The 2018 NFL Combine has come to an end. Like always, it was a spectacle to behold! A field full of young men running, lifting, and jumping to the best of their abilities, trying to impress upon the 32 NFL teams’ representatives in attendance why they should pick them in the upcoming draft.
The aspiring players try to appear confident and intelligent, but also humble, in one-on-one interviews with teams and the media. While the whole process can be both informative and entertaining at times, the NFL fan base and media always seem to overreact to the results. Sometimes the results actually have merit, but oftentimes they don’t amount to a hill of beans.
Players are quickly labeled as winners or losers depending on their combine performances. A less-than-stellar performance can seem devastating to a player. You can watch an athlete’s facial expression and body language change either for the good or bad, depending on whether they achieved their own expectation in an event. One perfect example at this year’s combine would be none other than Iowa LB Josey Jewell.
First, let me say this was not unexpected and should have come as no surprise to anybody who has followed his collegiate career. Jewell was never going to test well. His game has nothing to do with measurables. It has everything to do with being a tackling machine. He has spent his entire career being told he was too short and too slow, so why should the combine be any different? He seemed disappointed when he ran a 4.82 in the forty, but shouldn’t he have been expecting that? His numbers in many of the other drills that receive less fanfare were exceptional but his forty time seemed to be the main point of discussion for the NFL Network. That is a shame because his game is so much more than what meets the eye.
Jewell is one heck of a football player. He has the best instincts of any inside linebacker in the draft, which more than compensates for any perceived lack of foot speed. He almost never takes a false step, which puts him a half-step ahead of his opponent. Just ask Saquon Barkley and the Penn State Nittany Lions. Although Penn State won the game, and Barkley was outstanding as usual, Jewell’s relentless motor and never-say-die attitude really stood out in a losing effort. From start to finish, he continued to meet Barkley in the hole for huge impacts, or track him down across the field for stops. He finished the game with 16 tackles, an interception, and undoubtedly the respect of everyone who witnessed the game.
NFL executives swear they don’t place too much emphasis on a player’s combine numbers, instead placing equal importance on a player’s pro day, his game tape, his background check, and pre-draft visits. I sure hope this is true when the Pittsburgh Steelers make their evaluation of Jewell.
I feel Jewell would be a steal in the second or third round at a position of need for the Steelers. He is being compared to Sean Lee but reminds me more of a taller Zach Thomas or Mike Singletary. I am not saying to go ahead and fit him for a gold jacket; instead, I am only making reference to their similarities in instincts and alpha-dog personas. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jewell ended up being an eight to ten-year starting linebacker in the league with a few Pro Bowls mixed in for good measure. Hopefully, it will be in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform.
We already know he looks good in Steelers colors.
One more fun fact. Jewell won the Jack Lambert award for his outstanding senior season and, by the way, guess who reportedly also ran a 4.82 forty-yard dash when tested? You guessed it: none other than Jack Lambert, himself.
Here are Jewell’s Strengths and Weaknesses, per his NFL Draft Profile:
Eyes work fast. Initial play diagnose and trigger to the ball is immediate. Film junkie who recognizes blocking schemes and adjusts accordingly. Always flowing downhill looking to make plays near line of scrimmage. Quick recovery against play-action and misdirection. Plays ahead of work-up blocks. Flashes a strong burst to the ball and can close out runners if he’s in the area. Pac-man tackler who owns a board full of high scores. Discipline, technique, and patience help him avoid missed and broken tackles. Launches compact build through target points and imposes force on ball-carrier. Well-schooled with hands in taking on blocks. Keeps pads square and leverages his gaps. Perceptive with a nose for screens. Reads quarterback and squeezes routes from zone. Has 24 passes defensed over the last three years.
Doesn’t have long limbs and loose frame. Lateral agility, change of direction and overall reactive athleticism is just average. Has some straight line speed but his short area foot quickness in mirroring play is nothing special. Gets lost behind defensive line when finding the football at times. Ducks head into initial take-on blocks. Can get engulfed by size and stuck on blocks. Will need to improve slipping blocks rather than taking them all on. Tight hips prevent fluid transitions in man coverage. Struggles to get early depth in his drops. Effort blitzer, but unlikely to win in that area on talent alone.
Jewell’s College Hightlight Tape