obviously, everybody wants to play tackle. He got better as the year went along at tackle.
"If you talk to some guys in the league, they actually love him at guard. He's gonna be playing tackle. He's a unique talent.
"I'm with him, I would't be surprised if he is the first pick."
ON THE MEND: Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum was another high-profile player who didn't participate in any on-field drills. He's recovering from a mid-foot sprain sustained in Iowa's bowl game on Jan. 1. Dales said Linderbaum, a projected first-round selection, is hoping to be able to perform for scouts at the Hawkeyes' Pro Day on March 21.
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RECORD: The offensive linemen combined for a Combine position-record 12 sub-5.0 times in the 40.
The wide receivers had set a position standard on Thursday when nine of them ran sub-4.4s.
FAST BACKS: The top 10 40 times at the running back position all clocked in at 4.43 or better, led by the 4.37s posted by Isaih Pacheco of Rutgers and Pierre Strong Jr. of South Dakota State.
Six backs ran sub-4.4s.
"I did not think we'd have this many guys go in the low 4.4s or below," Jeremiah said. "Third, fourth, fifth round you're gonna find great value at the running back position this year.
"There's a lot of them."
EXCLUSIVE CLUB: Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III was named the 2021 Walter Camp Player of the Year. The only other running back to be so honored over the last 14 seasons was Derrick Henry in 2015 (then of Alabama, currently with Tennessee).
"I think the coolest thing he said this week, 'My goal this year in the NFL is to be the Rookie of the Year,'" Dales reported.
PLUG AND PLAY: Jeremiah characterized the offensive line class as "a deep group."
It includes a number of players considered capable of becoming immediate starters.
Kentucky center Luke Fortner: "He has everything you look for in a center," Jeremiah said. "He's smart, he's tough, he has great instincts on the field. He's a plug-and-play guy for me, a Day One starter at center."
Boston College guard Zion Johnson: "He's played tackle, then you see him at guard this year, at the Senior Bowl he goes to center, incredibly smart," Jeremiah assessed. "He's gonna be a 10-plus-year starter in the NFL."
Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green: "Last year, that offensive line known as the 'Maroon Goons' gave us Dan Moore, starting left tackle as a rookie for the Pittsburgh Steelers," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis noted. "Kenyon Green's gonna start for someone as a rookie, whether it's at guard or, when I talked with him, his eyes lite up when I said, 'Do you want to move inside and play center?' He said, 'Absolutely, I would love that.'"
Memphis center Dylan Parham: "Here's another, I believe, starting center," Jeremiah said. "I can't remember a draft where we've had this many guys I think that can plug and play at center. Usually you have two or three of them in a draft, we've got a handful."
PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH: Iowa State's Breece Hall has a reputation for being a smooth and patient runner. His approach, according to Dales, boils down to "slow to and fast through." Hall also told Dales there's more than just carrying the ball associated with being a top running back. "If you're not a pass protector, you're not a first-round draft pick."
PLENTY TO CHOOSE FROM: NFL Network analyst Shaun O'Hara is another believer in the depth of the offensive line class.
"When you look at the depth of this group, there's a lot of good guys you can build a roster with, you can build a great foundation with, with a second-, third-, fourth-round guy," O'Hara maintained.
WINNING THE INTERVIEWS: Jeremiah is enamored with Nebraska center Cam Jurgens for a number of reasons, including this one:
"He grew up on a cattle farm. His nickname is 'Beef Jurgy.' He makes his own beef jerky ("Beef Jurgy Jerky") and he brought it to the Combine so when he was visiting with teams he left them a little present on the way out the door."
As a wise man once observed, whatever it takes.
NAMING RIGHTS: LSU guard Chasen Hines also got Jeremiah's attention. "He wears No. 57, did not have an NIL deal, that is a shame." After Hines clocked a slower 40 time on his second attempt than he had on his first, Jeremiah told NFL Network host Rich Eisen, "I was hoping you were going to be able to say he had ketchup speed."
IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on what movement drills reveal in offensive linemen: "The feet are important, the balance. Can they keep their shoulders kinda over their toes and not get too far over the toes where they're out of synch. Are they benders or movers?"
UP NEXT: Defensive linemen and linebackers will take the field on Day Three in Indy.