NFL draft: Scouting combine winners and losers

Eric Edholm
February 25, 2014

The bags are packed, and the NFL soon will make its way out of Indianapolis with yet another scouting combine in the rearview mirror.

Shutdown Corner watched the individual positional workouts, cross-checked the times and weights and spoke to NFL coaches and evaluators for their impressions of the 335 athletes who made their way through Indy this past week.

Here are a few of the combine's winners and losers from the festivities as we get closer to the 2014 NFL draft:

WINNERS

Auburn OT Greg Robinson — What a freak. With 35-inch arms, he bench-pressed 225 pounds a whopping 32 times. At 332 pounds, Robinson ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash, with a blazing 10-yard split of 1.68 seconds. Watch how he gets to the second level — especially in the final three games of the season against top competition — and you can see why the St. Louis Rams might not be able to pass up on him with the second overall pick.

Michigan OT Taylor Lewan — Not to be outdone, Lewan was actually faster in the 40 than Robinson, and though Lewan is 25 pounds lighter, he carries a frame that compares to the New England Patriots’ Nate Solder, only with more upper-body strength and a mean streak that appeals to power-blocking teams. Lewan might be the third tackle off the board behind Robinson and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (who looked good in position drills), but he might not past to the 15th overall pick.

LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr. — It was a banner workout for Beckham, who logged great times in the 40 (4.43), the 20-yard shuttle (3.94) and 60-yard shuttle (10.93), and most importantly he backed up his strong tape as an intermediate and deep target with a good route-running and catching session in Indy. In a deep receiving group, Beckham put himself in the late first-round picture.

Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks — Cooks led all wide receivers in the 40-yard dash (4.33, for which he made some cash from adidas), 20-yard shuttle (3.82) and 60-yard shuttle (10.72) and was smooth in drills. Watching him snap off routes in drills confirmed that his college tape, which provided many highlights, was not an illusion. Like Beckham, Cooks is a first-round possibility despite a smaller frame.

Georgia Southern RB Jeris McKinnon — Piggy-backing off a good Senior Bowl showing, McKinnon — who is a converted veer quarterback — turned in some exceptional workouts in everything he did, including an eye-popping 32 reps on the bench and 11 feet on the vertical jump. Can he catch? Can he pass protect? Those questions are important, but McKinnon should be drafted now.

Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald — Speaking of Senior Bowl heroes, Donald was the best player in Mobile. He also might have been the best defensive lineman in drills in Indy. People gawked at 266-pound Jadeveon Clowney’s 4.53 40, but Donald’s 4.68 at 285 pounds is just as impressive, if not more so. There’s so reason to think that Donald can’t be one of the top 20 picks, despite questions about his mass.

Boston College linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis — KPL flew under the radar a bit this past season, but he made a lot of big plays for the Eagles and he showed off some natural athleticism that some evaluators weren’t sure he had. Pierre-Lewis ranked in the top of the linebacker group in the 40, the bench, the vertical and broad jumps and in the 20-yard shuttle. Although he’s not a fit in every scheme, he at least projects to be a great special-teamer.

Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert — With a pair of blazing, sub-4.4 40-yard dashes and the tape to back it up, Gilbert almost universally is regarded as the top corner (and perhaps returner) available. His confidence isn’t seen as a negative, and he could even crack the top 10 picks.

Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller — Gilbert is almost certain now to be the top corner drafted, but with a strong set of workouts, Fuller has moved himself into the discussion of being the second one taken with Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett. Fuller has the football speed, makeup and versatility to be in the first-round picture now. He moved well this weekend.

Minnesota S Brock Vereen — One evaluator called him “all business” and “completely prepared” in a team meeting, and Vereen’s strong workouts and bloodlines (brother Shane plays for the New England Patriots, and father Henry was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) make him a solid mid-round prospect on the rise. Vereen’s sub-4.5 40s will put him near the top of his class in that test.

LOSERS

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater — After saying he’d run the 40, Bridgewater backed out a day later. In the long run, is that going to affect whether he goes on to become a great quarterback or not? Of course not. But opting not to run or throw at the combine seem to belie his claims of being a “competitor” — a term he used four times in his 12-minute interview with the media — and help separate himself in a three-horse race to be the first QB drafted. UCF's Blake Bortles tested and threw well, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel showed good athletcism (although didn't throw), and Bridgewater has some ground to make up at his pro day.

Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio — There already were questions with his wildly up and down performance from this past season on the field (see the bowl-game loss to Oklahoma, e.g.). But then Kouandjio reportedly failed a few teams' medical evaluations and also looked sluggish and unathletic in running and positional drills. Kouandjio’s game is more based on power, which is fine, but his 21 bench reps — even with his vines for arms — are considered sub-par.

Tennessee OT Antonio “Tiny” Richardson — With talk of his bad knees making its way through Indy, it’s not shocking that Richardson looked heavy and lethargic on the Lucas Oil Field and turned in a slow 40 time. His strength (36 reps) and length (6-foot-6, and 35-inch arms) give him a chance, but he’s probably a right tackle in the pros and maybe not a very athletic one.

Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk — After predicting 40 times in the 4.3 range, Seastrunk clocked an official 4.51, which might make evaluators question whether his college breakaway speed will translate effectively to the NFL as a 201-pound back. In addition, one team said he appeared disinterested in the interview process. He’s a good athlete, as his vertical and broad jump times indicate, but Seastrunk has to put out a few fires first.

Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey — Off-field concerns about Carey have floated around scouting circles over the past year, and his combine performance — a plodding 40 of 4.7 seconds and no other standout numbers — will leave him needing a strong pro day to revive his stock. In addition, teams appear concerned about his heavy workload (741 touches the past two seasons) in college.

Florida State RB James Wilder — The son of the former Buccaneers running back of the same name had a forgettable weekend. He had trouble with his get-off on the 40, clocking a time of 4.86 seconds, and the only two lower among his group were fullbacks. Add to that time some sluggish performances in the running back drills, and Wilder took a tumble this weekend, even for a 232-pound power back.

San Diego State RB Adam Muema — Perhaps the most bizarre story of the combine was that of Muema saying that God told him to leave the event, walking out before he even had a chance to participate. Security even was called to his room after he was not responding to people calling his name, said by one source to be in a “meditative state” on his bed before security got involved. And with that, Muema likely just prevented himself from being drafted.

LSU WR Jarvis Landry — Unlike his college running mate Beckham, Jones struggled on his 40 time (a pedestrian 4.77) and vertical leap (28 1/2 inches) , which seem to back up his college tape of being a smart but perhaps athleticially limited underneath receiver. That lack of explosion now could kick him down to the third day of a draft that is absolutely loaded with wide receiver talent.

Florida DT Dominique Easley — The combine’s biggest value is for teams to investigate players’ character and medical statuses, and Easley might not be in great shape with either. Easley was described as “distracted” and “immature” by one team, and his discussion with the media that he preferred watching cartoons to football might back that up. Also, he’s coming off his second torn ACL in two years and has not decided when he can work out in April for scouts while he rehabs.

South Dakota LB Tyler Starr — Starr came to Indianapolis bent on breaking the 3-cone drill record and flashing his athleticism to NFL scouts. But even with a good workout in that, the 20-yard shuttle and the bench, Starr ran the third-slowest 40 among linebackers (not good for a player who projects to the outside), looked hesitant and unsure in positional drills and didn’t seem to respond to on-field coaching during them. For a player from the Missouri Valley, Starr needed more of a home run this weekend.

UP AND DOWN

Missouri DE Michael Sam — On the one hand, his workouts didn’t separate himself at all or change the discussion that started at the Senior Bowl that Sam had little chance of being a three-down end or developing into a linebacker. In particular, his bench-press and vertical-jump numbers were poor, and he remained stiff in positional drills. But Sam acquitted himself very well in his meeting with the media and NFL teams, as he appears driven to prove himself as a football player despite lacking ideal physical traits.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!