With the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine in the books, here's a look at five players who established momentum in Indianapolis and five who will need to use their pro day to alleviate concerns:
5 who helped themselves
Donald continued to build on the momentum of a tremendous season and Senior Bowl. He was lights out at the combine, ranking among the top D-line prospects in the 40-yard dash (4.68), three-cone drill (7.11) and bench press (35 reps). He looks the part, too -- the Geno Atkins comparisons don't hurt him one bit. In fact, I think they'll push him up in the draft.
It was a phenomenal combine for Lewan, who had the fastest 40 time of any offensive lineman (4.87). There's a three-man race between Lewan, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Auburn's Greg Robinson to be the first offensive tackle selected, and Lewan really helped himself in a tight battle. I think people looked at him as third-best in that group coming into the combine. There's consideration that he's the No. 1 guy now.
After all those question marks faced about his offseason, including the decision to bypass the Senior Bowl, McCarron put some doubts to rest at the combine. Coming off his senior season with the Tide, he probably needed to give his body and mind a rest -- being the starting quarterback at Alabama comes with a lot more pressure than people know. When you don't win a national championship there, it's a disappointment, but I thought he came to Indianapolis and handled himself quite well. I thought he threw the ball very well in drills, showing good anticipation, timing and a better arm than most people give him credit for.
I'm not sure Cooks didn't leave Indy with people starting to think of him as a first-round possibility. He led all wide receivers in the 40 (4.33), 20-yard shuttle (3.82) and 60-yard shuttle (10.72). Cooks, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's top wide receiver, is a smaller guy who measured at just under 5-foot-10, so it was important for him to show he was well-built, explosive and a good route-runner. He didn't disappoint.
Verrett jetted to a 4.38 40 and had one of the best vertical jumps of the combine (39.0). At 5-foot-9, 189 pounds, size is one thing where people might downgrade him, but if you watch him play, he doesn't play small. People want bigger corners now given the success the Seahawks have had in building their secondary around players with good size and length, but there's a place for Verrett in the NFL. He might not be big, but he'll jump up and battle you.
5 with work to do at pro day
Kouandjio came into the 2013 season as arguably the best tackle in country, but his performance in the season opener against Virginia Tech hurt him, and he bookended it with a showing in the Sugar Bowl that also cost him. At the combine, he didn't look nearly as athletic as the top tackles in this year's class, Taylor Lewan, Jack Matthews and Greg Robinson. Kouandjio's 40 was the worst among all participating linemen (5.59) and he tied for second-to-last in the bench press (21 reps). He's still going to be one of the better tackles on the board this year, but he didn't look he could match the athleticism of the top prospects at the position. Plus, NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport reported Kouandjio failed several team physicals with an arthritic knee.
I don't think Sam's 4.91 40 was as much of a disappointment as some suggested -- I wasn't expecting a significantly better time. I was more surprised that he wasn't as explosive in the vertical jump (25.5) and broad jump (9-6) as I expected. However, given the pressure he's facing as the first openly gay NFL draft prospect, if there's anyone that deserves a mulligan, it's Sam. The next time he competes, I expect him to perform a lot better.
Purifoy didn't run as fast as we expected and it really surprised people. He clocked in at 4.61 in the 40 and didn't look like the explosive athlete we were expecting to see in drills. Getting his 40 time down will be a big deal for him as he tries to keep his stock from declining.
I think Robinson has a chance to be a very good pro, but he's going to need to put up a better 40 time than 4.60, his best run at the combine, if he's going to impress scouts and show them he deserves to be a late first-round pick.
Sutton weighed in at 303 pounds, but he's much better off in the 285-290 range, where he played as a junior and was dominant. The bigger he is, the more it takes away from a lot of his natural gifts as a disruptive interior defensive lineman. His quickness was missing again at the combine (he ran a 5.36 40) and he's looking more like a guy who will have to play nose tackle rather than three-technique, where I thought he would line up.