The 40-yard dash is the showcase event in Indianapolis but there wasn’t a ton of buzz about that event until the first group of defensive backs entered the building Monday.
Meanwhile, before the epitaphs are written on the young-pass catchers before they even enter the league, keep in mind that three Pro Bowlers ran 4.57 or worse at their respective combines. Jarvis Landry, DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown are three of the league’s best wide receivers but it took a Pro Day re-do for each guy to register an acceptable 40 time. Along those same lines, there will be a pass-catcher or two that evolves into one of the league’s best after running somewhat unimpressively on Saturday afternoon.
As such, there were still a few receivers who shone throughout the weekend. Notre Dame’s Will Fuller was the outlier in the receiver group as he blazed a 4.32 in the 40, the second-fastest official time of the weekend. Whether it was catch-and-run quick screens or deep balls well down the field, Fuller’s speed changed games for the Irish and his 4.32 was nothing but confirmation of that fact. He actually undersold himself on Thursday during his media session when he guessed he would run 4.35. Every other player oversold himself, yet the fastest one at the combine was the only one to under-sell and over-deliver.
Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard didn’t win the weigh-ins Thursday, measuring only 5-foot-10, but he was a top performer at the receiver position with 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a 41-inch vertical jump. Furthermore, he ran 4.48 and had a 10-foot-3-inch broad jump. There’s little chance he remains a secret for the remainder of the draft process.
There wasn’t much to take out of the quarterback workouts on Saturday from a measurement perspective, but it was clear how effortless the throwing process is for California’s Jared Goff. Similar to Jameis Winston a year earlier, Goff made each and every throw without breaking a sweat. Although North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz has received a great deal of hype, Goff remained at the top of my quarterback board and will remain there in the near future. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg followed Goff on each and every repetition, and the throwing accuracy/acumen difference was striking.
Goff’s Golden Bears teammate, running back Daniel Lasco, had everyone saying “Damn, Daniel” after his workout, which may have been surprising for some. I’ve seen Lasco play since his days at The Woodlands High just outside of Houston, so I knew the type of player he is. But, nagging injuries and a less-than-productive senior season left him in the shadows of many in the running back group heading into the weekend.
His workout on Friday, though, will send teams back to the film room, in particular to his 2014 games, for further study. He had the fourth-best RB 40 time with a 4.46, the top vertical jump at 41.5 inches, the top broad jump of 11-3 and the top 60-yard shuttle with a time of 11.31 seconds. At 6-foot, 209 pounds, Lasco may have gotten himself drafted after Friday’s workout.
The fastest player at the combine was Georgia running back Keith Marshall, a player hindered by injury and overshadowed while a Bulldog. In his true freshman season, he ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns on only 117 carries. But, an ACL tear, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel all kept Marshall off the field for much of the rest of his career. So, NFL types were a bit shocked to see him run 4.31, the fastest time at the combine. He was a track star in high school in North Carolina, so his performance wasn’t entirely surprising, but he could be an intriguing ball-carrier to watch on Day 3 of the draft.
Although Ohio State defensive end/outside linebacker Joey Bosa wasn’t overly impressed with his 40 time, his defensive teammates spent the weekend flying up the Lucas Oil Stadium sideline. The 20-year old Apple ran 4.40 at 6-1 and 199 pounds, while his secondary mate Tyvis Powell ran 4.46 at 6-3, 211.
But, the Ohio State defender who won the weekend was outside linebacker prospect Darron Lee. After he ran 4.47, at 6-1 and 232 pounds, there were secondary coaches taking a peek to see if he could make an impact at safety. The linebacker coaches won’t want to lose a guy that ran 4.47, jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical jump and registered 11-2 in the broad jump, though. Explosively fast, with sideline-to-sideline range, Lee raised his stock this week. He’s best suited to be a run-and-hit, space linebacker at the 4-3 WLB spot but his speed and explosive abilities will keep him on the field for all three downs.
Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd was 220 pounds and thin a year ago at this time, so when he weighed in Friday, it raised a few eyebrows when the scale said 244. Of course, scouts then questioned whether he could still run. He answered that question quite authoritatively. He only did three different measurement tests — the 40, the vertical jump and the broad jump. At 244 pounds, Floyd walked away as a top performer in each of the three — 4.60 in the 40, 39.5-inch vertical jump and 10-7 broad jump. Although it was a tremendous workout for Floyd, there will remain plenty of discussion about his natural fit at the next level.
In the end, the defensive backs stole the show on the last day of testing. Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones ran a 4.33, and Houston cornerback William Jackson, a dark horse first-round candidate, blazed a 4.37, the sixth-best time of the entire weekend.
However, all pale in comparison to the player I expected to dominate the combine — Florida State safety/cornerback Jalen Ramsey. His numbers are insane — 4.42 in the 40, 41.5-inch vertical jump and 11-3 broad jump — but when he did his on-field drills, he was head and shoulders above every other defensive back. His transitional quickness and range are without peer. Add in the fact that he’s 6-1 and 209 pounds, and it’s evident he’s truly a freak of football nature.
Where he and the other 299 combine participants call home in the NFL is anyone’s guess, but what they all did on the field this past weekend will go a long way in finding them one next fall.