The Winners of the NFL Scouting Combine

There were a lot of winners at this years NFL Scouting Combine.  It was tough for me to limit this list, but I managed to cut it to 13, which is still a lot.  There were still many players not on this list that deserved to be mentioned and so naturally, I added an honorable mention list at the end.  Many players came out and exceeded expectations during drills and showed that they deserve more attention than they have been getting.  To see my Mock Draft and where these players might go, click here.

Ziggy Ansah (DE/OLB, BYU):  It came out after the Combine that Ziggy Ansah didn’t actually train for the NFL Combine at all, and he only went to class and worked out.  His first vertical jump and 40-yard-dash time ever were done at the NFL Combine, which is simply unbelievable and definitely unheard of.  Ansah’s only experience in football came in college and so he is an extremely raw prospect.  His performances at the Senior Bowl and the Combine were nothing short of impressive and he showed fantastic quickness.  Ansah tested off the charts, clocking a 4.63 40-yard-dash, 34.5″ vertical, and 21 reps on the bench, all at 6’5″ 271 lbs.  Ansah will go very early in the draft based on potential alone, even if he needs more time to gain experience.  He has the chance to be another Jason Pierre-Paul, although he isn’t as polished as JPP was entering the NFL.

Terron Armstead (LT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff):  Armstead was a little heard of prospect coming into the Senior Bowl and the Combine, but he changed that with one simple workout.  At 6’5″ 306 lbs, Armstead ran a blazing 4.71 40-yard-dash, put up 31 reps on the bench and had a 34.5″ vertical.  When he was running I thought he should cut about 20-30 lbs and become a tight end, and apparently on his Pro Day there are teams that want him to work out at tight end too.  You can’t teach the kind of athleticism Armstead displayed, and he showed that he has a rare set of athletic skills at the Combine.

Tyler Bray (QB, Tennessee):  Tyler Bray had a sub-par season at Tennessee and personally I thought he should stay in school for another year; it wasn’t like things could get worse for him in my mind.  After getting past the legal trouble though, Bray threw at the Combine and threw well.  With the exception of Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, I thought he threw the best of anyone at the Combine.  His measurables were nothing special, but the fact that he showed off his arm strength and did a great job of displaying accuracy and touch completely trumps all of that.  He had very smooth mechanics and besides, it’s not like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning are burners.

Knile Davis (RB, Arkansas):  Two years ago Knile Davis was talked about as an up and coming star running back.  Then he blew out his ankle in fall practice and missed a full season.  This past year was one of the worst season’s in Arkansas history, and Davis did nothing to jump off the page.  It seemed as though his ankle injury claimed his athleticism and ruined his potential…and then he showed up to the NFL Combine.  Davis was one of the biggest freaks the whole week, posting a 4.37 40-yard-dash, 31 reps on the bench and a 33.5″ vertical leap, which is incredible for a running back.  He weighed in at 5’10” 227 lbs and looked very quick in and out of the drills.  Not only that, he was very smooth catching the football, which is almost a requirement now for NFL running backs.  His ankle didn’t hamper him at all, and his athleticism was on full display for all to see.

Eric Fisher (LT, Central Michigan):  Eric Fisher has had a meteoric rise since the Senior Bowl, where he completely dominated every competitor that came his way.  At the Combine, he did nothing except continue to challenge Luke Joeckel’s hold on the title of being the best left tackle in the NFL Draft.  Fisher was very smooth in drills and looked more athletic than he had on tape.  Fisher ran a 5.05 40-yard-dash, 27 reps on the bench, and a 28.5″ vertical, all at a massive 6’7″ 306 lbs.  I’m a big Fisher fan, and have trouble seeing him falling out of the Top 5 right now.

Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida):  Floyd has been a stud for the past year and in my mind, I see him as the best defensive tackle in the draft; especially now that Star Lotulelei has been diagnosed with a heart condition.  Floyd weighed in at 6’3″ 297 lbs, ran a 4.92 40-yard-dash and posted a 30″ vertical.  He was extremely quick off the ball and did a good job of keeping his hips low during drills.  Since he chose not to bench press, I will be interested to see how he does during his Pro Day, though I don’t think a bad number would hurt his draft stock.

Margus Hunt (DE, SMU):  Other than Ziggy Ansah, Margus Hunt was the most talked about player at the NFL Combine.  Hunt weighed in at 6’8″ 277 lbs and that already drew the interest of the NFL.  Then he got on the field and was unbelievable.  He ran a 4.6 40-yard-dash, had a 34.5″ vertical, 121″ broad jump and then put up 38 reps on the bench.  Clearly, Hunt is on another level when it comes to size and athleticism.  He showed that he was quick off the snap and clearly was strong, but he is a bit raw.  A lot of times he stands up too tall and loses leverage, but this is something that is correctable.  His Combine performance has vaulted him into 1st round consideration.

Lane Johnson (LT, Oklahoma):  Johnson showed up at the Senior Bowl and was very good. He wasn’t as good as Eric Fisher and has some work left to do, but with his athleticism, it is possible that if he pans out he could be the best left tackle to come out of the 2013 NFL Draft.  He showed up at the Combine, and like many others on this list, he wowed scouts with his size and athleticism.  At 6’6″ 303 lbs, he ran a 4.72 40-yard-dash, put up 28 reps on the bench and had a 34″ vertical.  Johnson had an unorthodox road to becoming a left tackle.  He started off as a junior college quarterback, then transferred to Oklahoma to play tight end, who eventually moved him to left tackle.  While he lacks experience at left tackle, his athleticism bails him out of a lot of situations and makes him a lock to be a first round pick.

Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon):  There were concerns about Jordan’s weight prior to the Combine, since it was reported that he played most of the year at Oregon at 225 lbs, which is a very small defensive end.  He showed up to the Combine and clearly spent a lot of time in the gym because he weighed in at 6’6″ 248 lbs, and alleviated any concerns about his size.  Jordan, to his benefit, didn’t lose any athleticism when adding the weight either; running a 4.6 40-yard-dash, posting a 32.5″ vertical leap and a 122″ broad jump.  He didn’t bench press, so his strength is still a bit of a question, but as I’ve said many times, you can’t teach speed.  He also has tremendously long arms, measuring at 33 7/8 inches.  You can have Jordan hit the weight room, but you can’t guarantee that someone will get quicker off the ball.  Jordan could end up playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense like Aldon Smith, but you can bank on Jordan’s athleticism getting him picked high in the draft.

Tyrann Mathieu (CB, LSU):  Next to Manti Te’o, Tyrann Mathieu was the prospect that was under the microscope the most at the NFL Combine.  After getting kicked off the LSU football team, entering rehab and then getting arrested for another marijuana issue in the fall, Mathieu had questions to answer.  During interviews, Mathieu said that he no longer wants to be referred to as the “Honey Badger” because that part of his life is behind him, and he seemed genuine about wanting to change.  It seems as though the most recent arrest made him realize that he needed to clean up his act.  Mathieu is obviously a smaller player, weighing in at 5’9″ 186 lbs, and will be a nickel corner in the NFL.  Mathieu ran well, posting a 4.5 40-yard-dash, and as always been known for being quick rather than fast.  He had a 34″ vertical, showing that he can still cover ground against taller receivers and had the best ball skills during the Combine drills.  He didn’t drop a single ball that was thrown to him and did a great job high-pointing the ball.  But another area of concern for Mathieu was his bench press, where he only posted 4 reps.  Which raises the question, what had Mathieu been doing in the weight room for the past year?  Despite this though, Mathieu still raised his stock a great deal and did pretty much everything he needed to do to ensure a team will take a chance on him.

Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama):  Dee Milliner was already the consensus best cornerback going into the Combine.  The only concern was his speed and he ran a 4.37 40-yard-dash and then added a 36″ vertical leap.  Add in the fact that he is 6′ 201 lbs and teams were salivating to say the least.  Although he dropped some balls during the defensive back pass catching drills, you can chalk that up to his torn labrum.  It was a very good Combine for Milliner who was fluid in his drills and showed off his athleticism.  The only thing he has left to do is have successful surgery on his labrum.

Denard Robinson (WR, Michigan): Rather than rehash everything Denard did, who had a very good day, check out my massive post recapping his day at the Combine.

Ryan Swope (WR, Texas A&M):  Swope had a very productive career at Texas A&M and it was thought that he could be a great slot receiver, but his Combine performance proved it.  Swope weighed in at 6′ 205 lbs and then posted a blazing 4.34 40-yard-dash with a 37″ vertical, 125″ broad jump and 16 reps on the bench.  All of which are fantastic numbers for a wide receiver.  Swope did a great job catching the ball in drills and showed his quickness and fluidity running routes.  Swope’s athleticism has teams thinking that he could be the next Wes Welker, only taller.

Honorable Mention: Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington), Cornelius Washington (LB, Georgia), Tavon Austin (WR, WVU), Matt Elam (S, Florida), Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame), DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson), Robert Woods (WR, USC).

All of these players have secured themselves spots in the draft and their impressive Combine numbers were a huge part of this and made them the “winners” of the NFL Combine.  All of these players showed off their rare athleticism, and while this draft may not have a clear cut Top 5, this draft has depth that hasn’t been seen in a while.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @TheDailyTraub

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