The scouting combine isn't good to everybody. That's always been the case, and it doesn't always matter. Last year, Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict followed up a collegiate career in which he raised a lot of questions with a combine performance that raised even more. Then, he went on to have a fantastic rookie season as an undrafted free agent for the Cincinnati Bengals. A player's scheme can change, his coaches can motivate him, and sometimes, the lights just go on after the combine is over.
Blowing it during this week in Indianapolis isn't a career death sentence by any means; it just puts NFL teams on notice that there's something to watch for -- a variable that wasn't there before. That said, here are a few kids who would certainly like a do-over.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: Two months ago, the Notre Dame linebacker was thought to be a possible top-10 pick in the eyes of some analysts. Then, he got clowned against Alabama's ginormous offensive line in the BCS championship game, and then, the catfishing scandal broke open. The first issue is probably of more concern to NFL teams than the second, but what really has to bug the NFL is Te'o's showing in Indy. He was thought to be a reasonably fast linebacker, but he ran a 4.81 in the 40-yard dash, and looked stiff in drills -- which stood against those who swore that he brought elite instinctiveness to his game.
"It is very exhausting," Te'o told the NFL Network about the combine week after he was done on the field. "If you ask anyone out here, it is a very exhausting process. It is all about getting out there, being with the guys, showing that you can get out there and do things."
Yeah, but it's exhausting for everyone who's trying to get to the next level. Admittedly, it was more pressure for Te'o than anyone else through the week, but that pressure isn't going to ease up when he hits the NFL. In Te'o's case, I believe that if he doesn't work out hard at Notre Dame's pro day, he could absolutely slide all the way out of the first round.
Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia: Another linebacker with a lot of baggage ... but in Ogletree's case, the baggage is of the criminal variety. Suspended from his first start at Georgia because he stole a motor scooter helmet from a member of the track team, and suspended the first four games of the 2012 for violating the school's substance abuse policy, Ogletree added to his complications when he was busted for a DUI just days before the combine started.
I attended his combine press conference, and I wasn't impressed -- I thought his answers about his history were rote and by the numbers. In addition, the 4.70 he ran in the 40, and the fact that he wasn't as quick as expected in drills, will have teams going back to the tape and wondering if the playmaker they saw on the field wasn't a mirage.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Not Jones' fault at all, but not a good week. Jones' possible spinal stenosis became an issue when he chose not to work out in Indy, and he tried to deflect the issue.
"Our main focus was the come here and visit with all the doctors so all the doctors can see me," he said last week. "Take all the tests I can that they needed me to take so that they can see that I’m healthy."
However, I talked to one person in the know at the combine who told me that eight different NFL teams have red-flagged Jones to the point where the first round is not a lead-pipe lock. At one time, Jones was thought to be a certain top-10 pick, and he is still that from a game tape perspective. But if there are medical red flags of a serious nature, Jones could drop as Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers did in the 2011 draft -- from sure-fire top 10 to the second round.
Star Lotuleiei, DT, Utah: Lotuleiei was diagnosed with a heart abnormality at the combine, and that's a big pause for a player who looks on tape to be one of the two or three best players in this draft class. Follow-up reports indicate that the read on his heart may have been due to dehydration, and we certainly hope that's the case. Pro day and further medicals will tell the tale.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas, and Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: West Virginia's Tavon Austin was exceptional in his combine drills (more on his later), but with Cal's Keenan Allen missing the combine due to a knee flare-up. Goodwin and Patterson had the opportunity to climb up the latter -- and neither one of them took it. Both players were fast in a straight line, but both proved to be raw in route concepts, with inconsistent hands. I think that Goodwin has a bright future as a slot receiver, and Patterson could be somebody's 1A guy, but those determinations will have to be made off the game tape.
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Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: Banks was thought by many to be the second or third-best cornerback in this draft class, right up there in the discussion with Alabama's Dee Milliner and Florida State's Xavier Rhodes. But he did not look the part during Tuesday's defensive back drills, running two 40 times over 4.5 seconds, and one over 4.6. With Washington's Desmond Trufant continuing the momentum he started at the Senior Bowl, Banks might find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the first round.
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU: Montgomery didn't work out particularly badly, but he let it slip in his combine press conference that he laid off a bit against less challenging teams in his collegiate career.
"You know, some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed," Montgomery said, when asked if his coaches were always happy with his work ethic. "But when we had the big boys coming in, the Alabamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out. Of course, this is a new league, the NFL and there are no small teams, small divisions, it is all Alabamas and LSUs every week. It's definitely something I have to get adjusted to, but I'm sure with the right coaching, I will be fine."
Ugh. Look, we all know that some players take plays off at times -- interior defensive linemen almost have to if they're of the particularly large variety -- but you never want to admit it. Especially when it's said in a way that will have NFL teams looking back at your tape with an extra-critical eye.
Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: My thought about Moore, based on his college tape, was that he is a potential pass-disruptor of the Aldon Smith variety if he can get a bit more advanced with his hand and foot movement. That's still possible, but Moore did himself no favors with a combine workout that included a 4.95 time in the 40-yard dash and just 12 reps on the bench press.
All the quarterbacks: USC's Matt Barkley didn't throw in Indy, preferring to wait until his pro day in late March. Of the quarterbacks who did throw, none were able to truly separate themselves in a draft class at the position that has been hammered for months as a sub-par follow-up to the 2012 group. West Virginia's Geno Smith showed improved mechanics, but was off on a few throws. Oklahoma's Landry Jones struggled with the deep ball consistently in workouts. Florida State's E.J. Manuel matched the inconsistency on his game tape, and Syracuse's Ryan Nassib couldn't transcend to the level some see him at. It would appear that if we want one of these guys to break out, we'll have to wait and see them take the field at the NFL level. Right now, it's hard to see an obvious first-round talent.
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