5 things we learned at combine Saturday
|02.22.14 at 11:57 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS – Five things we learned at the combine Saturday:
1. It was a tough day for the tight ends
The tight ends were among the first groups to workout, taking the field on Saturday, and the high-profile guys had a bit of a rough session. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron appeared to have some sort of hamstring issue when he ran the second of his two 40s, while Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro had some problems working as a pass catcher with a couple of drops. Meanwhile, it was revealed Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins was suffering from some sort of foot ailment, and wasn’t going to be able to work out. (One guy who did have a good day was Georgia’s Arthur Lynch, a Bay State native who appeared to do a nice job in the pass catching drills.) An underwhelming session for a group that many expected to be one of the standout positional groupings of the combine.
2. This is a terrific draft if you need a tackle
It’s still relatively early in the pre-draft process, but Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson has done nothing to dissuade people from believing that he’ll be able to crash the Top 5, once thought be the exclusive domain of quarterbacks and Jadeveon Clowney. (For what it’s worth, we still believe he’d make an excellent No. 2 overall pick for the Rams.) Robinson ran a 4.92 40 in the morning Saturday, with a 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds, and also lifted 225 pounds 32 times on the bench press. His was one of several impressive performances from tackles on Saturday, a group that included Michigan Taylor Lewan (who’s 4.87 was the fastest 40 time for all offensive linemen) and UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo, a disciple of Logan Mankins who also managed a sub five-second 40.
3. Jadeveon Clowney likes his chances
After a delay getting to Indy that sounded straight out of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” the 6-foot-5, 266-pound South Carolina defensive lineman met the media, and was up front in his goals once he reaches the NFL. “I just want to be one of the best,” he said. “I want to be one of the greatest of all-time, and the NFL is just the next level, stepping stone in my way.” He said Saturday he plans on running a 4.4 or a low 4.5 on Monday when the defensive linemen go through on-field drills, and added that when to comes to convincing the Texans they should take him instead of a quarterback first overall, he’ll point to the Super Bowl. “Of course you see the Super Bowl championship game,” Clowney said. “Defense won that game, shut them down, shut them out. It takes defense to win a championship. Hands down. Seattle proved that. Even though you had a great quarterback — Peyton Manning, hats off him also — but defense won the Super Bowl, wins games.” The thought of Clowney and J.J. Watt on the field at the same time might be enough to melt the brain of opposing offensive coordinators.
4. There are some really versatile defensive linemen in this year’s draft
Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan and Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald all stood out as having excellent versatility, so much so that they could project at multiple spots along the defensive line when they arrive at the next level. Hageman — who we profiled here — said he has played everywhere from a zero-technique to a nine-technique, while Donald also discussed his versatility, saying he played three different positions while at Pitt. (For what it’s worth, both of them apparently have informal meetings scheduled with the Patriots while here in Indy.) Jernigan played in a 3-4 defense at FSU, saying he can fit any sort of scheme. For a team like New England that craves versatility and is in the market for a defensive lineman, this is good news.
5. Michael Sam can handle the spotlight
Like Clowney, the defensive end out of Mizzou was poised and confident in the spotlight, going through a 12-minute session with a sizable media throng and not missing a beat. He talked about the reception he’s gotten in the wake of his coming out, the support he’s received (both from his alma mater and elsewhere), what it might be like hearing homophobic slurs in the locker room, and how the pre-draft process had gone to this point. He also talked extensively about himself as a prospect. Many other high-profile prospects stumbled when faced with their first presser at the combine (including Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett and linebacker Manti Te’o), but Sam appeared relaxed, cracking jokes and deftly handling the media. It remains to be seen how he’ll do the rest of the way, but he certainly impressed on Saturday.
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