JACKSONVILLE – If speed burns, the NFL Combine was the hottest in memory.
It didn’t seem to matter the position, either. Whether it was offensive linemen, wide receivers, defensive backs or defensive linemen, the theme around the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine that wrapped up at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind., Tuesday was speed, speed, speed.
So much for the 1990s, when many top players refused to run at the combine for fear that the old RCA Dome featured a so-called “slow track.”
Lucas Oil Stadium? Well, whatever it is, it ain’t slow.
The theme began Saturday, when Arkansas Pine-Bluff offensive tackle Terron Armstead ran an eye-popping 4.71-second 40-yard dash. That was a record, but shortly thereafter, Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson ran his 40 just one one-hundredth of a second slower.
When the wide receivers ran the next day, prospect after prospect turned in times that would have been unique only five years ago.
Marquise Goodwin, a wide receiver from Texas, fell just short of Chris Johnson’s combine record of 4.24 seconds with a 4.27, and Tavon Austin of West Virginia turned in a 4.34, with Ryan Swope of Texas A&M also running a 4.34 and Josh Boyce of Texas Christian and Kenny Stills of Oklahoma a turning in times of 4.38.
Analysts are torn about what it all means. On the one hand, it shows players may be better trained and better prepared for the combine than ever, and that players are generally getting faster each year. At the same time, the combine is only a small piece of the puzzle, and as NFL Network Analysts Mike Mayock likes to say, when fast players run fast, it’s no surprise.
The fast times may help a player’s stock a bit, as was the case with Louisiana State cornerback Tyrann Mathieu on Tuesday. He may have risen a round or two, but in the case of Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, running fast merely confirmed what many already believed – that he is an elite level corner worthy of a Top 4-6 selection.
However you interpret it, these guys are getting faster, and it’s hard to remember that the slow track at the combine was a yearly issue a couple of decades ago.
With the combine wrapping up, here’s a quick look at some risers and fallers over the weekend, as well as a position-by-position wrap-up with a guess for the Jaguars’ draft at each position.
*Johnson, tackle, Oklahoma. He was already a consensus first-round selection. A good showing at the combine could push him toward the Top 10.
*Austin, wide receiver, West Virginia. At a combine marked by speed, he showed it big-time and he may have moved into the first round.
*Armstead, left tackle, Arkansas-Pine Bluff. His athleticism could move him into the second round.
*Eric Fisher, left tackle, Central Michigan. His stock continues to improve, and there were many at the combine who thought he performed as well or better than once-consensus top pick Luke Joeckel.
*Margus Hunt, defense end, Southern Methodist. He has the size, and showed at the combine he has the speed. His athleticism is making him a favorite among scouts and draftniks.
*Dion Jordan, defensive end/linebacker, Oregon. He was as smooth and athletic as any player at his position in Indianapolis.
*Matt Scott, Arizona. He impressed at the combine. While he hasn’t been mentioned among the top seven or so quarterbacks often, that could change.
*Shariff Floyd, defensive tackle, Florida. During the season, Star Lotulelei of Utah was the consensus choice as the No. 1 defensive tackle. Floyd was pushing for that spot even before Lotulelei went home from the combine without working out because of a heart condition discovered in his pre-combine workout.
*Matt Barkley, quarterback, Southern California. He didn’t throw at the combine because of a shoulder injury, and may need to impress at his Pro Day to squeeze into the first round.
*Jarvis Jones, defensive end/linebacker, Georgia. He was a standout at Georgia and could go in the Top 10. In fact, some believe he’s the draft’s best player, but each NFL team will have to make its own determination on an uncertain medical situation (spinal stenosis).
*Damontre Moore, defensive end/linebacker, Texas A&M. A consensus Top 10 selection before the combine, he struggled mightily, running a 4.95-second 40-yard dash and doing 12 repetitions in the bench press. Plenty of first-round picks have struggled at the combine, and Moore can erase his weekend with a solid Pro Day, which he may need to do to stay in the Top 10.
*Manti Te’o, linebacker, Notre Dame. Forget the off-field stuff. Te’o ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, and while he wasn’t believed to have blazing speed, that time won’t help.
WRAPPING UP THE POSITIONS
This position remained fairly status quo at the combine, which means it’s a position of great unknown. Geno Smith of West Virginia still looks to be the first selection at the position, and opinions vary widely on where he could go. Some project him as high as the No. 1 overall selection to Kansas City, while others project him from Nos. 20-32. As expected, Matt Barkley of Southern California didn’t throw, but most still rate him as a possible late first-rounder and the best quarterback behind Smith. Elsewhere, there’s a group of eight-to-10 players, all of whom could go in the second and third round and a few of whom could sneak into the first. Best guess for Jaguars: Not with first pick; anything thereafter is possible.
This is considered a down year for running backs, with only Eddie Lacy of Alabama projected to be a first-round probability. A hamstring injury kept him out of on-field work at the combine. Best guess for Jaguars: Somewhere after the second round, and multiple players in collegiate free agency.
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert was considered the top tight end before the combine and a good combine workout did nothing to change that. He should be a first-round selection and could push for the top half, with Zach Ertz of Stanford also solidifying himself as a possible late first-rounder. Best guess for the Jaguars: Certainly not in the first round, but very possibly on Day 3.
This has not been considered a great year for wide receivers, but after several players at the position turned in remarkably fast times it appears deeper than perhaps it did a week ago. Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin helped himself with an official time of 4.27 in the 40-yard dash, the second-fastest ever at the Combine. Austin helped solidify himself in the first round with his 4.34 while Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee was very good in on-field work and is a consensus first-round choice and the top player at the position. Best guess for the Jaguars: Not in the first and probably not the second. Where they go after that could depend on how they feel about the future of
This position is so strong it’s making a murky Top 10 even murkier. Joeckel was once the consensus top left tackle, and a possibility at No. 1 overall. Now, Fisher is pushing him. Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack is good enough to be called the best player in the draft by some analysts, but he wasn’t athletically impressive at the combine. North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, the consensus No. 2 guard in the draft, impressed in nearly every combine category and some believe he could go in the Top 10. Best guess for the Jaguars: This position could get serious first-round consideration, particularly if Joeckel is on the board at No. 2. An elite left tackle can be tough to pass at No. 2.
Defensive line/pass rushing linebacker
This is considered one of the deepest areas of the draft, and overall, the combine backed that up. Barkevious Mingo of Louisiana State, Dion Jordan of Oregon and Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah of Brigham Young all looked impressive, as did Floyd of Florida. The front-line talent at this spot – both end and tackle – could last into the early second round. Best guess for the Jaguars: There are too many defensive ends to rule out: Bjoern Werner of Florida State, Mingo, Ansah, Jordan. With Floyd rising you’ll hear his name a lot, too.
A.J. Klein of Iowa State and Sio Moore of Connecticut had strong performances, continuing to improve their stock, as did Zaviar Gooden of Missouri and middle linebacker Jon Bostic of Florida. Te’o, meanwhile, continues to have a notably difficult offseason. Best guess for the Jaguars: This is an area likely to get addressed in the middle rounds.
Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner solidified himself as the top corner in the draft, while Mississippi State corner Johnthan Banks’ 4.6 40-yard dash could cause him to slide in the eyes of draft analysts. The safety position is considered one of the deepest in memory, and while Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro wasn’t dazzling in Indianapolis, he may still be the draft’s top safety. Best guess for the Jaguars: Some analysts have them taking Milliner at No. 2 overall, but a bigger corner such as Banks could make sense at No. 33 overall.