2014 NFL Draft: Highlighting This Year's Most Physically Gifted Athletes
With just a few weeks to go until the 2014 NFL draft begins, scouts are watching college talent more closely than ever, looking for anything that might be a clue as to how well they could perform in the NFL.
This is one of the reasons the scouting combine has become so big, especially in scouting circles. An extra few reps on the bench press or an extra one-tenth of a second off of a 40-yard dash time can do wonders for someone's draft stock.
Those who have shown their remarkable athleticism both throughout college and at the combine run the gamut from top picks to potential seventh-rounders, but all of them have enough raw talent that a team will surely take a chance on them.
5. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
A defensive tackle making a list of physically gifted athletes is not exactly the easiest claim to support. Then again, Aaron Donald is not your ordinary defensive tackle. He's just over 6'0" and 285 pounds, yet you would not think it with his combine numbers.
The 35 bench press reps may not be much of a surprise, but a 4.68 40-yard dash time and 7.11 three-cone drill time, both first among defensive tackles, is simply mind-blowing.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports says that Donald, "comes off the snap like he's shot out of a cannon." That kind of description for a defensive tackle comes around once in a great while. Suffice to say, he's an athlete at a position you would not expect to find one.
The fact that he was able to sack Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas twice speaks volumes about his explosive ability, considering that Thomas' athleticism is nearly unmatched as well.
4. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Every year, there's at least one wide receiver who blows people away with his combine numbers. Brandin Cooks was already well known in the Pac-12 for his speed, but his performance at the combine put him on the map nationally.
He had a 40-yard dash time of 4.33 seconds, a 20-yard shuttle time of 3.41 and a 10.72 60-yard shuttle time. All three led all wide receivers, and the latter two are the best times put up by any player in the past few years.
The 40-yard dash tells us of Cooks' great speed, but the shuttle times show that he can practically stop on a dime and change course almost immediately. Not only is it a great trait for a wide receiver to have, but it also showcases his athleticism in a big way.
Cooks is a bit undersized, and as such, there may be some coaching staffs that only see him as a slot receiver at the next level. If his college numbers and shuttle times are any indication, however, he can be a force inside as well.
3. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas was one of the most frustrating players to watch when it came to his college career. It seemed like every other game he struggled big time, and the reason it hurt to watch is the reason he is on this list.
In short, he's one of the best athletes available in the draft without question. In every single combine drill, his numbers were either the best of any quarterback or near the top.
His numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.61), vertical jump (35.5") and broad jump (9'10") were the best of any quarterback, and his 4.18 time in the 20-yard shuffle was a close second to Johnny Manziel.
While his quarterback play isn't going to be enough to give him an NFL career, his athleticism is excellent enough that, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper and others, he could become a tight end in the NFL thanks to his skill set.
2. Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
The phrase "track-team speed" gets thrown around a lot in scouting reports, especially during draft season. Dri Archer is one of the few people who can legitimately lay claim to that phrase, having run track in high school against Denard Robinson (and beating him).
When it comes to pure speed, there's no one better than the Kent State running back in this year's class. His 40-yard dash time of 4.26 seconds was the best in this year's draft class by almost a full tenth of a second.
Beyond that, his vertical jump of 38" was near the top of the running back list, and he finished second in the 20-yard shuttle with a 4.06 time.
At 5'8", Archer is not going to be an every-down back in the NFL, but his raw speed could make him, if nothing else, an ace in the kick-return game.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney is someone who, quite simply, on another level. It's almost as if the game of football is being played in slow motion to him, as his athleticism is something that can't be duplicated.
His 40-yard dash time of 4.53 was not only the best among defensive linemen, but was also in the top three if you include linebackers. His vertical jump (37") and broad jump (10'4") numbers were second overall, showcasing his leaping ability on top of his speed.
Rob Rang at CBS Sports notes his athletic ability best, saying he has an "exceedingly rare combination of size, explosiveness, strength, speed and technique."
We have seen him perform on the field and know that he has playing ability. If he ends up struggling in the NFL, it will not be due to his raw talent, because he has more of that than anyone this year.
All combine numbers are from NFL.com.