Beware of the Workout Warrior: 2009 NFL Draft Edition
It's well-documented in the annals of NFL Draft history that the Combine matters. Every year, numerous prospects head to Indianapolis in "make or break" mode.
Run a good 40 time, and your stock is sure to be inflated (Right, Michael Bennett?). Fail the Wonderlic test, and prepare for a combination of plummeting stock and public scrutiny (Can you confirm this, Vince Young?)
However, the first player to really earn the title "workout warrior" was the immortal Michael Brian Mamula. An undersized junior defensive end out of Boston College, Mamula was viewed as a third rounder at best by most scouts despite his 17 sacks in his last collegiate campaign.
He walked into the Combine an average prospect and walked out as the next coming of Reggie White. Running a 4.63 40, the defensive end was faster than many linebackers in the draft.
This was a plus in itself, but his bench press was just icing on the cake. After putting up 225 lbs more times than many offensive linemen, teams began to salivate. Eventually, the Eagles traded with the Bucaneers so they could take the phenom who ended his career with a measly 31.5 sacks.
Oh, and the guys Tampa Bay took in the first round? Some guys named Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Maybe you've heard of them.
The moral of the story is that every year, a player inflates his draft stock based on drills that have relatively little to do with their actually football ability. And this year should be no different.
With a plethora of speedsters and freak athletes participating in this year's combine, there will surely be more than a few disappointed GMs a few years down the road. Here are five guys who will probably con teams into drafting them well above their skill level.
Percy Harvin, WR, University of Florida
His resume is undeniable. Two National Championships. Thirteen receiving touchdowns. Nineteen rushing touchdowns. 3,780 combined rushing and receiving yards over his 3 years. And in the age of the Wildcat formation, Harvin has experience out of the shotgun.
Measured at 5'11", he's probably closer to 5'9'', but that didn't stop the Dolphins from taking Ted Ginn ninth overall. And Harvin is faster.
If he runs a sub-4.35 40 and shows off his freakish strength in the bench press (recorded to have a max bench of 405 pounds, 20 reps at 225 pounds), expect a sharp rise Harvin's stock.
Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State University
The Nittany Lions had somewhat of a revival season under the ageless Joe Paterno, and a lot of that credit goes to quarterback Daryll Clark.
However, his stable of receivers was also an important part of Penn State's run to the Rose Bowl, and none of the receivers had more playmaking ability than Derrick Williams.
After breaking onto the scene as a do-it-all freshman, Williams took Happy Valley by storm. After a slight letdown during his next two years, Williams looked like he returned to form in his senior campaign.
Making plays as a wide receiver, kick/punt returner, and an option running back, Williams has versatility similar to Harvin.
He looks to be a 3rd rounder at this point in time, but a sub-4.4 40, crisp route running, and decent shuttle times should vault Williams into the second round.
Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
This time last year, Johnson was a stud junior deciding whether or not to make the leap into the pros. He was a genetic freak and a top-10 lock, but decided to come back for his senior season.
Bad decision. With a plethora of talented DEs coming out this year, Johnson and his DE-LB hybrid body are being pushed into the second round.
However, many expect Johnson to turn in one of the most impressive combine performances this year. If he can hover around a 4.6 40, produce a decent number of bench press reps, and just show his outstanding athleticism in all of the other drills, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Johnson can work his way back into the first round, where his potential truly belongs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, University of Pittsburgh
A redshirt sophomore who might be leaving school a bit too early, it's an uphill battle for McCoy to fight his way into the first round.
Currently sitting behind probable first rounders Chris "Beanie" Wells and Knowshon Moreno, McCoy was arguably the better running back over the course of the college season.
While both Wells and Moreno have battled nagging injuries throughout their brief college careers, McCoy has been the picture of stability.
Never missing a game in his two years as Pitt's feature back, McCoy gained 2,816 rushing yards and a very impressive 35 TDs. What McCoy also has that Wells and Moreno seemingly lack, is outstanding speed and shiftiness.
If McCoy can separate himself from the other two in the 40 yard dash, shuttle, and agility drills, he may be able to sneak into the first round.
William Beatty, OT, University of Connecticut
In a draft loaded with top flight talent at the tackle position, it's easy for Beatty to get lost in the shuffle. After all, Alabama's Andre Smith, Virginia's Eugene Monroe, Baylor's Jason Smith, and Ole Miss's Michael Oher are all mammoth men from schools notorious for pumping elite linemen.
And let's face it; UConn isn't exactly an NFL Prospect hotbed. But Beatty is an exception. Opening holes for stud running back Donald Brown and protecting Tyler Lorenzen's strong side has been Beatty's job for the last few years and he has not disappointed.
Arguably the most athletic tackle in the draft, look for Beatty to run one of the best 40 times, have a good showing on the bench, and exhibit lateral quickiness that players like Andre Smith do not possess.
With so many teams looking for their versions of Joe Thomas and Jake Long, Beatty has a legitimate shot at breaking into the first round.