1. TOP PROSPECTS CONFIRMED THE HYPE; WHOSE STOCK ROSE?
For others without the hype, the combine was an opportunity to turn some heads. And plenty of them did that as well. On the offensive side, NFL Media’s Mike Mayock said his biggest risers were Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard, Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise, and Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs.
“His movement skills were tremendous,” Mayock said of Spriggs. “His 40 was great. He did a wonderful job in all the football functional drills, and he continues to build on his resume also. I think there are some offensive line coaches who are going to love to plug him in on the left side.”
On the defensive side, players like Clemson safety T.J. Green and Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah were winners in Indianapolis.
“Ogbah wasn't hailed as one of the top pass rushers in the draft prior to the combine, despite an impressive résumé that featured 24 sacks over the past two seasons,” NFL Media’s Bucky Brooks said. “But his name is flying up boards after a dazzling display in Lucas Oil Stadium that showcased his combination of size, strength, speed and explosiveness on the turf.”
2. A GEORGIA RUNNING BACK WAS THE FASTEST; ARIZONA STATE OL THE STRONGEST
Of the 332 players invited to participate, Georgia running back Keith Marshall was the fastest man in Indianapolis for the week with a 40-yard dash time of 4.31 seconds. However, that meant former East Carolina running back Chris Johnson held onto his combine record of 4.24 seconds, which he set in 2008. Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller (4.32) came in second this year while Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones (4.33) finished third overall.
With the exception of Fuller, the wide receiver class was one of the slowest in recent memory. Running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds would put you among the top five wide receivers at this year’s combine. In 2015, it wouldn’t have put you in the top 15. In 2014 -- Odell Beckham Jr.’s star-studded class -- it would have been good for an 11th-place tie.
In terms of the strongest, Arizona State offensive lineman Christian Westerman led the bench press with 34 reps at 225 pounds (former Oregon State defensive lineman Stephen Paea holds the record with 49 reps in 2011). Georgia defensive tackle Chris Mayes and Missouri offensive lineman Connor McGovern tied for second with 33 reps. Like Marshall, Westerman set the bar on the first day of drills and held onto the top mark throughout the week.
3. CB EMERGED AS SECOND-DEEPEST POSITION
Heading into the combine, the consensus among draft experts was that the defensive line was the deepest position this year, especially the interior linemen. After that, cornerbacks made their case over the last week in Indianapolis. Headlined by Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, who led the way in both vertical (41.5 inches) and broad jumps (11 feet, 3 inches), other players in the group like William Jackson III of Houston turned heads with their on-field workouts.
“Long, rangy cover corners with speed and ball skills are valued commodities on draft day,” Brooks said. “Thus, Jackson could become one of the draft's biggest risers following a spectacular performance that shocked many in the scouting community.”
4. TOP LB’S JACK AND SMITH ANSWERED INJURY QUESTIONS
Unfortunately, two of the best defenders in this year’s class had their college careers come to an end due to injuries. Beginning with his Pac-12 Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards in 2013, UCLA’s Myles Jack earned a reputation as one of the most dynamic players in college football throughout his career. However, a knee injury three games into last season cut his junior campaign short, and the Washington native declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I feel like I’m 100 percent,” Jack said. “I’m actually just waiting on the doctor’s clearance. So I should be cleared on March 11, and then my Pro Day is on the 15th and I’ll be good to go.”
Meanwhile, All-American Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame is nearly two months removed from tearing his ACL in the Fiesta Bowl and hopes to play in this upcoming NFL season.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “As soon as possible. I can’t tell when I’ll be back, but I’ll be back 100 percent.”
Amazing walking without the knee brace six days after being restricted for six weeks and feels fantastic! pic.twitter.com/dAW8OW09Ke— Jaylon Smith (@thejaylonsmith) February 24, 2016
5. COMBINE CHANGES COULD BE COMING ON AND OFF THE FIELD
Jeff Foster, the president of National Football Scouting Inc., which runs the combine, announced plans to create a review committee for the event that has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.
“Like anything, we’re trying to improve,” Foster said of the combine, a nationally-televised production which required the addition of an overflow workroom for the media this year. “So we’re working with both the teams as well as the league office and football operations to develop a combine review committee. And the goal is really to look at all the elements.”
Foster said those elements include more efficient and accurate medical testing, increasing interview times for teams with prospects, and a standard psychological test that all 32 clubs could use. Meanwhile, the committee could review on-field drills as well.
“On the field, we want to make sure that the drills that we’re doing are relevant to today’s game,” Foster said. “It’s nice to have comparative analysis in terms of an evaluation standpoint, but we really need to make sure that the on-the-field drills -- the offensive lineman running 40 yards, the bench press, the three-cone drill -- really making sure that what we’re measuring is relevant to the game today.”