That's where most of the questions are answered, though the usefulness of combine drills varies per position and per player. Here are eight players who, for whatever reason, got back on the planes to their hometowns with a fall in several draft boards, and a lot to work on before their pro days.
Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas – Mallett didn't hurt himself on the Lucas Oil Stadium field. He threw the ball, which is the one thing he can do without any problem. But his evasive nature in front of the media when it came to the continued questions about his alleged drug use and overall character was unnecessary and self-destructive. Even if he doesn't have a legitimate strike against him from a character perspective, Mallett's attitude – matched up with his iffy game tape at times – could be a ticket to the second round.
Andy Dalton, QB, TCU – People like Dalton because he won a lot at TCU and he's done well in key games, but his throwing performance at the combine reflected what I saw at the Senior Bowl. His stats inflated in a spread offense, Dalton has proven unable to make consistently forceful throws into narrow windows, even at the intermediate level.
Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa – Like Dalton, Stanzi failed to dig his way out of an indifferent Senior Bowl performance. He struggled with accuracy and consistent velocity, and he was even less on target than Dalton. In Mobile and in Indy, Stanzi consistently came up short on simple throws, elevating concern about his ability to do more than carry a clipboard in the NFL.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State – Rodgers has always been a dynamic player; his size (5-foot-6, 196 pounds) is less a concern than you might think once you watch him play. But for the people wondering if he might be the next Dexter McCluster(notes), Rodgers' 4.64 40-yard dash raised a lot of red flags, and his 33-inch vertical jump will make some wonder if he's explosive enough to hold up in the pros.
Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia – Dowling was thought to be a potential first-round pick in 2009, but a series of injuries have derailed him since. It was the same at the combine, where he was in the process of running a 4.44 40-yard dash when he pulled up with a hamstring injury, leaving him out for the rest of the drills. Dowling has a lot of talent, but if he can't clear medicals and prove to be healthy, his draft stock will fall precipitously.
Jon Baldwin, WR, Pitt – In college, Baldwin was known as a first-round player with mental lapses and consistency issues, and that carried over to the combine, where he lapsed in his routes and lost efficiency in certain drills. From a pure tools perspective, Baldwin has what it takes to succeed in the league, but the question marks could very well keep him out of the first round.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland – A straight-line receiver with surprising toughness, Smith nonetheless looked very rough and raw in the drills, losing his footing on more than one cut in the cone drills and losing speed and momentum on several routes.
Ahmad Black, S, Florida – Black had undeniable ball skills at Florida, but he went into the combine with one big question: how will a 5-foot-10, 184-pound safety succeed in the NFL? If he has 4.4 speed, the answer probably lies somewhere near the nickel back position. But when Black ran a 4.78, he looked a lot like a player too small for one position and too slow for another.
- Andy Dalton
- Ryan Mallett