Here’s what the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine provided for the University of Washington football program: a terrific free advertisement.
The emergent Huskies already proved themselves as newly elite with their Pac-12 title and national semifinal appearance against Alabama.
But the combine performances by a handful of soon-to-be professional Huskies served as addition bait for future recruits and incentive for incumbent players.
It says that the UW program not only gets high-end talents, it turns them into top-flight pro football prospects.
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In other words, maybe you’re a fast guy or a big, strong guy when you show up. They’ll help you become a highly functional football player on the threshold of earning millions.
And that’s the hidden bonus displayed, particularly, by receiver/returner John Ross and a trio of secondary stars, safety Budda Baker and cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Kevin King.
Yes, they put up exceptional numbers in the sprint and other drills at the combine, but at their heart, they are skilled at their positions and play with convincing effort as well.
Their game films and statistical output verify it.
Ross was the story of the combine, breaking the nine-year-old record for the 40-yard dash (4.24 by running back Chris Johnson).
I would suggest that Ross is even faster than his 4.22 timing, as he obviously was dealing with some leg cramping when he eased off in the final 10 yards. It didn’t look unreasonable to think that he could have cracked 4.2 otherwise.
Baker, Jones and King all clocked in the 4.4s for their 40s.
A lot of really fast guys take shots at the NFL. But Ross showed last season — with 17 receiving touchdowns, and one touchdown each as a rusher and returner — what he can do with the ball in his hands.
Nobody can coach that kind of speed. But they obviously have helped shape Ross into a receiver who can separate on a variety of routes, and can elude defenders in more ways than just blazing past them.
An impressive stat: Ross scored touchdowns on 20 percent of his offensive touches last season.
A local comparison seems worthy. The Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett ran a 4.40 at the combine two years ago. Very fast. Not 4.22 fast, though.
Lockett was a first-team All-Pro returner as a rookie and a productive receiver in both his seasons when healthy.
And he displays the kind of versatility Ross could develop. On a 75-yard end-around touchdown against Carolina last season, Lockett’s burst up the right sideline looked like a video on fast-forward.
Superimpose Ross onto that video, and it’s easy to imagine his speed being equally or even more effective.
A valid question heading into the draft will be Ross’ durability. He’s a slender 5-11, 190 pounds and missed the 2015 season with a knee injury.
But this guy is a full-tilt baller. He was used at cornerback in 2014 when the Huskies needed him there. He then fought back through the injury and turned into a likely first-round receiver.