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 the first few days of this year’s NFL combine.
- A lot of early mock drafts had the first half of the first round going by without a wide receiver, but after this weekend, that seems like it just isn’t going to happen. Cordarrelle Patterson is generally considered the best receiver in the draft, and with all 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds of him coming in at 4.34 in the 40, there’s a good chance he sneaks up toward the top 10. Tavon Austin similarly helped himself with a sub-4.4 showing. The West Virginia wideout is on the smaller side (5-foot-8 and about 180), but when combined with the silly level of production he had last season, that speed should put him pretty firmly in the first round. Chris Johnson had to be sweating at least a little bit when the news came out that track star and former Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had an unofficial time of 4.17. Goodwin’s official time ended up at 4.27, leaving Johnson’s 4.24 record intact for at least another year. This whole thing reminds me — we seem really terrible at timing 40-yard dashes.
- The uncertainty about the no. 1 overall pick has only increased over the past couple of days. One of the names that’s been bandied about from the start has been Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, but Mike Mayock said yesterday that if Joeckel is in the conversation, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher deserves to be, as well. Fisher had a dominant week at the Senior Bowl, and it seems like the gap between him and Joeckel has almost closed entirely. Another name that had been mentioned at the top of the draft was Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. News broke on Sunday that, during his physical, an echocardiogram revealed that Lotulelei has a heart condition that will prevent him from working out in Indianapolis. Much of the coverage of the combine is dedicated to bench-pressing and 40 times, but for teams, the medical part of the weekend is among the most valuable. With the chance to have a team of doctors get a look at each player, it isn’t uncommon for previously undiagnosed issues to come up over the course of the weekend.
- The Manti Te’o circus was just that on Saturday. Teo’s physical delayed his appearance at the podium for a few hours, but that didn’t seem to stop the media horde from gathering there for most of the afternoon. By most accounts, Te’o handled the whole ordeal well. He said that the teams he’d met with have asked him about the details, and he seems to be pretty open about it. He’s scheduled to meet with 20 teams in all, which is an indication of just how uncertain his position in the first round is right now.
- Not surprisingly, Matt Barkley was a big hit when meeting with the media yesterday, and reportedly, with the Arizona Cardinals, as well. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah was one of several people to note that Barkley made quite an impression on the new brass in Arizona, but Cardinals beat writer Kent Somers said that he’d still be very surprised if the team took him with the seventh overall pick. Even if the Barkley news is a bit of gamesmanship by his management, which NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling speculated, the news brings up an interesting predicament that quarterback-needy teams might face with this year’s class. Barkley and his questionable arm strength aren’t worthy of a top-10 pick, but if a team like Arizona is interested, there’s a good chance they’ll have to trade back into the bottom half of the first-round to get him.
- It seems like the entire crowd of top defensive linemen put on a show during their workouts. Dion Jordan, the 6-foot-6, 248-pound defensive end/outside linebacker from Oregon clocked in at 4.53 in the 40, and right now, he’s being compared to Aldon Smith and looking like he might be set to go in the top five. Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who seems to be moving up every hour, ran a 4.87. With the questions about Lotulelei’s health, it doesn’t feel like it would be a surprise to see Floyd be the first defensive tackle taken. Ziggy Ansah is probably the most intriguing prospect at any position in this draft. A native of Ghana, Ansah didn’t start playing football until his sophomore year at BYU. He made only 10 tackles in the 2011 season, primarily as a special teams player, but going into his senior season, he bulked up his 6-foot-5 frame to 270 pounds and became a starter at defensive end. That makes his 4.62 40 from this weekend all the more ridiculous. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but there’s no doubt that a team is going to talk themselves into all that potential in the top 15 picks.