The NFL Combine (AKA "The Underwear Olympics") is officially in the books and teams are digesting the workouts of the nation's most prominent incoming prospects. While the Combine is considered the preeminent scouting event, it is not an exact science by any means. A player that can jump out of the gym doesn't necessarily mean that he has the drive or ability to play NFL football and almost every franchise has learned that lesson the hard way.
The benefits of the event can sometimes be immeasurable though--particularly for teams picking early. Interviews are a key piece, as well as exposure to some players from small programs. What the Combine really does is force a team's brain trust to go back and review tape on some prospects that really intrigued them. Perhaps they had their eye set on a player from brief film reviews and he didn't workout well in Indianapolis. Other times, a player doesn't jump out on tape but dominates these events. And, other times notions are re-affirmed in the eyes of a staff on a prospect.
Here are some of the players that we feel did well on Combine weekend and may have raised their draft stock. We'll go by position:
1.) Derek Carr, Fresno State: Though he didn't throw in drills, Carr finished near the top amongst the quarterback group in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle. He flashed his athleticism this weekend and with a strong throwing show at his Pro Day, he could see himself rise to the middle of the first round from the back end of it.
2.) Blake Bortles, Central Florida: I basically put Bortles here because he was one of the only big names to throw in drills. He looked pretty solid in those and affirmed his status of being a top prospect at the position. He did take a jab at Johnny Manziel in his interview though, and it's unclear how that could affect him.
1.) Andre Williams, Boston College: Downgraded as a prospect because of his lack of flash and level of competition, the 2013 Doak Walker Award winner was pegged to be a mid-to-late round prospect. However, the 230-pound Williams turned in an impressive 4.56 40-yard dash time for his size and was at the top of the position group in the broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle.
2.) Tyler Gaffney, Stanford: Another guy who is one of those tough, non-flashy runners, Gaffney was initially looked at in a similar vein to Williams. He put up a 4.49 40-yard dash, beating who many believed to be the fastest guy in the Pac-12 in De'Anthony Thomas. He also did well in the three-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle.
3.) Dri Archer, Kent State: Unfortunately for Archer, he just doesn't have the size to be an every-down back in the NFL or a high pick in May. He did raise eyebrows with a sizzling 4.26 40-yard dash, as well as his great performances in the vertical jump, three-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle. He could have risen his stock with teams looking for a boost in the return games and for a third down option.
4.) Tre Mason, Auburn: One of the highest-rated backs in the draft did enough to solidify his status. He ran a respectable 4.5 40-yard dash and was at the top of both the vertical and broad jumps.
1.) Odell Beckham, LSU: One of the better receivers in the class put on a show this weekend. He caught the ball well in drills and ran well. He sported a 4.43 40-yard dash time and was towards the top of the group in both shuttle events.
2.) Marquise Lee, USC: I say this one with caution. Some believed that he should have ran faster than a 4.52 and he briefly came up lame after diving for ball, which doesn't bode well for his injury concerns from college. But, he showed great effort going after passes by diving multiple times and doing well in receiving drills. Mike Mayock noted that he may have moved himself up to the middle of the first round from the later part of it.
3.) L'Damian Washington: He wasn't talked about much, but I just liked what I saw from the guy. He's big (6'4"), caught the ball relatively well and put out a 4.46 40-yard dash.
4.) Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin: For a guy pegged as a "slower slot guy", Abbrederis put up a nice 40-yard dash and did reasonably well in other events. His bench press reps are a concern for an NFL wideout that may need to break from press coverage though.
5.) Sammy Watkins, Clemson: I'm not sure how much higher his stock could have risen this weekend, but Watkins was impressive. He was solid all around in events and put out a 4.43 40-yard dash. More than that, he caught the ball well and had heavy participation in events, something rarely seen from top prospects.
6.) Damian Copeland, Louisville: Copeland still may not be a high draft pick, but he did well in most events. He ran a respectable 4.5 40-yard dash and was among the top in both shuttles, the three-cone drill and the broad jump.
1.) Colt Lyerla, Oregon: This kid is a freak. He was tops in almost every category as a tight end and can catch the ball relatively well. His problem is that he has had a nightmare of a life off of the field. Still, a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash, a 39-vertical jump and a 128-inch broad jump for a guy who is 6'4" and 245 pounds is borderline ridiculous.
2.) A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State: Like Lyerla, Leonard has had off-field issues, but also like Lyerla he was a Combine freak. He ran a 4.5 second 40-yard dash at 250-plus pounds and was at the top in the tight end group in both jumps. It's this kind of athleticism that could tempt a team to look past certain issues to take guys like Leonard or Lyerla earlier than others.
3.) Trey Burton, Florida: This guy's issue with NFL scouts is that they don't really know what position he can play. Likely an H-Back type as a pro, Burton did well in Indy. He ran pretty well in the forty and also showed burst in the three-cone and 20-yard shuttle. He was adequate at catching the ball in drills, but needs to work on that if his niche will be at tight end or H-Back.
4.) Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Amaro finished near the top in most events for his position group. Running in the mid 4.7's is also impressive for a guy his size (6'5", 265 pounds). For a guy not known for having good blocking strength, Amaro put up 225 pounds 28 times.
1.) Taylor Lewan, Tackle, Michigan: Lewan was a beast over the weekend. A forgotten prospect behind other prominent names, Lewan ran under 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is impressive at 310 pounds. He also was a top performer in both jumps and the three-cone drill.
2.) Matt Patchan, Tackle/Guard, Boston College: Though he played tackle in college, some physical shortcomings may force Patchan to play guard in the NFL. If he does, he'll be quite athletic for the position, but will need to add a few pounds--particularly in muscle.
3.) Jonotthon Harrison, Center, Florida: A solid, but not spectacular workout from Harrison, cementing him as a decent player at the position. Given his ability and position, Harrison was viewed as a guy a possible undrafted free agent, though that may change, even if it's slightly.
4.) Russell Bodine, Center/Guard, North Carolina: I didn't know that much about Bodine going into this weekend, but the guy is just a horse. He had 42 reps on the bench and also did well at the vertical jump over the weekend. He also has a reputation as a mauler and has quite the mad dog inside of him.
5.) Brandon Thomas, Tackle/Guard, Clemson: Thomas was another guy who did solid across the board in Indy and may have improved his mid-round stock. He played tackle in college, but some believe that he might be better suited at guard because he isn't an absolute tower, physically.
6.) Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame: There is a lot to like about this kid. Really, why I was impressed with Martin was hearing from the coverage analysts about his versatility and intelligence. Though his workout didn't necessarily light up the board, he flashed athleticism and strength during events and drills. I like his future in the NFL because of his size, skill set and athleticism, I'm just not sure at which offensive line position.