Day Three of the NFL Scouting Combine saw the first on-field action of the festivities, and yet the greatest buzz was generated by a couple of off-the-field situations.
First, Alabama tackle Andre Smith put the OL in AWOL when it was announced that he was no longer at the Combine. It turned out to be largely a misunderstanding, mostly by the agent that Smith spent so much time selecting that he couldn’t be bothered to train for the combine. Smith evidently has a couple private workouts scheduled in Alabama, and since he wasn’t doing any of the drills he bailed on the Combine.
It’s no secret that ultimately talent trumps everything else, so Smith will still be a first-round pick. However, questionable decision-making has raised some character red flags that could end up costing him millions. To wit: Jake Long was the first overall pick in last year’s draft, signing a five-year, $57.75 million contract with the Dolphins; Ryan Clady was the next offensive lineman off the board, going 12th overall to the Broncos and inking a five-year contract worth $40 million less. Crude math suggests that for every four spots Smith’s shenanigans may have dropped him in the draft, he’ll lose in the neighborhood of $10 million.
And that wasn’t even Saturday’s biggest story. The NFL Network broke (no pun intended) the news that Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who wasn’t planning to run at the Combine because he was still recovering from an ankle injury, had X-rays that revealed a slight stress fracture in his left foot. The prognosis was surgery and a 10-week recovery, which would keep Crabtree from running before the draft in April. Late in the day, word came in that Crabtree intended to keep his pro day and then have the surgery—a move largely panned by the analysts on the NFL Network.
Crabtree measured almost two inches shorter than his listed 6-3, and while his game wasn’t predicated on blazing deep speed he was looking to run an impressive time to assure himself a spot in the first five picks; now, his injury raises more questions than his running may have answered. The good news—if there can be any good news for a rookie wideout facing a surgery that requires insertion of a screw into his foot—is that this is the same procedure Terrell Owens had done and Jonathan Stewart had after last year’s Combine; both have had no issues since the surgery. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Crabtree rethinks his decision to run, opting for the surgery sooner instead of later and getting back on the field in time for rookie minicamps in May.
Working our way closer to the playing field, the backs and receivers hit the weight room for their bench press workout. Of course, not all of the Combine attendees participated, but several notables did: North Carolina’s Brooks Foster paced the wideouts with 27 reps, four more than the second-place effort of Rutgers’ Kenny Britt; Syracuse fullback Tony Fiammetta put up 225 pounds 30 times, tops on the day; and among the running backs, Liberty’s Rashad Jennings (29 reps) outlifted a field that included Ohio State’s Chris Wells and Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, both of whom complete 25 reps.
The tight ends and linemen took to the turf for sprints and drills, and South Carolina’s Jared Cook was the star of the show. Cook posted the top vertical (41 inches, five better than the next closest competitor) and broad jump (10-3) and blazed to a 4.50 40 time before tweaking his hamstring and bowing out of the receiving drills. Cook’s time was the second-best by a tight end this decade, with only Vernon Davis’ 4.38 topping it. Other notable performances: Southern Mississippi’s Shawn Nelson (4.56), Cal’s Cameron Morrah (4.68), and Florida’s Cornelius Ingram, who missed the entire 2008 season after tearing his ACL in August but has recovered well enough to run a 4.68. The consensus top tight end on the board, Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, didn’t dazzle with a 4.85 40 time, but he wasn’t expected to run much faster so his stock remains intact.
Among the notable linemen, Baylor’s Jason Smith and Virginia’s Eugene Monroe continued to capitalize on Andre Smith’s falling stock. Smith posted a solid 5.22 in his 40, while Monroe was slightly better at 5.16. Nebraska’s Lydon Murtha (4.89) was the only lineman to break the five second mark, though South Carolina’s Jamon Meredith and UConn’s William Beatty did nothing to hurt their rising stock with impressive clockings of 5.04 and 5.12, respectively.
Sunday, it’s the showdowns we’ve all been waiting for as the backs and wideouts take to the field for drills and 40s. Crabtree won’t be there, but Florida’s Percy Harvin and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin will look to post the first 4.3 readings of this year’s Combine.