Day four of the NFL Scouting Combine was the week’s most eventful. It featured the skill position players out on the field. Even the top prospects participated in at least some of the day’s workouts, making it very exciting to watch. There were many highlights and numbers to cover so let’s jump right into it.
Before the NFL Network’s scheduled coverage began, San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson came out with the first group of quarterbacks and an unofficial 4.44 40. The number was later changed to an official 4.55, which is still an impressive number for a quarterback. With plenty of pocket passers in the draft in Brohm, Ryan, Flacco, Henne, Ainge, etc., expect a team to fall in love with Johnson’s dual-threat ability and Jim Harbaugh coaching which will land him smack in the middle of the second round. San Diego State quarterback Kevin O’Connell also impressed scouts with his unique combination of size and athleticism. At 6’5, 225, O’Connell managed to run a 4.61. He’ll find himself drafted somewhere in late day two as a result of great depth. He’s a project with NFL tools.
As the quarterbacks wrapped up their day, it was Brian Brohm and Colt Brennan who both looked solid throwing the ball. I rank these guys one and five respectively on my quarterback rankings, but have both seen their general stock slip. Prior to the season, Brohm was nearly the consensus top quarterback. As Louisville saw its season worsen with loss after loss, Brohm stock saw the same. People question his arm strength and ability to throw on the run, but he looked very polished throwing the ball today. Hawaii’s gunslinger wasn’t fibbing when he told us he had been on a strict weight gain program and he wasn’t fibbing when he told us he had been working on his footwork. Throwing the ball to a variety of receivers, including three of his own Hawaii guys, Brennan placed the ball on the money repeatedly while showing better use of footwork to help get more velocity behind his passes. Though they were just simple drills with no rush, I think both players have taken a step in the right direction.
While the quarterbacks went through some of the other drills, the wide receivers were out on the sideline running the 40 yard dash. Like Johnson, it was Appalachian State’s Dexter Jackson who received much of the early hype with an unofficial 4.27. Once the official numbers were out, it was DeSean Jackson’s 4.35 that topped the day, while Jackson’s time was downgraded a tenth to 4.37. Andre Caldwell (4.37), Eddie Royal (4.39), and Devin Thomas (4.40) all had impressive days as well. Thomas is an intriguing prospect. He’s a JUCO transfer with only one spectacular season. He’s tough receiver whose also showed great explosion. Teams will have to weigh upside vs. production, but a team could realize his worth take him at the backend of the first round.
Two of the bigger receivers had phenomenal days and worked their way into the round one range as well. First off was Limas Sweed who as 6’4, 216 came out and ran an unofficial 4.46 40 and had a 35 inch vertical jump. Sweed is a much better athlete than I expected and this Combine will certainly help him leapfrog a bunch of mediocre guys. The other guy I was impressed by was Indiana’s former hoops star, James Hardy. At 6’5 3/8 and 217 pounds, he measured in shorter than expected. Once he hit the field, he came out with an unofficial best of a 4.47 along with good times in the Cone and Shuttle drills. This shows that he has the ability to get in and out of cuts, but just hasn’t learned it yet. He helped his stock considerably as well.
Finally, there were two receivers that had poor days. First off was Oklahoma State’s Adarius Bowman who posted a 4.69. It’s not much lower than I expected, but from where his stock was, he has all but assured himself as a late day one, early day two prospect. Then I was shocked when I saw the screen when Mario Manningham ran his first 40. Manningham was considered the best deep threat of the draft and routinely made big plays throughout his career at Michigan. At just under 6’0 and 181 pounds, “Super Mario” came out with a best of a 4.59 40 (unofficial). Scouts will have to take a second look at the tapes again to see how well his speed translates to the game. It’s quite possible that he plays like a 4.3-4.4 player, but like Devin Hester, runs his best when lined up next to somebody. All it takes is one General Manager to see this and the first round is still an option. Middle of round two makes the most sense to me, however.
The final position to workout was the running backs and some very impressive numbers were posted. If you’ve followed the Combine in any way, you’ve probably already heard of Chris Johnson’s 4.24 official 40 yard dash. Bottom line: that is exceptional speed. What makes him such an intriguing prospect is that he’s had the numbers to back it up both on the ground and through the air. What teams will have to evaluate with him is whether or not they trust their coaches to be creative enough with him and if they can get him enough touches. He won’t line up in the backfield and give you 15 carries a game because he loves to bounce it outside and as Mike Mayock says, is “allergic” to between the tackles.
The big three were also mighty impressive in their own right. I was shocked that Darren McFadden went through most of the workouts and I really think he’s solidified his stock as a top five prospect. With an official 4.33 40 time, he’s shown that he has the top end speed and explosiveness for the next level. The question with him becomes whether or not he can carry a workload without coughing it up and grinding out the crucial yards when his team needs it most. My second running back, Rashard Mendenhall leaves Indianapolis after putting a smile on my face. At what first appeared to be a sub 4.4 40 turned out to be a 4.45. For a 5’10, 225 pound running back, he has everything I look for from a speed perspective as well as strength (26 reps) and heart standpoint. Then my third back, also in my top 10 overall, is Jonathan Stewart, Oregon’s body-builder. At 5’10, 235, Stewart had the most reps (35) and highest vertical jump (36.5 inches) for a running back. He didn’t time sub 4.4 as some has spoken of, but came in with a very impressive 4.48. All three backs leave Indy as top 10 guys in my books and are separated from each other by the slimmest of margins.
Finally, let me close with a couple bigger guys who exceeded my expectations. Let me start off with my hometown favorite Ray Rice who ran an unofficial 4.44. He has the vision, heart, and determination to make it into the league. He’ll fit perfectly into the zone-blocking system. Then there was unknown Jalen Parmele from Toledo who at 6’0, 224 ran a 4.47 showing good top end speed. He’s another one of those backs that looks quick in the hole. Then the battle of the 2000 yard backs turned out very well. Matt Forte might have moved himself into the second round range after displaying 4.46 speed, 23 strength reps, and a 33 inch vertical. He went though the full workout and looked mighty impressive. Lastly, Central Florida’s Kevin Smith needed to show good speed and he did just that with an unofficial 4.43 40 yard dash. If his number holds up fairly well to the official one, look for him to also work his way into the round two range. Today was supposed to clear up the picture for the running backs, but all it did was create more confusion. It’s a great thing for any team looking to bolster up their backfield and switch to the two-back system because productive guys will be had in rounds two and three.
That wraps up an enthralling day four. Here’s to hoping day five brings more of the same.
Visit our page for an easy-to-read spreadsheet of measurements and numbers as they happen while the defensive lineman and linebackers hit center stage on Saturday.
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