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What we learned: Takeaways from Day 2 at the NFL combine

  • By Chase Goodbread, Dan Parr and Andy Fenelon NFL.com
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Friday was the media day at the NFL Scouting Combine most people had anticipated.

It was the day Johnny Manziel was weighed and measured and dissected by NFL teams and media alike, with topics ranging from counseling for his alcohol use to his text messages with Tom Brady. It was a day he was unveiled to the masses.

By all accounts -- besides that little thing about coming up short -- he passed with flying colors.

And now we can move on.

And we will with this edition of a (mostly) Johnny-Football-free combine edition of What We Learned. Here's what Chase Goodbread, Dan Parr and Andy Fenelon learned about NFL draft prospects during Day 2 at the combine:

1. Hyde says he's No. 1

Carlos Hyde says there's no question he's the best running back in the draft, even though there remain questions about his standing among running backs in this year's draft. NFL Media analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Mike Mayock list the former Ohio State back as their No. 1, but Bucky Brooks lists Hyde No. 3 behind Ka'Deem Carey and Jeremy Hill, and Gil Brandt still has questions about Hyde's speed.

Hyde, who described his running style as violent, says speed is not an issue. He expects to run the 40 in the 4.4-second range on Sunday when running backs work out, and he believes if he can run in the low 4.4's he "definitely can get in the first round" of the draft. If he does run in that range, maybe then he can claim top-dog status.

2. NFL comparisons

Hyde compared himself to Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. There were many players comparing themselves to established NFL stars, including Colorado WR Paul Richardson, who claims to be a combination of Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson, which drew this smart-aleck response on @NFL_CFB:

3. Don't disrespect McCarron

Alabama's AJ McCarron admitted to having a chip on his shoulder as to why he isn't considered among the draft's elite quarterbacks, along with Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater. "Everybody tries, all the experts, tried to knock me on the deep ball, trying to say my arm's not strong. My arm is strong enough. I can throw the ball 65 yards," he said. "But I had a bad habit of releasing the ball out wide and not staying vertical on it. If you go back and watch my film, you can see the film doesn't lie on that. The times I had to throw the ball deep and I stayed with a vertical release on it, the ball went far."

McCarron also took exception to criticism that, because he was surrounded by an elite level of talent at Alabama, that things were easy for him. Don't forget, McCarron noted, that he's faced more than 40 NFL-drafted defenders in his college career. After this draft, it figures to be a lot more.

4. O'Brien talks Bortles

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Blake Bortles' strong showing in a win over Penn State last season would seem to only bolster his draft credentials, but it just so happens the coach he defeated in that game, Bill O'Brien, is now the head coach of the Texans, who will decide whether Bortles reaches his goal of becoming the draft's first overall pick. Will Bortles be reminding O'Brien here in Indy of the outcome that day? "I don't know if I'll bring that up," he said. O'Brien was reminded of the game Friday. "(Bortles) played well," O'Brien recalled. "He beat us. Obviously, I have a connection with George O'Leary and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him there. He's a big guy. He's athletic. He's a competitive guy. It's been fun to watch him play on tape and it'll be good to watch him workout here."

5. Ellington credits cousin

Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington was among the most productive rookies in the NFL last season with more than 1,000 total yards. His cousin Bruce Ellington, South Carolina's point-guard-turned-wide-receiver, credits Andre for much of his competitiveness as an athlete. Ellington, the Gamecocks' top wide receiver the last two seasons, probably can't be had for the bargain Arizona got on his cousin, a sixth-round pick out of Clemson. The younger Ellington said he received a third-round draft grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.

6. Sam's teammates questioned

Michael Sam will be a big draw Saturday when he steps to the podium to face the mass media for the first time since announcing he is gay. But already, every Missouri player who has come through the media room has been pelted with Sam questions. Fair or not, it was WR L'Damian Washington's turn on Friday. It was clear the genuine love and respect Washington has for his ex-teammate. "He's ready to handle this," Washington said about the potential of Sam becoming the first openly gay player in the NFL. "Mike Sam is the toughest guy I know." Asked if he would have had the courage to come out publicly if he were gay, Washington said: "Nope. Hell no."

7. Two massive receivers

While coaches, general managers and prospects were dissecting a certain quarterback's lack of height for much of the day, there was no such talk with wide receivers Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin, who essentially are clones of each other. Big tight end-looking clones. Evans measured 6-4 3/4 and 231 pounds; Benjamin came in at 6-5, 240. These guys are chiseled. In fact, Benjamin, who caught the winning touchdown in the BCS championship game for Florida State, said his body fat was measured at 4 percent. Suddenly feeling an urge to hit the treadmill.

8. Quick as a rabbit

Speaking of Benjamin, he attributed his development to an unlikely training source -- chasing rabbits in Belle Glade, Fla. (a.k.a. Muck City) as a kid. "Everybody chased rabbits back in the day, when you were small," he said. "I mean, they were good to eat. They're really good if you've never had them before. But that also helps you with speed and agility and stuff like that." Like hops?

9. Fastest 40 ever?

We learned that Kent State RB Dri Archer, the smallest player at the combine, has a record on his mind, and he's not shy about telling people. No pressure, Dri.

10. Lyerla flops on bench

Colt Lyerla, who probably carried the most baggage into this combine, might have forgotten to pack his strength. While North Carolina OL Russell Bodine had the fifth-most reps (42) in the bench press since 2006, Lyerla threw it up only 15 times. That can't help his case. Some teams have completely removed him from their boards, and that was before the combine started.

11. Awkward interviews

NFL teams get 15 minutes with each player they schedule for interviews at the combine, so the pace from interview to interview can get hectic for the prospects. Annually, the worst question reporters ask players at this event (and there isn't really a close second) is, "Which teams have you talked to?" THEY TALK TO ALL OF THEM. And if you have any doubts, ask quarterback Aaron Murray, who related meeting with teams at the combine to "speed dating." Except it's good to get picked in the draft.

12. Carr's scary experience

There are so many players to cheer for at the combine as we learn their stories and get to know them a bit beyond their 40 times and bench press. The media interview sessions are great for this reason. On Friday, QB Derek Carr was one of those players. He got emotional talking about his son, who was born last August eight days premature with intestinal issues. Doctors, Carr recalled, prepared him and his wife on several occassions that "your son might die."

13. So far, so good for Robinson

Just a redshirt sophomore, Auburn OT Greg Robinson saw his stock soar last season and is considered a likely top-six pick heading into the combine (few see him being passed over by the Falcons at No. 6 if he's still available). Apparently no teams have tried to knock the skyrocketing prospect down a peg in interview sessions. "I really haven't had any negative meetings," he said. "I don't know when it's going to come, but when it does, I'm going to be prepared for it."

14. Hill opens up to teams

We learned LSU RB Jeremy Hill is being up-front about his off-field issues. Smart move.

15. How high will Mack go?

And finally, we learned that Mike Mayock really, really, really likes Buffalo pass rusher Khalil Mack.

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