Every year at the NFL Combine, we hear stories of guys who have “helped” or “hurt” their draft stock. This year, San Diego State tight end Daniel Bellinger is squarely on the list of fast risers.
The Aztecs haven’t used him much in the passing game, so he entered the annual prospectpalooza with a reputation as a great blocker who won’t be much of a pass-catching threat. His training forces everyone to re-evaluate that assessment.
“For a guy like him to be able to step out in front of all 32 teams on a national stage and show that he’s not just stuck in the tight blocker type mud and he can actually translate to the new wave of offense in the NFL, I think that’s huge for him,” said Derek Hawkridge, talent evaluator at Steinberg Sports & Entertainment.
This is where we come to know the term Relative Athletic Score (RAS for short). This is a metric designed to gauge a prospect’s athletic testing based on their height and position. Bellinger’s RAS shows he has been significantly undervalued.
He was 6’5″ and 253 pounds, and ran a 4.63 in the 40, which is a lot faster than anyone thought he could go. Add 22 reps on the bench press and a smooth course and everything suddenly, the world of scouting has to relearn what it thought it knew.
“You see it up close and personal and you see the fluidity of her hips and so on and you might think the film doesn’t really show all that’s there,” says Hawkridge.
Another aspect of RAS is the ability to compare the athletic abilities of two players. Before the Combine, Bellinger’s closest accomplice was called Travis Kelce when he came out of Cincinnati. After his practice, Bellinger jumped on Kelce and George Kittle, who is now considered the best tight end in the league.
We say it all the time, the NFL is a copycat league, so when front offices see measurables like this, they absolutely take it into account.
“We’re always looking for guys to benchmark players against to make that come into play,” says Hawkworth. “Once they see the level of achievement in someone of that stature, they think they can take it away from someone else. It’s definitely something they rely on.
Another guy who showed teams he’s better than they thought was Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir. The Murrieta native was one of the most productive breakaways in the country, but the perception was that he lacked top speed.
Shakir ran a blistering 4.35 to shatter expectations.
“People thought 4.5 was high and 4.6 was low, for reasons we don’t know,” says Hawkridge. “Then he goes and does what he does and people have to come back to the tape and say holy smoke, we missed something here.”
Shakir and Bellinger must have been 5 years oldand or 6and round peaks. After the Combine, they both got into the conversation as 3rd the curves.
And then we have the case of Matt Araiza. The best punter college football ever went to the Combine and again impressed with a few 70-yard punts that hit them. But, he also ran a 4.70 time and has an RAS of 9.52, making him one of the most athletic specialists in draft history.
Now you might be wondering why a punter should show a top speed of 40 yards. Usually, if a bettor goes 40 yards, something has gone terribly wrong in the rematch. But remember, Azaiza also led the Aztecs in special teams tackles. He was a safety at Rancho Bernardo High School and enjoys laying out opposing running backs, which will endear him to his teammates very quickly.
“It’s another facet of the locker room. When you have your kicking specialist who can immerse themselves in this culture, everything falls into place. You want to put all the positive pieces together and build that camaraderie, and tell me you’ve got a punter coming in and making the big move that doesn’t drive the team crazy, right? He will be a special choice for whoever gets him, that’s for sure.
As for where he will be chosen? Araiza could go anywhere from 2n/a round to 7and round. No matter where he goes, this team will get a steal.