The best athletes from college football converged at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN last week, for the 35th annual NFL Combine. The nations best showed up this year as well, with a record-breaking 40-yard dash, along with lots of strength on display in the bench press workout.
Normally, athletes in skill positions tend to perform the same in specific categories (RB’s showing speed in the 40-yard dash). This year though, Samaje Perine from Oklahoma University ranked in the top-10 for bench press, with 30 reps at 225. Perine is coming off a season in which he registered 1,060 yards, along with 12 touchdowns. The stand-out running back was also a top performer in the 60-yard dash, showing off his speed even more.
Yet another athlete who strutted their skills in front of the scouts was OL Aviante Collins from TCU who topped the charts on not only the bench press (34 reps), but also ran the fastest 40-yard dash of all linemen with a 4.81 time. The bloodline for Collins helped him out just a bit, with the likes of his father and brother both being sprinters for Texas Christian. The speed of Collins showed the scouts his worth to an NFL team, as they attempt to counter the faster defensive ends that are popping up all across the nation.
Speaking of DE’s, Haason Reddick from Temple University soared down the sideline and registered a 4.52 40-yard dash, leading all defensive linemen in the drill. Reddick’s 6’1″, 237 lb. frame gives him the perfect numbers to make a splash as a defensive linemen in the NFL, accentuating his abilities in front of the NFL hopefuls. Reddick was also a running back/safety in high school, giving him an edge when it comes to shedding the opposition.
Sticking with the theme of speed, I would be ignorant if I left out the record-breaking 40-yard dash from Washington wide receiver John Ross who sped past the finish line with a 4.22 40-yard dash. To even fathom the pure speed of this young man is dizzying. With his ability to streak all across the field, you could almost bet that the lucky team who grabs him in the draft would use his talents like Devin Hester of the Seattle Seahawks.
An athlete that many would have let go if it wasn’t for his outstanding performance, is Obi Melifonwu, a safety from Connecticut. A team normally overlooked in the sport of football, will be on watch for the next few years, as Melifonwu jumped to the top of draft boards, with a 11’9″ broad jump, along with a 44″ vertical and a 4.40 40-yard dash. Numbers like that for a 6’4″, 224 lb. safety will match up well against the much taller wide outs that are entering the league in the upcoming years.
Christian McCaffrey, a Heisman candidate runner-up just a few years ago had a great run at the Combine, with a 4.48 40-yard dash, a number that solidifies his running ability. Yet another drill in which McCaffrey shined in, was the 3 cone drill, where he clocked in at 6.57 seconds. This drill hones in on the athletes ability to switch directions at high speeds, exhibiting their skills to make cuts up the field. The drill showed how explosive the Stanford running back’s cuts are, and his chances at the next level when it comes to creating space for himself.
Shelton Gibson, a speedy wide out from West Virginia shined in the 40 and 60 yard shuttles, displaying the ability of Gibson to fly past defenders and match the open catch for his squad. Although Gibson lacks height, his speed could be the deciding factor between which round he is taken in. Analysts across the league have been comparing West Virginia’s own to DeSean Jackson and Corey Coleman, two NFL stars that he would mind replicating.
As for those who were slightly under the bar of expectations, the let down does not necessarily mean they will not be take in the draft, but they might drop a few spots.
One of the first under-performers of the weekend-long event was DeShone Kizer, the former Notre Dame quarterback, who hit a slight plateau from the 15-16 season. NFL analysts report sporadic throws and unsteady footwork from the 21-year old from Toledo, Ohio. While his arm strength shined among the other skilled QB’s in attendance, Kizer’s ability to make adjustments on the fly did not meet the marks of the others who went before him.
Hailing from Western Michigan, Corey Davis also took a hit when it comes to his draft stock, when he was forced to miss all combine drills when he recovers from an ankle surgery.