As NFL combine workouts officially kicked off this weekend, team scouts and executives flocked to Indianapolis to get a better feel for draft prospects. With the offense taking the field during the first two days, the National Football Post was on the scene at Lucas Oil Stadium. Our report:
(Note: Times were obtained from sources inside the stadium who observed workouts.)
• Texas Tech wideout Michael Crabtree, considered the top prospect in some draft circles, could fall from the top spot in the coming weeks. Crabtree was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot, which will keep him out of action for 6-10 weeks after surgery. However, Crabtree will delay surgery in order to work out at his pro day in March.
• Another highly regarded prospect in the draft, Alabama OT Andre Smith, had one of the more bizarre combine weekends in recent memory. Smith failed to show up to Saturday's morning workout and forced combine officials to send out a search party. His agent, Alvin Keels, released a statement blaming miscommunication, but it doesn't look good. Smith was ruled out of the Sugar Bowl for violating team rules, and now his character has come into question again on one of the biggest stages of his life. If he is unable to act in a professional manner at the combine, with millions of dollars at stake, what makes anyone believe he will be a mature enough once a team puts millions of dollars in his pocket? Smith may start to drop on draft boards and could end up drifting from a potential top-five pick to an early teens guy.
• The star of the offensive line group was Nebraska tackle Lydon Murtha, who showcased an impressive display of athleticism across the board. He finished first among offensive linemen in the 40-yard dash (4.89) and was first in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Murtha has one of the most impressive bodies for a tackle in this year's class and showcases the type of athleticism NFL teams crave. For a guy who was considered a borderline draftable prospect, a workout like this could cause his stock to soar.
• Highly regarded tackles William Beatty (Connecticut) and Jason Smith (Baylor) both had very solid showings Saturday. Beatty ran his 40 in an impressive 5.12 and Smith ran his in 5.22. Smith also produced 33 reps on the bench press, a great number for a guy who's a gifted athlete.
• At tight end, Southern Mississippi standout Shawn Nelson continues to move up draft boards. He did well running 4.56 in the 40, but it was his 19 reps on the bench press that really stick out. For a guy with his length, 19 reps is an impressive number, and Nelson now looks to be making a run at Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew for the top spot among tight ends.
• Speaking of Brandon Pettigrew, his pedestrian 4.89 40 time did little to solidify his standing as the top tight end on the board. We knew he wasn't a burner coming in, but in order to warrant a first-round grade, NFL teams may want to see a little more explosion from him at his pro day.
• One tight end who had no trouble displaying his explosion was South Carolina tight end Jared Cook, who clocked a 4.5 and was as low as 4.4 on some stopwatches. This kind of speed is rare for a tight end his size (6-foot-5, 246 pounds), and he looks to be solidifying his spot in the second round.
• At receiver, Penn State's Deon Butler and Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey ran impressive times in the 4.27 range. Butler is starting to gain momentum, having displayed an ability to make plays down the field and performing well in the slot at the East-West Shrine Game. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Butler ends up the most successful of the Penn State receiver trio (Deon Butler, Jordan Norwood and Derrick Williams) at the next level. Heyward-Bey promised everyone at his media session that he wasn't going strain himself and would run in the 4.3 to 4.4 range. His combination of size, speed and explosion will make it tough for him to get past the first round.
• Florida wideout/running back Percy Harvin posted a time of 4.38, securing his spot in the first round.
• Johnny Knox of Abilene Christian posted a time of 4.28. At the recent Texas vs. the Nation Bowl, Knox showed the burst and deep speed to create plays during practice and in the game. He now looks to be assuring himself as a late-round prospect.
• One of the disappointments at receiver was Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Maclin posted a respectable time of 4.44, although it was well short of the 4.29 he said he hoped to run when he spoke with the media. Then, during position drills, he tumbled to the turf with a hyperextended left knee. Maclin was able to rejoin the drills later, but he walked gingerly and didn't look like his typical explosive self. He'll need to rebound at his pro day because this is definitely not the combine he envisioned.
• Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno clocked in with a 4.57 40 time, raising concerns about his overall second gear. Moreno is a gifted lateral athlete who showed well during position drills, but his lack of speed will likely push him down toward the second half of the first round. Ohio State running back Chris Wells had a much better day than Moreno, posting a respectable 4.52, which is impressive considering his size. These two will run again at their pro days, and Moreno's time could go a long way in determining the first back to come off the board in April.
• Iowa running back Shonn Greene ran in the low 4.6 range, which was expected but certainly didn't help his stock.
• One of the real shockers in the running-back group was the 4.38 posted by Boise State's Ian Johnson. Johnson saw his carries drop dramatically the past two seasons and has been slowly falling down draft boards. This is the type of performance he needed to start rising again.
• After the draft's top four running backs (Moreno, Wells, Greene and LeSean McCoy), there's a group of prospects all vying for the No. 5 spot. Andre Brown, Glen Coffee, Donald Brown and Rashad Jennings all posted times in the 4.4 range Sunday and helped their stock. Expect this competition to continue the next couple of weeks.
• Purdue's Kory Sheets continues to show he has the burst and straight-line speed to be an efficient third-down back and return man in the NFL. He looked very explosive Sunday and turned in one of the best 40 times among backs with a blistering 4.33.
• Texas A&M running back Mike Goodson ran a dullish 4.48, and for a guy who's known as a big-play back, this won't help his stock.
• At quarterback, USC's Mark Sanchez did a nice job throwing the ball accurately and proved he has a better arm than given credit for. He throws a tight spiral and will be in the running for a top-five pick in April.
• Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman didn't have the type of 40 time many expected (4.93), but he has immense physical tools and really forced scouts to take notice. He should go somewhere in the latter half of the first round.
• Pat White of West Virginia ran well, posting a 4.49, which is very impressive for the quarterback position. He threw the ball well and has improved his footwork every time I've seen him. He will work out and throw again at his pro day as well as run routes at wide receiver.
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