Eric Fisher was impressive in combine drills.
On Saturday at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, the offensive linemen were the primary focus. It’s no secret that the San Diego Chargers need offensive linemen. Every mock draft has them taking one for a reason.
You can be fairly certain that new general manager Tom Telesco and new head coach Mike McCoy had a close eye on the offensive linemen as they were put through the gauntlet of athletic tests and did drills designed to test the skills NFL teams desire.
While game tape is always going to be a better predictor of NFL success, athleticism and a good interview can certainly help break any ties in the war room.
With throngs of media on site, fans get to see more than a bunch of 300-pounders run the 40-yard dash. Players also have press conferences and the media gets an opportunity to ask questions that are on everyone’s mind.
We don’t know what the teams know, but it’s still nice to get a feel for how the players handle the biggest job interview of their life.
Some players undoubtedly helped themselves, while others may have general managers going back to the tape to make sure their opinions remain unchanged.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Of the top three offensive tackle prospects, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel had the most unimpressive combine performance. That’s not to say that his performance was poor. It just lagged behind the performances of some of the other linemen.
Since offensive linemen are rarely asked to run 40 yards in a straight line, it doesn’t matter much that Joeckel turned in a 5.3-second 40-yard dash time. However, a 4.68 short shuttle put him well below both Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson.
Joeckel also had a broad jump of just 8’10”, which is a full foot shorter than Johnson achieved. One of the criticisms of Joeckel has been his lower body strength and ability to drive defensive linemen in the run game. His broad-jump measurement demonstrates he’ll still have to develop in this area.
Joeckel helped himself the most in the three-cone drill, posting the fourth-best time of 7.40 seconds. Along with the short shuttle, the three-cone drill is one of the most useful for NFL scouts because it is designed to test lateral movement. Left tackles are expected to be able to move laterally in pass protection, which is where Joeckel will make his money in the NFL.
Joeckel did nothing that would drop his stock. If the Chargers want the best tackle in the draft, they will probably have to move up to get him.
Central Michigan's Eric Fisher was perhaps the biggest surprise of all the offensive linemen. He improved his stock at the Senior Bowl and scouts believe he is very close to Joeckel’s level. There is a chance that Fisher’s impressive combine performance could break a tie for a team that has the two graded equally.
Fisher nearly matched Johnson’s impressive combine performance, posting the second-best broad jump among offensive linemen of 9’8” and the best short shuttle of 4.4 seconds. While Fisher’s technique will need to be cleaned up at the NFL level, he has all the required physical tools.
If there was one drill where Fisher fell behind, it was the three-cone drill which he ran in 7.59 seconds. Perhaps Fisher will not be as good navigating through traffic to the second level as he would be pulling and moving laterally. General managers may take a second look.
The Chargers will be lucky if they can land Fisher with the 11th overall pick. He might be worth trading up to get if the Chargers fall in love with him.
As expected, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson tested extremely well at the combine. Of all the offensive linemen, Johnson had the best broad jump at 9’10”, the fifth-best short shuttle at 4.52 seconds and the second-best three-cone drill at 7.31 seconds.
It’s clear that Johnson gives any offensive line coach plenty of tools to work with. He can move laterally, explode off the line and has the agility to navigate through traffic. Johnson also has arms about an inch longer than Joeckel and Fisher, and he put up one more rep on the bench press (28) than either of them.
If Joeckel and Fisher are both off the board when the Chargers pick, Johnson is a very nice consolation prize. He has just one year of starting experience on the left side, but with his amazing athleticism, it’s hard to imagine him not thriving at the position.
Not that it matters much, but Johnson also ran a blazing 4.72-second 40-yard dash. Johnson’s time was just one hundredth of a second slower than Terron Armstead's, whose time was the fastest of all offensive linemen.
Since the San Diego Chargers need more than one player on the offensive line, they probably have their eye on more than just the top talent at the position. San Jose State's David Quessenberry had a nice combine performance and probably solidified himself as a mid-round pick.
Quessenberry had a short shuttle of 4.45 seconds, three-cone drill of 7.49 seconds and a broad jump of 9’4”. All of those numbers are very respectable, and when combined with his 34 3/8” arms and 10 5/8” hands, he’s a very intriguing player.
If the Chargers do more zone blocking in 2013, Quessenberry’s movement skills would be an asset. The biggest knock on Quessenberry is his strength, but he still managed 25 reps of 225 pounds, just a couple less than the top offensive tackles. If the Chargers can get Quessenberry a little stronger, he could develop into a very nice player.
The NFL loves bloodlines and Kyle Long’s bloodlines are long and successful. He’s the son of Hall of Fame defensive end-turned-broadcaster Howie Long and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, both of which have called him the best athlete in the family, according to his NFL.com profile.
Long wasn’t exceptional in drills, but he was adequate across the board. In the three-cone drill, Long ran a relatively slow 7.84 seconds, but he was significantly better in the short shuttle drill running it in just 6.63 seconds.
His technique is still raw because of just one year of experience at Oregon, and his measured athleticism makes him a bit of a risk as a developmental player. Considering Long will also have off-the-field concerns to address in the interview room, he needed a better performance.
Long is still an intriguing prospect who should be taken on Day 2, but he didn’t really help himself at the combine.
Brian Schwenke doesn't have the ideal build.
Looks can be deceiving when it comes to offensive linemen. Andre Smith once famously looked like the marshmallow man running the 40-yard dash, but he plays like Tarzan. Cal's Brian Schwenke doesn’t really look the part, but he was impressive in drills.
Schwenke can play center or guard and is an ideal fit in a zone scheme, although he can probably play in a man scheme as well. Schwenke tested pretty well, putting up 31 reps in the bench press, jumping 9’ in the broad jump, running a 4.31-second three-cone drill and posting a time of 4.74 seconds in the short shuttle.
Schwenke has a lot of starting experience, tested well and has been praised for his technique. Some team is going to be really glad to get him in the middle rounds.
NFL teams love versatility. Syracuse's Justin Pugh is an offensive tackle who will probably kick inside to guard at the NFL level. But he can probably play outside depending on the need.
When it came to measurable athleticism, Pugh wasn’t expected to make much noise. For the most part he didn’t, posting a broad jump of just 8’7”. However, in the two events that matter most (which still pale in comparison to game tape), Pugh performed well, posting a 7.45-second three-cone drill and 4.63-second short shuttle.
For a team that values the mobility and range of their guards, Pugh is going to be a good find in the middle rounds.
Menelik Watson is big, but how athletic?
Florida State's Menelik Watson was billed as a physical specimen with great size and athleticism. At least as far as measurable athleticism goes, Watson was a huge disappointment.
Watson ran the three-cone drill in 8.31 seconds, the short shuttle in 5.01 seconds and broad-jumped 8’7”. His vertical jump and 40-yard dash weren’t impressive. He might be big, but his athleticism appears to have been greatly overstated.
Russ Lande, the scouting director for the National Football Post and founder of GM Jr. Scouting, selected Watson in the second round of an interactive Twitter mock draft called #MockOne after selecting cornerback Dee Milliner in the first round.
Watson’s athleticism was supposed to his strength, because his technique is still very raw. He still has great size for the position with 34-inch arms and 10 3/8-inch hands at 310 pounds, but he didn’t help himself in the combine drills
Terron Armstead IS athletic.
If you are looking for the most fantastic athlete on the offensive line, it’s Terron Armstead out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Most people (including me) probably never heard of Arkansas-Pine Bluff until today.
For a small school prospect, blowing up the combine is almost a must. Armstead certainly did that with his 40-yard dash of 4.71 seconds, 31 reps of 225 pounds and broad jump of 9’4”. Armstead wasn’t quite as good in the agility drills, with a three-cone time of 7.62 seconds and a short shuttle time of 4.72 seconds.
For a small school prospect like Armstead, his combine performance might help him more than a player coming from a big college program because his game tape is expected to be impressive. He’s probably more of an athlete at this point. But if a team thinks it can clean up his technique, he could get drafted earlier than expected.
Warmack looked solid in positional drills, but didn't do most of the other testing.
Alabama's Chance Warmack is the consensus top guard, but he only did the broad jump and the 40-yard dash at the combine. He was slow in the 40-yard dash. But no one expected him to be fast, and it’s a worthless measurement for offensive linemen anyway.
Warmack’s broad jump was one of the best at 9’2” despite his massive frame. He didn’t have much to gain by participating in all the drills, which he’ll probably do at his pro day.
Why do we make big men like Jonathan Cooper run the 40-yard dash?
Offensive guards don’t always test well in agility drills, which happened to be the case for the second-rated offensive guard in the draft. North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper was average across the board in all the combine drills, but he did post 35 reps on the bench press and a broad jump of 9’.
Cooper certainly didn’t do anything in drills to hurt his draft stock. He’s a little shorter than your average linemen, but we already knew that. He’ll still go relatively early to a team looking for a versatile left guard. If he’s still available when the Chargers pick in the second round, he’d be a great pickup.