The NFL Scouting Combine kicked off Tuesday, but on-field testing and timing drills didn't start until Thursday evening.
With Day 1 of on-field workouts complete, who stood out? NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter tabbed five “winners” from Thursday’s events at Lucas Oil Stadium. Quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends participated in the opening night, and three receivers drew high marks from Reuter: Skyy Moore (Western Michigan), Chris Olave (Ohio State) and Christian Watson (North Dakota State).
View photos from QB, WR and TE workouts at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Reuter wrote the following of Watson:
Watson, a former FCS receiver, proved he belonged on Thursday night, running a 4.36 40-yard dash at 208 pounds. He posted other excellent test results like an 11-foot-4 broad jump and 38.5-inch vertical. He was smooth and nimble in his route running during drills, showing his ability while competing alongside Olave, Garrett Wilson and other FBS stars. Watson's now pushing for a top-50 draft slot.
Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber also took notice of Watson's performance.
In addition to the trio of receivers, Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo shined in Indy.
Okonkwo impressed at this year's East-West Shrine Bowl, and he should continue his ascent on draft boards after a strong workout. His effort started with a 4.52 40-yard dash at 238 pounds, considerably faster than the other tight ends. Okonkwo looked as smooth on the field on Thursday as he did on Saturdays during the season. He didn't catch every ball thrown his way but showed an ability to track passes over his shoulder and adjust to other throws that weren't directly on target.
And lastly, Reuter highlighted Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, who has been tabbed by many pundits around the league as the top QB in this year's draft class. The position group overall hasn't been highly touted, but Willis is garnering attention.
Willis consistently made things look easy on Thursday night, showing excellent arc on his deep throws. While he did overthrow a couple of shorter targets, his slants got into the receiver's hands in a hurry. The moment wasn't too big for him, and he was encouraging his fellow combine participants during their reps. He chose not to run a 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, but he already has plenty of tape that displays what he can do with the ball in his hands.
Krammer: Vikings have 'puzzle' to solve this offseason
There's plenty of intrigue around new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell, who don’t yet have a track record in their respective positions.
There are multiple questions to be asked about the Vikings roster, too, and decisions to be made this offseason. Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune covered the “puzzle” facing Minnesota’s new leadership duo. Krammer wrote:
The Vikings most pressing questions come from their current salary cap-strapped roster. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is entering his final season under contract at a lofty $45 million charge. Defensive end Danielle Hunter has an $18 million roster bonus, a built-in trigger to restart negotiations, due this month. The Vikings pending free agents include five prominent defenders, led by linebacker Anthony Barr.
On the pair's 14thofficial day together, Adofo-Mensah likened team building to a puzzle. The Vikings have another two weeks before NFL free agency opens, and pieces will start falling into place.
Krammer, who has been in Indianapolis covering the combine, said Adofo-Mensah and Vikings Executive Director of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski "will continue meeting with representatives of their players."
The team has exclusive negotiating rights with their 17 unrestricted free agents — including Barr, cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson — until March 14, when talks open leaguewide among free agents.
Get a behind-the-scenes look of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
Adofo-Mensah told media members this week that he's spoken with Cousins about his future with the organization.
"Went over the team and the offensive performance kind of the same way I would," Adofo-Mensah said. "We just talked generally about our vision for the team and what we want to accomplish. And, look, those conversations are ongoing and I can't tell you anything at this moment, but we will communicate and we will do whatever is best for the Minnesota Vikings, and Kirk will do what's best for Kirk. But I think there's a lot of middle ground for us to work well together."
Krammer noted that "O'Connell reiterated that he's happy to be reunited with Cousins after they worked together in 2017 with Washington" and that he "wants Cousins to have a say in the offensive overhaul."