NFL Combine 2017: Winners and Losers from Friday's Workouts

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMarch 4, 2017

NFL Combine 2017: Winners and Losers from Friday's Workouts

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The goal of the NFL Scouting Combine's workouts is to see if the prospects' athletic prowess matches up with in-season evaluations. 

    When the offensive linemen and running backs stepped onto the turf Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the workouts matched most of the expectations. 

    For example, LSU's Leonard Fournettedespite a poor vertical jumpshowed exactly why he's considered the top running back prospect and a potential top-five selection in April's draft. 

    A few outliers manifested, though. 

    The combine is an endurance test. It's meant to test an individual's mettle. After a few days of grueling medical evaluations and team interviews, the young men are deprived of sleep and not operating at peak performance. A handful of players either rose to the occasion or fell flat. 

    Bleacher Report identified Friday's best and worst performers. 

Loser: Aviante Collins, TCU

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    The 40-yard dash is a funny thing. No singular event is better identified with the combine, yet it's also one of the most meaningless. 

    Of course, certain thresholds are expected to be met by every position. However, a 40 time does not make or break any prospect. 

    TCU's Aviante Collins caught everyone's attention when he posted a 4.81-second effort. His run is the third fastest by an offensive lineman since the NFL began posting the numbers in 2006. His 1.69-second 10-yard split is also a fantastic time for the 295-pound blocker. 

    A day earlier, Collins finished second among all of the offensive linemen with 34 reps on bench. 

    All of this overlooks the fact the TCU product performed poorly during his on-field workout. Ironically, Collins struggled during movement drills. The collegiate tackle didn't appear fluid when asked to change direction or open his hips. Instead, he rose in his stance and didn't keep a strong base. 

    Collins has fantastic bloodlines since his father and brother ran track at TCU, but NFL offensive line coaches will see he's not a natural offensive tackle and may need to play guard to hide his deficiencies. 

Winner: Ethan Pocic, LSU

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    The more a player can do; the more valuable he becomes. 

    LSU's Ethan Pocic falls on the other side of the spectrum to TCU's Aviante Collins. Pocic didn't finish among the top-five blockers in any of the combine's athletic events, yet he never looked out of place during drills. 

    This is where his true value can be found. Pocic stands above the restliterally and figuratively—due to his size at 6'6" and 310 pounds with the potential to play all five positions at the next level. 

    Thus, it became important for Pocic not to look out of place during any portion of the workout. He didn't. 

    Pocic is a center by trade, and he showed an aptitude toward pulling to either side while snapping the ball. He also looked natural in his deep pass set. The Illinois native even showed some of the best hip flexibility when dropping straight back. 

    All of these are important not only if a team projects him to guard or tackle but if they want him to play center as well. Height and length are great, but they can be a hindrance for a center. Pocic never once looked overwhelmed or out of place. 

    His business-like approach means he could be an immediate starter at the next level.

Loser: Rushel Shell, West Virginia

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    West Virginia running back Rushel Shell took a circuitous path to the combine. It seems to have slowed him down in more ways than one. 

    Once a top high school recruit, Shell originally committed to Pittsburgh, left to join the Arizona Wildcats, never played a down in the desert and eventually landed at West Virginia. The running back never ran for more than 788 yards in a single season, and his workout won't inspire NFL teams into believing Shell is a potential feature back. 

    The 227-pound runner posted a 4.74-second 40-yard dash. Only one other non-fullbackIndiana's Devine Reddingrecorded a worse time. 

    Shell isn't explosive and didn't look the part at any point during his workouts. Better times in the events may have persuaded a team to take a chance on this former top talent. Instead, he looked like a future undrafted free agent.

Winner: Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Broad jump and 10-yard splits are two of the most important combine events for offensive linemen. These indicate lower-body explosionwhich serves as an indication of how a blocker fires out of his stance. 

    Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp finished among the top performances in both categories. Lamp tied for third with a 9'3" broad jump and posted a 1.75-second 10-yard performers, via NFL Network's telecast. 

    The collegiate offensive tackle also ranked as one of the fastest linemen with a five-second 40-yard dash and one of the strongest with 34 bench reps. 

    The Western Kentucky product is a complete prospect. Even his arm length (32.25 inches) measured longer in Indianapolis than during his time at the Reese's Senior Bowl. 

    His overall lack of length will still force him to play guard or center in the NFL, but his experience on the blind side became evident during his combine performance. Lamp was patient and sound in his pass set as he easily beat defenders to the edge.

    If a team is willing to take a chance on a non-traditional option, Lamp could play left tackle. Either way, his future team will get one of the best and most athletic blockers in this year's class.

Loser: Corey Clement, Wisconsin

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Traditionally, Wisconsin running backs haven't done well in the NFL. Melvin Gordon and James White are trying to change that perception, but there are always questions about these runners due to the system. 

    NFL teams ask whether they're prepared to play in the passing game because even the most productive Badgers back isn't asked to play a big part in that area. 

    Corey Clement answered the call at the Reese's Senior Bowl by showing a willingness to block. Yet he might have left teams with more questions after his combine performance. The New Jersey native isn't the most natural receiver, and there's a reason why Wisconsin's coaching staff relied heavily on Dare Ogunbowale as its third-down back. 

    Clement isn't explosive enough to be a mismatch in the passing game. His 4.68-second 40-yard dash only feeds into that perception. Plus, the running back needed to address personal issues. 

    "He checked out mentally on the entire 2015 season and wasn't very well liked inside that program. Then you add durability concerns and that's a problem," an anonymous NFC North scout told's Lance Zierlein

    Poor speed, concerns over attitude and questions about how effective he can be in the passing game are a dangerous combination among a draft class loaded with other running back talent. 

Winner: Cam Robinson, Alabama

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Can Alabama's Cam Robinson play left tackle at the next level?

    This question dogged the reigning Outland Trophy winner throughout the draft process. He provided a resounding answer during his combine workout. 

    Robinson should be considered a blindside protector from this point forward. 

    "I definitely feel I'm the best tackle here," the Alabama product said prior to Saturday's workout, per the College Football 24/7 

    His performance nearly accomplished the goal if not for one other prospect, who will show up a little later. 

    Much like LSU's Ethan Pocic earlier, a single drill didn't set Robinson apart from his contemporaries. His overall workout did. In fact, Robinson didn't finish among the top-five performers in any specific category. 

    His movement skills were exceptional during position drills, though. Robinson looked like a superior athlete worthy of a potential first-round pick. He mirrored well in the pass-set drills and displayed good pop during run-blocking drills. 

    Ultimately, Robinson may end up as a right tackle or even guard for an NFL team. But this 21-year-old blocker has yet to fully realize his potential and should get a long look at left tackle before that's even considered. 

Loser: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Oklahoma's Samaje Perine holds the NCAA's record for the most rushing yards in a single contest. His 427-yard effort against the Kansas Jayhawks in 2015 was special. 

    His performance at the NFL combine wasn't. 

    Perine is a 233-pound downhill runner. He's not going to wow anyone with his lateral agility or top-end speed. Even so, a 4.65-second 40-yard dash is disappointing. 

    That can be explained away to a degree due to his size, but he also looked sluggish and required extra steps in his cuts. They weren't precise nor explosive. 

    The Oklahoma product isn't much of a receiver, either. In three seasons, he caught 45 passes for the Sooners. Instead, Joe Mixon served as the Sooners' third-down back. During position workouts, Perine fought the ball a little bit. 

    Shared backfields are the norm in today's NFL. Perine can serve as a bigger and more physical back among a rotation, but his limitations may not provide him with many more opportunities. 

Winner: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Since Hollywood remakes every movie, Christian McCaffrey should replace Robert Redford as Roy Hobbsnow playing footballin "The Natural." 

    No one on the field Friday looked as smooth or fluid. Everything just came naturally to McCaffrey, whether he was running the 40-yard dash or snatching the ball out of the air in pass-catching drills. 

    His change-of-direction skills are truly rare with beautifully precise cuts. As NFL Research noted, only one running back during the last 15 combines posted a better time in the three-cone drill. 

    McCaffrey enters the league at the perfect time, too.

    He'll never be an every-down back, but he doesn't need to be. Even at 202 pounds, he can run between the tackles. More importantly, he's a home run threat as a runner, a mismatch as a receiver and a dynamic returner. 

    Neither LSU's Leonard Fournette nor Florida State's Dalvin Cook did anything to hurt their status as top running back prospects. However, the big two is now a big three, and some teams might prefer McCaffrey depending on how they plan to use the Stanford prospect.

Loser: USC Offensive Linemen

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    USC offensive linemen Zach Banner and Damien Mama combined to weigh 687 pounds upon their arrival in Indianapolis. In truth, the massive duo likely weighed more during their collegiate careers prior to their preparation for the NFL combine. 

    Size doesn't equal skill, though. It showed during workouts since neither moved well. 

    Surprisingly, Banner ran a faster 40-yard dash at 5.58 seconds. Mama posted a woeful 5.84-second effort. Of course, the 40-yard dash means little for linemen, yet both are poor numbers compared to their contemporaries. 

    Banner's lack of agility appeared when asked to move laterally. He's a hulking figure and difficult to get around, but he struggled to reach the aiming points in his pass set. His shoulders were turned too early with little to no flexibility displayed in his lower body. 

    Mama's poor mobility is protected at guard to a degree. Even so, his change-of-direction times were miserable. For example, his time in the three-cone drill was nearly a full second-and-a-half slower than the fastest lineman. His short shuttle wasn't as bad but still among the slowest. 

    The NFL used to rely on massive road-graders along the offensive line, but that's no longer the case. 

Winner: Garett Bolles, Utah

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Buzz began for Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles prior to Friday's on-field workout. It amplified when he blew away the rest of the offensive linemen Saturday. 

    His candid response during Thursday's media session set the tone for his combine experience. 

    "When I'm on the field, I want to put people in the dirt," Bolles said, per Yahoo's Eric Edholm. "And that’s what I’m here for. As an offensive lineman, you want to be the nasty prick that you can be."

    Bolles destroyed the workout portion, too. 

    The 6'5", 297-pound blocker finished among the top-five offensive line performances in the 40-yard dash (4.95 seconds), broad jump (9'7"), short shuttle (4.55 seconds) and three-cone drill (7.29 seconds). Plus, he posted an unofficial 1.71-second 10-yard split, per NFL Network's telecast. 

    According to NFL Research, Bolles' broad jump was the fifth-best over the last 11 years. Meanwhile, his 40-yard dash and three-cone ranked among the top three offensive linemen during the past three years. 

    Bolles is a fantastic athlete at a premium position. While concerns persist about his age—he'll turn 25 years old in May—his workout after a solid campaign as a one-year starter at Utah signals a potential top-25 pick and possibly the first offensive tackle off the board. 


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