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What we learned: Takeaways from Saturday at NFL combine

  • By Andy Fenelon, Chase Goodbread and Dan Parr
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Okay, CJ2K, enjoy it while you can. You have two legitimate threats to your NFL Scouting Combine record, and they're both coming for you.

Prospects on opposite ends of the notoriety scale will take aim at Chris Johnson's combine 40-yard dash record of 4.24 seconds on Sunday: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, a projected top-five draft pick, and diminutive RB Dri Archer of Kent State.

"I want to run something crazy. Hopefully break the combine record," said Watkins, who claims a 4.27 as his fastest 40 time. "Who knows, I'm trying to run the fastest time out there, so we'll see."

Archer, on the other hand, is even more sure of himself, making an unsolicited and bold prediction on Friday. "I'm going to break the record," he said.

To that we say, with a nod to Dave Dameshek, "Let it beginnnnnnnnnnn!"

Here's what else Chase Goodbread, Dan Parr and Andy Fenelon learned about the draft prospects on Day 3 at the combine:

1. Packers show interest in Sutton

The Packers are expected to move on without B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett on defense, leaving a massive hole on the interior of the defensive line. We learned on Saturday the team talked to DT Will Sutton for the second time (first time was at the Senior Bowl). "They told me, 'If you come here, we're going to keep the weight on you.' "

"The weight" is what dropped Sutton's stock over the last 12 months. As a junior, he weighed 280 pounds, and recorded 23.5 tackles for loss (13.5 sacks). "Outside sources," he says, recommended he bulk up, and that he did, putting on 40 pounds of bad weight and decreasing his effectiveness. He weighed in at the combine at 303 and says he wants to get to 295 by his pro day. If the Packers take him in the draft, he likely will be asked to bulk up again. That can't be good on the body.

Mayock: Mack is No. 1
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack would go No. 1 overall if NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock were doing the selecting. Yes, even over Jadeveon Clowney. More ...

2. Mack likes Mayock

There's a budding bromance going on between NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock and Buffalo LB Khalil Mack. On Friday, Mayock said he'd take Mack over Jadeveon Clowney and everyone else if he had the top pick in the draft. On Saturday, Mack reacted positively to the praise. "Mike Mayock is the man," Mack said with a big smile. "I love him. Now I have to prove him right."

3. Ups and downs

We learned it was a very good day for TE Eric Ebron, and a very bad one for OT Cyrus Kouandjio.

4. Barr at No. 1?

The interesting thing about this draft is no one knows who's slated for the No. 1 pick. Last year there were only two considerations for the top pick, offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel, and the year before Andrew Luck was a virtual lock months in advance, even though the Colts publicly blew a lot of smoke. And this year? It could be any one of six or seven players, depending on the Texans' tastes, including the top three quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater) and the top three edge rushers (Mack, Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr).

Barr said he's using this combine to prove he belongs in the discussion. "I just kind of want to blow (teams) out of the water, really. I want them to look and say, 'Yeah, that guy's the No. 1 draft pick.' "

5. How about Clowney?

Clowney on his quest to be the No. 1 overall choice of the Houston Texans: "That's one of my goals here, to go No. 1. I came out of high school as the No. 1 player, so I want to come out of here as the No. 1 guy." Interesting goal for a guy who entered his final season at South Carolina as the best defensive prospect in 20 years. Says a lot for how that senior season went, the questions about his work ethic and lack of production. He's now spending a lot of time answering those questions. His athletic ability, which will be on full display Sunday, was never in doubt. Being No. 1 now is.

6. No love lost

We learned that Steve Spurrier likely won't be invited to Clowney's draft party in May or exchanging holiday cards with the draft's top defensive end prospect.

7. Sam: Football questions only

The NFL sent out a memo to all its clubs last week reminding them of questions they shouldn't be asking prospects at the combine, including those that violate the league's anti-discrimination policy. It was especially timely this year because of Michael Sam's appearance. Sam, the Missouri linebacker who announced he's gay a few weeks ago, was asked the types of questions he had received. "It was all football questions," he said. Since Sam is the first openly gay draft prospect, the door figured to be open for peripheral questions about how he might handle any associated difficulties. It doesn't appear NFL teams went there.

8. Good question

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport learned a question that was posed to OT Tiny Richardson by a team: "How would you have handled Richie Incognito if you had been Jonathan Martin?" We aren't sure how Richardson responded, but Sam, the first openly gay prospect at the combine, would be "excited" if he landed as a teammate of Incognito's in Miami. And who wouldn't be?

9. Jernigan: Stamina not an issue

One of the knocks against Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is that he took himself out of games because of fatigue. Jernigan responded, saying he played in just four full games last season because of Florida State's dominance; the games were well in hand early and he was able to rest. Jernigan also cleared up a misconception that he was battling the flu during the National Championship Game. He said he had a slight fever and took medication that left him feeling fatigued, but still played 73 of 82 plays. "I don't think too many defensive tackles can do that and play at that level," he said.

10. Nice parting gifts

We learned that players love swag, and get plenty of it at the combine. Alabama defensive tackle Jeoffrey Pagan spread out all of his complementary gear that made for a busy Instagram photo.

11. Size doesn't matter

Pitt DT Aaron Donald's lack of size (6-foot-1, 285 pounds) is viewed as weakness in his game and might make him an early second-round pick instead of a late first-rounder. But it's not all bad. His stature has also led to comparisons to undersized NFL DT -- two-time All-Pro Bengals DT Geno Atkins, who also happens to be Donald's favorite NFL player. "It never got to me," Donald said of the size prejudice. "Thinking about it or letting it get me mad isn't going to make me any taller."

12. Too much to overcome?

We learned that tight end Colt Lyerla had a pretty good day in workouts on Saturday, running the third-fastest 40 of the day (4.61) and looking fluid in drills. But it still might not be enough to overcome, even a little, some of his well-documented off-field issues. John Middlekauff, a former scout with the Eagles, wrote on Twitter that he heard from one NFL scout that Lyerla is "not draftable."

13. Evans: I'm faster than you think

Texas A&M WR Mike Evans' speed has been described as "pedestrian." That label won't be sticking much longer if Evans' 40-yard dash matches his prediction for it. "A lot of people had me running it in 4.6, 4.7, but I think I will crack a 4.5 or below," he said. A 6-foot-5 wide receiver with that kind of speed? Color us skeptical.

14. Must-see TV

We learned that we should never turn off NFL Network during the combine -- not even for bathroom breaks -- or risk missing out on one of these Mike Mayock gems. Yes, Khalil Mack, Mike Mayock is the man.

15. Gators' Easley: I'm back

When Dominique Easley tore his ACL in September for the second time in three years, the Florida defensive lineman saw his draft stock plummet from likely first-rounder to potential mid-rounder. He says he's "feeling good" and starting to run. While he won't work out in Indy, he's aiming for Florida's pro day March 18 to show he's recovered. Asked about the message he wants to send to NFL teams, Easley said: "I'm back, stronger and faster than ever."

16. Longhorns WR pulls out

Texas WR Mike Davis was not cleared to perform on-field drills at the combine because of a minor right foot injury, according to NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport.

17. Sam = Tebow

And finally we learned that Sam has a lot in common with Tim Tebow. Both are polarizing figures, super nice -- and charismatic -- guys, and both end their talks with the media the same way.

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