NFL Combine 2014: Winners and Losers from Indianapolis

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 26, 2014

NFL Combine 2014: Winners and Losers from Indianapolis

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    It's important to remember that the NFL Scouting Combine is only one part of the draft process. You can debate all day about how large a part it is or should be, but it still does a lot to shed light on a very complex and important segment on the annual NFL calendar. 

    Inevitably, 10 to 15 players see their stock rise each year in Indianapolis, while usually about the same amount are victims of the opposite effect. 

    It doesn't mean you're golden, and it doesn't mean you're sunk. Pro days and private workouts can be land mines and/or safety nets, and the draft is still nine whole weeks away. 

    Still, here's a look at who helped themselves and who hurt themselves this week at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

    All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.

Winner: Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)

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    If there was any debate whether South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the best athlete in this draft, it was probably put to bed when the 6'5", 266-pounder ran a 4.53 40-yard dash and was a top-five performer in both the vertical and broad jump among defensive linemen.

    Ultimately, only two front-seven defenders were faster than Clowney, but he had about 30-40 pounds on Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.51) and Telvin Smith (4.52), both of whom are linebackers. In fact, if he were a cornerback, he still would have ranked 18th out of 32 players in the 40. 

    It's enough to make you wonder if the Texans might look past technique concerns and low sack numbers to make Clowney the No. 1 overall pick in May's draft. 

Loser: Will Sutton (DT, Arizona State)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It's been a rough draft process thus far for Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton. Here's a guy who could have been a first-round pick had he come out early last year. Instead, he stayed in school, put on weight and looked heavy and slow as a senior. 

    That didn't change at the combine, with Sutton weighing in at 303 pounds and posting a 5.36 40-yard dash, which looks especially bad considering how quick his fellow big guys were running this year. 

Winner: Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Some may question Justin Gilbert's technique and cover skills, but there's no denying he's one of the most physically gifted players in this draft. The 6'0", 202-pound cornerback out of Oklahoma State ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash, setting the tone at that position. 

    In fact, according to ESPN, he became only the eighth defensive back taller than 6 feet in the last nine years to run a 40 in 4.37 seconds or less. 

    He was also one of only seven defensive backs to hit 20 reps on the bench press while finishing eighth in the broad jump. 

    That's enough to make the kid a top-10 talent on Matt Miller's draft board

Loser: Cyrus Kouandjio (OT, Alabama)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    As talented as former Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio may be, it's beginning to look as though the knee problems that have plagued him since tearing his ACL in 2011 will prevent him from becoming a top-flight draft prospect. 

    NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported in Indianapolis that "several teams have failed (Kouandijo) on his physical" as a result of an "arthritic knee from failed surgery."

    He did manage to run through the full gauntlet of drills, but that didn't help. Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net concluded that Kouandijo was "sluggish, slow and totally unprepared."

Winner: Jerick McKinnon (RB, Georgia Southern)

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    Sorry, De'Anthony Thomas, it looks like Georgia Southern product Jerick McKinnon could be the best offensive Swiss army knife in this draft. The kid put on an absolute show in Indy, placing in the top five among running backs in all six workouts he participated in. 

    Above, our Matt Miller has more on a dude who played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and special teams in the Sun Belt Conference. 

Loser: Ka'Deem Carey (RB, Arizona)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Former Arizona back Ka'Deem Carey isn't known as a burner, so he wasn't supposed to tear up the 40-yard dash. Still, a time of 4.70 has to be extremely disappointing, especially considering that he failed to stand out in the rest of the exercises. 

    Carey could have made up for that elsewhere, but Javier Morales from College Sports Xchange reports that he took heat for his performance in pass-catching drills as well. 

Winner: Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)

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    Very rarely do you see a 285-pound human run a 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, which is why Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald's stock continued to rise in Indianapolis. That first step reveals how explosive he is, but he's also powerful, as was evidenced by his 35 reps in the bench press (second among players at that position). 

    Considering that as well as his stellar performances at the Senior Bowl, it's easy to envision Donald becoming a top-15 pick in May. 

Loser: Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)

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    First, this is what Auburn defensive end Dee Ford had to say about his draft nemesis, Jadeveon Clowney, on SiriusXM NFL Radio

    I'm better (than Clowney). Let's put it like this. People like to talk about size all the time. Size is pretty much overrated in my eyes. You can look at guys like Robert Mathis, Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller. These are 6-2 guys and under. People are just looking at the fact that he's a physical specimen. Honestly if you watch the film, he plays like a blind dog in a meat market, basically.

    Then, after that rip job, and after Clowney tore it up with an unreal showing in the 40-yard dash, Ford was scratched for medical reasons. A back issue dating back to 2011 caused the red flag, per Steve Wyche of NFL Media, which might not be a major concern. Still, it definitely slowed some of the momentum the kid had built at the Senior Bowl. 

Winner: AJ McCarron (QB, Alabama)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    This spot could have just as easily gone to Blake Bortles, who, like AJ McCarron, looked good throwing the ball. But the Alabama quarterback had more to gain because he hasn't been projected to be as high of a draft pick as Bortles. 

    As expected, McCarron failed to impress during his non-passing workouts, but during passing drills he looked accurate and poised, throwing strikes while many of his quarterback peers remained on the sideline. 

    It was a gutsy decision to throw, and McCarron has received plenty of praise for coming through despite not being able to control to whom he was throwing. As a result, the 23-year-old may have solidified himself as a second-round pick. 

Loser: Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)

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    The 2014 combine was all about missed opportunities for former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who didn't throw or run the 40-yard dash, all while counterparts Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles performed well. 

    On top of that, in the video above, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported that a source from one team told him Bridgewater came off as "aloof."

    Bridgewater said he didn't throw because he's a perfectionist and wanted to have more control over his targets, according to Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel, but he won't always have that luxury when things are in flux at the professional level. I think it reflects somewhat poorly on him that he decided not to participate. 

    Regardless of whether you support Bridgewater's decision, it places more pressure on the 21-year-old as he prepares to perform at Louisville's pro day on March 17.

Winner: Jordan Tripp (LB, Montana)

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    Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp definitely boosted his draft stock at the combine with the fastest 20-yard shuttle time at that position along with a solid 4.67-second 40-yard dash and a top-four finish in the three-cone drill. 

    In the video above, Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen sings Tripp's praises based on a solid showing in Indy. 

Loser: Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)

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    This was a good combine for wide receivers. Allen Robinson was an exception. 

    The junior from Penn State could only run a 4.60 40-yard dash and managed to finish in the top five at his position in only one drill. Considering what guys like Brandin Cooks (4.33 40), Odell Beckham (4.43) and Mike Evans (solid all-around showing) were able to do, that performance might have cost Robinson quite a bit.

    As Matt Miller points out in the video above, Robinson wasn't expected to run at an exceptionally fast speed, but he needed to do more, especially with so many receivers laying it down. 

Winner: Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    In 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, Jim Jeffcoat accumulated 102.5 sacks. But based on what his son, Jackson, has been doing early in the 2014 draft process, don't be surprised if he one day eclipses that mark. 

    The former Texas defensive end posted an impressive 4.63-second 40-yard dash in Indy while also faring well by finishing in the top four at his position in the broad jump and the three-cone drill. 

    That made up for a poor showing in the bench press, where Jeffcoat could manage only 18 reps at 225 pounds. That ranked in the bottom 10 at his position, but keep in mind that the 22-year-old suffered two pectoral tears during his college career. 

Loser: Michael Sam (DE, Missouri)

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    There's been a lot of positive talk about Michael Sam's impressive showing in front of the media in Indy. In fact, B/R's Mike Freeman documented that quite well right here.

    But when Sam stepped out from behind the microphone, it was a slightly different story. 

    His 4.91 40-yard dash was slower than expected, landing him 18th among defensive linemen. His 17 reps at bench press was tied for the second-worst mark at that position, and he was tied for 39th with a 25.5-inch vertical jump. 

    The whole thing has draft guru Gil Brandt wondering if Sam is a man without a position in the NFL. If he was a mid-round pick prior to the combine, he might be dropping into the late rounds as we enter March. 

Winner: Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn)

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    Greg Robinson might not be as polished as Jake Matthews, but he'll force scouts and general managers to consider making him the first offensive tackle to go off the board in May, simply because the sky's the limit when you're as physically impressive as this guy is. 

    Despite weighing 24 pounds less than Matthews, Robinson was able to crush 32 reps at the bench press, besting Matthews' mark of 24. The former Auburn left tackle also ran a 4.92-second 40-yard dash, which was second best among players at that position, and had the third-best broad jump. 

    Don't be surprised if Robinson and his 35-inch arms are picked in the top five. 

Loser: Antonio Richardson (OT, Tennessee)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    While Greg Robinson was tearing it up, former Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio Richardson saw his stock plummet for multiple reasons in Indy. His performance as a whole was criticized roundly.

    According to The Tennessean's Jim Wyatt, NFL Media's Bucky Brooks concluded that Richardson's "stock is certain to tumble after a disappointing workout." He also took heat for being too slow and was labeled with a fifth-round grade by NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah

    That came within an NFL.com report by Chase Goodbread in which analyst Charles Davis suggests that the big guy might even have to "redshirt" during his rookie season due to knee problems. 

    Right now, I'm not sure I'd touch this guy with a 10-foot pole, especially in Round 1. 

Winner: Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)

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    Ryan Shazier is fast and explosive, something that was verified at the combine. The former Ohio State linebacker had the best broad jump and vertical jump among players at that position.

    But it was a solid 25-rep performance at the bench press that should help ease the minds of those who feared he lacks strength. 

    Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle is a fan

Loser: Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd failed to impress with a 4.84-second 40-yard dash while struggling with his accuracy in passing drills. Not good considering his draft stock already looked to be declining. 

    Oh, and nearly everyone ditched his press conference as soon as it was announced that Sammy Watkins had taken the podium. 

    Tough weekend. 

Winner: Russell Bodine (C, North Carolina)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    North Carolina center Russell Bodine dominated the bench press with 42 reps of 225 pounds. No other combine participant had more than 36. 

    That alone should be enough to boost his stock, but his 5.18-second 40-yard dash wasn't too shabby for a 310-pound center, nor was his 29-inch vertical jump, which ranked fifth among all offensive linemen. 

    His 32.5-inch arms remain a concern, but someone is bound to be intrigued by Bodine's physical skill set following his performance in Indy. 

Loser: Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    LSU's Jarvis Landry was the slowest receiver to run in the entire combine, and by a margin of four one hundredths of a second, which is quite substantial when everyone is between 4.3 and 4.8. Even as a possession receiver who isn't known for his speed, that's rough.

    He also finished second-to-last in the broad jump and vertical jump before pulling a hamstring, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun

    Landry will have a chance to atone for a tough combine at LSU's pro day April 9, as well as in private workouts, but his stock definitely fell in Indy. 

Winner: Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR, LSU)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    While LSU teammate Jarvis Landry struggled, wide receiver Odell Beckham dazzled in Indy, posting a solid 4.43-second 40-yard dash and finishing in the top three at that position in the 20- and 60-yard shuttles. 

    Sure, he could only muster seven reps of 225 pounds on the bench, but Beckham really shined in positional drills. As a result, his stock continues to climb, so much so that he might now be the second receiver taken, behind only Sammy Watkins. 

Loser: Yawin Smallwood (LB, Connecticut)

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood was supposed to put on a show in the athletic drills, but he injured his hamstring during an ugly 5.01-second 40-yard dash. 

    Combine that with a measly 18 reps in the bench press and a last-place finish in the broad jump, and it was pretty much a nightmare combine for the 22-year-old. He'll have to prove that it was all bad luck when UConn holds its pro day next month. 

Winner: Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Not only did Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks run a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash, but the 20-year-old (yeah, he's only 20) also set a combine record 60-yard shuttle and tied the combine record in the 20-yard shuttle. Throw in that he also had a solid 16 bench press reps, and it's hard to see him falling any lower than Round 2. 

    We all knew Cooks played fast. Now we have the statistical evidence to back it up. 

    “Speed kills,” Cooks told the media on Saturday, according to Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk (via B/R's Dan Hope), "and I feel like that’s what I’m going to bring to the game."

    With the emphasis on speed growing throughout the league, this guy's stock is certainly rising. 

Loser: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    At 6'6" and 266 pounds, Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be a beast, but he wasn't able to establish that in Indianapolis. 

    Seferian-Jenkins did a measly 20 reps on his bench press and was pulled before he had a chance to participate in on-field drills due to medical red flags. He has a fracture in his foot, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net

    If he can't get things right before his pro day, ASJ's stock could really plummet. 

Winner: Dri Archer (RB, Kent State)

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    Any time you post a 4.26-second 40-yard dash, beating every other player at the combine by at least seven one hundredths of a second, you're going to see your stock rise. 

    That unbelievable run, which was just 0.02 seconds short of Chris Johnson's combine record, is the main reason everyone now knows Archer's name, but it's not the only reason he arguably "won" this year's event. The 22-year-old also finished in the top five in the vertical jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. 

    Archer might never be a full-time back, or even a one-position player, but with that ability, he'll undoubtedly be drafted come May. 

Loser: Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas didn't run the 40-yard dash, which is his prerogative. But with Eric Ebron running well, Niklas' stock may have fallen anyway.

    Apparently, he was dealing with a groin injury, but that didn't stop him from taking part in almost every other drill. He fared well in the 60-yard shuttle and had a solid 27 reps on the bench, but poor performances in the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill didn't help. 

    Niklas will have to atone for all of that at Notre Dame's pro day.