On The Rise
Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
One of the most productive wide receivers in the nation over the last two seasons, Tate was known for his explosiveness in space and ability to be a game breaker. But, there were many questions about his straight-line speed. Tate silenced those critics on Sunday when he blazed through the 40 with a 4.42; maybe it was the shiny gold shoes he sported? Tate proved his worth in the 40, but struggled during the gauntlet drill by dropping a few balls. However, he rebounded during receiver drills, was quick in and out of his breaks and didn’t drop another ball. Tate was projected to be a late first round pick, but with this latest development, he could end up being a mid first rounder.
Best showed how fast he was at the Combine, but durability remains an issue.
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Jahvid Best, RB, California
Best is a threat to score any time the ball is in his hands, but durability is a major concern, as is his ability to be a featured back in an offense. But in a setting like the Scouting Combine, Best has the attributes to perform brilliantly, and that’s exactly what he did on Sunday. Best turned in the fastest 40 (4.35) of any running back in front of NFL talent evaluators and looked fluid during drills and catching the ball. He has first round talent and could be selected somewhere in the range of 20 – 28. But again, it comes down to his durability, and that will be a factor in where he gets drafted.
Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
Playing at Ohio, the 6-foot, 204-pound Price didn’t receive a lot of attention, despite his consistent production over the last three seasons. But this offseason, defensive backs and scouts alike have praised the former Bobcats star. Price had a great week at the Senior Bowl, and every cornerback that faced him on the line of scrimmage raved about his physical nature, route running and sure hands. Those skills were on display on Sunday, and Price had one of the best workouts of any wide receiver. Price ran a 4.41 in the 40, recorded a 37-inch vertical and lifted 225 pounds 16 times. He also did well during drills, showing polish as a route runner and reliable hands. Price started the year as a mid-to-late round prospect and now finds himself as a lock to be a third round draft choice.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
Mathews had a sensational junior campaign for Fresno State, rushing for 1,808 yards and 19 touchdowns. That success allowed him to forego his senior year and cash in on his stock while it was hot. At 6-foot, 218 pounds, Mathews arrived in Indianapolis trimmer and in tremendous shape. The work that he’s put in this offseason paid dividends at the Combine, as he sparkled in the 40 with a 4.45 and did well in the bench press with 19 reps. Mathews wasn’t used much at Fresno State as a receiver, but during drills he ran good routes, flashed sure hands and finished every run. With Mathews’ speed no longer an issue, he could ascend into the first round and will draw comparisons to 2009 first round pick Donald Brown.
Jarrett Brown, QB, West Virginia
Brown has capitalized on his opportunities to showcase his ability in front of scouts this offseason. When the top quarterbacks in the class declined to participate at the Senior Bowl, and when they also decided not to work out at the Scouting Combine, Brown performed very well, and his eagerness to shine has impressed many scouts. He performs with great confidence and has a swagger about him when he takes the field. On Sunday, Brown displayed a strong arm during drills, although he did under throw a few balls, but that was more of a timing issue with the receivers. He’s the most athletic quarterback in this class, and he solidified that notion when he ran a 4.53 in the 40. Brown could move into late second round consideration.
Ben Tate, RB, Auburn
Tate is the prototypical Auburn running back who has great size, strength and the ability to be a playmaker as a runner and a receiver. At 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Tate was one of the big surprises on Sunday, as he not only demonstrated his strength (26 reps), but his surprising speed (4.43 in the 40) and explosion (40.5-inch vertical and a 10’3” broad jump). Those numbers are eye-popping on paper and will force NFL evaluators to study Tate more on film to see if those numbers translate onto the field. This year’s running back class has a lot of big backs, but Tate’s performance this weekend raises his value with teams in need of a chain-moving runner
Even though Tebow didn't throw, he was one of the best QBs at the Combine.
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Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
Tebow has been a great competitor this offseason and is willing to show scouts he’s serious about being a quarterback in the NFL. It’s been well documented that Tebow’s mechanics and elongated release are a concern as he enters the draft, and those concerns were clear during Senior Bowl week. But prior to the Scouting Combine, Tebow announced that he would debut a new release at his Pro Day and stated that it would be shorter and quicker. Although Tebow didn’t throw at the Combine on Sunday, he did participate in other drills and did extremely well. He tied Josh McCown (2002 Combine) for the best vertical leap (38-inch) in Combine history, scored the best broad jump (9’7”) and recorded the third best 40-time (4.72) of all the quarterbacks. Where Tebow lands in the draft will be determined by his Pro Day performance, but he’s the kind of guy you never bet against.
Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee
In his first year as a starter, Hardesty didn’t disappoint in 2009, as he carried the ball 282 times for 1,345 yards and 13 touchdowns. At 6-foot, 225 pounds, Hardesty has the size, strength and versatility that teams covet, but it was his speed that scouts wanted to witness upclose at the Scouting Combine. Hardesty didn’t disappoint when it was his turn to step to the line and showcase his speed, which was clocked at 4.49. Hardesty did extremely well in the bench press (21 reps) and displayed quick feet, good hands and vision during drills. But the most impressive part of Hardesty’s workout was when he had to demonstrate his explosiveness. He recorded a 41-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4-inch broad jump. Hardesty has placed himself into third round discussions.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson
One of the smallest receivers in this year’s draft class, Ford, who measured in at 5-foot-9, 186-pounds at the Combine, has tremendous quickness and sure hands. Ford had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and was one of the quickest players there and a guy who rarely dropped a pass. A former track star at Clemson, Ford showcased his speed on Sunday in front of scouts. There was speculation that Ford could challenge Chris Johnson’s 4.24 40-time, but he just fell short as he was timed at a 4.28; the fastest time at the Combine. Ford continues to rise up draft boards, but his size will keep him in the 3rd – 4th round mix.
Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
A physically imposing receiver who wasn’t nearly as productive in 2009 as he was in 2008, the 6-foot-1, 219-pound Benn looked the part on the field on Sunday and showed why he should receive late first round attention. Benn, who left Illinois after his junior season, is known for his ability to muscle up defenders at the line, and he proved his strength in the bench press with 20 reps. But, the biggest question was if he could separate from cornerbacks downfield. That question was answered on Sunday when he ran a 4.48 in the 40. There are a handful of teams at the end of the first round that will be intrigued with his size/speed combination.
Despite a slow 40-time, McCluster showed great strength by doing 20 reps in the bench press.
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Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss
McCluster is one of the most impressive prospects in this entire draft. Up close he doesn’t look like a football player, because of his 5-foot-9, 172-pound frame. But when you turn on the film, speak with him personally and watch him work out, he’s one of the most competitive, intelligent and hardworking athletes you will ever come across. McCluster was easily the most explosive player at the Senior Bowl, and at the Combine on Sunday he turned out to be a physical enigma, as he benched 225 pounds 20 times. Although, McCluster was a disappointment running the 40-yard dash, even though he stumbled a bit, he recorded a surprisingly slow 4.58. He is more quick than fast, but plays much faster than his timed speed. McCluster will come off the board in the second round and could be selected in the top 40.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford
Gerhart is your classic between the tackles runner who plays with tremendous intensity and is highly productive. But as successful as he was during his career and the outstanding numbers he posted in 2009 – 343 carries for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns – Gerhart’s speed could be his biggest detriment as he enters the NFL. Not so fast; that’s not the proper phrase to use when describing Gerhart any longer, because the 6-foot, 231 pounder stunned everyone at the Combine with his timed speed (4.53) in the 40. There’s never been a question about Gerhart’s strength, and in front of scouts during the bench press he registered 22 reps. Gerhart is a third round prospect who could rise into the late second round.
Antonio Brown, WR, Central Michigan
Brown decided to forego his senior season at Central Michigan after an ultra-productive three-year career with the Chippewas, which included a 2009 season where he hauled in 110 receptions for 1,198 yards and nine touchdowns. While the man who was throwing Brown the ball at Central Michigan, Dan LeFevour, decided not to throw at the Combine, but ran well in the 40 (4.66), Brown, who measured in this weekend at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, impressed scouts with his speed (4.50 in the 40), route running and hands. The 2010 draft is a very deep crop, but Brown has a lot of upside and he should move into the fourth round area.
Making Their Mark
Spiller only ran the 40 at the Combine, but it was worth the wait.
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C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
The consensus No. 1 running back in the 2010 NFL Draft, Spiller measured in this weekend at 5-foot-11, 196 pounds, but decided that he was only going to run the 40 on Sunday and wait for his Pro Day to do everything else. Spiller recorded a 4.37 in the 40, which was one of the fastest of the day.
Lonyae Miller, RB, Fresno State
At 5-foot-11, 221-pounds, Miller is a situational back who was primarily a backup during his career at Fresno State. He’s made quite an impression this offseason starting at the Senior Bowl and continuing on Sunday in Indianapolis. Miller tied Auburn’s Ben Tate with the most reps (26) in the bench press among the running backs, and also registered a 4.53 in the 40 and a 10-foot broad jump.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, SMU
A standout during the week at the East-West Shrine Game, Sanders impressed scouts with his ability to stretch the field and catch the ball. At 5-foot-11, 186 pounds, Sanders had a great workout on Sunday and recorded 4.41 in the 40, a 39-inch vertical and a 10’6” broad jump.
Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State
Robinson had a poor showing at the Senior Bowl, but rebounded at the Scouting Combine. He had one of the fastest 40-times (4.71) of any quarterback and displayed a strong, accurate arm during drills.
Roberts continued to show he's worthy of a third or fourth round pick.
Andre Roberts, WR, Citadel
Roberts had a strong week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and on Sunday during his workout at the Scouting Combine, he will find his stock continuing to rise after he ran a 4.46 in the 40 and displayed great explosion by posting a 10-foot broad jump. Roberts’ athleticism and versatility could make him a third round possibility.
Carlton Mitchell, WR, South Florida
Mitchell decided to forego his senior season at South Florida and enter the NFL Draft. He has the physical attributes and tools to be a big time deep threat at the next level, and those skills were apparent on Sunday. At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, Mitchell ran a 4.49 in the 40 and demonstrated his explosion (10’2” broad jump) and strength (16 reps) in front of scouts.
Scott Long, WR, Louisville
Long missed most of the 2008 season with a torn ACL, but rebounded this past year and had a breakout season. Entering the Combine, Long was projected as an undrafted free agent, but after recording a 41.5-inch vertical, 4.46 in the 40, 20 reps in the bench press and a 10’3” broad jump, a team may take a chance on him in the late rounds.
Donald Jones, WR, Youngstown State
A small school prospect who has tremendous upside, Jones, who measured in this weekend at 6-foot, 214 pounds, had a great workout on Sunday. He ran a 4.47 in the 40, benched 225 pounds 20 times and showed great explosion with a 41-inch vertical.
On The Decline
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech
On a day when most of the top running backs performed well, Dwyer’s showing was less than spectacular, and the questions about his speed were confirmed. The 5-foot-11, 229-pound workhorse managed just a 4.59 in the 40 and lacked explosion with an 8’9” broad jump. He didn’t show nimble feet during drills and struggled coming out of the backfield catching the ball. Dwyer is a borderline first round pick, and with his performance on Sunday, he could slip into the second round.
After a great performance in Mobile, Gilyard struggled at Indy.
Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati
Gilyard has had a tremendous offseason so far. He had a great week of practice at the Senior Bowl, was impressive during the game earning offensive MVP honors and witnessed his draft stock maintain its second round status. But on Sunday, in the NFL’s ultimate track meet, Gilyard’s flaws were exposed. The 6-foot, 187-pound Gilyard, who has playmaking ability, ran a poor 4.56 in the 40, but was able to show his explosion by registering a 39-inch vertical. As good as Gilyard was at the Senior Bowl, he struggled during drills at the Combine. He didn’t run crisp routes and dropped a few balls. Gilyard didn’t look confident and appeared to having timing issues with the quarterbacks.
Jevan Snead, QB, Ole Miss
One of the more surprising early entries in the 2010 draft, Snead’s inconsistent 2009 campaign should have served as motivation to return to school rather than declare for the NFL. On Sunday, Snead’s inconsistent ways continued as he ran the worst 40 (5.01) of any quarterback. However, he made some good throws during drills, but he also missed a few receivers on out routes and downfield. If Snead’s performance is any indication of where he will ultimately end up in the draft, it’s possible he won’t hear his name called until the fifth round.
Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse
Williams has generated some buzz this offseason, because of the playmaking ability he possesses, but as talented as he may be, he has some major character concerns. Williams decided to quit football mid-way through the 2009 season; a decision that was likely brought up multiple times this weekend. As far as Williams’ performance on Sunday, it’s obvious he doesn’t take football too seriously. At a solid 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Williams ran an above average 40 at 4.49, but he really struggled during the gauntlet drill and lacked polish as a route runner. Williams has ability, but you just have to wonder how much he loves football.
Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas
Briscoe had a tremendous career at Kansas and decided to forego his senior year after a junior campaign where he caught 84 passes for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns. Scouts were intrigued to see the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Briscoe perform, but it appeared that he wasn’t prepared to perform on Sunday. Briscoe ran a disappointing 4.61 in the 40 and didn’t show the strength scouts wanted to see from him during the bench press (9 reps). Briscoe also lacked burst off the line during drills, was slow in and out of his breaks and flashed inconsistent hands. Entering the Combine, Briscoe was considered to be a third round prospect, but the performance he had on Sunday will likely push him back into the fourth – fifth round.
Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan
LeFevour (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) performed well on Sunday in the drills he participated in and impressed scouts with his explosion (9’2” broad jump) and speed (4.66 in the 40). But his decision not to throw the ball, except to stationary targets, could potentially hurt his draft stock, as it questions his competitive fire. There are a number of teams that were turned off by his decision.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.