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All eyes were on the quarterbacks for Sunday’s on-field workouts, but they certainly weren’t the only story.
Let’s start with the big fellas, defensive version, as the linemen and linebackers hit the weight room for the bench press. That’s where Oregon State’s Stephen Paea turned heads and dropped jaws by throwing up 225 pounds 49 times, the best number since Eastern Kentucky’s Justin Earnest (who?) did 51 back in 1999. NFL Network heralded Paea’s performance as a record, eclipsing the 45 Arkansas’ Mitch Petrus put up last year. The difference might be that Paea actually can play; considered a second-round selection coming into the Combine, Paea’s demonstration of strength might bump him into the back end of the Draft’s first day.
In other non-quarterback news, the head-to-head battle between elite wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones went to Jones, at least for today. While Green’s 4.5 40, 10-6 broad jump, and 34.5-inch vertical at 6-3 and change and 211 pounds did nothing to dislodge him from his likely top six perch, Jones’ performance was outstanding. His 4.39 40 time ranked third behind the 4.37s posted by future Raiders Edmond Gates of Abilene Christian and Ricardo Lockette of Fort Valley State, and his 38.5-inch vertical ranked seventh at his position, but it was his combine-best 11-3 broad jump that truly confirmed his explosiveness. Both Green and Jones showed well in position drills as well. In fact, the only loser in regards to their Combine performance might be the Rams, who may no longer be able to wait for Jones to fall for them with the 14th pick.
The running backs were also on the quarterbacks’ undercard, with Mark Ingram showing more than enough to solidify his first-round status. While his 4.62 40 wasn’t blazing, his 10-yard split was among the fastest recorded at the Combine and he looked explosive in positional drills as well. From a pure speed standpoint, Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott posted the best 40 time among running backs with a 4.34.
But, of course, this day was all about Cam Newton and the quarterbacks. To the surprise of no one Newton’s athleticism showed extremely well in the drills; his 4.59 40 ranked third among quarterbacks, as did his 35-inch vertical, and his 10-6 broad jump led the field. You could nitpick his throws during positional drills, but his arm looked fine and the issues he had—timing with receivers, for example—weren’t his alone.
In fact, most of the quarterbacks looked solid throwing the ball during positional drills—except, of course, Blaine Gabbert, who didn’t throw. Of particular note was the arm strength of both Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick. Both threw an effortless deep ball that likely had Al Davis salivating. Mallett opted not to participate in any of the on-field tests, but Kaepernick—at 6-4 and 233 pounds—posted the second-fastest 40 time with a 4.53. In stark contrast to Gabbert, Alabama’s Greg McElroy particpated in everything but the throwing drills despite wearing a cast to protect a broken finger on his right hand. It was also reported that McElroy had the doctors form the cast so he could still hold a pen, allowing him to take all the written tests required at the Combine.
Monday will put the defensive linemen and linebackers on display, providing IDPers with an opportunity to see which hybrid DE/OLB types have the footwork and quickness to play upright and which will need to add some bulk and play with their hand in the dirt in a 4-3 scheme.