Why do they call it the NFL Combine? Take medical examinations, job interviews and track-and-field events—three activities that are completely unrelated to the game of football—combine them together into a week-long affair, and BOOM, welcome to the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine! (At this juncture, we’ve watched way too many 40-Yard Dashes and on-field workouts over the past four days to be creative.)
Who are the big winners of the 2014 Combine? Who “checked off all the boxes” (this year’s Combine buzzword) on their scouting report?
Here’s our list of the top performers by position. The offense won the coin toss and has elected to receive first.
Quarterbacks: Logan Thomas
From a pure testing standpoint, the clear-cut winner was Logan Thomas, who led the QB group in three events: the 40-Yard Dash (4.61 seconds), the Vertical Jump (35.5 inches) and Broad Jump (9-feet-10 inches).
The former Virginia Tech signal-caller was once considered a first-round talent, and his rare combination of size (6-foot-6, 248 pounds) and athleticism will surely generate interest among teams searching for a developmental-type QB in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.
Honorable mention: Blake Bortles
It wasn’t a passing clinic, but Bortles threw—and threw well, which is more than what could be said for this year’s other top-tier QBs.
Running Backs: Jerick McKinnon
Every year, a small-school prospect improves his draft stock with a big-time Combine performance. This year, it was Jerick McKinnon of Georgia Southern. The 5-foot-9, 209-pound McKinnon led all running backs with 32 reps on the 225-Bench Test and finished second in the group with a 4.41 in the 40-Yard Dash. McKinnon’s 40.5-inch Vertical Jump and 11-foot Broad Jump also put him second in the RB group.
Honorable Mention: Dri Archer
The Kent State product flashed with a Combine-best 4.26 in the 40, three-hundredths of a second short of breaking the all-time record held by Chris Johnson.
Wide Receivers: Brandin Cooks
What a weekend for Cooks! The wideout from Oregon State clocked the second-fastest 40-Yard Dash of the Combine (4.33 seconds) and won the $100,000 prize from adidas, then posted the fastest time ever in the 60-Yard Shuttle, according to the NFL.com Combine database.
Cooks looked every bit as good during position drills, displaying the suddenness and polished route-running skills that earned him the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s outstanding college football receiver last season. His performance at the Combine should lock him into the first round.
Honorable mention: Sammy Watkins
Watkins checked in with a solid all-around performance during testing, but it was the on-field receiving drills—in particular, an over-the-shoulder catch on a deep route that he hauled in with the greatest of ease—that solidified Watkins as the draft’s undisputed No. 1 wide receiver.
Tight Ends: Eric Ebron
Ebron eliminated any question about whether he’s the No. 1 tight end in the draft. He measured 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds and ran the 40-Yard Dash in 4.6 seconds.
The dynamic tight end from North Carolina told us he patterns his game after San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock said Ebron is a “more complete football player” than Davis, and may be the “most talented tight end” in years.
Honorable Mention: A.C. Leonard
The Tennessee State product became just the sixth tight end since 2006 to run a 4.5-second 40-Yard Dash.
Offensive Linemen: Taylor Lewan
The draft is deep with offensive line talent, but a trio of tackle prospects has risen to the top. Greg Robinson of Auburn and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews were generally regarded as the top two tackles, with Michigan’s Lewan right behind them. But Lewan may have closed the gap and even pushed himself ahead of the pack with an impressive showing during testing and on-field position work. He measured 6-foot-7 and ran the fastest 40-Yard Dash among the O-Line group at 4.87 seconds.
Honorable Mention: Greg Robinson
Stands 6-foot-5. Weighs 332 pounds. Runs the 40 in 4.92 seconds. ‘Nuff said.