The NFL Scouting Combine, one of the most pivotal events in the draft process, is now behind us. The combine is a big deal for reasons beyond just the drills that provide such great TV fodder.
Let's have Patriots head coach Bill Belichick sum the whole thing up from an NFL perspective.
"The medical part of it’s huge," Belichick said at the combine. "Having some interaction with the players personally is good, certainly good for me, because I’ve had almost zero over the course of the year. because of the demands of our season. Just being able to see them in person, even though the drills, they’re workout drills, they’re not really football drills. But there’s certainly something to be said for being able to line up the guys all together and watch them compete with each other and go through it all."
The medical part is why the combine was originally put together. If it's the most important part of the process, Alabama offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio may have had the worst week. It was reported that Kouandjio failed some team physicals because of an arthritic knee. He followed that up by running a 40-yard dash in 5.53 seconds. While a team could still like Kouandjio (Carolina makes sense if Jordan Gross retires), he may no longer be a first-round pick.
A foot fracture with Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt also surfaced.
Dee Ford of Auburn was another disappointment because of medicals. After claiming he was better than defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Ford pulled out of drills because of injuries. While Ford helped himself at the Senior Bowl, teams probably wanted to know exactly how he ran. Question their importance all you want, but the drills are there for a reason.
For several top players, the combine went as expected. Clowney said he wanted to run in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash and he nearly did until his official time came out a 4.53 seconds. Cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Bradley Roby were expected to run well and they did, with both breaking 4.4 in the 40-yard dash.The same can be said about linebackers Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr. Though it should be said that if Mack hadn't already overtaken Barr as a prospect, he did in Indianapolis. Sammy Watkins also secured his spot as the top wide receiver.
Still, there were plenty of out-of-the-ordinary happenings at the combine. Winners and losers, if you will. Here they are, with more combine observations and questions below.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
While many expected Donald to test out well, no one could have guessed he'd run as well as he did. At 285 pounds, Donald ran the fastest 40 of any defensive tackle by a wide margin, had the best 10-yard split, recorded the top bench press number and had the best three-cone drill. Every obstacle in Donald's way, he has succeeded.
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Like Donald, Robinson was supposed to do well in drills. Watching Robinson train in a downtown Indianapolis hotel room with fellow Team EXOS players, he was clearly a freak athlete. Unlike most 332-pound offensive linemen, Robinson doesn't have a massive belly or a generally sloppy build. While that's weird, Robinson just looked like a Marvel superhero working out.
Although the top running backs didn't impress (more on that below), Sankey and Sims helped themselves. At Washington, Sankey always looked like a hard-nosed runner with questionable speed. He ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds while excelling in other drills. Sims' speed was questioned because he's a bigger back, but he ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
At the Senior Bowl, McKinnon intrigued after moving over from quarterback. He added to that intrigue at the combine. He had a good 40 time (4.41 seconds), the second-best vertical at 40 1/2 inches and the second-best broad jump at 11 feet. He also had the most bench press reps of any running back with 32. For teams sitting on running backs in the draft, McKinnon could be a nice pickup on the third day.
Odell Beckham and Brandin Cooks
In position drills, Beckham looked like a natural running routes. Combine that with his 4.43 speed and hands, and it's hard to see why Beckham shouldn't be considered a first-round pick. Cooks has even better speed and showed he can cut quick on routes. He's another first-rounder in a loaded wide receiver class.
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
If teams are looking for a safety after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, Bucannon may be their guy. He doesn't have the size concerns Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois or Lamarcus Joyner of Florida State may have. A 40-yard dash of 4.49 seconds will help prove his speed and his tape shows an intense hitter. Bucannon likely locked up a spot in the second round of the draft.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Amaro ran a 4.74 40-yard dash, compared to fellow tight end Eric Ebron's 4.60. More importantly, Amaro has the smallest hands of tight ends in attendance, measuring just 9 inches. Ebron has overtaken Amaro.
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Landry was dazzling in his media session, proclaiming he fears being average and loves to do all the dirty work on the field. But his numbers – a 4.77-second 40, 28 1/2-inch vertical – will force teams to go back on his tape. Landry needs a good pro day. A fringe first-rounder in the first place, Landry will likely be waiting until the second day of the draft to hear his name called.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
If teams were wary of taking Michael Sam because of the off-the-field media circus, Sam didn't do much to help himself on the field. Sam ran just a 4.91 40-yard dash and more importantly had one of the slower 10-yard splits at his position. Sam also didn't help himself by saying his specialty is rushing the passer. Everyone knows that already. The issue with Sam is the rest of his game.
"I’m a pass rusher," Sam said. "If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback. Whoever coaches or GMs, this league is a passing league, I’d like to believe in myself as a good pass rusher."
Top running backs
There wasn't a first-round running back in the draft last year, and that will likely be the case this year. One of the top running backs had a chance to really separate himself, and failed to do so. That starts with Ka'Deem Carey, whose game is built on speed. Carey ran just a 4.70 40-yard dash, one of the slowest among running backs. Another speedy back, Lache Seastrunk, timed a 4.51 seconds. Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde ran 4.66s.
Adam Muema, RB, San Diego State
One of the more bizarre stories of the combine was the departure of Muema, who claimed God told him to leave. That's a first, at least.
Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson
Neither of the Florida cornerbacks did much to help his draft standing. They ran the 40 in 4.61 seconds and on Tuesday Roberson looked less than stellar in positional drills.
James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State
Here is a quote from Wilder last week on his 40-yard dash:
"I am shooting for 4.4. Kind of surprised [some reports] have me at 4.6. So I will get a 4.4 and surprise some people."
He ran a 4.86.
Questions after the combine
Will Kent State's Dri Archer overtake Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas as the top offensive weapon in the draft?
Archer had the fastest 40 in Indy (4.26 seconds), pushed the 225-pound bench press 20 times at 173 pounds, had a 38-inch vertical jump and the fastest 10-yard burst among running backs. Archer was a sensation, and proved his athleticism didn't just look like a product of the Mid-American Conference. Athletically, he did everything better than Thomas, who is the more high-profile player.
Did Taylor Lewan become a top-10 pick in Indianapolis?
Robinson and Matthews did as expected. Lewan did the unexpected. He ran a faster 40 than any other offensive tackle and did well in the broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches) and three-cone drill (7.39 seconds). If Lewan's character checks out – and he'll be evaluated as much or more than any top prospect – he could work his way into the top 10.
Is Keith McGill a cornerback and does he know it?
Of the cornerbacks who will get shoehorned into the "Seahawks mold," none will get it more than McGill, a 6'3, mega-sized corner. McGill did well for himself, running the 40 in 4.51 seconds and recording a 39-inch vertical. But during his media session, McGill said he's still not comfortable at the position after moving over from safety last season.
Notes and observations
Hands down, the best quotes of the combine came from Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix, who is feeling sexy. The second-best quotes were from Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. He admitted he hates comparisons. Hey, great! But he does see some similarities between himself and Tom Brady. How modest.
The most intense player (and tightest handshake) may have been Florida defensive end Ronald Powell. He got emotional talking about not only his injury past, but teammate Dominique Easley's.
Thanks to the folks at Google who hooked us up to do Hangouts from Lucas Oil Stadium. We had a chance to use Google Glass, but I didn't because I feared it would make the story about me. As a media person, that's the last thing you want.
Speaking of gadgets, ever wonder how NFL teams get the numbers from the combine? The NFL worked with Microsoft to get all the numbers on Surface tablets. It helps teams get results nearly in real time. Hopefully some extension will be made for fans and media who are hungry for the information.
Two ends of the spectrum: Teddy Bridgewater said there isn't a moment that goes by where he isn't thinking of football. Easley said he's never watched a full game on TV and prefers cartoons.
One of the stranger comments was Barr saying it's "realistic" he could go No. 1 in the draft. In the same vein of realism, I may be dating Kate Upton in the future. Deal with it, Justin Verlander.
The heartbreaking quote of the week came from Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "I don't do TV scouting. I leave that to you guys." Aww.