Chip Kelly Loves Dion Jordan, Knile Davis Runs Fast, and the Rest of the News from the NFL CombineJoe Robbins/Getty Images
The annual T-shirts-and-shorts craziness is under way in Indianapolis, and with all the stories flying around, we rounded up the biggest bits of news from this year’s NFL combine.
- Chip Kelly wasn’t the least bit shy in expressing his feelings about former Oregon defensive end and fast-rising prospect Dion Jordan to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Before the weekend, Jordan was considered a borderline top-10 pick, but he was expected to be a standout during workouts. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Jordan was even better than anyone could have expected, and now it seems like he may be in range for the Eagles with the fourth overall pick. “Dion’s just a special guy in my heart,” Kelly told Zach Berman. “I had an opportunity to be with him for five years. He came into Oregon as a receiver, moved to tight end, we switched him over to defense the beginning of his sophomore year. He just had a huge impact, not only on the field but off the field.” As the Eagles reconfigure their defense, it would seem that just about every position is one of need. Philadelphia has already released defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins this week, so it’s possible the team could also focus on that position with their first pick. Utah’s Star Lotulelei was originally considered a candidate to be the first overall pick, but that was before he was sent home from the combine after doctors found an abnormality during a heart exam (more about that below). Sharrif Floyd could also be another option. The former Florida defensive tackle is among the fastest-rising players in the draft, and he did plenty to help himself with his final numbers in Indy.
- Lotulelei has reportedly been cleared by doctors to begin working out on his own, and the hope is that the abnormal results were a product of dehydration or the rapid weight loss he’s experienced in the past week. USA Today’s Mike Garafolo reported that Lotulelei’s agent said his client will visit a specialist this week, and that the plan is for the defensive tackle to participate fully in Utah’s March 20 pro day.
- This is a little late to count as news, but one other important medical-related note from Indianapolis deals with Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Jones was probably the best defensive player in the country in his final season with the Bulldogs (yes, even better than Manti Te’o), and he’s considered by some to be among the best few players available in this draft. One concern that apparently has caused multiple teams to remove Jones from their draft boards is the spinal stenosis he was diagnosed with in 2009. Chris Mortensen reported on Saturday that Jones got some good news when he was evaluated by a specialist, and this could be a perfect example of the “it takes only one” element of the draft.
- Today in People Running Fast in a Straight Line, we feature two guys on opposite sides of the ball who could stand to gain or lose a lot from their 40s. Much of the interest in Manti Te’o’s combine trip was about how he’d face questions from both teams and the media about the girlfriend hoax, but the evaluators in the crowd seemed much more concerned about how he’d run. The 4.82 40 that Te’o turned in got mixed reactions, says the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Te’o claims the poor showing was a product of the stress that came with the combine, and that his time will improve on his pro day. For some teams, the tape will always matter most, but for others, a 4.82 40 raises questions about Te’o’s viability at certain positions. If he’s not fast enough to play middle linebacker in a 4-3, and he doesn’t take on blocks well enough to play inside in a 3-4, then where does he fit? The name mentioned several times after Te’o’s time was Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who ran a 4.75 back in 2003 before posting seven straight Pro Bowl seasons.
- Former Arkansas running back Knile Davis had no such problems. The 227-pound Davis turned in a 4.37 in the 40, and in a year with a lot of depth but not a lot of star power at running back, this could be a big development. Football Outsiders has developed a nifty metric for putting running-back 40 times in perspective based on a scale of size and speed, and suffice it to say that Davis’s 124.5 is pretty darn good. Davis had a down year at Arkansas in 2012, but then again, who didn’t? In 2010, during happier days for the Hogs, Davis finished the season with five straight 100-yard games on his way to an All-SEC total of 1,322. A broken ankle — the second of his football career — kept him out of the 2011 season and was also thought to contribute to his subpar final season. There are obviously some concerns there, but with the type of size-speed combination he showed this weekend, someone is likely going to reach up and take a chance.
- Oh, one more entry in People Running Fast in a Straight Line. As is the theme with the 2013 draft, plenty of positions are packed with talent, but the question is about just how high each respective top player deserves to go. Dee Milliner is considered by most to be the best available cornerback in the draft, but there were some who had slight concerns about his overall athleticism. Those concerns should be alleviated now. Milliner ran his 40 in 4.37 seconds and is now almost certain to go in the top 10. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sneak into the top five either, with Detroit and its riddled secondary holding the fifth overall pick.