The NFL Scouting Combine, beginning Feb. 20 in Indianapolis, has become somewhat of a cult program of sorts in the last couple years. Of course, a lot of that has to do with armchair experts wanting to play the role of a scout from their own home.
Nerd alert: I've been plenty guilty of this in the past.
As it is, there is a lot to take away from the annual pre-draft event. Among the most interesting things to project is who will become so-called "workout warriors." We saw this firsthand last season when former Oklahoma tight end James Hanna, never on the radar of mainstream scouts until late February, jumped onto the scene with dazzling workouts.
Today's article is going to focus on six records that could come crashing down when the combine starts later this week.
The 20-yard shuttle gives us a better understanding of which players are fleet of foot from the get-go. They hit that second gear before the opposition has a chance to adjust to the speed.
Of course, running back and cornerback are two positions that pretty much dominate this category. In order for a defensive back to stay with a wide receiver on the outside, he will need to be able to adjust from a dead stop at the line and run with the receiver.
Kenjon Barner comes from an Oregon program that has a long history of talented speedsters. LaMichael James was one of the most electric running backs in modern college football history, and he did darn well at this event last February.
As you can see in the video embedded above, Barner has ridiculous change-of-direction ability at the line of scrimmage. He literally makes defenders look like they're chasing a jackrabbit while being weighed down by 40-pound bricks.
This drill differs from the 40-yard dash because it takes into account change of direction and the ability to plant with your dominant pivot foot. With those skills, Barner could really surprise a great deal of people.
Having success doing bench reps in Indianapolis doesn't necessarily translate to success on the football field on Sundays. Ernest, a former Western Kentucky defensive tackle who holds the record, never suited up in the NFL.
Despite that, strength is invariably important, mostly when scouting interior line prospects on either side of the ball. In particular, two defensive tackles could challenge Ernest's record this year.
Star Lotulelei of Utah is the No. 1 overall player on many expert boards. He's talented and can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, and he strikes me as someone who can put all he has into this specific workout.
At 6'3" and 320 pounds, Lotulelei possesses a ton of natural upper-body strength. He can throw blockers off the line while holding double-teams at bay in the middle of the field. It will be interesting to see what he does in this week's workouts.
Meanwhile, Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern is one of the most impressive small-school prospects that I have scouted. Heck, he may be one of the most impressive overall players I have watched on tape.
The Division II All-American stands at 6'3", 325 pounds and has athleticism we rarely see from someone his size. He can anchor the interior line and even get to the quarterback, as evidenced by the 8.5 sacks he recorded as a senior in '12.
As it relates to this specific workout, Williams has the upper-body strength and stamina to go the distance. It wouldn't surprise me to see him challenge for the record.
The consensus No. 1 overall guard in the draft, Chance Warmack, is also someone to keep an eye on here.
The three-cone drill is all about fluidity, speed and the ability to pivot on the football field. There are three cones set up, and a player must navigate through an "L" shape area in three different directions while maintaining balance on the pivot.
This is a great workout for scouts who are looking at defensive backs and wide receivers. Skrine, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft, possesses the combine record.
I am really intrigued to see how one of the most controversial figures in the 2012 draft—Tyrann Mathieu, a.k.a. "Honey Badger"—performs in this specific drill. According to Walter Camp Football, Mathieu is projected to run the 40 in about 4.42, which puts him right up top with Desmond Trufant among cornerbacks in that category.
Of course, speed on that specific drill may not translate to the three-cone drill, where prospects have to utilize fluid hips, solid technique and balance in order to be successful.
Mathieu excels in all three of those areas, which will make for an interesting drill.
I would also keep an eye on Jonathan Cyprien as well as Marquise Goodwin here. Both are as athletic as they come at their position and possess strong fluidity on the outside.
This is a great drill to test a receiver's ability to go up and get the ball as well as his defender's ability to go toe-to-toe on the outside and down the field.
In my humble opinion, this is one of the most crucial individual drills of the entire event. It has a direct correlation with success on the football field, specifically for receivers in the red zone and down the field.
Cordarrelle Patterson is one of the most athletically gifted wide receivers I have scouted in a long time. While he will struggle early with an unrefined route-running ability and somewhat inconsistent hands, the Tennessee product has one of the highest ceilings of any offensive player in the draft.
Patterson can go up there and bring the ball down with the best of them. He has the leaping ability and athleticism (lower-body strength) to contend with Washington as the No. 1 all-time player on this list.
Also, keep an eye Michigan State cornerback Johnny Adams.
Record: 6.55 million in 2011
Now that we are fully entrenched in the Twitter and social media age, the scouting combine continues to gain appeal on television. For those of us who are paid to cover the NFL, it is a necessity that we watch the combine.
That being said, there are many out there who want to see for themselves exactly what "experts" are talking about on their social networking outlets. In addition, they want to get a better feel for some of the prospects who might end up suiting up for their favorite teams.
It is also important to look at the growing popularity of the NFL in general and the draft itself. While the 2013 NFC and AFC Championship game ratings were lower than the previous season, nearly 90 million TV sets tuned in (via The Big Lead).
About 8.1 million households watched the first round of the 2012 NFL draft last April (via CNNSI). Considering that the combine is spread out over the course of more than one day, I am pretty sure that it can get 6.6 million viewers this week.
Should be interesting.
Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin from Texas might be the fastest player in the entire 2013 NFL draft. He not only possesses top-flight speed, but he has absolutely no problem accelerating right from the line of scrimmage and hitting his second gear in short order.
Goodwin competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London in the long jump, finishing in the top 10. In addition, he just recently ran a 4.28 40-yard dash. While that is impressive by itself, Goodwin expects to do better.
Now on to the ridiculous list. Former Michigan quarterback-turned-wide receiver Denard Robinson is a tremendous athlete, but he seems to be giving his athletic ability a bit too much credit. The talented player once indicated that he could beat Usain Bolt in a 40-yard dash (via CBS.com).
I've watched him run, and I'm pretty sure I can beat him in a 40-yard dash...I'd get a better start, and I could take him....At 60 yards, I'd be in trouble, and at 100 meters, he'd be gone, but I could get him in a 40.
While that is complete and utter nonsense, Robinson may challenge the combine mark of 4.24 on in the 40. According to Michigan's official football website, Robinson did run a 4.32 back in high school. As we all know, speed develops over time, especially in college. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that this former quarterback shocks the scouting world this week in Indianapolis.
While it is highly unlikely that Robinson reaches this mark, he is someone I would definitely keep an eye on.