NFL Football Column: NFL Draft Preview
NFL Combine Risers
This is a rundown of 15 players who either helped or solidified their draft stock by testing well at the 2013 Scouting Combine. We'll start off with seven bigger-named prospects before digging a bit deeper on 8-15.
1. BYU DE Ziggy Ansah -- Ansah's stock has been rising since the January 26 Senior Bowl game, which he single-handedly took over. In Indy, Ansah measured 6-foot-5 1/4 and 271 pounds with 35 1/8-inch arms. His 4.63 forty time was sixth fastest among the 37 defensive linemen who ran, and Ansah's 34 1/2-inch vertical leap tied for seventh. When running the forty, only LSU's Barkevious Mingo cleared ten yards at a faster pace than Ansah (1.56). His 9-foot-10 broad jump also ranked in the top ten. Ansah has locked himself in as a single-digit pick.
Realistic Landing Spots: Jaguars at No. 2, Raiders at No. 3, Lions at No. 5.
2. Tennessee WR Justin Hunter -- Hunter weighed in at a relatively slight 6-foot-4, 196 in an effort to improve his workout measurables. It worked. Hunter's 4.44 forty was outdone by only eight of the 35 receivers who ran, and all by wideouts at least an inch and a half shorter than Hunter. Even more impressive were Hunter's vertical (39 1/2") and broad jump (11-foot-4), which each either ranked first or tied Hunter for first in his position group. Despite disappointing 2012 game film coming off an ACL tear, Hunter has vaulted himself back into the first-round discussion.
Realistic Landing Spots: Texans at No. 27, Patriots at No. 29, Jets at No. 39.
3. Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert -- If there was any doubt about Eifert's athleticism entering the Combine, he erased it in Indy. 19 tight ends worked out, and Eifert ranked fourth in forty time (4.68), third in bench-press reps (22), second in vertical leap (35 1/2"), third in 20-yard shuttle time (4.32), and second in the 60-yard shuttle (11.52). He was also the only tight end to break seven seconds in the three-cone drill (6.92). Ideally built at 6-foot-5 1/2, 250 with 33 1/8-inch arms, Eifert has separated himself from Zach Ertz as the lone surefire first-rounder in this tight end class.
Realistic Landing Spots: Bucs at No. 13, Bears at No. 20, Falcons at No. 30.
4. Oklahoma LT Lane Johnson -- Johnson was considered a possible top-ten pick before the Combine, but he might push for the top seven now. Among the 48 offensive linemen who took part, Johnson ranked second in forty time (4.72), first in the ten-yard split (1.61), second in vertical leap (34"), fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (4.52), and second in the three-cone drill (7.31). He also benched 225 pounds 28 times with vine-like 35 1/4-inch arms. Johnson offers ideal athleticism and build (6-foot-6, 303) for an NFL left tackle. He's giving Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher a run for their money.
Realistic Landing Spots: Cardinals at No. 7, Chargers at No. 11, Dolphins at No. 12.
5. LSU DE/LB Barkevious Mingo -- Mingo's game has kinks that need refinement -- he tends to play too high and must add strength -- but he is a highly explosive athlete. At 6-foot-4, 241, Mingo ranked first among all defensive linemen in the ten-yard split (1.55) and second in the forty (4.58), demonstrating sensational short-area burst in addition to long speed. Mingo's 10-foot-8 broad jump tied for first, and his 37-inch vertical was second best at his position. Teams that run 3-4 defenses will love Mingo's blend of length (33 3/4-inch arms) and sky-high upside.
Realistic Landing Spots: Jets at No. 9, Saints at No. 15, Steelers at No. 17.
6. Washington CB Desmond Trufant -- Marcus' younger brother is long and lean at 6-foot, 190, and recovery speed isn't going to be a problem. Trufant's 4.38 forty was third fastest among defensive backs at the Combine, and his 3.85 time in the 20-yard shuttle ranked second. His broad jump (10-foot-5) and vertical (37 1/2") were respectable if not elite. On the heels of a standout Senior Bowl, Trufant is making a case to be the draft's No. 2 corner behind Dee Milliner.
Realistic Landing Spots: Dolphins at No. 12, Bucs at No. 13, Panthers at No. 14.
7. Oregon LB Dion Jordan -- Some teams use the Combine to create first impressions, before going back to watch tape until April's draft. Clubs of that mindset will be initially smitten with Jordan. At 6-foot-6 1/4, 248, with 33 7/8-inch arms, he has a freaky size-athleticism combo. His 4.60 forty tied for third among defensive linemen, and Jordan ranked third behind only Mingo and Ansah in the ten-yard split (1.57). His 10-foot-2 broad jump was fourth best at the position. Jordan regularly lined up over the slot receiver in Oregon's defense and might be the most pro-ready cover linebacker in the draft. Rotoworld draft guru Josh Norris has likened him to Julian Peterson.
Realistic Landing Spots: Eagles at No. 4, Browns at No. 6, Jets at No. 9.
8. Arkansas RB Knile Davis -- Davis rushed for just 377 yards on 112 carries (3.37 YPC) coming off a major ankle injury in 2012, but some of his measurables indicate he could be a gem. Weighing in at a rocked-up 5-foot-11 3/8 and 227 pounds, Davis ran the second fastest forty time (4.37) and second best ten-yard split (1.49) among running backs in Indy. He also ranked second in bench reps (31) and ninth in the broad jump (10-foot-1). More sobering were Davis' 20-yard shuttle (4.38) and three-cone times (6.96), which ranked 15th-of-24 and 11th-of-23 participants, respectively. Obvious concerns for Davis are his agility, small hands (8 5/8"), and poor production.
Realistic Landing Spots: Titans, Falcons, Cowboys in the fifth round.
9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff OT Terron Armstead -- Armstead set a new Combine record for offensive linemen with a 4.71 forty, and his 1.64 ten-yard split ranked second behind only Lane Johnson. With lengthy 34-inch arms, 6-foot-4 3/4, 306-pound Armstead also repped 225 pounds 31 times on the bench. His 34 1/2-inch vertical leap again paced the O-Line field, and Armstead tied for third in the broad jump at 9-foot-4. Armstead is considered raw coming out of a small school, but NFL teams will be enamored by his untapped potential and rare athleticism at his size.
Realistic Landing Spots: Redskins at No. 51, Dolphins at No. 54, Seahawks at No. 56.
10. SMU DE Margus Hunt -- Hunt is an extremely raw, 26-year-old former track and field junior Olympian. In terms of being a legitimate NFL prospect, he certainly has the workout-wonder part down. A top D-Line performer in essentially every measurable, 6-foot-8, 277-pound Hunt finished third in the forty (4.60), first on the bench (38 reps), seventh in the broad jump (10-foot-1), ninth in the ten-yard split (1.62), and seventh in the vertical leap (34 1/2") among 54 defensive linemen who showed up in Indy. Old, unlikely to contribute as a rookie, and limited to one position (end) in one scheme (3-4) with little to no quality football film, Hunt will likely be targeted as a mid- to late-round project. There was even post-Combine buzz that some clubs prefer Hunt on offense, playing tight end.
Realistic Landing Spots: Chiefs, Browns, 49ers in the sixth round.
11. Mississippi State CB Darius Slay -- Overshadowed by more heralded teammate Johnthan Banks in college, Slay turned heads when he was credited with the fastest forty time among cornerbacks (4.36). Measuring in at 5-foot-11 7/8 and 192 pounds, Slay also produced a 10-foot-4 broad jump, 1.53 ten-yard split, and 6.90 three-cone time. Little known but no slouch, Slay led the Bulldogs in interceptions (5) last season and is a sleeper to be drafted in the top 75.
Realistic Landing Spots: Bucs at No. 73, 49ers at No. 74, Chargers at No. 76.
12. Rice TE Vance McDonald -- McDonald amassed 119 receptions for 1,504 yards and 15 career touchdowns in Rice's spread offense, and he now boasts workout numbers to support his production. At 6-foot-4 1/8 and 267 pounds, McDonald paced his position on the bench with 31 reps despite measuring in with the longest arms (34 3/8") among all tight ends at the Combine. McDonald also ranked fifth in the forty (4.69), sixth in the vertical (33 1/2"), fourth in the broad jump (9-foot-8), and third in the three-cone drill (7.08). McDonald is headed for the second round.
Realistic Landing Spots: Rams at No. 46, Bears at No. 50, Redskins at No. 51.
13. Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope -- Swope was a possession receiver at A&M, averaging 12.4 career yards per catch, but has drawn Eric Decker comparisons during draft season. He helped himself greatly at the Combine with a 4.34 forty, tying Tavon Austin for second fastest by a receiver after weighing in at 6-foot, 205. Swope also showed well with a 37-inch vertical (fifth best among wideouts), 10-foot-5 broad jump (sixth), and 6.76 three-cone time (sixth). Teams will likely recheck Swope's game tape after the performance. He may begin to generate second-day grades.
Realistic Landing Spots: Bills at No. 71, Jets at No. 72, Dolphins at No. 77.
14. Arkansas TE Chris Gragg -- Gragg needed a way to open eyes after an injury-ruined senior year, and he accomplished that in Indy. At 6-foot-2 3/4 and 244 pounds, Gragg paced the tight end field in forty time (4.50), ten-yard split (1.53), and vertical leap (37 1/2"). Only two tight ends were more efficient in the three-cone drill (7.07), and Gragg also showed adequate strength on the bench with 18 reps of 225 with 33 5/8-inch arms. Gragg caught 41 passes as a junior, so he's not entirely without production. The head-turning Combine is very likely to get Gragg drafted.
Realistic Landing Spots: 49ers, Falcons, Redskins in the fifth round.
15. Cal CB Steve Williams -- Not taken especially seriously in draft circles after leaving school a year early, Williams will get noticed off his Combine. The Cal Bears' 2012 Defensive MVP finished tied for first in the vertical leap (40 1/2"), eighth in the broad jump (10-foot-8), and ninth in forty time (4.42) among 54 cornerbacks. Williams was just an honorable mention pick in the Pac 12 as a junior. At a coveted NFL position, he may have vaulted his stock from a UDFA to fourth- or fifth-rounder.
Realistic Landing Spots: Ravens, Steelers, Jaguars in the fifth round.
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