Year after year, I seem to forget how completely exhausting the NFL Combine is to watch. Every morning, I wake up at 5:55 a.m., turn on my TV, and watch Mike Mayock say "heavy-legged waist bender" and "quicker than fast" more times than I can count for the next six to eight hours. By lunchtime, my brain is a soup of football and Rich Eisen passive-aggressiveness, yet I just can’t stop watching. This year’s combine was no different, though we were able to learn (and re-learn) some very valuable tidbits in the process.
1. The forty yard dash is still a load of crap.
There is a reason why teams don’t use official forty times and instead opt to use their own personal hand times. It’s because the official times are even less accurate than many hand times. The way that forties are officially timed makes the whole event more of a measurement of how good a player's track start is rather than how fast they actually are. A human starts your time as soon as you move any part of your body, even just bobbing your head, after three seconds in your stance. Not on your first step. Not on your first forward movement. On a freaking head bob. Get a bad start from a four point stance, no matter how fast you actually are, and you might lose a whole tenth of a second. Twitch your arm before your first step, and you lose even more time. Some prospects can be two tenths in the hole before they even get ten yards down field. Conversely, people sitting in the bleachers time on the first step (because they can’t actually see slight movement from that far away) and get better, more accurate times in the first place. The whole thing is a joke.
2. Aaron Donald is disgusting.
I expected former Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald to have a good showing at the Combine, but I didn’t expect that good. Donald ran a 4.65 unofficial forty and put up 35 reps on the bench. At 285 pounds, he jumped 32 inches vertically and 9’8" in the broad, but he really shined in positional drills. His trademark quickness and hands flashed in every bag drill. By the end of the day Donald left little doubt that he deserved to be drafted extremely high.
3. Corner is DEEP.
Darqueze Dennard, Andre Hal, Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Bradley Roby, Marcus Roberson, Lamarcus Joyner…everywhere you look there are first round quality defensive backs. Some are pure press corners, others more comfortable off the line, and even a couple slot guys made some noise. Despite how deep the 2013 corner class was, 2014 blows it out of the freakin’ water. Considering how many NFL teams want corners of every shape and size (Houston included), there could not be a better year to need and get help in the secondary.
4. Johnny, Teddy, and Blake are all good on camera.
Whether or not the big three quarterbacks ran their forties, threw their passes, or had big hands, all three of them nailed the media portion of the Combine. Johnny Manziel showed a newfound commitment to maturity and personal growth (whether you believe it or not is up to you), Blake Bortles made a case for himself as a competitor who was not afraid to make a bid for the first overall pick. Teddy Bridgewater came out of his cave to talk about his unbridled passion for the game he loves. Rumor has it that Manziel was as magnetic as ever in his personal interviews while Bridgewater came off as "meek" or "less alpha" compared to your standard NFL quarterback, but both of them certainly didn’t leave anyone wanting more personality in front of network cameras. We may never know how any of these signal callers performed in their interviews with Rick Smith, but I’m sure all of them were impressive.
5. Alabama is starting to turn into a red flag.
Now that Cyrus Kouandijo and C.J. Mosley have both raised gigantic concerns about longevity in their medical checkups and have probably been bumped off several boards, NFL circles may be getting really concerned about what Nick Saban is doing down in Tuscaloosa. Rumors and allegations have long been in the air about players, who are still borderline teenagers, being forced to play and practice through injuries or risk losing their spot to any number of the other four and five star recruits waiting in the wings. It’s not insane to speculate that the same culture of fear that makes NFL players ignore concussions to preserve their jobs is making these kids do the same irreparable damage to their bodies in college.
Kouandijo, Mosley, Lacy, Milliner, Williams, Richardson – the list goes on and on of Alabama players who came out of college with massive injury concerns and dropped down, or completely off, draft boards around the league. It’s not that these players are getting nicked up while in school. It’s that they are coming to the NFL completely and utterly broken. Something is seriously wrong here. I would not be surprised if a lack of trust starts to develop between the NFL and the Nick Saban School of Football if his players continue to be riddled with medical red flags. The more damaged goods Alabama delivers, the more their future draft prospects will suffer…in more ways than one.
What say you, BRB? What did you learn from this past weekend?