NFL Scouting Combine: Recap
Sunday was the second day of position drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. More importantly, it was the day that we fantasy players should really care most about because it was time for the money players to shine: quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs. What can you honestly conclude about an athlete's future in the NFL from a couple of hours of drills while wearing no pads? That's debatable, but here is a rundown of what some high-profile skill position prospects did in Indy.
-- Of course, everyone had their eyes on the Big Three at QB: Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater did a couple of drills, but he didn't throw, nor run the 40-yard dash. He'll save that for Louisville's pro day next month. There's not much to say about Bridgewater's Sunday other than he put up a nice number in the broad jump (113 inches, a couple of inches less than Bortles and tying Manziel). But that's obviously not something that tells us a lot about Bridgewater's next-level potential.
-- Manziel also didn't throw for the coaches and scouts in attendance, but he did put down a 4.68-40, the fourth-fastest time at the position. That time was a little slower than I expected, but Johnny Football's quickness was on full display in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle as he posted the 4.03 seconds he needed to finish the shuttle (was the position's quickest time by more than one tenth of a second). In a span of four seconds, that's a big gap. Manziel's time running around the cones was slower only than Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch. Manziel and Lynch were the only two players to go sub-seven seconds in the cone drill.
-- Bortles' day was a little up and down. On the negative side, he ran his 40 in 4.93 seconds. That's a slow time for such an athletic player. I can say from watching Bortles extensively this season that he is noticeably faster than that on the field. But I think Bortles may have helped his stock a tad (or at least calmed some fears about his accuracy) in the throwing drills. He was spot-on while throwing deep posts and corners. He led his receivers well down the field and put the ball in correct spots.
-- I thought Alabama's A.J. McCarron also threw some really nice passes. As expected, he didn't wow anyone with his measurables, but he was extremely accurate 30 yards up along the sideline.
-- Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas was the fastest quarterback as he posted a 4.61 in the dash. Thomas is the anti-McCarron: He's a physical specimen and a top performer in all of the drills. But his accuracy and consistency as a passer need a ton of work. His flaws, especially a lack of footwork, were evident Sunday. But he could have a future at another position if he doesn't pan out as a QB. His raw athleticism is hard to ignore.
-- Any doubt that Clemson's Sammy Watkins would be a top-ten and perhaps a top-five pick in May was put to rest. There was some chatter on Twitter that Watkins would run around 4.30. But his 4.43 time is still fast. People in the know have already said he is the best WR prospect since Julio Jones and A.J. Green in 2011. Not bad company. Watkins also looked very smooth in the receiving gauntlet. In one drill, he tried to grab a pass that was behind him with one hand. Perhaps he could have shown a little more effort there, but that is absolutely nit picking.
-- Another great 40-time came from Texas A&M's Mike Evans. A time of 4.53 for a wide receiver may not look outstanding on the surface, but consider that Evans is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. He also displayed soft hands and great tracking ability as he went for deep over-the-shoulder throws. This guy looks straight beastly and should be drafted in the first half of the first round.
-- USC's Marqise Lee went from being a Heisman finalist in 2012 to fighting through a 2013 season filled with injuries. Then he ran his 40-yard dash and posted a time of 4.52, which is not as fast as a player at 6 feet tall and less than 200 pounds should be. But Lee made up for it by making some simply outstanding, acrobatic catches during the on-field drills. He snatched bad passes over his head and far away from his body with strong hands.
-- Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, the Biletnikoff Award winner, was the day's most impressive wide receiver for me. He is only 5-foot-10 and about 190 pounds, but he blazed the turf with a 4.33 40-yard dash, he looked almost perfect in the pass-catching drills and was the best in the 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle. He should be a dangerous slot receiver at the next level.
-- Among other WRs trying to get in or stay in the first round ... Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, the man who scored the BCS Championship-clinching touchdown against Auburn, ran a 4.61 in the 40. But that's just fine for Benjamin, who is 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds. He needs some polish, but with that body, he can be a red-zone target immediately. ... a pair of LSU teammates had very different days at the combine. Odell Beckham did what he needed to do: run fast. He put up a 4.43 and had some of the top times in the shuttle runs. But Jarvis Landry, despite being close to the same height as Beckham (5-foot-11) and just a few pounds heavier, ran the slowest time for any wideout at 4.77. He decided not to do a second run because of a calf injury, but he took part in the jumping drills later on. In both the vertical and broad jump, he finished with the second-lowest numbers among all testing WRs.
-- Just as in 2013, the first round of this year's draft may go by without a single running back being called to the stage. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde may have the best chance of stopping that from happening, but his day at the combine was unfortunately short as he suffered a left hamstring injury on his first 40-yard dash run (4.66). He was forced to call it a day.
-- Baylor's Lache Seastrunk helped his profile as he was the best in both jumping drills -- his broad jump of 134 inches is the sixth-longest at the combine going back to 2006 -- and then he went 4.51 in the 40. That's not as fast as he thought he would run, but it's not a killer either. He may have had the most impressive all-around afternoon of any running back.
-- Auburn's Tre Mason, the SEC's Player of the Year, also did very well in the jumping drills, and ran a 4.50-40. That'll work for a 5-foot-9 back who is a stocky 207 pounds. One knock I have on his performance is that it looked like he didn't really give full effort in a couple of the receiving drills, coming slowly out of his breaks.
-- Mason's fellow Heisman finalist, Boston College's Andre Williams, put up a 4.56 in the 40, which is a great number for a 230-pound runner. His other measurables were pretty solid. However, Williams (despite carrying the ball 355 times) did not catch a pass this season. And his weaknesses in that area were very clear during the receiving drills as he dropped a number of balls. Watching him run routes along the sideline was ugly. That will definitely limit his field time in today's pass-first NFL.
-- I didn't know who Kent State's Dri Archer was before Sunday, but I definitely know his name now. He ran a 4.26 in the 40. That's just two one-hundredths of a second off of Chris Johnson's 4.24 record from 2008. No other RB even broke 4.40 on the day. Archer is very small -- 5-foot-8, 173 pounds -- but jets like those will get you noticed. For comparison's sake, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas is Archer's height and size and carries much more buzz, but he could muster only a 4.50 in the dash.
-- Washington's Bishop Sankey was a top performer in many drills on Sunday and ran under 4.50. He helped his stock more than most, certainly more than LSU's Jeremy Hill. Although he is a big back at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Hill left a little to be desired in the 40 (4.66) and had the second-lowest number in vertical jump at just 29 inches. He also had the fifth-shortest broad jump. It wasn't exactly a redeeming day for a player who could be the second running back taken in the draft, but he has a lot of concerns surrounding him after a pair of arrests since 2011.
-- San Diego State running back Adam Muema left the combine without testing on Sunday because God told him to. Perhaps God thinks the combine is overrated.