INDIANAPOLIS — Chase Young stood behind a microphone at the NFL scouting combine Thursday morning and declared himself the best player in this year’s draft. He did not say this as a boast. He did not preen or gloat or brag. He simply uttered this phrase as a statement of fact.
Before him stood a swarm of journalists at least 10 rows deep — easily the biggest throng for a non-quarterback news conference at this year’s combine. The size of the crowd seemed to confirm his words, all but anointing the former Ohio State edge rusher the draft’s top prospect.
So acclaimed is Young, believed by most draft experts to be the Washington Redskins’ obvious selection with the draft’s second pick, that he will not work out with the other defensive linemen Saturday night, seemingly because there is almost nothing left for him to prove. The most he said he will do before April’s draft is go through position drills during Ohio State’s pro day. He won’t run a 40-yard dash.
“Me and my team [of advisers] decided that because that first day when I step on the field I want to be the best player I can be,” Young said. “I don’t want to waste time trying to be a combine athlete.”
Young, who starred for DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., dominated most of his games during his last two years at Ohio State. In 2018 he had 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Last fall he broke Vernon Gholston’s single-season school record for sacks with 16.5. For this, he won most of college football’s top defensive awards and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting behind quarterbacks Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Ohio State teammate Justin Fields.
But he didn’t have a sack in his final regular season game, the Big Ten championship game or the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson. That raised questions about his true dominance, leading to the usual pre-draft chatter that perhaps he isn’t worth the second pick.
Asked about those last three games, Young quickly shook his head.
“I had a lot of quarterback hits, lot of pressures,” he said. “If you know football, you will see that. You will see how they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy. A lot of people might not know how to study a tape or might not know how to watch football, but if you know, you know I made an impact.”
Then he added this.
“Being the best defensive end isn’t about sacks,” he said. “It’s being the most disruptive player on the field. You can do that without having a sack.”
Young, whose formal meeting with Washington is scheduled for Friday, said he grew up watching the Redskins as a child in Prince George’s County. He said he wasn’t a fan of any team, choosing instead to root for players. His favorites were Sean Taylor and Clinton Portis.
None of that means Young is locked on the Redskins, however. He said he talks to Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a friend going back to their high school days and a former Ohio State teammate. Haskins, he said, is forever talking about the two of them playing on the same team again on the Redskins. But Young said several times Thursday that he doesn’t care who picks him in the draft, saying he will play for whichever team takes him.
When asked whether it bothered him that Washington is meeting with quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa at the combine as well as several of the draft’s other prospects, he shrugged.
“I’m not really worried about who might draft me,” he said. “Wherever I go, I’ll go.”
Several times people asked Young about proclamations made by draft experts and other football people suggesting he is a “generational talent,” the kind of pass rusher who comes along once every few years. As with the Redskins talk, he seemed uninterested by the topic.
“I block things like that out. I feel like if you worry too much about that, it will affect what you do right now,” he said. “My only focus is to be the best player I can be. I’m working to be the best, and I’m not afraid to let people know it. I just take it one day at a time and live in the moment.”
A few moments later a league official tapped him on the shoulder, ending the news conference. Young smiled, stood up and walked away. The huge mob of journalists dispersed, even if the conversation about where he goes in the draft is only just beginning.