The NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and we begin the long trek to draft day. The next two months feel like two years as anticipation builds and we attempt to see our way through the smoke.
Before we jump into our winners and losers, we take a look at some general observations from Indianapolis.
The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine didn’t disappoint. For a ‘weak’ draft, it sure didn’t look like it from an athletic standpoint in Indianapolis. It seems that every year we get a mystery condition that pops up for one of the top prospects. The medicals in Indianapolis are one of the most valuable tools and this year was no exception. Utah DT Star Lotulelei was found to have a heart condition that would appear on the surface to be a fairly serious issues as his left ventricle is pumping at 44%. Not good news for a guy that was valued as a top 5-10 prospect. Without speculating on the condition, the common belief is that it will affect his draft positioning.
On the field there was plenty of intrigue. First, it would be negligent to not talk about speed right off the top. Twelve prospects went sub-4.4 in the 40. For some perspective 2009 saw 4 guys run sub-4.4, 2010 there was 4, 2011 gave us 7, and 2012 racked up 7 sub-4.4 times. The more impressive fact in the speed department was the size of some of the guys running really fast times. Guys like Margus Hunt, Lane Johnson, Ziggy Ansah, and Terron Armstead ran freaky fast for their size. The overall speed of this year’s event was impressive and is proof that the game is only getting faster and teams have to draft speed if they want to keep up.
Everyone was hoping to come out the Combine with a little more clarity on the first overall pick. The water only got murkier. Luke Joeckel appears to be the odds on favorite at this point but things are getting tighter behind. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher continues to close the gap and there are quite a few people who believe Fisher is the superior prospect of the two. I don’t fall into that camp but Fisher is very close in my book. It seems that everyone around the league is under the impression that a quarterback won’t be the first player off the board. With news breaking that the San Francisco 49ers having a deal in place for Alex Smith, speculation led to the Chiefs. We won’t know until March 12 of who the mystery team is but chances are that Smith will be taking snaps for Andy Reid’s West Coast offense in 2013.
1. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma. He continues his rapid ascent up the draft. Johnson showed off his signature athleticism by running 4.72 in the 40, doing 30 bench reps, and leaping 34″ in the vertical. At 303 pounds, that’s scary athleticism for a tackle that will only continue to grow. At this point it would seem unlikely that Johnson would make it out of the top 10 of the draft. With Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher already top 10 locks we could see three OT’s off the board in the first ten picks. Johnson’s raw ability is very intriguing as he’s three years removed from playing quarterback.
I’m banging the table for Jordan as a top five pick
3. Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU. This guy falls into the freak category. 6-foot-5, 271 pounds that ran 4.63 in the 40 and the fastest short shuttle of the DL group at 4.26. Those numbers put him in a different category. Forget the comparisons. He’s not like anything that we’ve seen and could change the way we view versatility in prospects. Forget the production. He played out of position at BYU and wasn’t asked to do what he’s going to be doing in the league. This guy is a top ten pick in my book. I said it in December and I’m saying it now.
4. UCONN. That’s the best way I can sum it up. There’s something in the water at Connecticut. Trevardo Williams, Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Sio Moore blew up the Combine. Williams competed with the DL but will be a linebacker in the NFL. He put up the best 40 and vertical in the DL group. Sio Moore was spectacular in the linebackers group with a 4.65 40, 38″ vertical, and 10’7″ broad jump. Dwayne Gratz was being talked about as a guy that may make the move to safety. That was before he went out and ran 4.47 in the 40 and showed out in the positional drills. He’s a big, physical corner that fits with the Seattle mold and made himself money on Tuesday. Wilson is just so smooth for a 6’1″ corner. He didn’t post eye popping numbers but were better than I anticipated. I have heard from reliable sources that he will be taken in the top 60 and it’s easy to see why.
5. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama. You can nitpick his hands or backpedal but the reality was that everyone was dialed into their stopwatch to see if he could break 4.50. Well, it turned out he would break 4.40 by clocking in at 4.37. Milliner looked very average on the field but that means very little as he has great tape to fall back on. He secured a top six selection in my book and could go as high as No. 2 to Jacksonville.
6. Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff. The day before Armstead blew the roof off Indianapolis I wrote a scouting report that said don’t be surprised if he finds his way into the second round. His ceiling is through the roof. His athleticism is rare and his deficiencies can be taught. Armstead is much more than a height/weight/speed guy. He can play.
7. Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State and Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State. I’m just going to lump these two together. Both were undervalued heading into Tuesday. After Tuesday they may have opened the eyes of the media. Important to note is that I said media. Scouts have been all over these two for months. Slay has been talked about as a top 75 pick and I’ve heard top 50 on Jamar Taylor. They timed well and looked good in positional drills.
8. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M. We knew coming in that Swope had small hands, so that shouldn’t shock. Outside of the hands, everything else more than checked out. He tied Tavon Austin for the second fastest 40 among the WR’s. What we forget is that he’s 205 pounds. Swope ran a great 3 cone time and has the tape to back up his performance.
9. Eric Reid, FS, LSU. Just as I expected, Reid destroyed the Combine. Reid’s an unreal athlete at the safety position that was misused by John Chavis at LSU. He was a guy that I was keeping my eye on in this event. His tape in 2012 is very average but I often found myself questioning scheme and downgrading players based on coaching issues. Bottom line on Reid is that he is an explosive, quick twitch athlete that should be taken early on day two of the draft. His 40 (4.53) isn’t great but his 10 yard split (1.47)was phenomenal.
10. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia. I’ll raise my hand. I thought Austin was going to disappoint in the 40. A guy that was quicker than fast. Well it turns out he’s quick and fast. I was really impressed with his drillwork. I downgraded Austin because of his size and didn’t know where he was going to play in the NFL. I’m a believer. He’s someone you line up and find ways to get him the ball. I fell in love with him in interviews and think he’s just a great football player. Sometimes you throw out size and position for football players. I’m doing that with Austin. There’s three or four teams that will have first round grades on Austin and others won’t value him in that range. Those three or four teams would be wise to make the selection and find ways to get his hands on the ball.
11. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU. I don’t know where this guy gets drafted but it’s clear that he put the time and effort in to show well in Indianapolis. That said, the team cutting him a check will have to be comfortable how he’ll spend it. On the field, Mathieu was great in Indianapolis. He ran well and showed well in the drillwork. Thus far, he and his team have done everything possible to change impressions on him as a person. How that translates come late April…you’re guess is as good as mine.
12. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State. He dr0pped 15 pounds before the Combine and it showed in his performance. The knock on Bell was his lack of breakaway speed but his 4.52 40 could help dispel those concerns. Bell could jump into the day two action after a solid 40 and on the field work.
13. Earl Wolffe, S, North Carolina State. One of the winners of the Senior Bowl was Earl Wolffe. Wolffe has solid tape to now go with great Combine numbers. He ran 4.44 with a 1.49 split, broad jump of 11’2″, and a 39″ vertical. Wolffe has grabbed the media’s attention and was a guy that scouts were well aware of. After these performances it’s highly unlikely that Wolffe will make it out of day two of the draft.
14. Cornelius Washington, DE/OLB, Georgia. Washington was lost in the shuffle of star defensive players at UGA. The problem with Washington is that he doesn’t show up consistently on tape. That said, he may have had the best Combine performance of any prospect. At 6-foot-4, 265 pounds he ran 4.55, leaped 39″ in the vertical, and posted an absurd 36 reps on the bench. Washington could play base end in the 4-3 or rush linebacker in the 3-4. On tape he’s a mid-round pick but his freakish size and athleticism should push him into day two of the draft.
15. David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State. Amerson’s speed was a major question coming into the Combine. He has size in spades but struggles to flip his hips and run with speed. Amerson’s Combine performance could answer some of the questions. A 4.44 40 with 1.52 split and 10’7″ broad jump will help Amerson but not push him into the first round as some have speculated. If Amerson could burn the Florida State and Tennessee tape he would have a shot at cracking the 2nd round. Unfortunately, those games will stick in scouts craw and should keep him in the 3rd round mix.
16. Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State. I was disappointed that Fragel had to pull out of the Senior Bowl with an injury. He was a guy that I wanted to see perform against top competition. Fragel transitioned from tight end to tackle this season and played really well on the right side of OSU’s offensive line. Fragel showed off the type of athlete that he is at the Combine and will come off the board earlier than expected with his combination of size (6’7.5″, 308), strength (33 reps), and athleticism (5.14 40, 30″ vertical, and 9’5″ broad jump). I think he’s a great ZBS right tackle with the upside to man the left side with some seasoning.
17. Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers. I’ll be honest I didn’t know much about Harrison before the Combine, other than he was competing in Indianapolis and had nice size. The only reason I saw any tape on him was that I was watching Brandon Coleman in case he came out early and he flashed a couple of times while watching Jawan Jamison. He’s a guy that I was told would perform really well in Indy. That was certainly the case. At almost 6-foot-3, 231 pounds Harrison was a surprising mover posting a 4.46 40, 6.99 3 cone, 38.5″ vertical, and 10’9″ broad jump. His performance in Indianapolis will force a lot of media members to take a look on tape to see if his game matches up to his numbers.
OTHER STANDOUTS: Matt Scott, QB, Arizona I Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee I Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA I Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee I Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee I Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech I Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame I Vance McDonald, TE, Rice I Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina I Vincent Painter, OT, Virginia Tech I Brian Schwenke, C, Cal I Earl Watford, OG, James Madison I Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU I Ty Powell, DE/OLB, Harding I Nick Williams, DT, Samford I Zaviar Gooden, OLB, Missouri I Jonathan Stewart, LB, Texas A&M I Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana I Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State I Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse I Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington I Steve Williams, CB, Cal I