Of all the offseason workouts leading up to the NFL draft, the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine is by far the biggest spectacle for scouts, coaches and players alike.
And with the combine officially coming to a close, there are several players who are climbing up draft boards thanks to a strong showing. Whether it was due to their speed, strength or simply measurables that stood out, multiple players left the combine having confidence that they made an impact.
The 2014 NFL draft may still be months away, but the excitement for quite a few players will continue to grow steadily.
Here's a look at a few of those players along with analysis of what made their combine performance so special.
It was a great week for tight ends, but C.J. Fiedorowicz might have done enough to put his name near the top of the list.
The Iowa big man was already known as one of the best "Y" tight ends of the class thanks to his great hands and gritty blocking ability. But he didn't quite measure up to the likes of Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro at the top of draft boards.
Not known for his speed coming in, Fiedorowicz made a splash with his athletic ability, as Doug Kyed of NESN points out:
C.J. Fiedorowicz also led tight ends with a 4.26 short shuttle. He helped himself today. 4.76 40-yard dash.— Doug Kyed (@DougKyedNESN) February 22, 2014
Along with his numbers on the field, Fiedorowicz made an impression on some scouts with his talk about who he models his game after, as Jeff How of the Boston Herald tweets:
Fiedorowicz: "I like watching Rob Gronkowski. That's someone I look up to. ... That’s who I want to be like."— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) February 20, 2014
That's not such a bad role model to have, especially at the tight end position.
With the New England Patriots having a need to fill with the loss of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski being off the field more than on it in 2013, Fiedorowicz might have the chance to take over for the player he looks up to or at least play alongside him.
The old phrase goes, "Speed kills." And for Dri Archer, his speed killed the combine.
The Kent State running back didn't come in with a lot of hype around him like some others in Ka'Deem Carey or Carlos Hyde, but he improved his draft stock with his 40-yard dash alone.
Archer's 4.26 time in the 40 was enough to have Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, who holds the combine record with a 4.24 out of East Carolina, sweating bullets:
Can't lie archer had the boi nervous— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) February 23, 2014
Look, Archer may not have put together the best numbers in 2013 with just 527 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games, but he showed scouts that he still has the same explosiveness he had back in 2012.
With one season of 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns along with an average of nine yards per carry—yes, nine yards—scouts already knew he had the playmaking ability. Now with the knowledge that he's the fastest in his class to go along with those stats, Archer came away being talked about.
And if for nothing else, Archer is being talked about much more than when he came in. It worked for Johnson, and it might just work for the Kent State product.
Coming into the combine, Brandin Cooks was seen as an explosive wide receiver that could fit in the slot for any team and might be able to move outside a la Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers.
Following the combine, there's no doubt that Cooks has the ability to play anywhere on the field and thrive for an NFL team.
All Cooks did was set records and crush the class with his legs, as Josh Norris of NBC Sports and Kyle Bonagura of ESPN noted:
I didn't catch this before, but Brandin Cooks posted a 3.81 short shuttle. Tied (with Jason Allen) for the best of ANY position since 2006.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 25, 2014
Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks' time in the 60-yard shuttle (10.72) is the fastest time ever in http://t.co/1gYAm6tTSj combine database.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) February 24, 2014
With those impressive times, Cooks did enough to leave coaches with an impression of his ability. But after his 40-yard dash alone, Cooks was $100,000 richer and earned praise from NFL.com's Bucky Brooks:
Not surprised by @brandincooks by his blistering 40-time. He torched the PAC-12 with his speed & burst.— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 23, 2014
The comparison to Smith was not only about the fact that he's undersized or thanks to his speed, but also his hands and playmaking ability. The Oregon State receiver also showed those skills off in his on-field drills, despite the fact that they weren't measured.
As for the comparison to Smith, Cooks doesn't shy away from it and actually said he believes they have some of the same traits, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee:
Brandin Cooks on comparisons to Steve Smith: "He's a cold-blooded killer, and that's what I feel I am."— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) February 21, 2014
What this means for Cooks is that he now emerges as a near lock to go in the first round. Coming in as a tweener for the first or second rounds, the OSU receiver now has the numbers to go along with the tape and doesn't have to press during his pro day.
If a team like the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers—both teams looking for receivers late in the first—end up taking Cooks, they will get a receiver who can develop under the experience of either Smith or Anquan Boldin and have a great career.
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