It's exceedingly rare that you see an offensive lineman come away as the biggest winner at the NFL Scouting Combine, but that may be the case after Saturday's on-field drills in Indianapolis.
On a day when fans usually get to poke a little fun at the linemen doing their 40-yard dashes in compression shorts, the 2013 class proved to be an exceptional group of athletes. Six linemen ran the 40-yard dash in less than five seconds, which is an impressive feat when carrying around that much cargo.
Terron Armstead may be at the top of the Underwear Olympics podium thus far. The former Arkansas-Pine Bluff star was impressive in the strength portion of testing on Friday and continued his ascent up the scouts' rankings in the on-field session.
That being said, linemen weren't the only players hitting the field on Saturday. Specialists (kickers, punters and long snappers) and tight ends also put in work, with a few top players emerging there as well.
Elsewhere, Manti Te'o essentially stopped the show when he answered questions as part of the interview portion of his day. With that in mind, here is a look at all the top news, reactions and results from Saturday's action at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Highlights and Best Performances of the Day
Terron Armstead Steals the Show
Already an emergent star in Indianapolis, Armstead could depart as the combine's biggest winner after Saturday. He put up 31 reps on the bench press and measured at 6'5" and 306 pounds. Oh yeah, he also officially ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.71 seconds, which was the best time among all offensive linemen and the best all-time for his position.
While teams have learned not to put too much stock in combine performances—especially for things like 40-yard dash times for guys who may run 40 yards in an entire season—it's impossible to believe Armstead didn't improve his stock on Saturday. In fact, when the time was still unofficially 4.65 seconds, Jenna Laine of Sports Xchange made a pretty jaw-dropping comparison between Armstead's time and a couple from last year:
Terron Armstead ran a blazing 4.65 (unofficial) at 306 lbs. For comparison, WRs Kendall Wright and Mohamed Sanu ran 4.61, 4.67 last year.— JennaLaineBucs (@JennaLaineBucs) February 23, 2013
Once a borderline draftee, it would be a relative shock for Armstead to last longer than Day 2 in April.
Lane Johnson Continues to Impress
A fast-rising prospect throughout the draft process, former Oklahoma lineman Lane Johnson may have built a rock-solid first-round resume in Indianapolis. A day after impressing those in attendance with his strength, putting up 28 reps on the bench press, Johnson showed that he has plenty of athleticism as well.
Showing off some leftover speed from his days as a tight end, Johnson ran two separate unofficial 4.75 dash times. One of those 40-yard sprints wound up being clocked at 4.72, a mere thousandth of a second away from Armstead's top time.
Following Johnson's second run of the day, Dion Caputi of the National Football Post noted his remarkable ability:
#Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson impresses again in his second run, matching his first unofficial time of 4.75. Impressive athlete.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) February 23, 2013
With plenty of teams needing help on the offensive line in the back half of the first round, Johnson may want to invest in a new suit between now and April 25.
Alabama Linemen Run Unimpressive Times, Reactions Differ
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows for the offensive line prospects. The BCS national champion Alabama Crimson Tide have three offensive linemen who could go inside the first few rounds, but none stood out as a workout warrior. One did not run (Barrett Jones), while the other two (D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack) put together wholly unimpressive sprint times.
Warmack, who is considered the best interior lineman in this class, ran an official 5.49-second 40-yard dash, the fourth-worst time among his competitors.
But pundits did not seem fazed by the events. Rich Cimini of ESPN essentially brushed off the former Tide guard's time and said he could be a possible target of the New York Jets:
Alabama G Chance Warmack, possibility for #Jets at 9, ran disappointing 5.55 in 40 on first try. Who cares? Dude can block.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) February 23, 2013
Warmack himself seemed to take it all in stride and perhaps exemplified who he is as a player with a strong quote, per the St. Louis Rams' Twitter feed:
Alabama G Chance Warmack - “I’m not a glamorous person. Look at what I’m wearing. I love being big and mean. That’s what I like.”— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) February 23, 2013
Meanwhile, the reaction went far more toward the negative side for Fluker. Bleacher Report NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller saw Fluker in drills on Saturday and noted that you can see his lumbering feet on game film:
Go back and watch Michigan film and you see Fluker slow off the ball, lumbering in space. Seeing it today in drills. Heavy, heavy feet.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2013
Both will ultimately hear their names called in April, but it will be interesting to see if any teams downgrade them based on their performances.
Manti Te'o Speaks
While most NFL teams were focused on the on-field drills and weight room numbers, the media was intently focused elsewhere come mid-afternoon. Speaking in his first press conference since the Lennay Kekua scandal broke, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o addressed a flock of media members intently hanging on his every word.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport was on hand for the presser and took a snapshot of the zoo facing Te'o:
There are a few people in this Manti Te'o press conferencetwitpic.com/c697za— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 23, 2013
For the most part, Te'o answered the questions asked of him by reporters but did not go into detail. In the opening moments of the press conference, Te'o said that he is "focused on football" and not the scandal, per NFL.com's Jeff Darlington:
Te'o on "incident": "I said all I needed to say about that. I'm focused on football." ...Looks like he's going with "moving on" approach.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) February 23, 2013
Nonetheless, Te'o's focus did not stop the line of Kekua-related questioning. When asked what he learned from the entire situation, Te'o said his biggest takeaway was to keep the circle of people around him small, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer:
Te'o says the lesson he's taken is to "Keep your circle very small. ... I just learned to appreciate the people around me."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 23, 2013
When the topic turned to football, it became clear that Te'o is still a wanted man among NFL teams. The Heisman Trophy runner-up, who is projected to go in the first round, has already met with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans and will meet with 18 other teams this week (per Breer).
Overall, most reactions to Te'o's press conference were positive. ESPN's Todd McShay was particularly complimentary:
Manti Te'o could not have handled his combine press conference any better!— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 23, 2013
Tyler Eifert Emerging as Draft's Best Tight End?
Seemingly in a dead heat with Stanford's Zach Ertz as the draft's top tight end coming into the combine, it seems like former Notre Dame star Tyler Eifert is in the clubhouse lead. He ran an official 40-yard dash time of 4.68, outperforming Ertz by nearly a tenth of a second, and was better in most other drills as well.
Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune noted Eifert's exceptional numbers in the broad jump and vertical leap:
#NotreDame TE Tyler Eifert's vertical jump 35.5 and broad jump 11-9 both 2nd among pos. group. ND C Cave went 25.5 in vj and 9-2 in b jump.— Eric Hansen (@hansenNDInsider) February 23, 2013
After the tight ends finished performing, Pro Football Talk's Twitter feed speculated that Eifert might have cemented himself as the top player at his position:
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert looks like the NFL draft's top tight end wp.me/p14QSB-7nPh— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 23, 2013
Overall, Eifert's excellence in the drills should not come as much of a surprise. He was a stellar athlete at Notre Dame and was noted for his ability to make difficult, sometimes extremely impressive catches.
Ertz is not a bad athlete by any stretch, but this setting lends itself to Eifert looking better.
Complete List of Saturday's 40-Yard Dash Times
|Zach Allen||N.C. State||6'3"||328|
|Terron Armstead||Arkansas-Pine Bluff||6'5"||304||4.71|
|Nick Becton||Virginia Tech||6'6"||317||5.20|
|Travis Bond||North Carolina||6'7"||330||5.27|
|Braxston Cave||Notre Dame||6'3"||304||5.33|
|Emmett Cleary||Boston College||6'7"||313||5.21|
|Jonathan Cooper||North Carolina||6'3"||310||5.07|
|Eric Fisher||Central Michigan||6'8"||305||5.05|
|Manase Foketi||West Texas A&M||6'5"||320|
|Reid Fragel||Ohio State||6'8"||298||5.14|
|Rogers Gaines||Tennessee State||6'7"||320||5.24|
|Garrett Gilkey||Chadron State||6'6"||314||5.33|
|Mark Jackson||Glenville State||6'6"||325||5.65|
|Luke Joeckel||Texas A&M||6'6"||310||5.30|
|Oscar Johnson||Louisiana Tech||6'6"||330||5.49|
|T.J. Johnson||South Carolina||6'6"||319||5.33|
|Jamaal Johnson-Webb||Alabama A&M||6'6"||306||5.37|
|Edmund Kugbila||Valdosta State||6'5"||347||5.31|
|Joe Madsen||West Virginia||6'3"||301||5.20|
|Lamar Mady||Youngstown State||6'3"||315||5.48|
|Luke Marquardt||Azusa Pacific||6'9"||322|
|Jordan Mills||Louisiana Tech||6'6"||315||5.37|
|Vinston Painter||Virginia Tech||6'6"||309||4.95|
|David Quessenberry||San Jose State||6'6"||291||5.08|
|Matt Stankiewitch||Penn State||6'3"||301||5.43|
|Earl Watford||James Madison||6'4"||290||5.06|
|Menelik Watson||Florida State||6'6"||320||5.29|
|Jason Weaver||Southern Miss||6'5"||305||5.44|
|John Wetzel||Boston College||6'8"||302||5.46|
|Brennan Williams||North Carolina||6'7"||315|
|Brian Winters||Kent State||6'6"||294||
|Justice Cunningham||South Carolina||6'4"||264||4.94|
|Tyler Eifert||Notre Dame||6'6"||251||4.68|
|Gavin Escobar||San Diego State||6'6"||255||4.84|
|Ryan Otten||San Jose State||6'5"||245|
|Chris Pantale||Boston College||6'6"||251||4.99|
|Dion Sims||Michigan State||6'5"||285||4.75|
|Jake Stoneburner||Ohio State||6'5"||245||4.65|
|Levine Toilolo||Stanford||6'8"||265|| 4.86
|Ryan Allen (P)||Louisiana Tech||6'2"||215|
|Dylan Breeding (P)||Arkansas||6'1"||211||4.74|
|Anthony Cantele (K)||Kansas State||5'10"||183|
|Bobby Cowan (P)||Idaho||6"5||229|
|Alex Dunnachie (P)||Hawaii||6'4"||220|
|Dustin Hopkins (K)||Florida State||6'2"||190||4.74|
|Josh Hubner (K)||Arizona State||6'4"||238|
|Luke Ingram (LS)||Hawaii||6'5"||251||5.05|
|Scott Kovanda (P)||Ball State||6'3"||205|
|Jeff Locke (P)||UCLA||6'1"||203|
|Brett Maher (K)||Nebraska||6'||185|
|Quinn Sharpe (K)||Oklahoma State||6'1"||205|
|Caleb Sturgis (K)||Florida||5'11"||187|
|Brad Wing (P)||LSU||6'3"||184|