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What we learned: Takeaways from Monday at NFL combine

  • By Chase Goodbread and Dan Parr
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INDIANAPOLIS -- How well Johnny Manziel answered the tough questions in his presumably exhaustive interview rounds with NFL teams is anyone's guess, but nobody can say he wasn't well-versed on the people he was to be meeting.

Manziel met, of course, with the quarterback-needy Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Having never met any of the Jaguars brass in the interview room, he addressed five by name before they had a chance to introduce themselves, we learned on Monday.

"That was impressive," Jaguars general manager David Caldwell told mmqb.si.com. Caldwell was one of the five, along with owner Shahid Khan, vice president Tony Khan, coach Gus Bradley and assistant coach Jedd Fisch. "He did a really nice job in there. He was prepared for the interview, very prepared."

Presumably, Manziel studied photos of the men and memorized their names. Not the toughest trick in the world if it had been the only club he interviewed with. But if Manziel committed five executives to memory from multiple teams in order to make the same impression on all of them, his memory might be as impressive as his elusiveness on the field.

War of words

The Dee Ford-Jadeveon Clowney dust-up that highlighted a 24-hour period between Ford's eye-popping remarks about Clowney on Sunday until the two spoke during defensive line workouts on Monday had its share of twists and turns. But in the end, it was Clowney who got the last word.

What the blazes?

Speaking of Clowney, his much-anticipated 40-yard dash did not disappoint. At 266 pounds, the former South Carolina star recorded unofficial times of 4.47 and 4.48 before an official adjustment to 4.53. That time was faster than all the defensive linemen, which isn't surprising. But for perspective, consider that it was also faster than the following wide receivers, each of whom is considered to be among the top receiving prospects in the draft: FSU's Kelvin Benjamin (4.61), LSU's Jarvis Landry (4.77) and Fresno State's Davante Adams (4.56).

Some prospects aren't hating on Clowney

Jadeveon Clowney has been taking heavy fire in the past week from fellow draft prospect Dee Ford, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and even his former teammates, but no one could be anything but impressed with his jaw-dropping 40-yard dash Monday. A few of his fellow top-tier prospects, North Carolina TE Eric Ebron and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins (both incredible speedsters themselves), tweeted their support for him:

Not going to help much

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam hit a home run at his press conference earlier in the week, deftly answering all questions related to his challenge as the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect. He didn't blow away the field in the workout part of the combine, however, turning in a middling 40-yard dash time.

Mack edging Barr

UCLA's Anthony Barr and Buffalo's Khalil Mack didn't give each other a whole lot of breathing room Monday as they continued their competition to be the first outside linebacker selected in the draft, but Mack finished on top in all but one drill. Mack barely edged Barr in the 40 (4.65 to 4.66) and 20-yard shuttle (4.18 to 4.19). Mack prevailed again in the vertical jump (40 to 34.5) and broad jump (10 feet, eight inches to nine feet, 11 inches). Barr narrowly topped Mack in the cone drill (6.82 to 7.08). It's a close battle, but one Mack is winning.

Cowboys exec believes in Manziel

The Dallas Cowboys don't figure to be in play for the Johnny Football sweepstakes, but club VP Stephen Jones raved about the quarterback in a radio interview.

One up, one down

Some clear separation was made between former LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Beckham ran a blistering 4.43 official 40-yard dash and was one of the more impressive receivers at the combine. Landry ran just a 4.77 -- dead last among 45 wide receivers who participated in the 40.

Top RB might still be in college

Scouts told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon would have been the highest rated running back in the draft had he decided to declare early entry instead of returning for his redshirt junior season with the Badgers. One scout even reportedly said he would have been a first-round pick. So much for Gordon being a streak-buster this year -- no running back was drafted in the first round last year, and it's not a lock that one will go in the first round this year, although Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, who injured him hamstring running the 40 on Sunday, has a shot to crack it.

Mayock's takes

Three compelling comments from NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock during a news conference with reporters Sunday afternoon (we technically didn't learn this stuff until Monday, as we didn't get a chance to transcribe the tape until then):

1. On Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas: "(He) is a huge wildcard. He's got no footwork whatsoever, yet he delivers the football so beautifully."

2. On Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat: "Quite frankly, I expected more off the tape. I thought he was going to be more explosive off the edge. I understand his production, his numbers are excellent in a great conference, but on tape I didn't see the explosion that I wanted to see from an edge rusher."

3. On diminutive running back Dri Archer, and the role of tiny running backs in the NFL: "How many touches can I get him per game? The more you can get him, the more money you can pay him, and the higher you can draft him. ... Most of those guys typically go, plus or minus, the fourth round."

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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