Jones and Plinke impress at NFL Combine

Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

Over the weekend, former UTEP running back Aaron Jones and tight end Hayden Plinke tested their strengths and skills at the 2017 NFL Combine in anticipation of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Jones participated in running back drills on Friday, while Plinke showcased his skills with the tight end group on Saturday.

Jones, who is among some of the best NFL candidates in years, turned some heads due to his day at the Combine. He measured in at 5-foot-9, 208 pounds vwith an arm length of 32.5 inches. Prior to his drills, he hit 16 reps on the bench press Thursday.

“The Combine is like a summary course in college,” said Leigh Steinberg, Jones’ agent. “It’s the Super Bowl of testing the strengths and weaknesses of players.”

Jones’ next on field test was the 40-yard dash. His first rep clocked in at 4.52 and his second was a 4.50. His time was enough to register him as the sixth best among the running backs, and beat out the likes of LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, who are projected to be drafted in the first round.

“He ran a faster 40 than most people projected,” Steinberg said. “It’s hard to do something like that because they’re tired. They’re running like it’s a boot camp. Training speed on field is hard to replicate running higher numbers and he’s one of the few athletes to run a faster time in both.”

His vertical jump hit a 37.5-inch mark, which was tied for the second best compared to other running backs. His broad jump hit a 127-inch mark, which was the third best. Jones also participated in catching drills, proving his ability to be a multitalented back.

“After the Combine is the Pro Scouting Day, and it’s a summary where if there’s any drills they could improve on, the players would do so. Aaron did very little of them,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg went on to say that Jones not only impressed scouts on the field, but also one-on-one.

“He interacted with all sorts of teams and as the process goes on, he’s become more engaging and teams like it,” Steinberg said. “Teams loved his personality and the feedback was positive on him.”

Steinberg, who has been an NFL agent for over 40 years, says Jones reminds him of Warrick Dunn. Dunn was a three-time Pro Bowl player and played nine years in the NFL with teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons.

“Other than size, he reminds me of Warrick,” Steinberg said. “Both are high runners. Aaron is able to see holes quickly and he’s able to break tackles and get down the field rapidly.”

Like Jones, Plinke is competing in a highly competitive tight end class, and he clocked a time of 4.97 in the 40-yard dash on Saturday.

Plinke leaped a 28-inch vertical, 109-inch broad jump and hit 18 reps on the bench press as part of his Combine showing.

Both players still have UTEP’s pro day scheduled for March 9, as their last chance to impress scouts on the field.