With every new NFL season comes a talented draft class of rookies preparing to challenge the veterans. Among the upcoming 2018 NFL draft are two Heritage alumni, Sony Michel and Tarvarus McFadden, who are ranked near the top of their running back and cornerback positions respectively. In this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, a week-long test in which projected draftees are challenged in front of staff from NFL teams, Michel and McFadden attempted to increase their draft stock in order to ensure a higher selection.
A projected late first round pick by walterfootball.com, Michel participated in three drills at the Combine: the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuffle and the bench press. Although Michel completed the 40-yard dash with a mediocre time of 4.54 compared to some of the other top running back prospects, he was able to bench a strong 22 reps as well as run a 4.21 in the 20 yard shuttle, catching the attention of NFL teams. However, Michel did not compete in the vertical jump, the broad jump or the three cone drill.
As his Combine appearance came to a close, scouts analyzed Michel’s performance, identifying his strengths and weaknesses. Michel proved to be a flashy running back, showing off his split second decision making skills when looking for the best path to charge through. His quick bursts of speed allow him to break past the secondary and keep his balance after breaking potential tacklers; however, scouts also acknowledged his ability to have patience when waiting for blockers to pave a path for him. Despite his successes, scouts marked Michel on his success as a top-tier catching back. Scouts also noted that Michel’s agility could improve in order to allow him to evade defenders more smoothly.
As for his NFL future, scouts project him to develop nicely into a solid starter in years to come. In Michel’s eyes, his future NFL team will be receiving a knowledgeable back ready to make the big plays when it counts the most. “They’ll be getting a great player. An explosive player that makes plays,” Michel said during an interview at the Combine. “Somebody that enjoys doing it.”
On the other side of the football, McFadden, a top 15 cornerback, is projected by walterfootball.com to be selected anywhere from the 2nd round to the 4th round. Mcfadden participated in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and the vertical jump. His time of 4.67 was not low enough to rank him in the top 15 among his fellow cornerback prospects, and his performance in broad jump did not earn him a top spot either. On the flip side, Mcfadden managed to jump the fourth highest, reaching a height of 38.5 inches.
In review of his performance, scouts identified many positives regarding McFadden’s overall game. Among these included the advantages of his tall frame and great wingspan. He is not afraid to become physical with the receiver at the point of release, constantly and legally shoving as the wideout attempts to run his route. Mcfadden was able to show off his ability to stay with the receiver while always keeping an eye on the quarterback to be aware of when the ball is thrown his way. His impressive physicality enabled him to give the receiver a run for his money on jump balls, leaving his feet at optimal times to come up with the interception or swat. On the other hand, Mcfadden has shown his weaknesses when it comes to effectively bringing down the ball carrier. He has also had his share of being beat for the long ball and committing a pass interference penalty as he attempts to catch up to the receiver. Scouts did not shy away from pointing out his inability to break quickly on the ball on short slants or comeback routes.
Scouts determined Mcfadden to be a starting level cornerback; however, he must work on his ability to stay with the wide receiver on deep routes. Mcfadden made sure to make it clear that it truly doesn’t matter the round he is drafted in as long as draft night ends with him signed to a team. “At the end of the day, everybody wants to go [in the] first round,” Mcfadden said during his Combine interview. “It’s just a blessing to even be right here with all these great talents and just going into the league, period.”
As draft day approaches, Heritage alumni Michel and Mcfadden prepare for their most anticipated career day yet while their former Heritage team cheers them on. From the Heritage football field to top-tier draftees, Michel and McFadden have proven their worth and made a name for themselves along their road to the NFL. Their equally promising futures appear to hold nothing but the best for these soon-to-be rookies as Michel and Mcfadden look to become the NFL’s next success stories.