After a hectic four days at Lucas Oil Stadium, the 2013 NFL Combine culminated on Tuesday with the defensive backs getting on the field for a chance to showcase their athletic ability to on looking NFL teams. Just like every other day at the combine, a few prospective pro’s took advantage of the opportunity by dominating the day of drills, while others did just the opposite and are left waiting for another chance at their pro day.
It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype of the combine. After all, watching a group of elite athletes run 4.3 40’s and bench 225 lbs. two-dozed times with ease is pretty darn impressive. But it’s important to remember that while the results of these workouts are helpful when grading prospects, the combine is just another very small piece of an extraordinarily complicated puzzle.
.Run Tyrann Run
He says he wants to put the ‘Honey Badger’ persona behind him and on Tuesday Tyrann Mathieu took a big step in that direction. The former LSU defensive back didn’t get off to a very good start, finishing with only four reps on the bench press. To put that number in context: only one participant finished with fewer reps than Mathieu, as Rutgers tight end D.C. Jefferson was injured after just three reps. But Mathieu rebounded in his remaining drills, posting a top-10 finish in the 3-cone drill, a 4.50-second 40-yard dash time, and showing marked improvement during position drills–most notably his ability to backpedal and turn.
More importantly for Mathieu, his team interviews reportedly went well. And when your file includes a year-long suspension from the LSU football team, they better go well. It’s imperative for Mathieu to give NFL teams assurance that he won’t be a problem in the future if he wants to be an early Day 2 pick.
Another concern with Mathieu is his size (5’9”, 175 lbs.), which was addressed during his interview on the NFL Network with Deion Sanders. The back-and-forth between the two was entertaining, but more noticeable was the fact that Mathieu didn’t mince words in his response.
Deion: “Some think you’re too small to play outside at the cornerback position in the NFL. How do you feel about that?”
Mathieu: If I was to check somebody like a Calvin Johnson, he’d make his plays, but I’m definitely going to get mine too. And that’s my mindset. He’s going to catch his five balls, but I’ll get my two turnovers…we’ll be even.”
Deion: “It’s not even if he gets six points.”
Mathieu: “I’ll get six too.”
While both guys were laughing during the exchange, Mathieu’s confidence suggests he wasn’t entirely joking.
Maybe Mark Sanchez should start hanging out with him…
Mike Mayock likened Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas’ style of play to that of a “heat-seeking missile” as he approached the start line for his 40-yard dash. A few seconds later, Thomas crashed to the turf as he crossed the finish line – looking more like a rock than a missile.
While the face plant probably wasn’t exactly what Thomas was going for, he locked up a great 40-yard dash time (4.42) for a 213-pound safety. While he suffered some embarrassment, the blunder (which likely went viral almost instantly) combined with his impressive time, could help attract interest from scouts who previously may have overlooked the muscle-bound defensive back.
Thomas didn’t stop with his 40 time though, adding a 28-rep performance on the bench, a 40.5″ vertical jump (both top finishes), and a 133″ long jump, good enough for third overall.
‘Slaying’ The Competition
A Mississippi State cornerback not named Johnthan Banks drew the praise of both Sanders and Mike Mayock on the final day of the combine, as Darius Slay’s 4.36 40-yard dash time landed him atop the list of all defensive backs in Indy.
While his 40 time was one of the best of the entire week, his performance in the defensive back drills was even more impressive, likely helping him fight off some negative perceptions surrounding his speed and fluidity.
On the other hand, Banks had a less than stellar day at Lucas Oil Stadium, as his struggles in the 40-yard dash (4.61) and during position drills could potentially knock him out of the first round.
It’s hard to lend a ton of credence to a few glorified workouts, but the reality is a really good (or really bad) performance at the combine will likely impact a prospects draft grade. So with that in mind, we take a look at few guys that helped (or hurt) themselves this week in Indianapolis:
Rich Eisen, NFL Network:Watching Eisen run the 40-yard dash might be the most highly publicized (and most amusing) of all the combine events. The entire ordeal is pure entertainment from start to finish, and Rich rarely disappoints (unless of course you’re Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh). Eisen’s stock is up this year as his 6.03 40 time matched his personal best (set in 2012), and despite the fact that a backpedaling “Leon Sandcastle” stayed stride-for-stride with him through 20 yards. Might want to increase the dosage next time, Rich.
Margus Hunt, SMU: The behemoth defensive end may have had the best day of any Combine competitor this week, as he posted shocking numbers in both the 40-yard dash (4.60) and the bench press (38 reps). When you consider his 6’8”, 277-pound frame and almost 34” arm length, those numbers become even more staggering. While still a raw prospect, his elite size and athleticism combined with his combine performance, should make him a mid to high first-round selection.
Tavon Austin, WVU: Some see the undersized West Virginia wide receiver as a situational player at the next level, but Austin’s performance at the combine this week may have altered people’s
perception of his game. His 40-yard dash time (4.34 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle time (4.01 seconds) were both good enough for second among wide receivers. More importantly, Austin looked the part while running routes and catching passes during wide receiver drills. After his performance in Indianapolis, some have the 5’8” receiver projected as a mid-first round selection.
Lane Johnson, Oklahoma: The former Sooner is an interesting prospect who despite still being considered a neophyte on the offensive line, will surely see his name climb draft boards in the coming weeks. He certainly helped his case in Indy as Johnson led all offensive lineman with a 118″ broad jump, and recorded top-five finishes in the 40-yard dash (4.72 seconds), 3-cone drill (7.31 seconds), and vertical jump (34″). His elite athleticism and versatility has some projecting Johnson as a potential top 10 pick this April.
Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Michael shocked lots of experts with his on-field performance this week, finishing first among running backs in the vertical jump (43”), 3-cone drill (6.69 seconds) and the 20-yards shuttle (4.02 seconds). If that wasn’t enough, the former Aggie ‘back produced top- five results in the bench press (28 reps) and broad jump (10’5”). It wasn’t all positives for Michael though; as he reportedly overslept and missed two team interviews. Needless to say, that’s probably not the best way to endear yourself to NFL teams after an already rocky career at Texas A&M.
Star Lotulelei, Utah: While the former Utah defensive tackle is considered by some as the best defensive prospect in the draft, he currently faces a potential slide down draft boards by no fault of his own, after an echocardiogram during his Combine physical revealed a possible heart condition. Lotulelei is set to see a specialist this week, which should shed some light on this scary situation.
Demontre Moore, Texas A&M: When you’re a defensive end/outside linebacker prospect, you should probably be able to bench 225 pounds more than 12 times. If that didn’t do enough to scare teams, the Aggie DE added a less than spectacular 4.78-second time in the 40-yard dash. Considering the amount of defensive talent in this draft, this sub-par performance could send Moore sliding down draft boards.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame: As if the kid hasn’t been through enough the past few months, Te’o’s draft stock took yet another hit this week, leading some to question the legitimacy of what was
once a surefire first-round projection. Te’o put up solid performances in the vertical jump (33”), 3-cone drill (7.10 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.27 seconds), but his 40-yard dash time (4.82 seconds), combined with concerns both on and off the field, won’t help his stock and could push him out of the first round.