Any questions about Donte Moncrief's decision to enter the draft a year early were answered at the NFL Combine. The big-bodied wide receiver, who says his choice will ease the financial burden on his family and help provide for his baby daughter, blew scouts away with a blazing 4.40 40-yard dash and the third-longest broad jump of the week.
Moncrief believes the numbers he put up in Indianapolis validated his decision, which might have raised a few eyebrows after a somewhat disappointing -- albeit still highly productive -- junior year in Oxford. After posting 979 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, the Mississippi native was pegged for a massive 2013. But after his numbers slid slightly to 938 yards and six touchdowns, some speculated he could return to push himself into the first round in 2015, when the receiver class is expected to be less deep.
It's unlikely he'll go in the first round this May, but the monster combine cements his status as a third-rounder, and could move him into the second round. He could jump even further with a big pro day in March, in which he expects to be an even stronger performance than he was at the combine.
Moncrief sat down with SB Nation to discuss his trip to Indy, when he thinks he could be drafted and the adjustments he'll have to make in the NFL.
What did you think of your performance at the NFL Combine?
I felt like it was pretty good. I felt like I could have done a little better in a few things. It was a strong performance, but my numbers could have been a little bit better, though.
What in particular could have been better?
The cone drills, man. Cone drills are the big thing. But I'm going to have a chance to do it again [at the Ole Miss pro day] so I'm going to try to get better.
You were projected as a third-round pick going into the combine. Do you think your performance there has moved you up draft boards?
I can't tell you exactly where I might be. I feel like I helped my stock out a bit by showing that I can run and have a lot of physical ability. We're just going to keep waiting for that day, keep working hard and grinding and try my best to move up as far as possible.
You decided to forgo your senior year at Ole Miss to go pro. What went into making that decision?
Well, my dad fell ill a year or two ago, so my mom was always paying the bills and working. So that was a big thing for me. And now that I have a seven-month-old daughter, I want to be able to take care of her. So those were the biggest two things about coming out.
It came down to the end. I just talked to my parents and Coach [Hugh] Freeze. I let them make the decision for me and the decision was to leave. So I had to say goodbye to my teammates and go on up the road a little bit.
This year's wide receiver class is one of the deepest in recent memory. Did that have any impact on your decision to go pro?
Nah, man. I think I can compete with anybody, so it doesn't really matter who else is coming out.
What did you think of your final season at Ole Miss?
I thought it was pretty good. I had a few key drops where I was trying to run before I caught the ball and not looking the ball all the way in. But I felt like I did pretty good. Gave my body up for my teammates and just had fun with it.
Are those drops you mentioned something you're working on fixing?
It's not a concern, but I am going to get better at it. I'm just going to keep working. I'm doing a lot of ball drills, focusing on the ball more and getting ready to make big plays.
Do you view your strong showing at the combine as validation of your readiness for the league and an answer to those that thought you shouldn't have left early?
Oh yeah. That was a big thing. They didn't think I could run as fast, and they didn't think I was as explosive. I just had to show them what I had in me.
Guys like Chip Kelly have brought some college-style, spread concepts into the league. Do you think it's easier for guys that played spread in college to transition into that type of offense in the NFL?
Yeah, just being able to roll with it, man, when you just got finished doing the same thing in college. Just being able to roll with it and knowing everything comes from the sideline and out of the no-huddle. You get used to going fast. So that would make it easier for guys coming straight out of college.
Would it make it easier for you personally?
That would make it easier, because I was doing the same thing with Coach Freeze. At the same time, it's basically just getting the playbook. That's one of the big things for me. I like getting the playbook and setting an example. I like to know everything about the offense. So either one would be good for me.
How hard do you think picking up an NFL playbook will be?
It won't be hard. I'm a quick learner. I'm going to listen. I'm going to take in a lot of stuff and learn from the older guys. It won't be hard for me. It's just about being able to put away time and get into the playbook and learn.
There's always going to be guys that have been there longer, that have been older than you, but you just have to be able to compete and have that dog in you and be ready for anything. You have to be mentally ready, coming in young being able to listen to the older guys.
You played two years under Freeze in the no-huddle spread, but you also spent time with Houston Nutt running more of a pro-style offense. Do you think the fact that you played in both gives you an advantage over guys that spent three or four years in the spread?
Yeah, it gives me an advantage having played in both. But the only big difference is going into the huddle and coming out of the huddle. With the spread you just stay out in the field and call the play at the line. You got to learn both of them, both of them will be a task. But it's just being able to put away time, like I said, and learn the playbook.
Did you prefer the spread?
It was about the same. You have to be ready for the ball in either one, the ball just comes quicker in the spread. You have to have suitable blocking in both, so it was about the same for me.
What type of role do you see yourself playing in the NFL?
I see myself doing it all. I can play in the slot, I can go deep, I can play big. I'm not afraid to go across the middle or make the big block on a run.
In the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, what do you expect your rookie year to be like from a locker-room perspective?
I expect to go through some rookie jokes, but I went through it in college so I'll be used to it. You just have to stay humble and know your role and be a good teammate.