A.J. Hawk is making a strong argument to crack the NFL draft's top five picks.
Despite impressing at last month's scouting combine in Indianapolis, the Ohio State linebacker decided to run his 40-yard dash again during the Buckeyes' pro day on Thursday. The decision had head-turning results, as one NFC personnel source in attendance said Hawk clocked between 4.43 to 4.45 seconds – a time remarkably better than the 4.59 he posted at the combine.
"It was a fast surface, but (Hawk) would have done well anywhere today," the personnel source said. "(He's) top-five material."
Hawk and other Buckeyes had a strong audience. The personnel source estimated that there were more than 80 onlookers, including a wide array of scouts, coaches and personnel people. That isn't a surprise, considering the Buckeyes could have as many as six players taken in the first round – Hawk, fellow linebacker Bobby Carpenter, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, cornerback Ashton Youboty, center Nick Mangold and safety Donte Whitner.
The Cleveland Browns were said to have sent head coach Romeo Crennel and a large portion of his staff, while several other head coaches were also on hand, including the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin and the Chicago Bears' Lovie Smith. The Pittsburgh Steelers were represented by both head coach Bill Cowher and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, while the Detroit Lions had general manager Matt Millen and new head coach Rod Marinelli on hand.
Interestingly, the two teams that are believed to have strong interest in Hawk – the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders – did not send their head coaches. But picks No. 4 and No. 5 were represented by general managers Mike Tannenbaum (New York Jets) and Ted Thompson (Green Bay Packers). Considering Hawk's sterling career at Ohio State, and how well he has performed in recent weeks, it's not inconceivable that either the Jets or Packers could snap him up at either spot.
Other notable news from Ohio State's pro day:
One of the other strong performances came from Whitner, who ran a pair of 40-yard dashes in the high 4.3s. Cut in the mold of former Ohio State safety Mike Doss, Whitner had a very good combine, with many of his numbers looking comparable to highly acclaimed Texas safety Michael Huff. He wowed NFL teams again Thursday, and both the Lions and Steelers were said to have paid a great deal of attention.
Holmes ran in the mid-4.3s in his 40 and looked swift in drills. He also weighed in at 179 pounds – about nine pounds lighter than at the combine and closer to his playing weight. The personnel source said he believes the draft's No. 1 wide receiver status is still likely to be a tossup between Holmes and Florida's Chad Jackson, who has more size to go along with equal speed.
The Steelers also paid close attention to Carpenter. It's believed the Super Bowl champions are targeting Carpenter or Mangold with the last pick in the first round. Carpenter ran his 40 times in the mid-4.6-second range and looked very fluid in positional drills.
Youboty was clocked anywhere from 4.44 to 4.50 in his 40-yard dash. He was said to have done well in his drills, showcasing fluid hips and the ability to get in and out of his breaks without much difficulty.