We’re used to watching football on Sundays, so it wasn’t by accident that Sunday featured the marquee positions on-field at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. And while a few big names were notable in their non-participation, there was more than enough star power to light up Lucas Oil Stadium.
Quarterbacks were on display first, which meant Johnny Football was in the building. While Texas A&M’s standout didn’t throw during the drills portion of the program, he ran an impressive 4.68 40—fourth among all quarterbacks and best of the “Big Three” prospects. Perhaps the biggest Combine news involving Manziel was his measuring in a shade under six feet tall—but countering that bad news with 9 ¾” hands, fifth among quarterbacks. And you know what they say about big hands.
The only “Big Three” prospect who did throw, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, did nothing to hurt his stock as an early first-round pick. At 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds, Bortles’ 4.93 40 was athletic enough, and he showed well in the jumps and shuttle runs as well. Then Bortles put his strong arm on display during the on-field drills—and with no Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater to compare to, he stood out even more.
Also capitalizing on the decision by Manziel and Bridgewater to sit out the throwing drills was Alabama’s A.J. McCarron—who admitted to throwing in order to garner some attention for himself. McCarron threw well during drills, challenging his assessment as a game manager and reminding teams he’s an intriguing option for QB-needy teams as well.
Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas has been a topic of conversation throughout the Combine, in no small part because NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock keeps referring to his 20 or so games of bad tape since bursting on the scene with a strong showing as an underclassman. It was no surprise the athletic Thomas showed well at the Combine, posting positional bests in the 40 (4.61) and both jumps. More than one NFL team shares the opinion of NFLN analyst (and former NFL coach) Steve Mariucci, who said Thomas “would be a fun project to coach.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Louisville’s Bridgewater showed up with a bag full of Under Armor gear but got the most use out of his hoodie as he sat around and didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash or any of the on-field drills. Fellow prospect Tajh Boyd of Clemson called Bridgewater out, telling ESPN, “I thought we were here to compete.”
Only time will tell if Bridgewater’s decision not to participate will ding him as the Texans and other QB-needy teams at the top of the draft stack their board. But considering that Jamarcus Russell is still known for having one of the best quarterback workouts of all time, what Bridgewater and Manziel did or didn’t do in Indy isn’t likely to impact their long-term NFL future.
Last year was the first draft in 50 years where a running back failed to go off the board in the first round, and 2014 is threatening to make it back-to-back RB-free firsts. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to see when the running backs took to the field in Indy.
Kent State’s Dri Archer made the biggest noise, threatening Chris Johnson’s modern Combine era record of 4.21 in the 40 yard dash. Archer’s official 4.24 clocking fell just shy of CJ?K, but was close enough to elicit a worried “Can’t lie archer had the boi nervous” tweet from Johnson.
Among Mayock’s top five running back prospects, only Washington’s Bishop Sankey (4.49) cracked the top 10 fastest 40s at the position. Sankey also ranked second among running backs with 26 reps in the bench press
Particularly disappointing speed-wise were Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas (4.50) and Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk (4.51), both projected to dip below the 4.4 mark, though Seastruck flashed plenty of explosiveness by topping the running back board in both the vertical (41 ½”) and broad (11’2”) jumps. And Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, one of the contenders to be the first back off the board on draft day, posted a sluggish 4.70 40 time that will do him no favors if he’s angling to crack the first round.
Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, another candidate for top back in this class, injured his hamstring while clocking a 4.66 in his first 40-yard run of the day and didn’t participate in the rest of the workout.
Capping Sunday’s Combine were the wide receivers, and there was plenty of evidence supporting the assertion that the 2014 draft class is particularly deep. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks ran the fasted 40 (4.33) among wideouts and posted position-best marks in both shuttle runs as well. The Biletnikoff Award winner as college football’s top receiver looked smooth in positional drills as well, and while his size (5-9, 189) might ding his draft stock… well, you can’t hit what you can’t catch.
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans were two of the more scrutinized receivers entering the Combine, and neither disappointed on Sunday. Watkins was plenty fast (4.43 40) and looked like a star in the making during positional drills. At 6-4, 231 pounds Evans’ 4.53 40 time didn’t crack to top 15 among wideouts, but considering he’s 6-4, 231 pounds that’s certainly fast enough—and a 37-inch vertical makes him a mouth-watering red zone target. Other than being on the wrong end of the first incompletion during deep ball drills Evans caught the ball well and did nothing to hurt his stock as a potential first-round selection as well.
Which LSU receiver draft pundits prefer is a popular debate, but Sunday Odell Beckham was the clear winner in that battle. His strong timings, particularly a 4.43 40, should come as no surprise given that his mom is a college track coach. By comparison, Jarvis Landry’s 4.77 made him look like the slower possession guy to Beckham’s playmaking speedster. Chalk one in the win column for Beckham, at least with the pads off.
With the offensive portion of the Combine in the rear view mirror, the next two days will allow fantasy footballers to get their IDP on. So grab your popcorn and enjoy Round Two of Dee Ford vs. Jadeveon Clowney—Round One being a TKO to Ford after he told a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview that he was better and that Clowney “plays like a blind dog in a meat market.”