NFL Combine 2014: Top Moments and Performances from Exciting Weekend

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Feb 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel runs the 40 yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, more aptly known as the "Underwear Olympics," has not lacked for excitement in Indianapolis, as the NFL's future stars have put on a show in front of the league's centralized scouting hub.

As expected, the best athletes put on shocking performances in front of NFL teams, while what went on behind closed doors in interviews and medical evaluations is mostly a mystery.

While the workouts are less important than the interviews, they still have been useful and provided football-hungry fans with excitement they had not experienced since the conference championships (sorry, Super Bowl participants).

The top moments of the weekend will not soon be forgotten.


Sammy Watkins Claims His Throne

Clemson's Sammy Watkins has been widely hailed as the top receiver in the class for quite some time, so his going out and blowing away the field in drills was a nice touch on his already impressive stock.

Watkins was simply dominant in all facets. His 40-yard-dash time came in at an official 4.43 seconds, which gave him the eighth-best time of any wideout in attendance. His first run that clocked in at 4.34 seconds was especially impressive:

That was far from the only highlight. Watkins also posted a 34-inch vertical and 126 inches on the broad jump:

As a total package, Watkins simply reinforced the notion he is the top player available at his position. His burst in drills, silky-smooth routes and sure hands did nothing but steal the show and back up the universal notion that his name will be one of the first called in the 2014 draft.


Unheralded Talents Make Themselves Known

Fans surely know the name Brandin Cooks now.

In NFL circles, Cooks was an obvious fringe candidate for the first round of the draft. At 5'10" and 189 pounds, comparisons to last year's wideout darling Tavon Austin are not unwarranted.

Cooks showed as much with an official 4.33 40-yard dash and some of the combine's best numbers in the shuttle drills. Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon captured the vibes surrounding Cooks' performance best:

The Oklahoma State product was not alone in his big day.

Colorado's Paul Richardson came up huge with a 4.40 40-yard dash. South Carolina wideout Bruce Ellington was one of the best in the dash, shuttle and cone drills. Even Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson brought himself back to the forefront of NFL minds after stellar performances in the dash and bench press.


Dri Archer's Dash at History

Another under-the-radar prospect going into the weekend was Kent State running back Dri Archer. 

His name was known in some circles because he publicly told Fox Sports' Zac Jackson that he was going after Chris Johnson's record in the 40-yard dash:

"Yes sir -- Chris Johnson ran 4.24 in 2008," Archer said in a telephone interview with Jackson. "That's what I've been looking at, what I've been training for. It's definitely in my goals, and I think it can be done."

Archer fell short of the lofty goal with his 4.26 time, but his overall performance at the event seemingly stole the show and upped his stock in a big way.

After a final collegiate season that was marred by injuries, Archer is back on the minds of all. Best of all, the drama between he and CJ2K was a highlight of the weekend:

Watch for Archer, as his show-stealing performance and flirtation with history has given him a momentum that will be hard to match en route to the draft.


Taylor Lewan Reminds Folks He's Relevant

Greg Robinson. Jake Matthews. Cyrus Kouandjio. Morgan Moses.

Before the combine, many would have shrugged off the above list as not leaving out anyone noteworthy.

Michigan's Taylor Lewan had something to say about that in Indianapolis.

As a physical freak who stands at 6'7" and 309 pounds, it should come as little surprise that Lewan was arguably the best of all offensive linemen not named Robinson. He ran a jaw-dropping 4.87 40-yard dash, and as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller points out, that was quite the historic number:

It is tough for any tackle to stand out in what is a relatively deep class this year, but Lewan reinserted himself into first-round talk with his big day.


Johnny Manziel

The biggest name of all in attendance at Lucas Oil Stadium came to play. 

Johnny Manziel proved that he is a competitor through strong showings in all drills, silencing any critics who previously questioned his effort.

Manziel's 40-yard dash, while not a particularly important drill for the position, displayed this notion best as he posted a time better than San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick:

Manziel's conditioning coach Ryan Flaherty helped to explain why the dash itself showed how hard his client has been working since the collegiate season ended, via Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News: "The hard part is, what people don't understand, is that Johnny, he just can't wake up and do that in the 40, there's technique that's involved. Quick is still more what the game is all about, and that's where he stands out. He's been developing his quickness for a while."

Johnny Football's epic performance hardly ended after his quarterback-best time in the dash. He was also impressive in other speed drills, as Rotoworld's Josh Norris points out:

Even Manziel's 6.75 time in the 3-cone drill was one of the top numbers at the position:

As the weekend concluded, Manziel may have helped himself the most with his perception-changing performance in all drills. Fans always expect highlights from one of the sport's most polarizing players, and Manziel delivered in Indianapolis.


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