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The Combine has been turned over to the defensive players, but that didn’t stop one of the weekend’s brightest offensive stars from swiping the headlines.
Sunday, Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones was making a push for a spot in the first ten picks of the draft with a 4.39 40 and a combine-best 11-3 broad jump. Monday, it was revealed that Jones will require surgery to repair a fracture in his foot. The injury will sideline Jones for up to eight weeks, meaning he probably won’t be able to work out for teams prior to the draft—or, presumably, capitalize on his strong Combine showing.
However, Jones’ injury—and his performance on a fractured foot—could also be viewed as a positive. First, it shows Jones can play through pain. Second, if those are the numbers Jones posts when hurt, just imagine what he can do when healthy. Now it will be up to NFL teams to determine if Jones is more Demaryius Thomas (whose foot injury lingered into the season and limited his rookie numbers in Denver) or Michael Crabtree (whose draft stock took a similar hit due to his foot injury but bounced back with a solid half of a rookie campaign in San Francisco).
On the field, it was time for the strongest position in this year’s draft class to strut its stuff. While Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers didn’t participate in the on-field workouts, Auburn’s Nick Fairley (a 4.87 40, second-fastest among defensive tackles) and Alabama’s Marcell Dareus were suitably impressive. But what scouts really wanted to see was some on-field work for a pair of former Tar Heels who were forced to sit out last season for improper dealings with an agent. Marvin Austin followed up a solid 38 reps on the bench press with a 4.90 40 and the third-best vertical (30.5 inches) among defensive tackles; Robert Quinn’s workout numbers weren’t quite as jaw-dropping as some were expecting, but not many 6-4, 265-pounders can run a 4.70 40 or leap 34 inches off the ground.
Other potential first-rounders like Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and Ryan Kerrigan showed as well as expected, but the swiftest 40 times belonged to a pair of probable second-day selections. Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson ran a 4.49 40, while Nevada hybrid DE/OLB Dontay Moch blazed a 4.44 down that same path.
Of course, the news wasn’t all be good. For instance, teams are concerned that potential first-round pick Adrian Clayborn of Iowa suffers from Erb’s palsy, a nerve damage condition Clayborn has had since birth that makes it difficult for him to fully extend his right arm. It didn’t prevent Clayborn from a standout junior season, but teams now have to discern whether it led to the dropoff in his numbers during his senior year.
The Combine wraps on Tuesday with the defensive backs and NFLN’s Rich Eisen taking to the field for 40s and position drills. Look for LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson to steal the show, though if Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara posts a good 40 time he should solidify his shot at joining Peterson in the top of the first round.