Each year there are a handful of prospects that standout at the annual NFL Combine, and each year there are those who disappoint. I'm not the biggest fan of the Combine but recognize its importance, especially for those who come from small schools or who were buried on a depth chart or who played an unconventional role in an unconventional system.
The Combine should never be a reason to specifically draft or NOT draft a prospect. NFL front offices use the Combine as sort of a measuring stick, not necessarily of the prospects performances but of their own scouting. Sure there are exceptions and yes, some teams have "standards" for positions in terms of height, arm length, speed, etc. BUT for the most part, if a prospect stands out - check the tape and see what you missed. If a prospect disappoints - check the tape and see what you missed.
Here are my Combine "winners" and "losers" on offense:
QBs: Jameis Winston (Florida State), Marcus Mariota (Oregon)
Both quarterbacks did everything right in Indianapolis. Not only did both look comfortable on the field, they apparently really impressed in the team interviews and appear poised to be top selections.
RBs: Jeremy Langford (Michigan State), Karlos Williams (Florida State)
None of the running backs at the Combine really wowed. Langford showed surprising speed in the 40-yard dash as he posted the quickest time with a 4.42. Williams also posted a top 40 time for RBs with a 4.48 and at 225lbs. He's still very raw having only been a running back for two years but that speed with his frame has some turned some heads.
WRs: Kevin White (West Virginia), Davante Parker (Louisville), Chris Conley (Georgia)
Many of the top receivers made the most of their Combine experience. These three seemed to stand out the most.
I'm not sure anyone expected to see White run a 4.35-forty. He also looked natural tracking down balls in drills. He's planted himself firmly in the conversation for first WR off the board.
My top WR in the class, DeVante Parker also made a case with a 4.45-forty finally showing off the speed he showed in 2013 before a foot injury in early 2014.Aside from proving the speed, there might not be a WR with better ball skills than Parker.
Chris Conley is the perfect justification for the Combine. Everyone likes to point out that the "underwear Olympics" rarely equate to guaranteed production. And they're right. But in the case of Conley, scouts will be forced to go back to the tape (or to check the tape for the first time) to see if they missed anything. Conley posted a 4.35-forty, 45" vertical (8" higher than next closest), and set a new WR Combine record in the broad jump with an 11' 7". Many had a late round grade on Conley. Tracking his momentum over the next few weeks will be interesting.
OL: Cam Erving (Florida State), D.J. Humphries (Florida), Ali Marpet (Hobart College), Mark Glowinski (West Virginia)
Not many people had heard of Ali Marpet before Friday. Then he dominated the Combine posting ridiculous numbers like: 4.98-forty (1st), 30 reps (5th), 7.33 cone (2nd). All at 307lbs. Coming from such a small school, it's safe to bet Marpet will be gathering a few thousand frequent flyer miles this draft season as teams will scramble to vet the athletic big man.
Erving and Humphries' performances have them solidly on the first round bubble. Erving's length, power, and surprising fluidity will peak the interest of many teams looking for a center. There was concern over Humphries weight (played at around 280lbs) but he checked in at 307lbs with impressive length to boot. Both he and Erving looked like naturals during on the field drills.
RBs: Most of them
It what appears to be a fairly deep running back class, aside from a few sub 4.5 forties, nothing in particular really stuck out about this group. It's still clear to me that the best back in the group is Todd Gurley.
WRs: Devin Funchess (West Virginia) Sammie Coates (Auburn), Ty Montgomery (Stanford)
I really like what I see out of Funchess when the ball is in the air. But a 4.7-forty isn't good. The good news he was never going to win with speed. Finding a position for the WR/TE might be difficult but there's no doubt he can help a team in the red zone. And don't forget, Anquan Boldin ran a 4.72-forty at the Combine and he turned out ok.
Many, including myself, had high hopes for Sammie Coates heading into the Combine. Sure there were the maddening ball skill issues Coates showed on tape but he also really flashed at times. At 6-1, 212 pounds I expected Coates to be faster, although a 4.43 isn't bad at all. I also expected to see him track the ball better, especially since there wasn't a defender in his hip pocket. Coates looked stiff at times in his routes and is still very raw.
Montgomery is another one that struggled with drops and aside from a nice showing in the vertical jump, he failed to meet expectations or convince anyone he's more than a mid to late round pick.
TEs: Most of them
A major position of need for the 49ers but if the 49ers miss on one of the top two tight ends in the class (Maxx Williams and Clive Walford) it's unlikely they'll get any solid production from another rookie in the class.
Rutgers' Tyler Kroft is still an intriguing prospect but didn't get to compete after a high ankle sprain he incurred in a bowl game was re-aggravated after team doctors put him through a litany of tests.
OL: Ereck Flowers (Miami)
Flowers' Combine experience started off with a bang after the tackle through up 37 reps in the bench press last Thursday. Come Friday, however, the 6-5, 324lbs monster couldn't have looked more out of place. He was slow and robotic in his footwork and didn't look the part. Like you do when a relatively unheard of prospect stands out, teams will need to reevaluate Flowers' tape after a disappointing workout.