NFL Combine 2014 Results: Breaking Down Most Impressive Performers

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NFL Combine 2014 Results: Breaking Down Most Impressive Performers
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is a place for prospects to boost their profiles, and while some big-name players from more prominent college football programs have stood out, several other relative unknowns have shined in Indianapolis.

As important as the quarterback position is in football, there wasn't all that much to be excited about since UCF's Blake Bortles was the only one of the top-flight stars at his position to participate in the throwing portion. There are plenty of others who choose to take part in only a select number of drills, but some are so impressive in the drills they do that it almost doesn't matter.

Let's take a closer look at the most impressive performers from Lucas Oil Stadium as the combine comes to a close on Tuesday.

 

Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Ryan Shazier Combine Numbers and Measurements
Height Weight Arm length Hand size Bench Press Broad Jump Vertical Leap 3-Cone Drill 20-yard shuttle
6'1" 237 lbs 32 3/8" 10" 25 reps 10'10" 42" 6.91 4.20

Source: NFL.com

The speedy outside linebacker captivated Columbus with his playmaking ability for the Buckeyes and showcased eye-popping totals with his lower-body strength.

Shazier registered a vertical leap of 42" and a 10'10" broad jump. The former number was the highest total of anyone at the combine, while the broad jump ranked second among all defensive players. It would have been fun to see Shazier run the 40, but interested parties will have to wait for his pro day.

That leaves some mystery for the future to see just how fast Shazier is. He seems confident that the time will be somewhere in the 4.4 range, per CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler:

The game tape says he is instinctive, smart and can fly to the football without hesitation, which all suggest greatness in the NFL despite being slightly undersized.

Shazier's game brings to mind Tampa Bay Buccaneers All-Pro Lavonte David, who was selected in the second round out of Nebraska in 2012. Front offices in need at the position are no doubt befuddled by David's production, and if Shazier slips beyond Round 1, he could have many franchises feeling the same way.

Film often doesn't lie about how a player will progress from college to the NFL. If that applies to Shazier, he proved capable of blowing scouts away with his pure talent in addition to his actual production at Ohio State, where he racked up 144 total tackles (23.5 for loss), seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2013.

 

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern

Jerick McKinnon Combine Numbers and Measurements
Height Weight Arm length Hand size Bench Press 40-yard dash Broad Jump Vertical Leap 3-Cone Drill 20-yard shuttle
5'9" 209 lbs 30 1/4" 8 5/8" 32 reps 4.41 11' 40.5" 6.83 4.12

Source: NFL.com

Having a great strength-to-weight ratio is one thing, but what McKinnon did in Indianapolis almost seems impossible given his physical dimensions.

McKinnon's numbers can be seen above, and they speak for themselves. The Georgia Southern product wowed everyone who witnessed his blistering speed, amazing leaping ability and quick-twitch, seamless acceleration all over the field.

The problem is he didn't have a true position throughout his collegiate career. While that does help his chances of being plugged in someplace as a pro from a small school, the secret will be figuring out where he fits in best.

As a change-of-pace back, sure, he could provide a spark. Then again, he only had 10 career receptions in college and would need to develop that facet of his game to be effective in a third-down role.

Considering how many reps he put up on the bench, though, McKinnon seems fully capable of using his combination of a stout, stacked frame and burst to be a slippery runner between the tackles who can also bounce it outside.

Wildcat packages may be in McKinnon's future, and that may be it. At the very least, he boosted his stock from a virtual unknown to a likely late-round draftee.

 

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney Combine Numbers and Measurements
Height Weight Arm length Hand size Bench Press 40-yard dash Broad Jump Vertical Leap 3-Cone Drill
6'5" 1/4" 266 lbs 34 1/2" 10" 21 reps 4.53 10'4" 37.5" 7.27

Source: NFL.com

Yes, he left many draft pundits and NFL talent evaluators shaking their heads when he didn't participate in the majority of field drills, but what Clowney managed to still do at his size was nevertheless mind-boggling.

With a 40-yard dash time of 4.53, the former Gamecocks standout made a big statement, and CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman made an appropriate cross-sports analogy to dismiss concern about Clowney's uninspiring bench press:

After that, Clowney exploded for 10'4" in the broad jump and registered a 37.5" vertical leap. Just how are opposing quarterbacks going to throw over him at the next level if he gives maximum effort?

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Work ethic and passion for the game are among the biggest questions surrounding Clowney, and he did himself no favors by sitting out certain drills. However, if he even comes close to reaching his potential, any team that passed him up at the top of the draft will regret it, short of one landing a legendary QB.

Clowney holds the key to his bright future in his hands. What he decides to do with it will be among the most compelling NFL developments to watch in the next few years.

 

Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

Dri Archer Combine Numbers and Measurements
Height Weight Arm length Hand size Bench Press 40-yard dash Broad Jump Vertical Leap 3-Cone Drill 20-yard shuttle
5'8" 173 lbs 31" 8 7/8" 20 reps 4.26 10'2" 38" 6.86 4.06

Source: NFL.com

The most hyped event at the combine is the 40-yard dash, and Archer finished first amongst all competitors with a blazing time of 4.26 seconds. That is just ridiculous. 

To put it in perspective, NFL Network's Rich Eisen took to the white strip at Lucas Oil Stadium for his annual jaunt. Eisen did have a comparatively terrible time of 5.98, but just look at how quick Archer is in comparison:

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

Although the bench press does depend largely on arm length—the longer the arms, the harder it is to get up so many repetitions—it was nevertheless a pleasant surprise that Archer got 225 pounds up 20 times. Archer has a solid explosive strength from his chest that should aid his efforts to shake tacklers at the next level.

Passing up on a player as fast and shifty in terms of lateral quickness as Archer may be difficult for teams in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.

An injury-plagued senior campaign may discourage teams away from Archer due to durability concerns, but his junior season was off the charts. Archer caught 39 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns while running for 1,429 yards (9.0 average) and 16 additional scores.

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Oh, and he returned three kickoffs for TDs that year, which makes a comparison to Kansas City Chiefs dynamo Dexter McCluster logical.

There were a ton of prospects to look at during the NFL Scouting Combine, but selecting several of the top performers from each event and those who did extraordinary things for their respective sizes seemed the best way to go. All four of these prospects will likely be drafted all over the board in May's draft.

Having said that, this is a microcosm of the spectacle that is the combine. Some of the drills matter, a lot of them don't and the majority of evaluation will come from game tape. But that doesn't stop a slew of players from showing up and looking for that extra edge.

Archer, along with the analyzed trio above, showed off the raw, breathtaking athleticism that most in the world could only dream of possessing. That simple factor is perhaps what makes the combine most special.

 

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

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