Breaking Down the NFL Scouting Combine's Top Speedsters

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 25, 2013

Breaking Down the NFL Scouting Combine's Top Speedsters

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    Sunday brought with it the most anticipated day of the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, as the offensive skill positions took to the field in Indianapolis for workouts.

    The most eagerly awaited drill was no doubt the 40-yard dash, and this year's crop of wide receivers and running backs didn't disappoint, with several players reeling off blistering times.

    Here's a closer look at a handful of those players, how they fared in college, where they might be drafted and how their performance in Sunday's drills may have affected that stock.

Tavon Austin, West Virgina

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    Tavon Austin of West Virginia may not be the biggest player in attendance at the combine, but he certainly made a big impression on Sunday in Indianapolis.

    After a wildly productive 2012 season in Morgantown in which he caught over 100 passes and rushed for over 700 yards, the biggest knock on Austin entering the combine was his relatively diminutive 5'8" frame.

    However, there are apt to be a few more teams willing to look past Austin's size after he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and performed very well in route-running drills.

    Austin led all FBS players in all-purpose yards as a junior and finished second as a senior, and NFL.com, who compares Austin to Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers, calls Austin a "huge playmaker who possesses elite acceleration."

    Austin was already considered a borderline first-round prospect by many draft experts.

    Now, after his strong showing in both the 40-yard dash and receiving drills, Austin has likely solidified that status, with Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com going so far as to predict that Austin could be drafted as highly as 17th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Marquise Goodwin, Texas

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    If Tavon Austin was good in the 40-yard dash, then Marquise Goodwin of Texas was phenomenal.

    Goodwin ran the fastest time in the combine so far this year, clocking in at 4.27 seconds, just shy of Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson's "official" combine record of 4.24 seconds.

    Like Austin, size is an issue with Goodwin, who stands 5'9"

    Unlike Austin, however, Goodwin doesn't have an impressive collegiate resume to draw on.

    Goodwin caught only 26 passes last year for the Longhorns, and the youngster has some work some do as a receiver where learning and running more precise routes is concerned.

    With that said there's no denying Goodwin's athletic gifts, including leaping ability that landed him a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

    It may take a while for Goodwin to develop at the professional level, but after combining (sorry about that) a strong performance in Indy with a great week at the Senior Bowl Goodwin has leapt (once again, sorry) into consideration on the draft's second day.

Knile Davis, Arkansas

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    This year's top running back prospect, Alabama's Eddie Lacy, didn't work out at the combine, which opened the door for the players who did take the field to bolster their standing in the backfield pecking order.

    Knile Davis of Arkansas took full advantage of that opportunity.

    Not only did Davis reel off a 4.37-second 40-yard dash time, but the 227-pounder also performed very well in the bench press, doing 31 reps of 225 pounds.

    Davis' stock was in need of a boost following a very disappointing 2012 season in which he rushed for only 377 yards and gained only 3.4 yards a carry.

    Part of Davis' struggles may be due to the ankle injury that ended his 2011 campaign, and Davis has to show scouts that he's more the 2011 version that rushed for over 1,300 yards and less last year's back that failed to perform.

    However, Davis is also going to have to improve his lateral quickness to succeed in the pros. That's an area in which Davis struggled both at Arkansas and the combine, where he finished 15th in the short shuttle.

    Still, a back with his combination of size and speed will undoubtedly appeal to some NFL teams, and if Davis can back up his strong combine with a good pro day Jonathan Bales of The Dallas Morning News thinks Davis could move as high as the third round.

Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

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    It was a very successful first year in the SEC for Texas A&M, and the Aggies have a number of hot draft prospects, including potential first overall pick Luke Joeckel.

    Wide receiver Ryan Swope may not be as highly regarded a prospect as Joeckel, but Swope still managed to turn some heads in Indianapolis.

    The 6'0", 205-pound senior saw his production drop in 2012 after catching 89 passes for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, and entering the combine many pundits bemoaned Swope's relative lack of straight-line speed.

    Yeah, um, about that.

    Swope ran a very impressive 4.34-second 40-yard dash, a full two-tenths of a second faster than many scouts expected according to Tony Pauline of USA Today.

    Granted, there's a difference between 40-yard dash fast and football fast. However, when you're known as a solid route-runner with good hands, and you blow people away in the drill that was supposed to be your weakness, that's a very good thing indeed.

    It's important not to put much too much stock in one workout, but if Swope can back that number up at Texas A&M's pro day then his days of being projected as a later-round flier are going to be over.

Josh Boyce, TCU

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    There really isn't much that blows you away about TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce.

    At 5'11" and 206 pounds Boyce isn't exceptionally big.

    He also wasn't incredibly productive in college, having never posted more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

    Boyce was generally regarded as a fourth- or fifth-round pick entering the combine, but after his showing in Indianapolis, that view may have changed.

    Boyce ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, performed 22 reps in the bench press, had a 131-inch broad jump, ran the cone drill in 6.68 seconds and finished the 60-yard shuttle in 11.26 seconds.

    All of those numbers rated Boyce "top performer" status according to NFL.com, and Boyce's show in Indianapolis has no doubt sent some scouts scrambling to look back at the tape of his time in Waco.