NFL Combine News & Notes
This year’s draft is being hailed as one the deepest in a decade. The NFL Scouting Combine is in full swing and while the talent pool is deep that does not mean there are not questions regarding some of the top players. Let’s start at the top with the projected best player and possible number one pick in the draft, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is a physically gifted player who is listed at 6-feet-5 1/4 inches tall, 266 pounds, with a 34 and a 1/2 inch arm length, and an 83 inch wingspan.
The talented redshirt sophomore is expected to put on a show as he runs through his drills on Monday (he predicted a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash) but as of today, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was already questioning his work ethic saying, “I look at him and there are red flags all over the place.” Teams and scouts are concerned with a lack of production and effort as the defensive end’s numbers slipped from a single-season school record of 13 sacks with 23 1/2 tackles for loss in 2012 to 3 sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for loss in 2013. Clowney will have to put on his best show in the interview process as he talks with teams about his on-field performance this year.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to enter the NFL, met with the media for the first time since coming out and tried to refocus its attention saying, “I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam, the football player, instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player.” Sam was engaging and poised and had a clear message to deliver: if teams are seeking a player that can put pressure on the quarterback, he’s their man.
Updates: Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, listed by some scouting services as the top quarterback in the 2014 draft, said Saturday he will not throw at the combine. Bridgewater added that his weight is up to 214 pounds and that he has already met with Jacksonville and Oakland, two teams in search of an upgrade at quarterback. Central Florida’s Blake Bortles will throw at the combine on Sunday and so will Katherine Webb’s boyfriend, AJ McCarron of Alabama. If Bortles throws well he could take a major step toward becoming the Houston Texans number one pick.
Offensive linemen and tight ends were on display Saturday and no one had a better day running through the drills than offensive tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan. The senior ran a blistering 4.87 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had another offensive line best performance, posting a 9-foot-9 broad jump. Lewan’s arm length, a critical requirement for offensive tackles, also was on par, measuring in at 33 and 7/8 inches long. Auburn junior Greg Robinson who has the highest ceiling of the top offensive tackle prospects ran a fast 4.92 and may have a chance to be the first offensive lineman selected in this year’s draft. He’s raw but has the best physical attributes, displaying great agility in his drills. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews also had a solid performance, running a 5.07 in the 40-yard dash and looked great with his balance and body control in the position drills. Matthews is considered the most ready prospect at tackle entering the NFL.
Tight ends were a disappointment as no one exploded off the charts during Saturday’s drills. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, ran a solid 4.6 40-yard dash but did not put on the show many anticipated. Listed at 6-foot-4 3/8 inches tall and 250 pounds, Ebron lacked explosion in his lower body as he registered a sub-par 30 inch vertical jump. I’m not buying the predictions of many scouting services saying he’s a candidate to be a top 10 selection. Jason Amaro of Texas Tech also was slower than expected posting a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash and had a few drops during pass catching drills.
Up next at the NFL Scouting Combine, it’s quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Look out for Clemson star wide-out Sammy Watkins who could easily steal the show.