Though the latest NFL season just came to an end in February, preparations for the upcoming season have already begun with the 2023 NFL Combine. Held yearly at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., this year’s running came to a close on Monday after a week of events spanning from Feb. 28 to March 6. The purpose of the NFL Combine is to showcase a variety of “medical, mental and physical criteria.” This allows prospective draft picks the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and skills to NFL scouts, coaches and general managers ahead of April’s Draft. Eligible athletes may attend by invitation only.
This year, four Cardinal players secured Combine invites: senior wide receiver Elijah Higgins, senior cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly, junior quarterback Tanner McKee and fifth-year wide receiver Michael Wilson. Let’s take a look at how they performed.
Higgins, who led Stanford receivers this past season with 59 receptions for 704 yards and two touchdowns, made a great impression thanks to his 40-yard-dash performance. In fact, Higgins even started trending on social media, with users taking notice of his size and speed. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound wide receiver ran an impressive unofficial time of 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. Speculation surrounds Higgins as he could potentially switch to tight end in the near future due to his noteworthy skillset. “I’ve been watching Evan Engram [of the Jacksonville Jaguars] a lot,” he said to reporters at the Combine. “I’m preparing for that tight end role.”
Kyu Blu Kelly
Kelly had a strong overall performance at the NFL Combine. Standing at 6-foot-1, the cornerback originally from Las Vegas, Nev. turned in a 4.52 40-yard dash time. This result set him apart from the rest, as he ended up being one of the fastest cornerbacks out of all the Pac-12 prospects.
McKee enters the NFL Combine having thrown for 2,947 yards, 13 touchdowns, eight picks and a 62% completion rate during the 2022 season. He led a Cardinal offense which struggled to produce outcomes all season, and the 6-foot-6, 230-pound quarterback ultimately decided not to return to the Farm for another year. He will instead enter the 2023 NFL Draft. McKee has an impressive arm which is often considered his top-selling point. He showed his skill with a 45-yard pass during the throwing portion of the Combine. During the event’s interview session, McKee told the press that his work ethic is what sets him apart: “My competitiveness separates me from the other QBs in the draft. I’ll outwork anybody.”
Wilson managed 23 repetitions during the bench press portion, which was the highest among the receivers. Essentially, players need to lift 225 pounds until failure. In addition to his stand-out performance on the bench press, Wilson has had an impressive showing recently, recording four catches for 76 yards at the Senior Bowl on Feb. 4, 2023. Despite going down with a season-ending injury in the fall, the wide receiver is now back in action and showed off his talents at the NFL Combine.
Watch out for the 2023 NFL Draft taking place on Apr. 27-29 to see if these four Cardinal will trade in their red and white jerseys for some new colors.