Travon Walker Highlights Post-Combine Risers

Georgia Bulldogs ER Travon Walker
Georgia Bulldogs ER Travon Walker
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - The bright lights of Lucas Oil Stadium shone down on the players as they got into their stances, the cameras were rolling, and the stands were sparsely filled with fans. It had all the trappings of a prime-time NFL Thursday Night Football game but it wasn't: it was the NFL combine. After the event was canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was nice to see some sense of normalcy return to the NFL draft process in 2022. However, if 2022 was the last year that the combine was held in its historic location in Indianapolis, the event went out with less of a bang and more of a whimper.

The combine was initially created as a central location for teams and their doctors to come and collect standardized information on players. Over time, the event became more of a daytime TV show mainly for hardcore draftniks looking to size up the prospects they had watched play on Saturdays as they put on an athletic showcase for the cameras. The next evolution in the history of the combine is an attempt to turn the event into more of a prime-time television spectacle. The NFL decided to air many of its more significant drills at night in hopes of capturing a larger TV audience than is only watching during the day. This led to many players refusing to participate in certain athletic testing events—mainly, the bench press and 40-yard dash.

Despite all this, the combine does provide some valuable information for draftniks. For one, it helps to differentiate the elite athletes that are true NFL prospects from the more "pretender" type prospects that help give the NFL its unofficial acronym: "Not For Long." Draft prospects descended on Indianapolis for the classic NFL combine tour of duty: medical exams, weigh-ins, measurements, athletic testing, press conferences with the media, and both formal and informal meetings with teams. And after all of that, some prospects saw their "draft stock" grow and some saw theirs fall. But how do we even measure "draft stock?"

That's the thesis of my Grinding the Mocks project, where I use mock drafts, the wisdom of crowds, and data science to predict the NFL draft. Using Grinding the Mocks' Expected Draft Position metric, we can estimate a player's range of outcomes when it comes to their draft status and get a sense of not only where their stock is but also how it's trending. With the NFL's so-called "Underwear Olympics" firmly in the rearview, we can use the change in this metric (weighting earlier picks higher than later picks using a logarithmic transformation of Expected Draft Position ranks) from two weeks before the combine to two weeks afterward to take stock of which players were helped by their combine performance and which players were hurt.

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy!

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Travon Walker, ER, Georgia

Travon Walker stock trends

Travon Walker is 100% the biggest winner from this year's combine. Walker played on a stacked National Championship-winning Georgia defense that will likely have at least eight players drafted this year alone, with four of the eight included in the Grinding the Mocks' Post-Combine/Pre-Free Agency Top 32. Walker was viewed as the sixth-ranked edge rusher and 22nd-ranked player in the draft class pre-combine; two weeks after, he has risen to be the third-ranked edge rusher and sixth-ranked player.

Why the big change? It turns out that while Walker did play on that aforementioned stout Georgia defense, he wasn't necessarily the most productive player when it came to pressuring the quarterback. According to Sports Info Solutions' advanced charting data, Walker ranked 18th in his own conference in pressure rate when aligned as an edge rusher. Considering the talent he played alongside at Georgia, is it fair to expect that we should have seen more on the field from someone being considered as a top-10 player? Perhaps he was just doing what was asked of him in the scheme run by former Georgia defensive coordinator and current Oregon head coach Dan Lanning. That's something for a future Draft Film Room column by Football Outsiders' own Derrik Klassen to answer.

So if it's not his production on the field that's pushing Walker up draft boards, what is? The answer is his athleticism and traits as a pass-rusher. It's hard to project players from the college game to the NFL, and players like Aidan Hutchinson who were both athletic and productive in college are few and far between. Because of this, teams will often try to find the players with the best mix of traits and athleticism in the hopes that, through coaching and player development, they can find a diamond in the rough that hasn't reached his fullest potential yet. With risk comes the potential of reward, and chasing a player with a high ceiling like Walker is a chance that draftniks think teams in the top 10 are up for, especially in an edge rusher class as strong as it is this year's.

Tyler Smith, OT, Tulsa

Tyler Smith draft trends

Moving from one side of the ball to the other, we find Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith. Rumor has it that Smith was wavering on whether to enter the draft or return to Tulsa for his senior year. According to his Grinding the Mocks' Expected Draft Position and how his stock is trending, his decision to come out is looking like a good one. A two-year starter at left tackle for the Golden Hurricane, Smith is thought of as a highly physical player with the flexibility to play either tackle or guard in the NFL and as a better run-blocker than pass-blocker.

Similarly to Travon Walker, Smith is viewed as a player that, with more refinement in his technique and better coaching, could really take his game to the next level as an NFL player. His 1.71s 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash while weighing in at 324 pounds is one of the more impressive individual results from the workout portion of the combine for an offensive lineman.

Prior to the combine, Smith was the eighth-ranked offensive tackle and had an Expected Draft Position that would have placed him in the first half of the third round of the draft. Now with the combine two weeks behind us, Smith finds himself as the fifth-ranked offensive tackle and with an Expected Draft Position that puts him as a borderline first-/second-round player. One can even see the inflection point in his Grinding the Mocks' Mock Draft Stock Chart that occurred in early March around when the combine took place. Time will tell if this rise in stock will stick, but with high-profile draftniks like Daniel Jeremiah putting Smith in the first round in his latest mock draft, many people are discovering Smith for the first time and making a similar assessment.

Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan

Skyy Moore draft trends

It pained me to watch Pittsburgh native Skyy Moore really stick it to my alma mater with 11 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown in Western Michigan's 44-41 win over eventual ACC champions Pitt early in the 2021 college football season. However, it was a sign of greater things to come. Moore surprised some by declaring for the draft, but ever since declaring his stock has risen dramatically. Moore has been receiving comparisons to the likes of Cooper Kupp because of his ability to excel in the slot and all over the field as a matchup nightmare with a combination of excellent route-running and athleticism. Draftniks are always attempting to identify the next archetype of player, like a "Deebo Samuel" type or a "Cooper Kupp" type, and Moore just happens to most emulate the Cooper Kupp skill set in this draft.

However, Kupp was drafted 69th overall in the third round in 2017 by the Los Angeles Rams in part due to his age, the level of competition he faced at Eastern Washington, and his lackluster combine drills. The Rams were early proponents of using technology and analytical methods to measure in-game speed and were confident that Kupp played faster than his 40-yard dash time indicated, and they were right. However, draftniks and the NFL have not made the same mistake with Moore. Moore ran a 1.46s 10-yard split in his 40-yard dash which put him in the 97th percentile for wide receivers, which matches perfectly with his skill set as a weapon out of the slot. As a result of this performance, Moore rose from the 16th-ranked wide receiver with an Expected Draft Position in the late third round to being the ninth-ranked wide receiver with a mid-second-round Expected Draft Position. Only time will tell, but Moore looks to have solidified his placement as a top-100 player with the potential of becoming a top-50 player in the 2022 NFL draft.

2022 Mock Draft Post-Combine Risers
Name Pos School Pre-Combine Rank Post-Combine Rank Difference
Travon Walker ER Georgia 21.6 (22) 6.1 (6) 15.4 (16)
Tyler Smith OT Tulsa 71.8 (74) 28.8 (32) 43.0 (42)
Skyy Moore WR Western Michigan 96.8 (100) 56.3 (53) 40.5 (47)


Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

Kenny Pickett draft trends

As mentioned earlier, I'm a proud Pitt alum, and Kenny Pickett made us all very happy fans last year. The meteoric season that ended with him being named a Heisman Trophy finalist was also paired with an impressive rise up the draft boards. However, since the end of the season and the true beginning of the NFL draft process, Pickett's stock has stagnated and is now dropping. The reason for Pickett's falling stock is not simply boiled down to one thing. It seems to be partially due to the re-rise of Malik Willis, the lack of enthusiasm about the quarterback class writ large, and the recent quarterback carousel that has been the big theme of this offseason and seen plenty of quarterback-needy teams exchange current players and draft capital for established quarterbacks. Russell Wilson's trade from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, Carson Wentz's trade from the Indianapolis Colts to the Washington Commanders, and the potential for even more trades in the future involving Jimmy Garoppolo, Deshaun Watson, Baker Mayfield, Matt Ryan, or even Kirk Cousins throw a lot of teams' needs into question.

The other dialogue around Kenny Pickett has been his hand size. Pickett's hands measured in at around 8¼ inches, and experts are concerned that this could lead to more fumbles or issues throwing the ball in tough conditions. I don't think I've seen an analysis of how hand size correlates to those things that isn't spurious correlation or a textbook example of survivorship bias, but it has given analysts pause. Maybe it's a small thing, but it's one more thing to overcome in a class that already has a lot of questions at the quarterback position.

Coming into the combine, Pickett was the top-ranked quarterback with a Grinding The Mocks' Expected Draft Position of 11.2, which ranked him eighth among all prospects. With the dust having settled on that experience at the combine where he ran a 4.67s 40-yard dash time, performed well in the 10-yard split of that same event, showed off some explosion in the broad jump, and threw and interviewed just fine, Pickett's stock fell about 10 slots to being the second-ranked quarterback and the 18th-ranked player. Time will tell if draftniks' fondness for Willis continues and if the quarterback carousel stops moving, but at least for now Pickett is solidly QB2 and still a likely Round 1 pick.

George Karlaftis, ER, Purdue

George Karlaftis draft trends

The so-called "Greek Freak" of the draft is Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis. Born and raised in Greece until coming to the U.S. when he was a teenager, Karlaftis came into the draft process as an early declarer with a lofty Expected Draft Position and status as a top-three player at his position. Pretty much no one in the 2022 draft class has been hurt more by the rise of other players at the same position. The aforementioned Travon Walker of Georgia and Florida State's Jermaine Johnson (who started his college career at Georgia) both have seen their stocks grow during the draft process after a deeper dive into his tape for Walker and a stellar week at the Senior Bowl for Johnson.

The other thing that Walker and Johnson had in common were excellent performances at the NFL combine. In contrast to that, Karlaftis, who was on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks List" prior to the 2021 college football season, did not stack up as much to those players as he had prior to this changing shift in draftnik opinion. He followed that up by continuing a trend of players only participating in a limited set of combine drills with the intention of doing them in the more friendly confines of Purdue's pro day on March 29. Combine that with the fact that Karlaftis is more of a power rusher than his peers and you can see why he might not want to have his times compared to the competition. His stock was already on the decline a bit by this point, but pre-combine Karlaftis was the 10th-ranked player by Grinding The Mocks' Expected Draft Position and the ER3; compare that with his 22nd-ranked status two weeks after the combine as the ER6.

Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame

Kyren Williams draft trends

And now to someone whose drop can completely be explained by a truly lackluster combine performance: Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams. Already considered undersized at 5-foot-9 and 194 pounds, Williams was expected to show that he had some athleticism on a track that many draftniks already believed "ran fast," but he came out very flat. His 40-yard dash and 10-yard split times were already in about the 20th or 30th percentile for his position, and his explosion drills were equally poor. Williams will have a chance to redeem himself at Notre Dame's pro day on March 25.

Prior to the combine, Kyren Williams was Grinding The Mocks' RB4 with an Expected Draft Position that had him coming off the board in Round 3 after the likes of Iowa State's Breece Hall, Michigan State's Kenneth Walker, and Texas A&M's Isaiah Spiller. Compare that to now, when Williams finds himself ranked 65 spots lower with an Expected Draft Position that puts him more in Round 5. Williams has a lot of ground to gain and limited time to reassure draftniks that he's the same player they thought of so highly before the combine. We have seen weirder things happen before, though. It is the NFL draft, isn't it?

2022 Mock Draft Post-Combine Fallers
Name Pos School Pre-Combine Rank Post-Combine Rank Difference
Kenny Pickett QB Pittsburgh 11.2 (8) 20.3 (18) -9.1 (-10)
George Karlaftis ER Purdue 12.7 (10) 22.1 (22) -9.5 (-12)
Kyren Williams RB Notre Dame 88.3 (89) 160.1 (154) -70.8 (-65)

Benjamin Robinson is a data scientist living in Washington D.C., and the creator of Grinding the Mocks, a project that tracks how NFL prospects fare in mock drafts. You can follow him on Twitter @benj_robinson and find the Grinding the Mocks project at


8 comments, Last at 21 Mar 2022, 1:59pm

#1 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 18, 2022 - 10:29am

What's the purpose of this? Aside from the obvious and suspected one -- it's for gambling purposes.

Points: 0

#3 by BiscuitsNGravy // Mar 18, 2022 - 12:01pm

TY Captain Obvious.

the top tabs of the site include a section for 'fantasy & betting',  i think its safe to say we're all aware that this site has info that is used for, well, 'fantasy & betting.'

can you tell us next what the subject matter of the website "politico" is? is it the economy, or something else, like, i dont know, politics?

Points: 0

#4 by Aaron Brooks G… // Mar 18, 2022 - 12:29pm

Is it that you think FO is a fantasy and betting site? It's not even a gambling article; it's in the NFL Draft section.

This isn't like Speed Score or SackSEER or QBase -- those attempt to predict a draft-eligible player's future NFL performance in terms of their personal/team benefit. Like DVOA, those are firmly in FO's team/player performance analysis wheelhouse. It's not even an analysis of historical performance of mocks in either their ability to correctly predict draft picks (a Lunardi) or their ability to predict future player performance (historical grades for draft analysts are almost uniformly terrible).

This one appears to be limited to predicting final draft position, although it may just be attempting to predict final mock draft position. (And as Tanier points out, there are three kinds of mock drafts and they don't necessarily work the same way) Or maybe it's attempting to explain past performance; it's not clear. What I don't see is how this has future expectation analysis -- there's no attempt to use mock draft movement or risers/fallers in terms of their eventual NFL performance and evaluate the hows-and-whys of players who are correctly (or incorrectly) picked up or incorrectly (or correctly) missed.

Thus I'm left with two options -- it's for gambling, or it's purely an intellectual exercise. I suppose there's some utility in using it predict the performance of other teams, but the n of NFL GMs is so small and their hiring so non-random that I expect personal knowledge may be more useful than aggregate prior history.


Granted, things like Ojabo hurting his leg at his pro day are hard to predict.

Points: 0

#5 by LondonMonarch // Mar 18, 2022 - 3:57pm

I think it is probably just a reasonably crude, but quite interesting to the casual fan like me, attempt to produce a sort of "mock of mocks" which shows players' average expected draft position.

There are obviously lots of issues about the "reliability" of mocks (including as you say that they can different purposes, and fundamentally that they are made up) but it's still kind of interesting to see what the "consensus"/buzz is of who is up, who is down, which players are more or less likely to be available for your team etc.

Many people may have no real interest in that, but personally I found this a mildly interesting exercise and perhaps more informative than just reading a random selection of 3 or 5 mocks.

I don't think it necessarily has much to do with gambling (though I bet anyone producing such odds is doing a similar sort of exercise). 

Points: 0

#2 by KnotMe // Mar 18, 2022 - 11:58am

Offseason content. Need to write about something.

Points: 0

#7 by ImNewAroundThe… // Mar 18, 2022 - 4:10pm

That was last year. At the combine they were the same 8.5in as Vick, yet everyone freaked out despite confirming in that same time span of him being a 9.52 RAS aka ath-late. Funny how it works huh. And in all honesty, it's just the outsiders that are freaking out I bet/heard from an article once because they didn't seem to mind much with Murray or Devonta thankfully. Believe it or not one of his mockdraftable comps is Joe Burrow. And if Burrow can play up North without gloves, it shouldn't be a concern for the guy that spent 5 years at Pitt (that's actually a bigger concern) with gloves that essentially make them 9in, same as Burrow.

Good to see people not overreacting to T. Burks. Still think it'd be a great pick at 8 for ATL in that still disgusting WR room. Even if they re-signed Olamide Zaccheaus. No guarantees (OG tender isn't much faith) so they can't be that confident. 

Points: 0

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