2014 NFL combine: Five takeaways from Saturday
Given the competitive nature of the Combine, emotional highs and lows are to be expected. Day 3 of the 2014 edition, however, provided extremes -- with medical concerns overshadowing some remarkable workouts and insightful interviews with some of the year's biggest names.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Given the competitive nature of the NFL combine, emotional highs and lows are to be expected.
Day 3 of the 2014 edition, however, provided extremes -- with medical concerns overshadowing some remarkable workouts and insightful interviews with some of the year's biggest names, including NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated player (South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney), highest-ranked quarterback (Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater) and Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam, who is attempting to be the first openly gay player in NFL history.
These were the five biggest takeaways of the day:
5. It was a tough day for highly regarded tight ends. Washington junior Austin Seferian-Jenkins was informed that medical testing done in Indianapolis revealed a pre-existing foot condition and the NFL would not allow him to work out. Seferian-Jenkins later spoke of his health in an interview for the NFL Network, characterizing himself as "fine," but wasn't sure yet if he'll be working out at Washington's Pro Day, scheduled April 2.
North Carolina's Eric Ebron -- NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated prospect at the position -- was unable to finish his workout Saturday. He appeared to pull up slightly on his second running of the 40-yard dash and was given an official time of 4.60 seconds in the event. Ebron was seen icing his hamstrings following the end of the 40-yard dash tests. He discarded the ice and followed the rest of the tight ends' workouts, walking with a slight limp.
Texas Tech junior Jace Amaro was healthy enough to compete in all of the drills but struggled as a pass-catcher Saturday, dropping multiple passes. Further, Amaro's lack of definition in his upper body stood in stark contrast to several of the other highly regarded prospects at the position. While he posted an impressive 28 reps of 225 pounds, Amaro doesn't play with this physicality and served as a monstrous slot receiver rather than as an in-line blocker with the Red Raiders.
On a more positive note, Tennessee State's A.C. Leonard enjoyed a spectacular workout, leading all tight ends with a 4.50-second 40-yard dash and tying at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds and showing off that acceleration and agility as a route-runner during drills. Leonard, a Florida transfer, also caught the ball well, as did Wisconsin's Jacob Pederson and Georgia's Arthur Lynch.
4. Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson was expected to perform well at the combine, but the numbers he's posting are eye-popping, especially considering that he's 332 pounds.
Robinson was clocked at 4.92 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Saturday morning, with a 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds. The numbers reinforce what the tape shows: Robinson is a tremendous athlete with light feet and easy movement skills. He also lifted 225 pounds 32 times on the bench press and with 35-inch arms, that number is equally as impressive. But again, the tape backs it up. Robinson uses his strong, aggressive hands to latch and drive defenders out of the play in the run game.
Robinson, who didn't start playing offensive line until his junior year in high school, is still learning the game and needs time to develop, especially in pass protection. But the raw skills are extremely impressive and along with the notable numbers he produced Saturday, Robinson is proving why so many around the league believe he's a top-five overall talent and this year's top tackle prospect.
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan has the fastest 40-yard dash time among offensive lineman at 4.87. Other standouts include LSU guard Trai Turner (6-foot-3, 310), Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson (6-foot-7, 331) and UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo (6-foot-4, 307), who clocked in at 4.93, 5.04 and 5.04 seconds, respectively in the 40-yard dash.
3. While the workouts demonstrated the remarkable athleticism of this year's offensive linemen, one highly regarded blocker whose stock could take a massive hit this week is Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio, who failed multiple team's physicals due to an arthritic knee, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.
Kouandjio didn't look especially athletic during drills conducted at the combine, finishing last among all offensive linemen tested by clocking in at 5.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Kouandjio posted "just" 21 reps of 225 pounds on Friday, as well, though scouts won't worry about this nearly as much given the strength and aggression with which he plays and his incredibly long arms (35 5/8 inches).
2. Like the rest of the defensive linemen, Missouri pass rusher Michael Sam won't work out until next week but he passed an important test Saturday, standing up to the glare of an overflow media contingent.
"I wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player," Sam said Saturday. "Not Michael Sam the gay football player."
The vast majority of the questions posed to Sam revolved around his personal life, rather than how or where the SEC's Co-Defensive Player of the Year projects into the NFL.
"I think Michael Sam is an effective outside pass rusher," Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "He has some strength at the point. But his main thing is getting up the field and rushing the passer and putting pressure on the quarterback. He was obviously very productive."
After starring at Missouri as a 4-3 defensive end, Sam struggled when moved to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, showing less-than-ideal flexibility and balance. Given his struggles changing directions fluidly in Mobile, Sam's times in the short shuttle and three-cone drill could prove effective barometers of any improvement he has made since the all-star game.
1. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater announced that he is bypassing the opportunity to throw for scouts at the combine and will instead wait for Louisville's Pro Day, scheduled March 17. Bridgewater confirmed that he is planning on running the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.
Though he has been passed on the hype machine by fellow quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, Bridgewater remains NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated passer in large part due to his Pro Bowl-caliber accuracy and his experience in a pro-style offense that asked him make adjustments to the defense at the line of scrimmage. Bridgewater didn't necessarily erase concerns about his ability to hold up to an NFL pass rush by measuring in at a relatively slim 6-foot-2 1/8 and 214 pounds. Dating back to high school, however, he's never missed a game due to injury, impressing with his physical and mental toughness including playing through a broken left wrist late in 2011.
Bridgewater joins Manziel and Fresno State's Derek Carr in announcing their plans to wait for their Pro Days to throw for scouts. Bortles is the only one of the four projected first round quarterbacks who will throw for scouts in Indianapolis.
Senior Analyst Dane Brugler and Managing Editor Jeff Reynolds contributed to this report.
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