Fantasy owners are used to devoting their Sundays to watching football, so it was right in the comfort zone for them to tune in to Sunday’s Combine coverage of the backs running, jumping, and going through position drills.
Flordia’s Tim Tebow captured much of the attention even though he opted not to unveil his new throwing motion. He gave scouts who view him as more of an H-back than an NFL quarterback plenty of ammunition, however, with a dazzling display of athleticism: a 4.72 40 (fourth amongst quarterbacks), a 9-07 broad jump (second at his position), and group-leading numbers in the vertical jump (38.5 inches) and 6.66 in the three-cone drill.
When it came to throwing, however, the big names keeping their sweatshirts on; only one of the top six quarterback prospects actually participated in all of the passing drills. That void gave some of the “under the radar” candidates an opportunity to shine, and those who improved their stock included West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown (who threw well and also posted the best 40 time among quarterbacks at 4.54) and Fordham’s John Skelton. In general, the quarterbacking display was somewhat less than inspiring.
The throwing issues carried over into the receiving drills, where more than a few wideouts struggled to pull in errant tosses. Notre Dame’s Golden Tate, by many accounts a big winner on Sunday with a 4.42 40 and a decent showing in the position drills, battled the ball in the gauntlet drill and had to leave his feet to make many of the catches. The place where many of the bigger wideouts helped themselves was in the 40, where a bevy of “big” receivers posted sub-4.5 times—among them UConn’s Marcus Easley (6-2, 210, 4.46), South Florida’s Carlton Mitchell (6-2, 215, 4.49), and Syracuse’s Mike Williams (6-1, 221, 4.45). Illinois’ Arrelious Benn solidified his spot in the first round with a good showing in the position drills to go along with his 4.48 40 at 6-1, 219.
Among the lesser-known wideouts who used the Combine to improve their draft stock were Clemson’s Jacoby Ford, who blistered a 4.28 40 and carried that speed over to the position drills; Ohio’s Taylor Price, who carried over his strong Senior Bowl showing to Indy in running a 4.41 40 and performing well in drills; and SMU’s Emmanuel Sanders, who demonstrated his quickness at the East-West Shrine Game and ran a 4.41 40 to back up that assessment.
When the running backs hit the 40, it came as little surprise that California’s Jahvid Best (4.35) and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller (4.37) led the pack. USC’s Joe McKnight was a bit disappointing with a 4.47, especially when you consider how many bigger backs put up similar times. Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty (5-11, 225) ran a 4.49 and Auburn’s Ben Tate (5-10, 220) ran a 4.43, suggesting that they’re capable of more than just big-back duty. Ryan Mathews of Fresno State wasn’t quite as fast at 4.53, but he has the size (5-11, 218) and enough speed to be an every-down back and his position work showed he has the moves as well.
Finally, perhaps no 40 on Sunday was more scrutinized than that of Stanford’s Toby Gerhart. His 4.53 was unofficial, but when compared against the rest of the field it proved that despite his 6-0, 231-pound frame he has the speed to be more than just a fullback.
While the backs were running, the defensive linemen were lifting and weighing in. Alabama’s Terrence Cody tipped the scales at 354, 20 pounds more than any of his colleagues; here’s hoping he keeps his shirt on when running on Monday.