back to HOT News

Speed, Size and the NFL Combine

by: @dickiesalvatori - posted on: 23-Feb-2014

The NFL Combine took place this weekend and, with the draft less than two months away, some interesting findings were to be had regarding what could happen come mid April. 

From the Michael Sam interviews to thorough analysis of the top tackles on the board, no story will make more headway than what took place amongst skill position athletes in the 40 yard dash and the incredible display of speed in general.

RB Dri Archer post a 4.26 in the 40, both a full .15 faster than any other running back and also only .02 seconds behind that of Chris Johnson's all time record. Georgia Southern product Jerick McKinnon also ran a very impressive 4.41. Still, those two and all the running backs in total didn't come close to what these wideouts put up. 

Don't get me wrong. There are some highly intriguing running backs in this draft. Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk and Ka'deem Carey are among a crop of guys who can come in and be productive players if placed in the right scene. 

But the wide receiver talent inherent within this draft was on serious display. Anyone who watches football understands the recent trend we have seen toward defensively strong teams and the success they are capable of having even in an offensively driven league.

That sort of trend is only going to increase the speed at which offensively rich clubs attempt to reload. The hopes of reloading are going to be a lot easier thanks to some of the names here. The top of the board has two incredible talents in Sammy Watkins and Michael Evans, and they were at the forefront of Sunday's events.

Evans is 6'5, 231 and posted a 4.46 on his second attempt in the competition's most hyped event. He is widely considered to be, at worst, a top 15 pick. But the numbers he put up in Indy should enhance that stock quite a bit. His ability on the deep ball and to go up in traffic was a major aspect of Johnny Mazniel's success collegiately, a factor which will also be more expressed during the evaluation period.

Watkins was unofficially clocked at 4.34 and did nothing short of cementing his likely spot in the top five. His overall gifts are apparent on tape as well and, when in the open field, he is as difficult a player to catch as exists in the college game. 

FSU''s Kelvin Bejamin is no speedster in the mold of Watkins, but he is a physical monster whose own forty time should be more than enough to impress personnel departments. A 4.59 for a guy who, like Evans, can go up and just physically dominate, will be more than enough to allow him to stand out. 

Like Evans, Benjamin has incredible size and physicality. His hands can be sloppy at times, but he a physical presence who excels along the perimeter. He also can go over the middle and taken on bigger bodies with regularity.

Marquise Lee is a top 20 sort of talent who, in his own right, posted a strong 4.44. Yet he was outdone by fellow Pac-12 showman Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. Cook's posted an unofficial 4.30 during his attempts and could well have boosted an already ever interesting draft outlook.

But beyond the first several names we've discussed, several other offensive specimens also stood out. Alabam's Kevin Norwood, a 6'2, 215 lbs Mississippi product, registered a 4.39. After doing little early on in his career, he was the second leading receiver in 2012 and 2013 for a team that came so close to winning back to back national titles. His seven TD's in 2013 led all Alabama receivers.

Another SEC talent more notable prior to the weekend was Jordan Matthews, the conference's all time leading receiver. Matthews already had proven himself a statistical machine at Vanderbilt, but his 4.40 forty time could go a long way toward enhancing his standing as a potentially sought after piece for a playoff hopeful team.

Ole Miss wideout Donte Moncreif also raised eyebrows with a 4.35 40, providing further testimony to the fact the nation's best conference in total continues to become more spread oriented. Moncrief is a likely mid round selection who might have vaulted himself up toward the early third or even late second regions with that news.

Everyone who understands the college landscape figured this to be a wide receiver heavy draft, and it is undoubtedly shaping up to be. Tape is more important than a distinct number, but you are hurting your cause if you aren't cognizant of measurements like these and how much added value, even if just perception, they add to the nucleus of a guy's resume. 

Teams are going to take notice and act accordingly, especially if they have been doing their due diligence in terms of performance. The draft is a scrutinized process, but there is more than enough talent to go around.

One team that really stands out as having benefited from what can happen on draft day is St. Louis. They have both the second and 16th overall picks this year thanks to moves they made in the recent past. Their current setup could afford them the opportunity to take both a tackle and receiver (think Jake Mathews and Mike Evans).

Teams like Oakland, Detroit, both New York teams, Pittsburgh and Baltimore also possess top 20 picks and potential interest in the WR position thanks to current roster construction and recent financial decisions.

The draft is the easiest way for a pretender to become a candidate for success in the NFL. Finding your guy and nailing the pick is critical, especially if you want to trade up and sacrifice additional picks in doing so.

For every St. Louis, there is a team like Washington wondering about the foundation of what they have currently. The position taken can be a massive managerial gamble and, should it fail, can set groups back a long way. But teams always do it, and this year it could well come down to their need for speed as highlighted by how they'll now view some of the weapons discussed.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs are a group sitting at pick number 23 who obviously need to find weapons outside for Alex Smith to continue to grow with. Their defense is in good enough shape currently to try and make a move for a player maker who could provide playmaking for them.

Cleveland has talented wide receivers already, but they do have two first rounders and the ability to maneuver while still getting their guy. Their potential interest in Johnny Manziel could deter them from moving a selection that good could get their guy anyway. But given the fact their management team just made a slew of alterations to its staff and front office, they might be more than willing to move out of the four spot if someone comes calling with a serious enough offer.

Carolina and San Francisco are two NFC powers that came awfully close to getting to the big game this year. Yet, each has to see the potential for what is directly in their rear view mirror. Their divisions are each stocked with talent. Acquiring a player to potentially increase the efficiency of their offense in the latter part of the first has to resonate with each.

San Francisco has two second round picks, and they could target outside targets such as Fresno State's Davante Adams or the aforementioned Moncrief with such picks. They could also opt to move one of them and their first rounder if they see a defensive piece out there in the middle part of the first round. 

The coming weeks should be filled with action on the trade front and the interest has to be growing after this weekend's festivities. Getting inside the minds of NFL decision makers is no easy task, but assumptions can turn into reality if the right people are willing to pull the trigger.

People see where Seattle and Denver were at just a few months ago. You have to be elite on at least one side of the ball, and the quickest way for some to get there will be through acquisition of this draft's biggest focal point: speed.

The NFL is great because its offseason means so much for the teams in this league. We saw what Kansas City did a year ago and what Houston could prove capable of in 2014. Change can come quickly if the opportunities show themselves, and teams will be motivated by what they see amongst this college crop. Speed and size combinations like what is being showcased doesn't come along too often, and that could be, above all else, the storyline of this class.