2015 NFL DRAFT

2014 NFL Draft: Winners, losers, surprises in combine long shuttle

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

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The 3-cone drill and short shuttle are often cited as two of the more important drills of the annual NFL Combine for players of every position. These drills test change-of-direction skills, balance and acceleration.

Assessment series
DateAnalysis
March 140-yard dash
March 2Vertical leap
March 3Broad jump
March 4Three-cone
March 5Short shuttle
March 6Long shuttle
March 7Positional drills
March 8Interviews
March 9Medicals

The long shuttle tests the same traits but because of the length of it (60 yards), only the most athletic positional groups are asked to run it. Many of the running backs, receivers and defensive backs choose not to run the event at all.

Because the 2014 class offers some remarkable athletes, there were some impressive times posted, including Oregon State's Brandin Cooks' 10.72 second mark - the fastest recorded at the NFL Combine since 2006. Cooks wasn't alone with his speed, BYU safety Daniel Sorensen (10.80) and Louisville wide receiver Damian Copeland (10.84) rank No. 4 and 5, respectively, among the hundreds of players who have been timed in this event over the past nine years.

This focus on the long shuttle drill is one of a nine-part series from NFLDraftScout.com taking a closer look at each combine event, shifting the spotlight to some athletes who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks of coverage from the week in Indianapolis.

The Event: As the name implies, the "long" shuttle is essentially an extended version of the short shuttle. The short shuttle covers a distance of 20 yards. The athlete is asked to run five yards, touch the line and turn back to touch the line at their initial starting point. This same process is repeated at 10 yards and then 15. The (5+10+15)X2 results in the 60 yards.

The Results: The results can be sorted by name, position, size, school or event here.

The Winners: The extraordinary fast times for Cooks and Copeland certainly boost their cause but scouts were expecting them to run well. Sorensen's shocking success in the shuttle drills is likely to result in the biggest jump in his draft stock of the trio. Sorensen quickly emerged as a starter for the Cougars but was viewed as a steady defender than an explosive superstar. He averaged 63.5 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and two interceptions over his three seasons as a starter, earning All-First All-Independent honors the final two years in Provo.

Sorensen currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 13 strong safety, though given his test results and leadership skills, it is possible that some teams rate the team captain significantly higher.

Sorensen's eye-popping time is sure to earn him plenty of attention. So too will Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney's 11.36 second time - fastest among all backs tested in Indianapolis this year - and .05 seconds faster than Giovani Bernard ran in this event prior to the Cincinnati Bengals making him the first running back selected a year ago.

Like Sorensen, Gaffney was often characterized as a good but not great athlete despite his rushing for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Cardinal in 2013 - his first year back on the gridiron after pursuing a professional baseball career. In 2012 Gaffney hit .297 with the State College Spikes, a single-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

His 11.36-second time ranks ninth among all running backs tested at the Combine since 2006. Perhaps best of all for Gaffney, of the 10 runners who posted faster times than him since 2006, eight were drafted. The other two - Fresno State's Wendell Mathis (11.27) and Wayne State's Joique Bell (11.33) were each signed as free agents shortly after the draft and made an active NFL roster.

The Losers: Considering that only a third of the running backs, receivers and defensive backs actually ran this event this year, it is tough to characterize anyone who participated as a loser. Of the 43 athletes tested from these positions, only three recorded times of 12.0 seconds or higher - Florida State wideout Kelvin Benjamin (12.08) and running back James Wilder (12.03) and Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon (12.01).

All three struggled in the other change-of-direction tests administered at the Combine. Each is talented but the NFL teams which select them need to have a plan in place to keep these athletes operating in straight lines to maximize their explosiveness.

The Surprises: The biggest surprise might be the lack of participation of athletes in this drill - and the NFL's apparent lack of concern about this fact. Only four of the 22 tight ends invited to the Combine this year ran the event. Considering that he's often characterized as one of the more athletic tight ends in the country, it may be surprising to some that Texas Tech's Jace Amaro was the slowest of the four, recording a 12.26 second time. Wisconsin's Jacob Pederson and Notre Dame's Troy Niklas tied with a time of 12.19 seconds and Bayor's Jordan Navjar led the group with a time of 12.02 seconds - just a hundredth of a second behind his former teammate, Dixon.

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