Once again, the NFL Combine has come and gone, leaving me wanting more. As one of my personal favorite events on the sports calendar, there was no shortage of topics open for discussion. There was also zero shortage of Razorback representation in Indy. Following the 7-6 season and third year under head coach Sam Pittman, five athletes made their way up from Fayetteville.
Starting on the offensive side, four of the five in competition came from that side of the ball. Wide receivers Jadon Haselwood and Matt Landers earned invitations after a one-year stint at Arkansas. The other two were Dalton Wagner and Ricky Stromberg. Both of whom established their own extensive legacy in an Arkansas uniform. The lone invite on the defensive side was no surprise. That man was none other than Drew Sanders.
Taking a step back for a moment, it should be noted that three of the five invites for Arkansas were one-year transfer residents. That seemingly untouched statistic carries a ton of weight. An already solid portal class resides under Pittman as it stands. Arkansas even added Jaheim Singletary, a former five-star, moments before I put pen to paper. The impact of Arkansas’ transfers getting a shot at the NFL Combine should continue to resonate in the next portal opening. It could have certainly played a role in snagging the talent already in the fold to this point.
That being said, the transfer angle isn’t the primary theme of this article. It’s time to get down and dirty with the results from last week at the combine. While some Razorbacks boosted their stock, others simply solidified what was believed beforehand. Numbers are nice, but it will truly come down to the NFL Draft itself to see proof set in stone. While it seems as if all five players will find an NFL roster one way or another, let’s get a little deeper.
The former Sooner turned Razorback only had one season to work with quarterback KJ Jefferson. Coming out of high school as the top wide out in his class, hype was left on edge. Injury eventually derailed what was slowly building for Haselwood early on in Norman. Working his way into a role as a contributor, his junior year provided promise.
Following his best year and departure of head coach Lincoln Riley, Haselwood opted for Arkansas. The story of how he landed in Fayetteville is its own bag of craziness. What followed his decision was his best season yet.
In 2022, Haselwood racked up 59 total catches for 702 receiving yards and three touchdowns. While his touchdown numbers dropped in the move, every other aspect was a plus. When combining his three years at Oklahoma, he caught 62 balls for 736 yards. Three more catches in 2022 and he could have quite possibly outdone the first three quarters of his career.
Haselwood’s Combine Results
Weight- 215 lbs.
Arm- 31 ¼”
Broad jump- 10’3”
20-yard shuttle- 4.31
Overall Grade- 5.67/8
Haselwood’s combine neither flattered nor disgusted what had once been thought to this point. What he lacked in his 40-time he made up for in catching drills. He ran the infamous gauntlet drill with zero problems and secured every catch. Looking at the scouting angle, his lack of production as a former five-star stands out as a negative.
Despite the vacant career production, his contested catching ability garnered plenty of praise. Lacking special teams experience in recent memory will hurt his chances of finding a 53-man roster, however. His stock has been difficult to gage, which is generally not a great sign.
Post-Combine Draft Projection– 7th round – undrafted free agent
A player with a career branching in many directions, Landers showed up for Arkansas in 2022. Beginning his six-year career as a Georgia Bulldog, health and depth was not his closest friend. Despite early controversy, he fought for four years before opting for a fresh start. Coming in as a certified freak athlete, he bombarded the Mid-American Conference . His lift-off as a Rocket came with 514 receiving yards in essentially half a season. That success provided Landers with a chance to prove he could hang at the highest level once more.
Just one year later, he became the leading wide out for the Razorbacks. One could certainly call his 2022 season a breakout year and deservedly so. Speaking of last season, Landers compiled 47 catches for 901 yards which included eight touchdowns. Discounting his redshirt season, he only managed 32 catches in his first three years. Even with one fantastic year, he would need an excellent day in Indy to make up for what was lacking during his time at Georgia.
Landers’ Combine Results
Weight- 200 lbs.
Arm- 32 ½”
Hand- 9 ¼”
Broad jump- 10’10”
Overall Grade- 5.87/8
Landers’ did more than boost his draft stock at the combine, he put himself into the sleeper category. His day in Indy placed him third best at the wide receiver position as it pertains to combine results. Landers’ 40-yard number is what garnered the most attention. Beating Jalin Hyatt at his own game, he fell behind only Trey Palmer (4.33) and Derius Davis (4.36). Scouts just needed an eye on his proof of athleticism and they certainly did.
Other notes gleaming as positives in the scouting world is Landers’ prime footwork on route and with the ball. His ability to track balls through defenders has been touched on also. While everything screams athlete to their faces, that means he’s still quite raw. Drops were prevalent in 2022 as well as a need to be more physical. Luckily, athleticism isn’t the aspect in need of repair. With that said, Landers could have very well pulled his name from undrafted to one being called on day three.
Post-Combine Draft Projection– 5th round – 7th round
A man with longevity tagged to his name, Wagner leaves Arkansas after his sixth season. Despite the occasional injury and minor inconsistencies, Dalton started 40 total games throughout his career. With the majority of those being spent at right tackle, the super-human size he possesses made him a reliable pass blocker.
Coming into the 2022 season, the NFL Draft didn’t seem like something in the future for Wagner. At least from an outside perspective. Picking up an NIL deal from the WWE, it led to a season that gave him a chance. Following his final year, he was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl alongside teammate Ricky Stromberg. With a neutral performance in the game being baked into a solid career in the SEC, he was sent an invite to the combine.
Wagner’s Combine Results
Weight- 320 lbs.
Arm- 34 ⅜”
Hand- 10 ½”
Vertical- 24 ½”
Broad jump- 8’6”
Bench- 24 reps
Overall grade- 5.80/8
Following his certifications at the combine, Wagner actually finds himself with a better grade than Haselwood. Being tabbed as the 23rd best offensive tackle in the draft, it was been discussed that he is a pure right tackle prospect. Whether it’s from lacking experience at left tackle or purely fit, his pass protection is what scouts love the most. That and the strength Wagner owns for his size. A negative that certainly comes with the frame is having slow feet when it comes to run blocking.
When everything is broken down, it still feels like a long shot for Wagner to be drafted despite helping his stock a bit. Teams will likely see more value in the skill positions late on day three and hope they can snag him out of the post-draft pool.
Post-Combine Draft Projection– Undrafted Free Agent
The Stromberg story is something that will live on, etched in many memories. Coming in and forced to drop weight, it became evident that 265 pounds was not where an SEC lineman needed to be. Despite that unwilling disadvantage, Ricky still started 11 games and never gave up a sack in his freshman season. Sam Pittman coming in quickly reestablished Stromberg’s weight situation and set him up for a stellar career.
He continued to start games throughout 2020 fighting the injury bug and in 2021, earned a spot on the 3rd team All-SEC list. Coming back for his senior year, 2022 became his best thus far. Becoming one of Pro-Football Focus’ favorite linemen, 1st team All-SEC awaited the big fella. Pretty storied career for a kid that waited a long time for a power-five offer out of high school
Stromberg’s Combine Results
Weight- 306 lbs.
Arm- 33 ¼”
Hand- 9 ¾”
Vertical- 32 ½”
Broad jump- 9’3”
Overall grade- 6.18/8
Leaving the combine rated as the fourth-best center between production and results, there are a lot of positives and negatives to point out. One of the glaring pains that came out of his testing was the 5.26 second 40-yard time. As a player that lacks ideal size for a projected NFL center, an average time hurts what could be a potential move to guard under certain teams. With physical ‘flaws’ that can be changed, the smarts Ricky encompasses shine through. It all starts before the ball is snapped and Stromberg excels in his pre-snap call outs.
When it comes down to action, he’s noted as an instinctive run blocker and produces unexpected wins in certain matchups. It didn’t seem as if many scouts or social media presences were overly excited about what Stromgberg did at the combine. That being said, nothing truly hurt his current stock.
Post-Combine Draft Projection– 3rd round – 5th round
Saving the best for last, where does one even begin to appreciate what Drew Sanders did for the University of Arkansas? Speaking earlier on the impact of Arkansas transfers in the combine, Sanders is example 1A. A former five-star stud athlete from Denton, Texas, he waltzed his way into Tuscaloosa. Working behind world beaters at Alabama, his playing time fuse ran out. Staying beneath Will Anderson had run its course and not be tolerated for one more season. Guess we will never know if Saban’s quote about Sanders inevitably starting for them in 2022 held any truth.
Even so, the flashes of skill and freaky athleticism was plastered on tape which led to Fayetteville being his newfound destination. Early on in the Spring, it was evident that Pittman gathered a gem from the likes of Saban. Playing next to Bumper Pool, they lit up opposing offenses. Teams struggled to find an answer for the unicorn that was Drew Sanders.
As far as stats go, he exploded for 103 total tackles in 2022. Accompanying them were 13.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, six pass break-ups, one interception, and a box of chocolates. Finishing the season top 15 in the nation in sacks, that played a major role in earning 1st team All-SEC. He was also given 1st team All-American honors by nearly every service imaginable. If that wasn’t enough, he was a Dick Butkus trophy away from being the most decorated linebacker in the 2023 draft class.
Sanders’ Combine Results
Weight- 235 lbs.
Arm- 32 ⅛”
Hand- 9 ¾”
Overall grade- 6.74/8
Drew Sanders showed up to Indy, got his measurements, ran a few non-statistical drills, and said “I’m out.” With plenty of production put on tape from his 2022 season and even at Alabama, his athleticism has been proven over and over. Despite playing linebacker in multiple capacities for two teams, he projects as an edge-rusher at the next level. Scouts are drooling over his range and speed of the edge. Having such qualities in a true linebacker spot proved his playmaker traits were through the roof.
There weren’t many weaknesses noted by scouts, but they were all fixable. One that was put on display in Fayetteville was inconsistent tackling, especially downhill. Improving his overall base strength is being keyed in on and could be a component to tweaking his falters in tackling. Not running the 40-yard was a little disappointing, but his stock remains as high as it was before Indy.
Post-Combine Draft Projection– Mid 1st round – early 2nd round