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25 things we learned from the NFL Scouting Combine

  • By Chase Goodbread and Mike Huguenin
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Wrapping up the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is no easy task with 335 players invited to a week-long event to be sized up by all 32 NFL clubs. Our cup runneth over. Here are 25 things the College Football 24/7 team learned about the prospects in Indianapolis:

1. Fastballs for Bullough

Contrary to the natural assumption that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam endured the roughest media interview as the NFL's first openly gay draft prospect, we'll instead give that distinction to Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough. Sam certainly took some tough questions, but he was well-prepared, unflinching, and, frankly, handled them with ease. Bullough was grilled about his Rose Bowl suspension by Detroit reporters, who tend to be some of the most intrepid in the business, and answered questions like he was sitting in a dentist chair.

2. Making the rounds

Of the 335 players invited to the combine, 269 interviewed with the media, plus 27 head coaches and 24 general managers, according to the Pro Football Writers Association. The most conspicuous absence? Undoubtedly Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was the most high-profile prospect not to speak to the press and probably the only one among the legitimate first-round candidates.

3. Mum on Muema

The mysterious case of Adam Muema only seems to be getting more mysterious. With a dream of playing for the Seattle Seahawks, the former San Diego State running back withdrew from the combine early, he said, based on divine advice that not participating would be his best path to playing for Seattle. Muema flew out of Indianapolis Sunday. He's not been heard from since.

4. Red-flagged Clowney

South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney wowed everyone with his 4.53 40-yard dash at 266 pounds. But he also seemingly left everyone peeved when he declined to participate in the on-field workouts. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock and NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp said you have to look beyond the 40 time with Clowney. Mayock said numerous times that there are "red flags" about Clowney's work ethic: "He turns it on, he turns it off." Sapp, meanwhile, said he was "ashamed" to look at Clowney's game tape because of inconsistent play. Sapp said the tape made you question whether Clowney truly "wanted to play this game." The conundrum, as NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah described it: It's scary to draft Clowney but it's also scary to bypass him.

5. Boyd runs slow

You'll have to go back two years to remember Chris Boyd's last on-field action. Remembering his combine performance will be even harder. The former Vanderbilt receiver who was dismissed from the team last year hasn't played since 2012. His 40-yard dash of 4.73 was the second-slowest at the position, a shade better than LSU's Jarvis Landry (4.77). Boyd bench-pressed 12 reps of 225, which was fewer than most. His interview process couldn't have been easy, either. Assuming the new Vandy coaching staff gives him a spot at VU's pro day (the former staff had planned to invite him), Boyd will need a better showing in Nashville than he had in Indianapolis.

6. Sam needs a good pro day

Missouri DE Michael Sam had an uneven weekend. He handled the media attention with aplomb, but did not do well in his drills and needs a strong pro day. The thought coming in was that Sam lacked athleticism, was not an every-down player and likely would go between the third and fifth round. Mayock thought the workout was so mediocre that Sam dropped to a likely fifth-rounder; the thought now seems to be that Sam can make a team as a situational pass rusher and special-teamer.

7. Power is their game

The two slowest 40-yard dash times at the combine came from two of the SEC's best offensive linemen: Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson (5.51) and Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (5.59). Suffice it to say, power, not speed, is their game. Kouandjio's time bested the annual 40-yard dash run by NFL Network's Rich Eisen by .39 seconds. ... Speaking of Kouandjio, he said his lackluster performance in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, in which he allowed multiple sacks, was reviewed with him on tape during most of his club interviews.

8. Must-see pro days

Not all pro days are created equal. Taking the quarterbacks out of the mix, here are five must-see pro days, listed chronologically, for guys who didn't do the drills at the combine for medical reasons: March 4 for Auburn DE Dee Ford, March 7 for Ohio State OLB Ryan Shazier, March 12 for Alabama ILB C.J. Mosley, March 20 for Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt and April 2 for Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. All but Ford are considered likely first-rounders, and Ford could sneak into the end of the first round if teams think he can be an every-down pass rusher. A suggestion: Somebody should hire Jadeveon Clowney to cover Ford's pro day.

9. Bench-press champ

North Carolina offensive lineman Russell Bodine was the combine's bench-press champion. He lifted 42 reps of 225 pounds, six more than five second-placers who managed 36 reps. Antonio "Tiny" Richardson of Tennessee was among those.

10. Position free-for-alls

The best player is known at wide receiver (Clemson's Sammy Watkins), linebacker (Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack), tight end (North Carolina's Eric Ebron) and defensive end (Clowney). But the "best player at the position" moniker remains up for grabs at quarterback, running back, center, guard, offensive tackle, defensive tackle, cornerback and safety. Pro days might help settle a few of those, but it might take the draft itself to settle others.

11. The fast Watkins

Speedy Clemson WR Sammy Watkins hoped to beat out hundreds of participants in the 40-yard dash not only for the best time of the 2014 combine, but to take down Chris Johnson's event record of 4.24 seconds as well. Turns out, his 4.43 time wasn't even the fastest time in his own family. Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins, who is Sammy's half-brother, ran a 4.41.

12. A great OT class

It will be hard to reach a consensus on the No. 1 offensive tackle. Mayock said each of the top three tackles -- Michigan's Taylor Lewan, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Auburn's Greg Robinson -- is "big, strong, fast, highly athletic," and it seems increasingly likely that at least two go in the top 10 and all three could be off the board by pick 12. Robinson's workouts included a 4.92 clocking in the 40-yard dash -- at 332 pounds. Lewan, who is 6-7 and 309 pounds, had the fastest 40 time among the linemen (4.87 seconds) and also the best broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches). Matthews (6-5½, 308) didn't do that bad, either, running a 5.07 and turning in a 4.47 20-yard shuttle. And NFL Media analyst Shaun O'Hara said that the top three tackles "might even be better" than the top three tackles last year -- and those three were gone by pick four.

13. Mastering the 3-cone

While the 40-yard dash might be the more glamorous test, the 3-cone drill might be the most telling of any at the combine. It measures not only speed but also the attributes many players need just as much or more: quickness, change-of-direction, explosiveness. See it in action here. Your combine 3-cone champion: BYU safety Daniel Sorensen (6.47 seconds). The worst: Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix (8.29).

14. Little brother

Minnesota safety Brock Vereen ran a 4.47. Name sound familiar? He's the younger brother of New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen. Brock's 4.47 was a shade faster than the 4.50 that Shane turned in at the combine three years ago in 2011. Bill Belichick grabbed Shane in the second round two months later.

15. Doubled up

The best vertical jump at the combine was more than twice the worst. Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier absolutely took flight with a 42-inch leap that led the 2014 combine field. At the other end of the spectrum was Tennessee nose guard Daniel McCullers (20.5 inches). At 6-foot-8, we're pretty sure McCullers can perform some nifty basketball dunks despite his gravity-challenged, 350-pound frame.

16. The push for bigger corners

The NFL is a copycat league, which means every team is going to look for big cornerbacks, a la Seattle. During NFL Network's coverage of the combine, NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said the increasing use of the back-shoulder fade makes bigger corners a necessity. So, does that mean some corners will be overrated (and over-drafted) because of their height? Seven corners measured at least 6-0 at the combine, and another nine were at least 5-11½. Interestingly, the two fastest corners at the combine were at least 6-0: Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert (6-0½, 202) ran a 4.37 and Rice's Phillip Gaines (6-0 3/8, 193) ran a 4.38. Gilbert went into the combine generally considered one of the top three corners and might have put himself at the top of a lot of lists with his blistering 40 time. Gaines, though, was seen as a potential third-day pick, and his fast time likely doesn't change that. The biggest corner was Utah's Keith McGill (6-3 3/8, 211), who also played safety for the Utes and might end up there in the NFL because he can struggle in coverage. McGill ran a 4.51 40.

17. Andrews struggles

To NFL clubs that place heavier value on college production, Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews has to look attractive after leading the NCAA in all-purpose yards for the last two seasons. For those who value combine results more, he doesn't look like such a prize. Andrews ran a 4.82 40-yard dash, one of the worst times at the position. Scouts already were concerned about Andrews' reputation as a fumbler.

18. Short but stout

Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald has a problem with height: He isn't even 6-1. But he had a tremendous combine, drawing rave reviews from everybody. He ranked among the top defensive line prospects in the 40-yard dash (4.68 -- at 285 pounds!), three-cone drill (7.11 seconds) and bench press (35 reps) and also had a vertical jump of 32 inches and a broad jump of 9 feet, 8 inches. And if you have seen tape on Donald, you know all about his incredible production at Pitt. O'Hara obviously has seen Donald on tape, saying, "I think this kid's already a better pass rusher right now than Ndamukong Suh was when he was coming in."

19. Looking past the 40

Yes, Penn State WR Allen Robinson's 40 time was mediocre -- bad, even -- at 4.60 seconds. But he measured in at almost 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, had a 39-inch vertical jump, a broad jump of 10 feet, 7 inches and a 20-yard shuttle of 4.0 seconds. Those are good numbers. A good 40 at his pro day, and he will move back into the discussion about whether he is a top-five receiver.

20. Small-school standouts

Two small-school guys who stood out with their athleticism were Saginaw Valley State WR Jeff Janis and Bloomsburg (Pa.) DE Larry Webster. Janis has excellent size (6-3, 219) and ran a 4.42 40; that included a jaw-dropping (but unofficial) 10-yard split of 1.47 (Dri Archer's unofficial split was 1.46). Janis also did 20 reps on the bench press, had a 37.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-3 broad jump and a solid 3.98-second clocking in the 20-yard shuttle. He's not going to make a rookie splash, but as a developmental prospect, he has a high upside. As for Webster (6-6, 252), he played just two seasons of college football after starting for four years at center in basketball. He had 26 sacks in his two seasons, which piqued the interest of a lot of scouts. Their interest was piqued again at the combine: he ran a 4.58 40, had a vertical jump of 36.5 inches, a broad jump of 10-3 and a 20-yard shuttle clocking of 4.4 seconds. He's raw as a football player but he also is a great athlete; as with Janis, he's a guy with a big upside.

21. Hard to overlook

Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz is a massive tight end -- 6-5½ and 265 pounds -- and while he ran a 40 time befitting a guy that big (4.76 seconds), he put up some eye-opening numbers in some other events. He was timed in 4.26 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle -- the best among the tight ends who participated in the event and 0.13 seconds better than Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin -- and had a clocking of 7.10 seconds in the 3-cone drill. That time also was the best of the tight ends who participated in the event and a number that compared favorably with the one put up by speedy Colorado WR Paul Richardson (7.09 seconds). Fiedorowicz is more athletic than people think for a guy his size, but he was inconsistent at Iowa. Was that because of the offense, the quarterbacks throwing to him or simply Fiedorowicz's fault?

22. Hey, look at me

Washington's Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,870 yards and 20 TDs, but too often was an afterthought when it came to discussing the top five backs in the nation. He shouldn't be an afterthought anymore. He ran a better-than-expected 4.49 40-yard dash, did 26 reps on the bench press, had a 35.5-inch vertical jump, a 10-6 broad jump and ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.0 seconds. That was the fastest clocking of any back who did the drill. It would be a shock if a running back went in the first round, but at some point in the second round, there likely will be the start of a run on running backs and Sankey should be involved in that run.

23. He's a snake

While combine performance results are made public almost instantly, prospects' interviews with NFL clubs are as private as can be. Glimpses are few. Here's one from Alabama WR Kevin Norwood courtesy of Tidesports.com. Norwood was asked if he were an animal, what type would he be?: "I never even thought about it before. I sat there for at least two minutes thinking like, 'OK, I'm dependable. I'm a silent killer,'" he said. "So the closest thing I thought of was a snake, a python. Nobody hears it coming, but when it comes, it's going to kill you."

24. Smart one

Princeton's Caraun Reid, who was among the Senior Bowl's most outstanding performers, acquitted himself well at the combine with a 4.91 40-yard dash as a 302-pound defensive tackle. Given his Ivy League background, we can only assume he blew away the interview process and the Wonderlic test.

25. Long journey

Former SEC freshmen of the year aren't typically underdogs at the combine, but that's the case with Alabama State's Isaiah Crowell. The former Georgia running back was the SEC's top freshman back in 2011, but was dismissed from the team following a firearms charge that was later dropped. He landed at Alabama State, and played well enough there for a combine invite to Indy, where he posted a 4.57 40-yard dash and bench pressed 23 reps, tied for fourth among running backs.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin

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