The annual NFL meat market in Indianapolis has produced many measurements of dubious relevance to hold in judgment of your favorite college stars. Among the most interesting developments:
• Like fellow top-10 quarterback prospect Jimmy Clausen, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford didn't throw or participate in any drills in Indy, although he was available to be poked and measured and prodded about the pair of shoulder injuries that ended his college career last fall, and to answer many, many questions about the same. Bradford said he's never regretted coming back from the initial injury that knocked him out of the lineup for the first month of the season, despite going down with a more serious version of the same injury -- this one requiring season-ending surgery and months of rehab -- just a few minutes into his second game back:
"I think if I wouldn't have tried to come back [from the initial injury], there's no way I could have lived with that decision," he said. "Everyone I talked to at the time said that I could come back and play. No one thought I needed surgery after the first injury. So I don't think I made the wrong decision."
Last year's in-season return is hard to question, despite the result. Given the current conventional wisdom re: early departures, though -- "take the money and run" -- the decision that will haunt Bradford (or at least his agent) for the next two months will be his return to Oklahoma for a fourth season after winning the Heisman and rocketing to the top of draft boards as a redshirt sophomore in 2008. This time last year, he could have been completely healthy and almost certain to go to the Lions with the top pick. After two shoulder injuries, he's like to fall all the way to ... fourth to the Redskins. At worst, he'll drop to Denver at No. 10. Not being forced to play in Detroit or St. Louis may be worth the million or two he lost in the short run.
• Tim Tebow didn't throw, either, but put in an impressive effort otherwise, putting up a respectable 4.72 40-yard dash (better than Colt McCoy's 4.79, if you were laying down money) and posting the best times by any quarterback in the "explosive" drills -- vertical jump, 20- and 60-yard shuttles -- as well as in the three-cone drill, whatever that is; he also finished second among QBs (to Western Michigan's Tim Hiller) in the broad jump. Tebow's vertical jump (38.5 inches) was better than Michael Vick's (38.0) in 2000 and would have put him among the best running backs and receivers on hand. Again, though, there was no sign of his revamped throwing motion, which won't make an appearance until Florida's pro day later this month.
Among the handful of quarterbacks who did throw at the combine, the arm that turned the most heads belonged to Ole Miss' Jevan Snead, who reaffirmed his penchant for wowing scouts at all levels by showing good arm strength, good accuracy, a quick release, etc., proving again that leading the nation in interceptions by a significant margin isn't necessarily a career killer if you look good enough doing it.
• The longstanding debate over "the fastest player in college football" was hardly resolved, despite 5'5" LSU return man Trindon Holliday's efforts to leave a trail of fire behind him on the track:
Some stopwatches on hand reportedly recorded that sprint at a mind-blowing 4.22, which would have broken Chris Johnson's official combine record of 4.24 in 2008. Alas, Holliday's official time came back at 4.34, an eyelash ahead of the fastest running back (Cal's Jahvid Best, who turned in a 4.35) but .06 seconds behind longtime track nemesis Jacoby Ford of Clemson, who carried the title of "fastest player" with a blistering 4.28.
The most impressive dash of the day, though, may have come from an offensive lineman: 6'6", 314-pound Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell turned in an official 4.85 (his unofficial time of 4.78 would have been the fastest ever run by an offensive lineman at the event), along with a 32-inch vertical and 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench to seal his status as "Freak of the Year" in matters that have almost nothing at all to do with how well he'll play football at the next level. Campbell celebrated by unwittingly resurrecting a cabal of Kandarian demons with recitations from the Naturon Demonto. (Speaking of undead spirits, the scout backlash against Campbell's big weekend is already in full swing.)
Close on Campbell's heels: Pitt tight end Dorin Dickerson, who ran a ridiculous 4.4 in the 40 at 226 pounds and shamed the other TEs in the vertical and broad jumps; and Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus, who tied the combine record with 45 reps of 225 on the bench.