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Five Lessons from the NFL Scouting Combine
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With the 2013 Scouting Combine in the books, here are five lessons I learned from February’s annual NFL “job interview.”
1. Offensive Line Looks Strong –The position group that impressed me the most was the one that showcased on the very first day of testing. Coming into the combine, I kept hearing that this year’s crop of offensive linemen was impressive. From what I saw they certainly lived up to the bill. On the whole, they tested through the roof and looked good in drills. Many of the top names heading into the combine impressed, including Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper. Of those players, I think Johnson improved his stock the most, displaying tremendous athleticism and quickness. Meanwhile, as far as relatively unknown prospects go, Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Terron Armstead caught everyone’s attention by running a 4.71 40-yard dash. For more on the offensive linemen, read my analysis immediately following their work out.
2. Lack for Stardom at Quarterback – On the opposite end of the spectrum were this year’s quarterbacks. Considered a weak group compared to recent classes, the quarterbacks struggled for the most part in my opinion. Many of their throws were off target and lacked zip. While last year’s draft class of quarterbacks set an extremely high bar with the likes of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, as well as franchise quarterbacks such as Ryan Tannehill, this year’s group has no surefire can’t miss prospect. Of those who participated in the combine, in my view West Virginia’s Geno Smith locked up his status as the top passer of his class. While he’s been inconsistent in the past, on Sunday he made all the throws and had great touch on his passes. He also clocked the fastest 40-time of any quarterback with a 4.59, with the next fastest time run by Florida State’s EJ Manuel (4.65). Smith seems like a lock at this point in the process to be the number one QB selected come April.
3. Bigger. Faster. Strong. – Every year prospects seem to be getting stronger and more athletic across the board, and that trend continued at this year’s Combine. Two offensive linemen running sub 4.8 40-yard dashes (Armstead - 4.71, Johnson – 4.72) had never been done before. Not only are they the first two offensive linemen ever to run below the 4.80 threshold, they almost clocked in the 4.6’s. Meanwhile, Texas wideout Marquise Goodwin timed a 4.27 in the 40, just 3/100ths off the all-time mark set by Chris Johnson marking the second fastest time in Combine history. In the vertical jump, Texas A&M running back Christine Michael recorded the highest jump for a player at his position all-time (43.0) ranking fifth all time. In the broad jump, the two best marks in history were set, the record now belonging to a linebacker of all positions with Southern Mississippi’s Jamie Collins jumping 11’7”, followed closely by Tennessee WR Justin Hunter who jumped 11’4”. Finally, in the bench press, Wake Forest’s Tommy Bohanon set the all-time running back record with 36 reps, which was four times more than the previous mark set back in 2011 and Georgia’s Cornelius Washington tied the record for linebackers with 36.
4. Depth –The main buzzword coming out of Indianapolis this week was “depth.” While the draft may lack star power, it is very deep with talent. Many pundits emphasized this is the type of draft where you want to have all of your own draft picks and not have any traded away, which is exactly what the Chargers have. While there is not surefire number one prospect like the past four years’ in Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford, there are many players expected to be drafted well into the third day of the draft who could very well have instant impacts.
5. Interviews and Medicals are Key– While all those impressive times, metrics and records I talked about in point number 3 are important, they pale in comparison to the medical information and interviews conducted with each player. Scouts already have tons of tape on each one of these guys to know what they can do as football players while the testing helps confirm what they already know or provide a reason to give the guy a closer look. But according to Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, as well as many NFL experts and personnel that were in Indy, the medicals and interviews that take place at the Combine are key. They not only provide accurate measurements and injury histories on each prospect but they also provide their first and only chance to interact with the players on a one-on-one basis which proves to be invaluable come Draft time in April.