NFL Combine 2014 Wrap-Up: Post-Combine Stock Report for Every Position
Now that the combine has finished, we can take a look at who might have helped themselves or hurt themselves in Indianapolis.
Of course, the concept of rising stock is more about those of us who write about the draft catching up to the scouts, but the combine does impact some players, especially those who might be drafted in the later rounds.
It could be especially important this year. So many underclassmen have entered that a good or bad performance in front of all 32 teams could help you stand out more than ever.
That said, stocks only “rise” or “fall” so much after the combine and ultimately the impact of a good or bad performance is that a scout or coach will go back to check the game film they began with.
Times and measurables provided by the NFL’s official combine website, unless specified otherwise.
Stock Up Quarterback: Blake Bortles, UCF
Things were already going well for UCF quarterback Blake Bortles even before he arrived, because of his decision to throw in Indianapolis. As the Orlando Sentinel’s Paul Tenorio and Iliana Limon Romero reported, coaches and analysts loved the move.
Bortles spoke about his decision to throw during his combine interview:
My mind was always made up, it was just waiting on the right time to announce it. Getting information from a lot of people. But I want to compete. That’s kind of who I am, that’s what I want to do. I look forward to doing everything here. That’s kind of the way I was brought up and who I am.
Teams love to see guys who want to, and are willing to, compete.
As the top quarterback prospect among those who participated in the passing drills, it was Bortles’ game to lose—and he rose to the occasion.
As NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks remarked in his look at the winners and losers, he looked the part physically, showed off his athleticism and had an excellent day on the passing drills.
Of course, a workout should never trump tape, but it’s part of the puzzle. That he was willing to step up when other top prospects weren't and then was able to perform well will be noted.
As impressive as he was on the field, people still think of him as a prospect who needs some time to develop. He knows this, and also hit all the right notes when asked about it.
There’s no doubt I need coaching, I need help. I think everybody in the game does. There’s reasons why all these greats out there are continuing to play and continuing to work in the offseason and get coached. One-hundred percent, I need coaching, I need help and I’m going to work my butt off to do everything I can to be the best that I can be to help a team be the best that they can be.
Of course, acknowledging you have some raw spots might seem like a bad idea to some, but showing a willingness to learn and get better will only endear him to coaches looking for a quarterback in this draft.
In the fight for that No. 1 overall spot, Bortles did everything he could to make the choice easier on teams.
All quotes acquired firsthand at the 2014 NFL combine.
Stock Down Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Poor Teddy Bridgewater didn’t even have to do anything to be downgraded.
Of course, not doing almost anything might have been the problem.
Especially as he pulled out of running the 40-yard dash after telling everyone he would, per Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm.
With no throwing drills, and only the broad jump, vertical, 20-yard shuttle and three-cone drills to watch, the media focused on everything else.
The NFL Network discussed hand size in one video, as did Sports On Earth’s Mike Tanier and Russ Lande. In his report on the winners and losers from Sunday, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks said teams were questioning his competitiveness.
Not throwing and pulling out of the 40-yard dash didn’t help his case on that front.
ESPN’s Pat McManamon wrote just this past Tuesday, when the quarterbacks were long past done, that despite adding nine pounds before the combine, his slight frame is a concern.
On the other side of the fence is NFL Network’s Mike Mayock (via NFL.com’s Mike Huguenin), who said Bridgewater was still the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft. Of course, Mayock also mentioned durability as an issue as well.
All this will go away (to some extent) if Bridgewater has a great pro day. The problem is, if he’s even the least bit off target, he’s left himself no room to bounce back.
Stock Up Running Back: Tre Mason, Auburn
With Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde hurt and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey underwhelming (more on that in a minute), the opportunity was there for another running back to make some noise.
That’s just what Auburn’s Tre Mason did, starting with a solid 40-yard dash of 4.5, though it fell short of the speed he was aiming for (a 4.3, as he told Brandon Marcello of AL.com).
The vertical and broad jump are the two which should most stand out as they are often representative of burst and explosiveness. His quick feet and decisive style were also on display during running back drills.
We can be pretty sure that no running back is going in the first round again this year, so getting selected early in the second round could mean a lot of money.
Mason’s performance will send teams back to the tape for another look, which might make him some cash come May.
Stock Down Running Back: Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
As close as things lie with the top running backs, even a little slip might make a difference.
Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey not only ran a fairly slow 40-yard dash (4.7 seconds), he looked sluggish as he did it.
Not only that, but he didn’t finish in the top 10 of any of the other “generic” drills. None of that is fatal, but given that he looks much different on tape, teams will probably go back to see if they can find a reason why there is such a gap between his play and his combine performance.
Specifically when it comes to his breakaway speed. Can he bust off long runs in the NFL? Did he look faster on tape because of the teams he played or does he truly play faster than his time?
It could be that they’ll notice something different or it could be that they’ll write the combine off as a bad day.
However, with the value of running backs diminished and no exceptional running back in the class, anything could play into the choice between two players on a team’s board.
The difference between his 4.7 and Tre Mason’s 4.5 might seem slight, but it could be (in the mind of a front office) the difference between out-running defenders for a big gain and not.
Stock Up Wide Receiver: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Nobody was particularly surprised that Clemson’s Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M’s Mike Evans were standouts. After all, those are both guys who could go in the top 15 picks, and will certainly be gone in the first round.
What was unexpected was the overall performance Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks put on. During his press conference, he said, “Speed kills and I feel like that’s what I’m going to bring to the game.”
He also looked very good during positional drills, and his hands, combined with his speed and elusiveness will make him very dangerous after the catch. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said Cooks is one of his favorite players in the draft, and that he’s “special with the ball in his hands” (per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com).
Cooks went to Indianapolis looking like a mid-second-round player at best, but there’s a strong chance that once teams look at his tape again after this past week, he may sneak up into the very early second, or perhaps even the first round.
Stock Down Wide Receiver: Jarvis Landry, LSU
Another guy who entered the week as a mid-range second-round pick, LSU’s Jarvis Landry may have left pretty much in the same spot, if not a little lower.
Landry was much slower than expected in the 40-yard dash (4.77) and didn’t jump well in the vertical (28.5 inches) or broad jump either (9.17 feet).
To put that in perspective, more than 45 receivers ran faster and jumped higher than Landry, while 39 jumped further.
Does that wipe out everything you see on tape?
It shouldn’t and we’ve certainly seen receivers test badly and succeed in the NFL.
But the times and distances will give teams pause and if they were on the fence between Landry and Cooks, well, Cooks will get a longer and more positive look.
Stock Up Tight End: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
The tight end class was underwhelming for the most part in Indianapolis, as many of the top prospects ended up hurt and those who did perform often did so below expectations.
Enter C.J. Fiedorowicz, who may not be the offensive threat that a guy like North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is, but can do everything well.
He was also fifth in his group on the bench press, which is a good sign for his prospects as a blocker.
While not a top pick at the position, Fiedorowicz did enough to move the needle a little and likely has a few teams giving his tape another look.
Stock Down Tight End: Colt Lyerla, Oregon
You may not recognize the name, but a quick Google search will catch you up to speed on former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla.
A complete home run at the combine might have moved him up a few teams' boards. But even though he performed well in drills as well as the bench press, broad jump and the 40-yard dash, he just didn’t do enough to overcome his past drama.
Especially in a post-Aaron Hernandez world.
Stock Up Offensive Line: Greg Robinson, Auburn
In the battle to be the first tackle to come off the board, Auburn’s Greg Robinson made a strong case for himself at the combine.
At 330 pounds, Robinson managed to run an impressive 4.92 40-yard dash. He also threw up 32 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, notable because of his 35” arms. The longer the arms, the harder it is to get that bar up and down, so ranking seventh out of 40 offensive linemen (guards and tackles both) is pretty impressive.
He also tied for third in the broad jump and looked great in positional drills.
On film you can see he has the size, strength and burst to be a very effective player. His performance at the combine backed that up.
Stock Down Offensive Line: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
When Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio showed up in Indianapolis, he was considered a potential first-round pick.
Now Kouandjio might be lucky if he goes in the first two days.
I talked about this earlier in the week, but to recap, Kouandjio looked poor in the workout, according to DraftInsider.net’s Tony Pauline, and failed medicals for multiple teams, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The culprit is an arthritic knee stemming from a previous surgery. It’s hard to say how much his poor performance was a byproduct of the bad knee and how much is just who Kouandjio is as a football player.
What we can say is that no team will risk a high pick on an offensive line prospect with a gimpy knee before he plays a single snap in the NFL.
Stock Up Defensive Line: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
There are still doubters to some extent, such as NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, who said (via Mike Huguenin at NFL.com) that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s 40-yard time was "just as impressive" as Clowney’s. Mayock and fellow NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp also had issues with Clowney’s tape, according to Huguenin, as they questioned his work ethic.
That said, those two seem to be in the minority. On top of the on-field stuff, Bleacher Report’s Michael Freeman said that Clowney crushed his interviews with teams.
That’s the biggest factor for Clowney and if what Freeman reports is true, it’s bigger than anything he did on the field and should lock him up as one of the top two or three prospects off the board.
Stock Down Defensive Line: Michael Sam, Missouri
Before we get too far, let me be clear that I have nothing but respect for what Missouri’s Michael Sam is doing as a trailblazer. He was impressive in every interview he had and carries himself very well off the field.
It’s on the field where the questions lie. Not quite big enough to be a defensive end for most teams, but not explosive or fast enough to be an outside linebacker (nor experienced enough in coverage). Sam is the definition of a “tweener” and often the NFL doesn’t know what to do with those guys.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network was on NFL AM and said it’s possible that Sam “could go undrafted,” per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com.
While I won’t go that far (none of what I saw was an earth-shattering surprise), Sam’s value has certainly taken a bit of a hit, as the expectations placed on him were higher than his tape showed.
There has always been a good chance that Sam’s NFL career was going to start off on special teams. Now it seems pretty certain.
Stock Up Linbacker: Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Coming into the combine, Buffalo’s Khalil Mack was considered to be neck and neck with UCLA’s Anthony Barr. But after excelling in most of the nonpositional drills and doing well in the field drills, Mack has gained an edge over Barr.
NFL.com’s Dan Parr reported that NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock feels Mack is more ready to step in and play immediately.
Of course, Mayock was already “all in” on Mack prior to the combine. Another NFL.com reporter, Mike Huguenin, wrote that Mayock told a Minneapolis radio station that he would take Mack first overall.
That’s unlikely, but also some high praise.
While you probably can’t go wrong with either player, Mack looked just a bit better across the board on Monday and definitely raised his stock.
Stock Down Linebacker: Yawin Smallwood, UConn
UConn’s Yawin Smallwood was hoping to improve his third-round grade in Indianapolis, but an injury during his 40-yard dash knocked him out of the combine and likely locked him into that spot.
At best, he’ll be able to improve upon his 5.01 40-yard time at his pro day and maybe move the needle a little bit.
Unfortunately, a chance to spotlight his athletic ability was lost because he pulled up lame in the 40.
Stock Up Cornerback: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
We tend to make a bit too much of speed on the track, as impressive 40-times make us forget that they’re run in perfect conditions by guys in shorts not pads.
That said, for cornerbacks it’s actually a trait that matters quite a bit. The ability to close quickly or adjust and move to where the ball is going can be critical.
So it was good timing that Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert put up a blistering 4.37 in the 40 on Tuesday. Already a virtual lock for a first-round selection, Gilbert might have put some heat on Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard.
Gilbert did more than just run fast, though. He was just about perfect in positional drills, looking smooth in his transitions and backpedal.
There was a lot to like about Gilbert before the combine, so a lot of this is just confirming what we’ve seen on tape.
There is still some time to determine who will end up being taken first between Dennard and Gilbert, but the combine may have pushed Gilbert at least a little ahead.
Stock Down Cornerback: Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Already a third-round prospect to some, Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy’s value took a huge hit with a terrible combine performance.
Purifoy ran a slow 40-yard dash, and showed no explosion in drills. He didn’t show any smoothness in positional drills and was altogether disappointing during his time on the field.
Of course, a good pro day might be able to right the ship, and certainly plenty of teams and scouts were going to head to Florida's anyway.
But Purifoy had a chance to close the gap a little and maybe draw a few more scouts in.
Stock Up Safety: Deone Bucannon, Washington State
The book on Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is that he lacks fluidity when changing direction, with stiff hips and choppy steps, but he looked much better than advertised in positional drills.
Bleacher Report’s own Matt Bowen came away from drills impressed, saying: “At 6’1”, 211 pounds, he is a physical, downhill safety. During the workouts, his movement skills were better than expected for a player many think is limited in the deep-middle/deep half. And his 4.49 40 time should draw some attention.”
We’ll all have to go back to the film to see if his performance in Indianapolis translates and you can be sure teams will drill him hard at his pro day and in private visits.
But he definitely took advantage of the stage at the combine.
Stock Down Safety: Calvin Pryor, Louisville
While Calvin Pryor will probably still go pretty high in the draft, it may be high on Day 2 rather than late on Day 1.
His performance in the drills was fine but several things stood out otherwise that might hurt him. First, there was an assumption that he topped 6 feet but instead he measured in at 5’11”, enough of a difference to make some teams a tad uncomfortable even at safety.
Pryor also ended up middle-of-the-road in the 40-yard dash, with a 4.58, and was near the bottom of the pack in the vertical leap.
All of that won’t completely sink him, but might knock him back a little. Considering how high some were on him, they may take another look at the tape and see if there are flaws they missed the first time around.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.