The NFL’s annual ‘underwear Olympics’ closed out yesterday and now we can take a final look at the results and the storylines:
- The DB’s Look Good
For the most part, the defensive backs looked like a talented crop of players. LSU’s Morris Claiborne put in the kind of work-out that will cement his place as the top CB prospect and will likely get him drafted in the top 10 (5?) when the NFL Draft rolls around. That was expected.
What wasn’t expected was the very strong showing by troubled prospect Janoris Jenkins. He placed sixth among corners with a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, which was faster than Morris Claiborne, Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick and several other potential first-round picks.Commentators like NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and ESPN’s Steve Muench reported that Jenkins and Claiborne stood out as the cream of the crop for cornerbacks in workouts in front of the scouts. People knew Jenkins had talent but the fact that he was arguably the top CB at the combine changes the discussion around him.
Let’s be real: Janoris Jenkins has been arrested three times (twice for drugs). He has four children from three different women. He was kicked off the Florida football team. Those are issues that have to taken into account. But will this showing make teams more likely to gamble their #1 Pick on someone with such a troubled past?
- The Front-Seven Looked Better
I said last week that every year there’s some prospect who ends up being talked about as the “athletic freak” of the draft. This year it is Memphis DT Dontari Poe. Poe measured in at 6-foot-3½, and 346-lbs. He started off by putting up 44 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press the previous day (16 above the average for defensive tackles over the last four combines). He then went out and ran a ridiculous official time of 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash. 4.98?? That’s A LOT faster than us regular non-346 lb folks, forget the big boys who work in the trenches.
For perspective, the four-year average for defensive tackles is 5.15 seconds at an average weight of 305.3 pounds.
Poe was also above-average in the short shuttle (4.56 seconds) and vertical jump (29.4), and he showed his explosiveness with an unofficial 1.68-second 10-yard split during the 40. He is one of the few pure nose tackles in the draft so he was already considered a first round pick. But he might have made himself top 10 money.
Besides Poe, there were several other front-seven defensive players that looked impressive: Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox, LSU DT Michael Brockers, North Carolina DE Quinton Coples, and Boston College ILB Luke Kuechly all had the kind of work-outs that will cement their place in the top two rounds of the draft. Kuechey was arguably among the most impressive: He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, jumped 38 inches on the vertical leap and had a 10’3 on the broad jump.
For a draft that is top heavy in the skill positions, there looks to be tons of depth on the defensive side of the ball.
- Big Names Bomb the Combine
There were – however- a few big name players that put in terrible performances on both sides of the ball. A few days back I mentioned that some top talent with “troubled pasts” needed to show up big time. Well, we already Jenkins stepped up. How did the others do?
Well, Vontaze Burfict needed a great work out to help NFL GMs forget the fact that he spent the season removing himself from games, beating up teammates, and generally acting like an idiot. So what did he do? Well, he ran the 40-yard dash in a terrible 5.10 seconds. That’s not a good time; remember, a 346-pound defensive tackle ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. That’s about a 100-pound difference between the two and they have similar speed. Burfict was also last in the broad jump among linebackers and second to last in the vertical leap. he bombed the combine and now he’s gone from a pre-season potential top 10 pick to more than likely not getting drafted at all.
Cliff Harris – whose off-field decision making led to him being kicked off the team in 2011 – wasn’t quite as bad, but he didn’t exactly deliver in Indianapolis. He ran an electronic timed 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Tuesday. Not slow, but hardly elite. He ranked 28th among corners at the combine. The fact the he is already considered a little small compounds all this.
And in the ‘non-troubled’ category: Boise St. QB Kellen Moore might have cemented his place in the Canadian Football League. After a stellar NCAA career, his fans knew he would need a stellar performance over the weekend to be considered an NFL prospect. Bu he failed to impress in Indianapolis after a poor showing at the Senior Bowl in January. Moore, at 5’11″, 191 lbs., ran it in 4.87 seconds. So he is already considered “small” by NFL standards. The fact that he is also “slow” will make it damn near impossible for him to get takent in the NFL Draft.
- WRs Heading in Different Directions
One of the other top prospects who may have “bombed” the combine – depending on who you ask – was Oklahoma St WR Justin Blackmon. He came to Indy as the consensus No. 1 prospect in a weak WR class. he leaves with some question marks.
Blackmon told the media he wouldn’t work out due to a tender hamstring, which is fine. But then he used his tender hamstring to run through a “Gaunlet” drill (a drill where a player sprints across the field, catching alternating passes left to right.) With no obvious affects afterwards, scouts wondered why he didn’t run? For a player who has questions surrounding his speed, this seemed like a shady way to avoid a timed sprint.
This was compounded by the perception that some of the other prospects in this “weak class” had some incredible showings. Specifically, Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill put in a performance that has him rocketing up mock draft boards. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds over the weekend, which was the second fastest dash at the Combine. He looked impressive throughout the week, and during the gauntlet wowed scouts by catching everything thrown in his direction while fluidly changing direction and never breaking stride.
Does that mean that Justin Blackmon will get drafted after Hill? No. Certainly not. But it does mean that maybe there’s no reason for a team to take Blackmon in the top 5 if there’s comparable talent later in the first round.
As the NFL off-season progresses, there are still major questions that needed to be answered: Where will Peyton Manning land? Who will trade up to take RG3? Will the Saints re-sign Drew Brees? Big names make all the headlines. But real NFL fans understand that great teams are built in the draft, and that drafting the right prospect can be the difference between a string of playoff appearances and spending years watching from the sideline when the postseason rolls around.
Some of these work-out warriors will hit big. Most won’t. Being able to know which is which is what puts teams in the Super Bowl.