One of my favorite drills to watch over the course of the entire week is the Gauntlet Drill with the receivers. The prospect starts on one sideline and runs across the width of the field, catching footballs coming at him from both his left and his right in rapid-fire fashion before he reaches the other side, where he pulls in his final reception and sprints to the goal line. Some of the things you can notice when watching this drill:
1. How cleanly the receiver catches the ball – look the pass in, secure it, and toss it aside while looking for the next throw.
2. Balance and body control while staying at near-top speed.
3. Battling through adversity – if they have a drop or a bad rep, do they have a short memory and finish the drill strong?
Here are the players who have a chance to shine in these drills:
Jordan Addison (USC) – The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s top wideout while catching passes for Kenny Pickett at Pitt, Addison transferred to USC last offseason to play for coach Lincoln Riley and he responded with another impressive campaign for his new squad. Addison has strong hands and runs sharp routes. He should look good in all position drills, including the gauntlet.
Rashee Rice (SMU) – Rice’s hands are one of his strong suits, as he’s able to pluck the ball from the air almost effortlessly on tape at times while working both inside and outside. The senior has played a lot of ball for the Mustangs. His size, hands, and physicality remind me a bit of Pro Bowl receiver Chris Godwin.
Xavier Hutchinson (Iowa State) – Hutchinson set a school record with 83 catches pulling in passes from Brock Purdy in 2021, and he bounced back with even MORE production as a senior this fall. The First-Team All-American made 107 grabs this fall, putting his reliable hands to good use. Those mitts will come in handy in the Gauntlet Drill as well.
Marvin Mims (Oklahoma) – Staying in the Big 12, Mims first caught my eye when replacing Marquise Brown in the OU offense back in 2020 as a consensus Freshman All-American. Fast forward to this season, in a new scheme, where he set personal records with 54 catches for 1,083 yards for the Sooners. Mims is a pretty good athlete in all areas, but his hands and ball-tracking downfield are what stand out most.
Zay Flowers (Boston College) – Flowers is another player who set career highs in basically every statistical category this year, his final one on campus. A true senior who excelled at making catches through contact in all areas of the field, Flowers has good speed and confident hands. That’s a good combination to have going into the pre-draft cycle.
These players have great stories to tell, but who has taken the most unique journey to get to this point?
Michael Wilson (Stanford) – Limited to just eight starts in the last two seasons before his final year on campus, Wilson tried to gut his way through injury during the majority of his time with Stanford. A dirty-work pass catcher with impressive skills as a route runner, Wilson stood out at the Senior Bowl after starting every game he played in this fall. But therein lies the rub, as Wilson played in just six games this season after playing in just five a year ago. The California native has only started more than 10 games once in his career for the Cardinal, but appears poised to impress teams with his skill set this week. And one final thing about Wilson’s background? His genes. His aunt, Maureen Jacobson, played soccer for New Zealand’s World Cup team in 1991.
Jonathan Mingo (Ole Miss) – Every year, when I come to the Combine, I ask players about teammates returning to school that we need to know about in the coming season. Last March, the guy that Rebels’ players most brought up was Mingo. What was unique about that opinion was that he was already established on that roster. Mingo has started in nearly every game he’s participated in throughout his college career in Oxford, but with the embarrassment of riches at wide receiver throughout his career, he was never a featured target in Lane Kiffin’s offense, registering just 61 catches in three seasons. Fast forward to this year, when he set career highs in receptions (51), yards (861), and touchdowns (5) on his way to being named Second-Team All-SEC. Mingo is a big-bodied wideout with the ability to play a number of roles both inside and outside in an NFL offense.
Charlie Jones (Purdue) – While Mingo has been a steady contributor for four years in one place, Jones has been a well-traveled performer, putting an exclamation point on his career with his standout 2022 campaign for the Boilermakers. The Illinois native nabbed 110 passes for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns this year as one of the most productive receivers in the nation, but he made his bones on special teams in the years before that. Jones was named the Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year in 2021 at his previous stop with the Iowa Hawkeyes while also serving as a complementary piece on offense (21 catches for 323 yards and three touchdowns in their run-first attack). Iowa City was his second stop in his career, as the 5-foot-11, 186-pound receiver actually got his first run in the MAC with Buffalo, catching 18 passes for three touchdowns and averaging nearly 20 yards per kick return as a redshirt freshman in 2018.
Ronnie Bell (Michigan) – Coming out of high school, Bell was arguably the top player in Missouri as he challenged career records, several held by former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin. He arrived on campus at Michigan and earned the team’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after playing nearly 200 snaps and turning in a couple of touchdowns as a true freshman. A year later, he paced the Wolverines’ receiving corps by leading them with 48 catches for 758 yards. The COVID-shortened year proved to be another consistent season of production for the 5-foot-11, 192-pound possession threat and he was set to be a draft pick going into his senior season in 2021. A Week 1 injury ended his season, however, and Bell would have to wait a year. Spin it to this fall, where Bell set career highs in catches (62), yards (889), and touchdowns (4) as one of the heartbeats of the Big Ten Champs. Bell, who initially signed with Missouri State out of high school on a basketball scholarship, is an easy one to root for.