Desmond Trufant's offseason just keeps getting better and better.
It all started back in January at the Senior Bowl, where Trufant began his ascent up NFL draft boards.
Trufant entered Senior Bowl week as a probable second-day pick, but after showing off his speed and athleticism, some analysts began to recognize him as a potential first-round prospect.
But entering the NFL Combine, there were still lingering concerns about Trufant's skills.
His scouting report on NFL.com references the fact that Trufant is "only adequate in his overall strength and physicality."
Trufant, who has a built a reputation as one of the most fiercely competitive players in this year's class, undoubtedly used such reports as motivation in his training this offseason. And he responded with a surprisingly strong showing in his workouts.
Trufant surprised scouts by putting up 16 reps on the bench press, tied for the sixth highest total among cornerbacks and more than his fellow first-round candidates Xavier Rhodes (14 reps) and Johnthan Banks (10).
But while Trufant's bench press may have answered the most pressing question for scouts, it was his 40-yard dash that jump started the buzz surrounding his draft stock.
After posting a 4.38 time in the 40—the third fastest time among cornerbacks— Twitter started buzzing with positive reviews about Trufant's performance.
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller and Dan Hope were among those who chimed in:
Was told at the Senior Bowl by a scout, "Desmond (Trufant) looks like a first-rounder, covers like a first-rounder and he'll run top 10."— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 26, 2013
But what do these numbers really mean for Trufant's draft stock? And will they actually impact how teams view him as a prospect?
All combine numbers should be taken with a grain of salt and should never trump an evaluation from game film. But they're far from irrelevant.
If nothing else, the numbers demonstrate Trufant's work ethic.
His lack of strength was apparent at times in his career, as he struggled in press coverage and missed a number of tackles. And while work still needs to be done in those areas, his strong performance on the bench press shows that he is willing to work hard to improve in that area.
Additionally, the combination of his strength and speed should make teams more confident in his ability to improve in press coverage.
The strength factors in because he'll need to improve his ability to fight with receivers at the line of scrimmage and knock them off their route.
Take a look at this example of Trufant in press coverage against Boise State in 2012 (Trufant is at the top of the screen).
Trufant gives a halfhearted attempt to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, but the receiver easily moves past Trufant and within 10 yards has pulled even with him.
At this point, Trufant puts his hands on the receiver again, which would lead to a flag for pass interference in the NFL.
While the throw doesn't come his direction, Trufant would have lost this battle with many NFL receivers.
If Matthew Stafford sees Calvin Johnson pull even with Trufant within 10 yards, and with no safety help over the top, you can bet he's throwing that direction.
But if Trufant's improved strength allows him to jam the receiver for an extra second at the line of scrimmage, he can throw off the timing of the route and force the quarterback to look elsewhere.
Trufant's speed also factors into this equation, especially in terms of how willing teams will be to throw him into the fire immediately.
Elite cornerbacks can survive without top-end speed. A corner who runs a 4.5 can play just as fast a corner who runs a 4.3 if he limits his false steps.
But a young corner such as Trufant, who will be learning on the job, is going to make mistakes.
If Trufant had 4.5 speed, he wouldn't be able to recover when he does take a false step. But with his speed, he will be able to mask many of his mistakes by simply being a step faster than the receiver.
Trufant's speed will limit the number of times he gets burned by a false step or by biting on a fake early in the route. It will also give his coaches the confidence to trust him in man coverage, limiting the number of times they feel the need to keep a safety over the top.
Ultimately, Trufant is still a work in progress, but his performance at the combine should have solidified his place in the late first round and given some team the confidence to plug him into a starting role as a rookie.
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