The NFL Scouting Combine usually hits its peak when the skill players hit the field. On Day 4, it was all about the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
With all due respect to the offensive linemen, these are the players that people come to see at Indianapolis. They are the men that get the most notoriety and end up on fantasy football teams across the country.
Unfortunately, this class is relatively thin at each position compared to years' past. This makes the combine that much more important as players look to separate themselves from the pack with great workouts.
Which player was most impressive on Sunday?
In the morning sessions, a few receivers were able to do that with impressive 40-yard dash times. Marquise Goodwin of Texas ran a 4.27, while Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Ryan Swope of Texas A&M were not far behind him at 4.34 seconds.
Quarterbacks and receivers also had their chance to show what they can do in passing drills. While this does not overrule a career of film, scouts love the opportunity to judge mechanics firsthand.
Toward the end of the day, it was the running backs' time to shine, as Montee Ball, Giovani Bernard and others showed why they should be taken early in the draft. However, it was Onterio McCalebb who stole the show with an impressive run of 4.34 seconds.
There is a lot to process after an action-filled day like this, but here are the top performances, reactions and results from Day 4 of the NFL Scouting Combine.
Highlights and Best Performances of the Combine
Wide Receivers Show Off Speed
Two players that looked impressive originally ended up with two very different 40-yard dash times. Tavon Austin and Marquise Goodwin were both unofficially given a 4.25.
When you watch the runs side by side, they look extremely close.
However, Goodwin received an official time of 4.27, while Austin tied for second-best among receivers with a 4.34. Ryan Swope of Texas A&M also ran a 4.34.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports responded to critics of the 5'8" Austin with this message:
If you're knocking on Tavon Austin, remember this line: "If Russell Wilson was two inches taller he'd be a top 10 pick"— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 24, 2013
Swope is unlikely to be a first-round pick, but some scouts are really high on his potential, including Chris Steuber of Ourlads.com:
I really like TA&M WR Ryan Swope. He made my All Crystal Baller Team. I said, "Swope will emerge as a top-5 slot WR at the next level."— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) February 24, 2013
Although there is more to being a receiver than pure speed, it probably helps at this position more than any other on the football field.
Geno Smith Separates Himself with His Legs
Throughout his career at West Virginia, Geno Smith has mostly been a pocket passer. He threw for 4,205 yards last season and amassed 42 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
This is what made him appear to be the top quarterback prospect in the draft.
However, he showed off his running ability on Sunday, leading all quarterbacks with a 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds.
For reference, other top prospects at the position were not even close, such as Mike Glennon (4.94), Tyler Wilson (4.95) and Ryan Nassib (5.06).
Smith only rushed for 151 yards last season with two touchdowns, but he has the skill set to be a threat running the ball.
The quarterback knows what he can do and talked about it in his interview (via Bleacher Report's Matt Miller):
Geno Smith on running, "I have the ability to (read option). I don't think that's my game. I don't think my game is predicated around that."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 24, 2013
Although he is not the athlete Robert Griffin III is, this impressive time will certainly boost Smith's stock.
Tyler Bray Impresses in Drills
The combine is not just about running fast and jumping high. In addition, each position player goes through a set of drills to show off what he can do at his respective position.
Among all of the players on Sunday, few did more to help their cause than Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports listened to scouts after workouts and believed that Bray will be one of the fastest risers at his position after the combine:
Bray could end up being picked higher than many expect after generating buzz with scouts and GMs, who love his size (6-foot-6) and believe he has by far the best arm and release in this draft. ...
He made a good first impression Sunday in the shorts and shirt, and while he must continue honing his accuracy, his arm stood out at the combine.
Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon also had some high praise for the quarterback:
I'd rather take Tyler Bray in the 2nd/3rd than any of these other guys (save: Geno Smith) in the first round.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) February 24, 2013
Bray had an up-and-down career at Tennessee, but he has the pure talent and high ceiling that will make him a relatively high pick in the draft.
Denard Robinson Tries Out a New Position
After finishing his college career as the top rushing quarterback in NCAA history, Denard Robinson is trying to make the NFL as a wide receiver.
The former Michigan star was impressive in the 40-yard dash, running an official time of 4.43 seconds.
However, speed has never been a question mark for the skilled athlete.
Robinson had to show that he has the skill required to be a full-time receiver in the NFL. The general consensus is that he is not there yet, but he is working on it.
Yahoo!'s Doug Farrar was impressed at his improvement over the last few weeks:
Denard Robinson isn't a finished receiver yet, but he was so much better here than at the Senior Bowl. Can tell he's put in the work.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) February 24, 2013
While he still looked unnatural as a pass-catcher, there is a good possibility that a team takes a chance on him somewhere in the middle of the draft.
Onterio McCalebb Makes Name for Himself
In four years at Auburn, Onterio McCalebb was never the main attraction in the backfield.
He backed up established players like Ben Tate, Michael Dyer and Tre Mason at different points in his career. He rushed for 2,586 yards at Auburn, but he never topped 1,000 yards in a season or led his team in rushing.
At the combine, he showed that he is worthy of a look from NFL teams at the draft.
McCalebb ran an official time of 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the fastest time among running backs this season.
While his unofficial time of 4.21 would have been the fastest in NFL history, his real time was much closer to the norm. Arkansas' Knile Davis was right behind him at 4.37 in the official times.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock pointed out that these times are not all that important for running backs:
Mayock: 'I don't care as much about the 40 for RBs. I think a lot of the best RBs are quicker than they are fast.' #NFLCombine— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 24, 2013
Still, the Tigers backup certainly turned some heads on Sunday.
Honey Badger Returns
While most prospects utilize the combine to show off their physical attributes, the interviews are often important for troubled players.
On Sunday, Tyrann Mathieu took the stage and generated a lot of interest (via Houston Texans official Twitter account):
The former LSU cornerback was a Heisman finalist in 2011, but he was kicked off the team due to substance abuse problems.
In his interview, Mathieu seemed apologetic for his actions and also wants to drop his "Honey Badger" nickname to show his seriousness, according to Bob Glauber of Newsday:
Tyrann Mathieu: "I hold myself accountable for what I've done ... Right now, I'm going to focus on being Tyrann Mathieu," not Honey Badger.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) February 24, 2013
Just as importantly, Tim Twentyman reports that he has remained free of drugs for months:
Tyrann Mathieu said he hasn't taken an ilegal substance since Oct. 26. He was woken up at 4 a.m. to take drug test this morning.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) February 24, 2013
It remains a mystery where or even if he will be drafted this offseason, but teams often take a chance on talented but troubled players.
Hard to Separate Running Backs
Fans love to watch the workout events for running backs, but it is difficult to evaluate anyone at the position in pads.
Top prospect Eddie Lacy did not work out, while Montee Ball and Giovani Bernard did nothing special on the day.
Obviously these players look much different on the field when opponents are trying to take them down.
One player that did look good in workouts and drills was Knile Davis of Arkansas. He finished second at the position with a 4.37 40-yard dash and had a second-best bench press of 31 reps.
Dion Caputi of the National Football Post mentioned that Davis surprised some people on Sunday:
RBs today: Knile Davis perhaps turned most heads. Jonathan Franklin helped his cause some. Montee Ball & Stepfan Taylor, workman-like day.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) February 24, 2013
Prospects like Stepfan Taylor are better than their numbers indicate and did well in workouts. Unfortunately, the combine will not be kind to their draft stock.
Complete List of Sunday's 40-Yard Dash Times
|Cameron, Colby||Louisiana Tech||4.78|
|Dysert, Zac||Miami (Ohio)||-|
|Glennon, Mike||N.C. State||4.94|
|Klein, Collin||Kansas State||4.78|
|Manuel, EJ||Florida State||4.65|
|Smith, Geno||West Virginia||4.59|
|Sorensen, Brad||Southern Utah||4.97|
|Austin, Tavon||West Virginia||4.34|
|Bailey, Stedman||West Virginia||4.52|
|Bonner, Alan||Jacksonville State||4.59|
|Davis, Marcus||Virginia Tech||4.56|
|Fuller, Corey||Virginia Tech||4.43|
|Goard, Tyrone||Eastern Kentucky||4.50|
|Harper, Chris||Kansas State||4.55|
|Kaufman, Brandon||Eastern Washington||4.67|
|Patton, Quinton||Louisiana Tech||4.53|
|Rogers, Da'Rick||Tennessee Tech||4.52|
|Sanders, Ace||South Carolina||4.58|
|Smith, Rodney||Florida State||4.51|
|Swope, Ryan||Texas A&M||4.34|
|Wheaton, Markus||Oregon State||4.45|
|Wilson, Marquess||Washington State||4.51|
|Bell, Le'Veon||Michigan St.||4.60|
|Bernard, Giovani||North Carolina||4.53|
|Bohanon, Tommy||Wake Forest||4.88|
|Boren, Zach||Ohio St.||5.00|
|Harper, D.J.||Boise St.||4.52|
|Lattimore, Marcus||South Carolina||-|
|Maysonet, Miguel||Stony Brook||-|
|Michael, Christine||Texas A&M||4.54|
|Pryor, Lonnie||Florida St.||4.70|
|Randle, Joseph||Oklahoma St.||4.63|
|Riddick, Theo||Notre Dame||4.68|
|Rouse, Robbie||Fresno St.||4.80|
|Thompson, Chris||Florida St.||-|
|Williams, Kerwynn||Utah St.||4.48|
|Wilson, Braden||Kansas St.||4.81|
|Wood, Cierre||Notre Dame||4.56|