Time to talk about some prospects who used the Combine to their advantage. I will remind you that I can only refer to them based on what they did in shorts. Clearly I have no access to medical information or interviews.
BUCK ALLEN/RB/USC There seems to be a rather large group of RB who are in the running (excuse the pun) for selection on Friday of this year’s Draft. I consider Allen to be one of them and he impressed me with some numbers at Indy. I have never considered him to be a speed burner, but I was impressed that at 221 lbs. he ran a 4.53/40. That put him .001 behind a guy named GORDON. His 1.58/10 split was second best in the entire RB group, again by .001 of a second. His 35.5″ vert placed him in the top 3rd of the RB who jumped. He was also one of only 6 RB who did their 3-cone drill in less than 7 seconds. What all this tells me is that he has a great combination of speed, burst and leg drive, which explains how he gained so many yards after contact as a Trojan. Without getting too muscle bound he could stand to add some upper body strength, as evidenced by only 11 reps in the Bench Press. He is the real deal and he is on my Top 100 Big Board.
STEPHONE ANTHONY/ILB/CLEMSON Another player who I have liked all season used the Combine to showcase what a physical specimen he is, posting top level numbers in speed, strength and explosion. At 243 lbs. he is clearly stout enough to handle an ILB spot at the pro level. His 23 reps in BP were top half of the LB group. His 4.56/40 was second best in the LB group and clearly indicates he will be able to cover lots of ground in pursuit of the ball. In general all of his numbers were in the top 3rd of his position group and he looked smooth going in any direction during on-field workouts. In the eyeball test and on paper this Combine pegs him as arguably the most athletic ILB in the Draft. His work at the Combine has him on the cusp of being a First Round selection. Green Bay, for instance, should have keen interest in him now that they have released their two starting ILB from last September. But they probably would need to use their 30th Pick to have a chance to grab him after this performance.
VIC BEASLEY/OLB/DE/CLEMSON Watching BEASLEY sprint into opponents backfields for Clemson the past few years we all knew what his main skill set was. But as recently as last summer scouts were saying he weighed less than 230 lbs. If that is the case his Performance Camp handlers deserve a handsome bonus for what they did to help him reshape his body since early January. BEASLEY weighed in at a ripped 246 lbs. and pushed up 35 reps in the Bench Press. That is functional size and strength folks. Yet he still produced a more than solid 4.53/40 time. For those wondering about his agility and flexibility to play standing up, he also ran his 3-Cone in 6.91 seconds. His 41″ vert illustrates his leg explosion. He looked smooth as silk in on-field drills to conclude his Combine work. Talk about acing the event and solidifying Top 10 Draft status!
CHRIS CONLEY/WR/GEORGIA It took only one run of 40-yards for talent evaluators to go from wondering why this guy was even invited to the Combine, to wondering how Georgia’s coaching staff failed to develop him more as a receiver. CONLEY blazed out an official 4.35/40 at 6’017″/213 lbs. That’s the 4th fastest time of over 300 players in Indy, tying him with KEVIN WHITE/WR/WVU. He rocketed to a 45″ vert and broad jumped 11’7″. His hand width at 9 7/8″ makes one think he should be a solid hands catcher. He had some drops on-field in receiving drills, but I saw him run one flawless gauntlet. I have to believe some NFL scouts will be asking to see some extra catching drill work at his Pro Day. This guy went from not on the radar for most of us, to wondering why he wasn’t duplicating the receiving numbers of DEVIN SMITH/Ohio State. Way to showcase yourself young man.
AMARI COOPER/WR/ALABAMA Often times when you are considered the top dog a lot of folks will be looking to knock you off your throne. I feel that was the case with COOPER. So when he “only” ran the 10th fastest time (4.42) at the Combine, some said he wasn’t as fast as advertised. Some claimed he lacked elite explosion because he only posted a 33″ vert. COOPER aptly demonstrated his change of direction speed and flexibility posting top numbers in the 3-Cone (6.71) and the 20-yard shuttle (3.98). He looked natural as could be on the field. While we saw some surprisingly good numbers from some other guys, in certain drills COOPER still looked elite to me and proved it in Indy. I also like what the young man’s body has grown into at 6’007″/211 lbs, with 10″ hands.
XAVIER COOPER/DL/WASHINGTON STATE Count me among those who blinked twice when they saw that COOPER had thrown his hat into the ring as a Declared Underclassman in January. After watching him perform very well in multiple drills at the Combine count me among those who came away saying, ‘That man is ready to play pro football’. I liked his size at 6’027″/293 lbs. I also liked that he posted a 4.86/40 time, which clearly tells me he doesn’t have to be an inside plugger. His 7.23 3-cone is not exceptional, but if you look at the DL group and guys who weigh more than 270 lbs. it is top 5. He looked very fluid and balanced in the on-field drill work. He has dancing feet. For me COOPER’s work has placed on my Top 100, with his best position probably being as a 5-Technique in a 3-4 scheme.
PHILLIP DORSETT/WR/MIAMI None of the explosive numbers DORSETT posted really surprised everyone. It probably did more to make people wonder even more why the Miami coaching staff could not/did not get the ball into his hands more often. To set the record straight, DORSETT’s 4.33/30 was the 3rd fastest at this year’s Combine. He also posted a 37″ vert & a 10’2″ broad jump. He looked quick during on-field drills, and just like he did at the Senior Bowl he showed himself to be a very good hands catcher in receiving drills. More so than busting out at the Combine, I would say he used the event to put an exclamation point on what he showed us during Senior Bowl week in Mobile.
BUD DUPREE/OLB/DE/KENTUCKY I have had some serious questions about DUPREE since watching him in 3 games last fall. I felt pretty strongly that he shied away from tackling unless it was at the end of his own speed rush. That still concerns me. But my second question about his size was put to rest by the body he showed up in for the Combine. DUPREE looked like a guy who who could actually play as a 4-3 DE, measuring in at 6’4″/269 lbs. And in that beefed up frame he still rushed to a 4.56/40. To no one’s surprise he vaulted to a 42″ vert and broad jumped 11’6″. There will still be some inspection work at his Pro Day, but the guy in shorts looked the part of an elite edge-rushing prospect.
JAKE FISHER/OT/OREGON FUSHER was high on my watch list for the Combine, because I felt he looked less than elite in Oregon’s failed National Championship Play-Off run. He still looks lean, but weighing in at 306 lbs. with 33 3/4″ arms made me start thinking LT again in a hurry. I was impressed when those long arms still pushed up the bench press bar 25 times. His 32.5 vert showed some leg explosion. Did I mention he just missed breaking the 5.00/40 gold standard by running to a 5.01 time?! I might also add that in the important change of direction 3-Cone drill he ran an OL group best of 7.25 seconds. He worked out well in on-field drills and had several NFLN analysts mention that magical LEFT Tackle word. Big showing for FISHER, who had a few injury woes somewhat derail his 2014 season.
DANTE FOWLER/DE/OLB/FLORIDA FOWLER has been perplexing people for several years now as a pro prospect. He has natural pass rush moves and has flashed great athleticism on a regular basis. But as a steady, productive player he’s left a bit to be desired. Once again, a player stood up to be counted and drew considerable praise as the Combine concluded. His smooth footwork and explosion on the field were punctuated by his work-out numbers. He was a lean & trim 6’025″ & 261 lbs. His official 4.60/40 gave clear indication that he has the speed to stand up outside and cover. His 7.4 second 3-Cone number left a bit to be desired, but his 32.5″ vert was acceptable. Scouts loved his 33 3/4″ arms & 9.5″ hand spread. He did not quite match the numbers of DUPREE, but BUD was clearly the leader of the pack overall. Fowler came out of Indy looking like a clear Top 12 edge-rush prospect.
CLAYTON GEATHERS/S/UCF It does not appear that 2015 is a big draft opportunity for teams who need immediate help at the Safety position. GEATHERS has been a productive, though not elite player for the UCF program. He got my attention at the Combine by a strange circumstance. There was much curiosity surrounding the performance of GEATHERS’ teammate underclassman CB/JACOBY GLENN. Alphabetically the two UCF DB performed back-to-back. And it dawned on me after a while that the S was posting more impressive numbers than the CB. GEATHERS ran a 4.55/40 which was 4th best among the S group and better than the 4.64/40 from his teammate Glenn. He also weighed a robust 218 lbs. He had some numbers that indicate a nice balance between strength and explosion. His 22 reps in the bench Press was 3rd best among DB and he posted a vert of 37″. For at team with Strong Safety needs I could see GEATHERS now being taken in Round 4 of the draft.
BRETT HUNDLEY/QB/UCLA Everyone seems to be trying to figure out which prospect ranks as the 3rd best QB in 2015. That debate will likely rage on until the Draft takes place. For me the guy that showed the most potential and physical gifts was BRETT HUNDLEY. The tale of the tape for him at the Combine was a sight to behold. At just over 6’3 and weighing 226 lbs. he looks solid but lean. His 4.67/40 was solid for a long legged guy and significantly faster than big names like Winston & Petty. His 10 1/2″ hand spread prompted buzz amongst talent evaluators from colder NFL cities. Hundley vaulted himself to a 36″ vertical, which tied him with Mariota as best for the QB group. In the 20-yard shuttle he was the only QB present to break the 4.0 second barrier, with a 3.98. I am not a QB guru, but I felt his throwing was above average considering the setting. There is work to be be done with Hundley, but I see major athletic tools and the attitude to take on an NFL starting job in 2-3 years.
DAVID JOHNSON/RB/N. IOWA Johnson has been an absolute beast in both of his chances to play and work out with the big boys from D1. He was impressive with his speed and power at the Senior Bowl and dotted all the I’s and crossed the T’s in Indy. He was a rock solid 6’005″ & 224 lbs. And created more buzz when he hauled that size to a 4.50/40 time. That was the 4th fastest time in the RB group. He also showed good upper body strength with 25 reps in the bench press. He was one of only five RB to break 7.00 seconds in the 3-Cone drill, confirming some of the change of direction he displayed in Mobile returning kicks. He really showed leg explosion with his 41.5″ vert and 10’7″ broad jump. Both of those numbers were second only to AMEER ABDULLAH in the RB group. Even though I did not get to watch him on Saturdays last Fall what I have seen from him in Mobile and Indy makes me doubt there is any way he lasts until Draft Saturday.
KEVIN JOHNSON/CB/WAKE FOREST Johnson had a very solid career for a poor college team. When he declined an invite to the Senior Bowl I wondered what he was trying to hide, besides his lack of ideal size. On day one in Indy for the DB group he got off to a rousing start in front of the assembled talent evaluators. He wasn’t 5’10/175 lbs. as anticipated. Instead he was over 6′ tall (6’002) and weighed 188 lbs. That immediately shed a new light on his pro prospects in the eyes of many. Talk about winning before you even put your shoes on! His 31″ long arms were also a pleasant surprise. A 4.52/40 was not blazing, but it put him in the upper half of the CB group. Johnson was just ahead of Byron Jones in testing lines and some of Jones numbers (see next below) obscured some very fine efforts by Johnson. Johnson skied to a 41.5″ vert and a 12’10” broad jump. Combine his size, explosion and quickness numbers and Kevin is now in consideration as a 2nd Round draftee IMO!
BYRON JONES/CB/UCONN Jones played on one of the weakest D1 schools in the country in 2014. He also missed the second half of the season with a shoulder injury. He showed up at Indy and refrained from running a 40 or lifting. But looking like a world class athlete in other tests may have made for the UCONN Pro Day being the most widely attended ever. The big numbers for Jones were a breathtaking vertical jump of 44.5″ and a world record Broad Jump of 12’3″, which if you go to YouTube to watch, will awe you with his ease of flight. It was also significant that he measured in at 6’005″ & 199 lbs. It should be noted that Jones was considered a solid pro potential cover-Corner on the field before he was hurt. How high will he be drafted? Stay tuned for his 40/time folks. The Huskies Pro Day is not scheduled until March 31st.
JEREMY LANGFORD/RB/MICHIGAN STATE Langford was the main running threat for the Spartans replacing Le’Veon Bell who has quickly become one of the top young RB in the NFL for the Steelers. He’s not the bruiser that Bell was as a collegian, but he showed occasional glimpses of explosion in the conservative Spartans offensive scheme. His posted 40/time at the Combine of 4.42 seconds was the fastest in the RB group. That time is a full tenth of a second faster than Melvin Gordon. He’s not a powerful back, and doesn’t seem to bounce off many tacklers for extra yards. But some wonder how much he may still improve after playing both CB and WR early in his Spartans career. His 34.5″ vertical would seem to indicate some explosion in those legs of his. He’s still not going to be considered an elite RB, but he’s now solidly in Friday draft discussion.
ALI MARPET/OG/HOBART I doubt if anyone has come farther up prospect ranking charts over the past two months than Marpet. The D3 player was a surprise invitee to the Senior Bowl, and by the time that week was over he was past being a “sleeper” prospect. His improvement from Tuesday to Saturday in Mobile was astounding. So as a reward for that work he got himself an invite to the Combine. And in Indy he took his draft prospects to the next level. Marpet was the only OL, of the 41 in attendance who ran, to post a sub-5.00-second 40, at 4.98. Now throw in 30 reps on the Bench Press and a 30.5″ vertical jump and the only question left is not will he drafted, but how high. His 7.33 3-Cone time was second fastest, just behind Jake Fisher. He left Indy in my Top 5 OG prospects.
MITCH MORSE/OG/MISSOURI There was a little bit of bad news for Morse in Indy. With solid weigh-in numbers of 6’053″/305 lbs., he had arms of only 32 1/4″, which is not good for an OT at the NFL level. It seems clear and logical that the scouting community moved him immediately to the OG list. On the bright side, if you look at Morse’s numbers in the Interior OL group he stacks up quite well, and he did play OG earlier in his Missouri career. His 5.14/40-time places him only behind Marpet in that group of players. His 36 bench press reps puts him only behind Flowers/T in the entire OL group. A 31″ vert and 9’4″ broad jump are also top tier numbers for the interior OL group. So in essence, the slide inside because of shorter arms takes him into higher round draft consideration. He should be an early Day 3 draftee based on his Combine numbers.
J.J. NELSON/WR/RS/UAB My standard joke line would be that since NELSON blazed the fastest 40-time of the entire Combine at 4.28, if Al Davis were alive Nelson might have earned himself Draft ranking of no lower than Round 3 from the Raiders. But Mr. Davis is no longer walking this earth and because of his diminutive size NELSON has probably only moved from URFA status to being a potential late round draftee. The NFL is still a big boy league and guys 5’102″ & 156 lbs. have a tendency to get “broken” once they get caught. Nelson’s arms are of decent length at 31 1/8″, but his 8 1/4″ hands will count against him as a receiver. He did also show good explosion in Indy with a 36″ vert and 10’7″ broad jump. Some team with a need for a limited rep, game breaker at the bottom of their roster might roll the ice on this player near the end of the Draft, with a Compensatory Pick. By the way, after looking up some of his regular season stats he had a rather impressive Kick Return average of 38.7 yards in 2014! Way to flash that speed Mr. Nelson.
MYCOLE PRUITT/TE/S. ILLINOIS In a very weak TE group this year, Pruitt came into post-season work from a lower level of competition with a very good chance to impress in competition against D1 players at the Shrine Game and Combine. Mission accomplished Mr. Pruitt. His reputation heading into Indy was that of an uninspired blocker, and a slightly short receiving target. But he showed good hands at the Shrine Game and an ability gain a few yards after the catch. He is indeed a bit short for an inline TE at 6’022″, but packs a solid 251 lbs. on his frame. He has big hands at 10 1/4″ on 33 1/2″ arms. He needs to show more want-to as a blocker, but has the frame to get the job done. His 4.58/40 was tops for the TE group at Indy. His 38″ vert and 9’10” broad jump show some leg explosion for his weight. His 17 reps in the bench press indicate he needs more work on his upper-body functional strength. Overall his numbers paint a picture of a guy, who has work to do, but the athletic tools to improve if he accepts pro coaching and works hard enough to improve. Coming out of Indy he looks like a mid-Round prospect.
JOSH SHAW/CB/USC Was considered a mid Round prospect coming into his senior season and then spent much of the season suspended for an off-field incident during the summer. He appeared at both the Shrine and Senior Bowl venues and caught every one’s attention with his physique and on-field aggressiveness. He continued to excel at the Underwear Olympics in Indy. He blazed to the 5th fastest time in the DB group with a 4.44/40. His Muscle Beach body translated to a group high 26 reps in the bench press. He showed lower body explosion with a 37.5″ vert & 10’10” broad jump. IMO, he comes out of the Combine looking an awful lot like a guy named Richard Sherman a few years ago. Now the question remains as to how he did explaining himself in those interviews?
DEON SIMON/DT/NW LA STATE OK, I admit it. As often as not the NFL Combine guys know as much, or more than I do. I complained about this guy being in Indy as opposed to Xavier Williams/DT/N. Iowa. I still think Xavier should have been invited but I can see why some folks wanted to see this smaller school stud run and jump with the big school boys. He didn’t blow things up, per se, but he sure looked the part of a guy who will play in the NFL. AT 6’043″ & 321 lbs. he caught my eye right away. Then I saw 33″ arms and 10 1/2″ hands. I sure didn’t expect a 5.12/40 out of him. He also pushed up 35 reps in he bench press. He looked fairly smooth and coordinated in on-field drill work to boot. He’s not Top 100, but he sure looked to me like a guy who should be drafted, and could be coached up to be a solid NFL player in time. Nice invite, Combine Committee.
DONOVAN SMITH/OT/PENN STATE I kinda did a yawn when I saw SMITH had declared for the Draft, even though it turned out he didn’t need to because he’d been out of HS 4 years and had earned his degree from PSU. Luckily, that made him eligible for the Senior Bowl and he was more of an athlete/football player than I had thought watching the Penn State offense stumble around in a couple of games last Fall. His combination of size and agility surprised me in Mobile. And in Indy he posted some numbers that reconfirmed what I felt I saw in Mobile. His mass (6’055″/338 lbs) is impressive as are his 34 3/8″ arms & 10 5/8″ hands. His 5.27/40 was nothing exciting, but not bad for his size. His 26 bench press reps is OK for his arm length. But how does someone this massive jump 32″ in his vert? Put this man at RT in an NFL power running offense and he’s your man for the next 10-years.
PRESTON SMITH/DE/MISS STATE There are flash players and then their are dependable guys who complete their assignments and hold down the fort while the flash guys run around making plays, but often end up out of position. Smith strikes me as one of the former. He’s a long guy at 6’047″ tall with 34″ arms. Two of his specialties are deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage and blocking kicks. That last skill might also be due in part to his ability to really propel that long frame airborne, as evidenced by his 34″ vertical jump in Indy. He possesses pretty good strength for a 274 pounder, as demonstrated by his 24 reps in the bench press. A 4.74/40-time is not elite, but he will chase down the ball all over the field, with the kind of effort he puts forth. So what I saw at the Combine and Senior Bowl week was a steady DE for a 4-3 scheme, who just doesn’t happen to be that edge-rush glamour guy. He confirmed at the Combine that his all-around skill set should provide a steady DE starter in The League.
TRAE WAYNES/CB/MICHIGAN STATE There is obviously much more to being a successful CB in the NFL than pure speed, but as Deion Sanders proved it can cover up a lot of coverage warts if receivers cannot outrun the defender. Waynes was pretty much anointed as the top CB for the 2015 Draft when he decided to leave the Spartans a year early. And when he blazed a 4.31/40 in Indy he confirmed that, as NFLN cameras caught his former HC Mark Dantonio grinning in the stands as it happened. He also measured in with those 30″+ arms (31″ to be exact) that teams want to see on the Corner. He also had a vert of 38″ and a broad jump of 10’2″. Combine his college game tape with the numbers he posted in Indy and I believe you have a CB who just moved into the Top 10 of the 2015 Draft.
KEVIN WHITE/WR/WEST VIRGINIA The JUco transfer had an incredible 2014 season for the Mountaineers, even without the benefit of an elite QB throwing to him. The light truly went on for White jumping from 35 catchers in 2013, to 109 catches in 2014. Entering the Combine the biggest question was whether or not he was fast enough to be elite. Just like Waynes, White answered that question with an emphatic Y-E-S in Indy. He ran he 4th fastest 40-time in the building with a 4.35 second dash. And that was done weighing 215 lbs. And to prove he’s not just a one-trick pony White also had 23 reps in the bench press, posted a vert of 36.5″ and broad jumped 10’3″. Any more questions about his legit explosiveness? I think not! He will now battle Amari Cooper to be the top WR in the 2015 Draft, and I doubt either of them lasts beyond the Top 12.
LEONARD WILLIAMS/DL/SOUTHERN CAL Williams demonstrated just what kind of elite athlete he is for a Defensive Lineman with impressive numbers when you remember he’s a 300 lb.+ man, not an edge speed-rusher. I’m a fan of football’s big men. Speed is cool, but watching big guys do things that look unnatural for their size makes me smile during a football game. WILLIAMS is one of those guys, who is already ranked by many as the best football player in this Draft, and who should only get better in he next few years. He stands 6’045″ tall and currently weighs 302 lbs. I would project that size to 6’5 and 320 in two years of NFL training and nutrition. He has 10 5’8″ hands and 34 5/8″ arms. He ran a 40-time of 4.97 seconds. He looked so smooth and confident in on-filed drills that it was almost insulting to most of the other guys out there. He passed the tale of the tape test with flying colors and confirmed what we have all seen in game film. He and the 2 QB would seem to be the cream at the top of the unhomogenized milk bottle.
My apologies for the time it took to complete this article for your perusal,dear readers. I guess I didn’t realize it would turn into a 4400 word piece when I started it. But hey, even in today’s “now” world it has only been a week since the Combine ended. And by the way there were plenty of other solid performers who helped themselves at the 2015 Combine. But the guys above caught my fancy for a myriad of reasons, which I tried to articulate to you.
Now on with the Pro Days!