Tag:NFL Combine
Posted on: March 2, 2010 7:29 pm

Fresno CB AJ Jefferson Combine's biggest star?

For all of the talk about Ndamukong Suh, Taylor Mays, Golden Tate, Jacoby Ford, CJ Spiller, and the rest of the superstars who fared well in Combine drills, the players who typically help themselves the most are the relative unknowns who explode onto the Indianapolis scene.

This year the epitome of that relative unknown who blew up the Combine might just be Fresno State cornerback and kick returner AJ Jefferson.

Jefferson, who entered the day rated by scouts as a mid round prospect at best (and likelier a 5th-7th round pick), was the unquestionable star among the defensive backs today.

Consider that he:
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 44" vertical jump (second highest recorded at CB since 2000)
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 4.0 second showing in the short (20 yard) shuttle
  • Led all 2010 Combine athletes with a 11.02 second showing in the long (60 yard) shuttle
  • Finished 3rd among cornerbacks with a 6.72 second showing in the 3-cone drill
  • Tied for 3rd among cornerbacks tested with a 10'6" broad jump
Jefferson was not listed among NFL.com's seven best runners in the 40-yard dash, but according to veteran scouts on hand, he was clocked anywhere from 4.43-4.49 in this event. 

Considering his size (6-0, 190 pounds), big play ability (3 kick returns for TDs), Jefferson's athleticism is sure to spark interest in clubs looking for a middle round diamond in the rough.
Posted on: March 2, 2010 2:04 pm

Tape, Combine prove Suh, Berry best

With the general consensus being that Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the top quarterback, Clemson's CJ Spiller is the top running back and Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant is the best wide receiver, there have been relatively few positions in which the talking heads on television can debate who is best.

The favorite two this year have been at defensive tackle and safety, with the debate centering on Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy up front and Eric Berry and Earl Thomas in the defensive backfield. 

While the debates make for good television and talk radio, there shouldn't be one at either position. Suh and Berry, both on film and in workouts, have proven themselves the superior prospects.

I've heard the argument that statistics can be bent in any which way to prove a point. While that may be true, it is also true that when virtually every piece of quantifiable data (tackles, sacks, 40-yard dash times, bench press, etc.) points to one player as the better one, the numbers rarely lie.

Suh is stronger, more instinctive and, perhaps most importantly, plays every snap with passion. Perhaps if McCoy with the same relentlessness as Suh, he'd be as effective. The reality is that throughout his career with the Sooners, however, he did not.

My argument for Berry over Thomas is similar to the one I just posed for Suh over McCoy.

Berry is more physical, faster and, perhaps most importantly, a more reliable open field tackler. As impressive as Thomas' gaudy interceptions were, Thomas has a tendency to duck his head as a tackler. Berry, on the other hand, might be the most reliable open field tackler of this year's safety class. Where I am most impressed with Berry on film is when he unselfishly takes out the feet of the fullback or pulling guard and leaves the easy tackle to his teammates. Big plays made Berry a superstar in the SEC. It was his committment to team defense, however, that made him the best player in the conference.

I expect the debate over these prospects to continue as the draft approaches. But on film and in Combine workouts, the choices are clear: Suh and Berry top the defensive tackle and safety positions for 2010. 
Posted on: March 2, 2010 1:05 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2010 1:13 pm

Mays, as expected, wows in workouts

Former USC head coach Pete Carroll used to tell everyone who would listen that Taylor Mays was going to stun people with just how athletic he'd prove to be in workouts. With all of the talk about how Mays struggled in 2009 and the ridicule he took at the Senior Bowl, his stock has been sliding.

However, after posting one of the more impressive Combine performances in recent memory -- an unofficial 4.24 second 40-yard dash and 41" vertical -- Mays is certainly proving to be every bit the athlete he's been hyped.

Mays' preliminary time in the 40-yard dash would tie Tennessee running back Chris Johnson's time in 2008 as the fastest since the NFL began tracking "official" results in 2000. Again, however, the preliminary times being provided by The NFL Network have consistently been faster than the times provided later as official on NFL.com. (Mays' time was later changed to 4.43)

Mays' speed was the fastest recorded by any safety at the 2010 Combine.

As impressive as Mays' athleticism is in workouts, it is important to remember the game film. Just as I mentioned with the recent blog regarding Florida cornerback Joe Haden's surprisingly slow 40-yard dash time, good tape beats good workouts every time.

Posted on: March 2, 2010 12:52 pm

Top rated CB Haden -- unofficially 4.57, 4.60

Top rated cornerback Joe Haden, a junior given a first round grade from the NFL Advisory Committee was unofficially timed by The NFL Network with two of the slower times in the 40-yard dash of any cornerback tested. He ran a 4.57 on his first attempt and followed that up with a 4.60.

Haden's slow times are sure to give scouts some hesitation when assigning him the top grade at cornerback. He has impressive game tape, but the Gators' aggressive pass rush rarely allowed opposing quarterbacks time to challenge him deep, something that had concerned me earlier .

As a historical comparison, no cornerback who ran as slow as Haden is currently being credited with running at the Combine was drafted earlier than the fifth round in last year's draft. Cornerback Joe Burnett was drafted by Pittsburgh with the 31st pick of the fifth round last year -- 168th overall -- with a 4.58.

It is important to note that The NFL Network's times have often been different than the "offiial" times provided later by NFL.com. This isn't likely to help Haden's cause, however, as typically the times recorded by the network have been faster than the ones put up by the website. CJ Spiller, for example, was initially credited with a 4.28 second time in the 40-yard dash on television, but his fastest time according to NFL.com was a 4.37.

Posted on: March 1, 2010 2:10 pm

Suh posts 35.5" vertical; best from DT since 2000

Some believe that Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy deserves being rated over Ndamukong Suh due to his greater athleticism. If you are new to my blog, you might not know my opinion on this matter.

I believe Suh to be the unquestioned top talent in this draft. Whether he's ultimately drafted first or not will have zero bearing on my grade. I'm hardly basing my feeling on Suh on what he's done lately. I thought Suh should have won the Heisman and listed him as the top senior talent in the country back in July.

As evidence of Suh's athleticism, I point to the 35.5" vertical jump, NFL.com is reporting he posted today while at the Combine. Not only will Suh's ridiculous vertical jump almost surely lead all defensive tackles this year, it is one half inch lower than the highest vertical jump posted by any defensive tackle at the Combine since 2000 (Al Lucas, Troy).

The vertical jump is designed to test explosiveness -- supposedly an area in which Suh is lacking.

Posted on: March 1, 2010 1:37 pm

ILB McClain, DE Morgan pull out of some drills

Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain did not run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis today and will instead wait until his Pro Day, March 10.

Though he informed the media that he would not be working out, scouts were nonetheless disappointed by the Butkus-award winner's decision. While quarterbacks and other "skill" position players often elect to put off their workouts until their Pro Days, linebackers generally participate at the Combine. McClain did participate in the bench press, posting 24 repetitions, but it isn't his strength that teams are potentially concerned with -- its his speed.

Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, on the other hand, elected not to participate in the bench press drill.

Morgan was one of the few highly touted prospects to not make it into the media room for interviews prior over the weekend. The NFL generally herds as many of the nearly 330 players into the media room as possible and does a good job of getting almost all of the first round prospects before reporters began leaving Sunday.

Because he was not interviewed and given a chance to explain why he wasn't working out at the Combine (or at least doing the bench press), I, for one, was surprised by the news that he wasn't participating. In an interview I conducted just two days before the Combine began, Morgan told me he was planning on working out in Indianapolis...
Posted on: March 1, 2010 12:54 pm

Ben Tate deserves a closer look

Ben Tate has a legitimate gripe about not getting more national attention.

With all of the attention heaped upon Mark Ingram, Dexter McCluster and Anthony Dixon, few around the country realize how effective he was for the Tigers this season. His 1,362 yards in 2009 were the fourth highest single-season-total in Auburn history.

And remember... Auburn has quite the history of running backs (Bo Jackson, Cadillac Williams, James Brooks, Stephen Davis, Ronnie Brown, etc.)

Tate is once again likely to be overlooked, as the talking heads will be talking more about CJ Spiller and Jahvid Best's speed than anything else in the days following the running back workouts. However, look at what he accomplished in Indianapolis:

Bench Press: #1 of all RB's; 26 Reps of 225 lbs
Broad Jump: #1 of all RB's; 10'4"
Vertical Jump: #2 of all RB's; 40'5"
40 Yard Dash: #3 of all RB's; 4.43 seconds

Tate seemed to predict his success in an interview with the Opelika Auburn News a few days before his strong workout at the Combine.

 “There’s nothing more important than what you do on the field,” Tate said. “But if there’s someone close to you who has similar numbers and you all are being seen as equal-type players, these numbers you put up at the combine can make a big difference. “They can leapfrog you over a couple guys that are almost the same type of running back.”

Considering his production at the Combine, as well as the more important numbers he put up when in a system that fit his downhill rushing style with the Tigers, Tate should be rising up draft boards.

Posted on: February 28, 2010 11:47 am

Impressions from first QB-WR session -- WR Report

I was among the fortunate handful of media members allowed to venture inside Lucas Oil Stadium to watch this morning's quarterback and wide receivers workouts. Because I have to head back out to cover the second session in just a few moments, I don't have enough to time to really break down the 20+ players I watched.

However, here were my impressions of a few noteworthy receivers.

The highest rated receiver of this bunch is Illinois' Arrelious Benn, but today was not an impressive one for him. Benn struggled with his footwork today, slipping on multiple occasions on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. He also struggled catching the ball, dropping a few passes during the gauntlet drill and while running routes. He looked particularly bad by having a hot, but accurate pass go right through his hands on during the gauntlet and subsequently dropping another one by turning his hands the wrong way when attempting to catch a poorly thrown post-corner route. Benn did not look overly explosive, though his strong frame is sure to intrigue scouts.

The most consistently impressive catcher on this day was another junior, Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe. Briscoe's long arms and good body control was often on display, as he was able to adjust to several poorly thrown passes and make sparking receptions. He doesn't appear to be the quickest receiver out of his breaks, but his long strides help him generate good speed down the sidelines.

Cal's Ryan Boateng was a surprise early star during the session, looking fluid during drills and catching everything in sight. He caught the ball with his hands and adjusted smoothly to poorly thrown balls -- an impressive feat considering his 6-1, 204 pound frame. Boateng struggled a bit later, failing to adjust adequately to deep balls, which will be a concern. Otherwise, he was one of the session's more impressive performers.

Florida's Riley Cooper was a bit inconsistent with his routes and hands on this day. He is more explosive than some give him credit for, but certainly doesn't have elite burst out of his breaks. He caught most passes with his hands, but didn't show great flexibility or determination to adjust to poorly thrown balls, too often just putting one hand up to attempt to make the sparkling reception. On one occasion he made a nice grab by doing so; on another he dropped it.

LSU return specialist Trindon Holliday was a surprise addition to the receiver workouts. His speed is certainly intriguing, but he dropped a few passes, including a bad on a deep ball that floated right into -- and through -- his hands.

Wide receivers who worked out this morning were: Fresno State's Seyi Ajirotutu, West Virginia's Alec Arnett, Kansas State's Brandon Banks, Norfolk State's Chris Bell, Illinois' Arrelious Benn, Cal's Ryan Boateng, Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe, Central Michigan Antonio Brown, Cal-Davis' Chris Carter, Florida's Riley Cooper, Connecticut's Marcus Easley, Clemson's Jacoby Ford, Wake Forest's David Gettis, Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard, Mississippi's Shay Hodge, Florida's Brandon James, Youngstown State's Donald Jones, San Jose State's Kevin Jurovich.

Due to injury, Missouri's Danario Alexander, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant and Minnesota's Eric Decker did not work out this morning.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com