It should come as no surprise how the National Football League’s Scouting Combine has swelled to the proportions that it has. With the immense interest the league generates, its television network was able to build an entire weekend’s programming around college football’s best players doing sprints and bench presses.
As such, the combine has become as much an NFL "Thing" as anything. The participants are decked out in NFL-sponsored Under Armour apparel, cameras and media members cover their every move and Mumford and Sons performed between sessions. It's just one of the latest areas of its reach the league has managed to commodify - and why not? The demand is certainly there for it. Soon enough, the Red Zone channel will be bouncing around from one team's rookie minicamp to another.
Here’s what you’ve missed so far at the NFL combine, besides a lot of spandex and Marshall Faulk’s “golf reporter” voice:
Geno can run
Geno Smith didn’t run the offense on everyone’s tongue, the read-option, at West Virginia, so there was some question as to whether he was athletic enough to be worth a top draft pick. Smith answered a lot of those questions by sprinting for 4.54 seconds, which says a lot more about the draft process than it does about Smith proving he’s the next Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick.
Heart problems for Star
This happened late Sunday afternoon, but top defensive tackle prospect Star Lotulelei will miss the combine after an echocardiogram revealed a heart condition. On a weekend of numbers, we learned that Lotulelei’s left ventricle pumps at what is below normal efficiency. This is the extent to which the NFL's coverage pervades - it’s not enough to know Lotulelei has a heart condition; we need to know the percentage at which his ventricle pumps blood below normal efficiency.
Return of Te’o
Manti Te’o faced the media essentially for the first time since he found out he had a fake dead girlfriend. In expected fashion, Te’o did not say much in his press conference but did say that every NFL team questioned him about the Lennay Kekua incident. Te’o also said he won’t be lifting at the combine because he is still recovering from a shoulder injury. The girlfriend story likely won’t impact where he’ll be drafted, but just how high will he be selected after a bad National Championship performance?
Chiefs find a quarterback?
Reports have the Kansas City Chiefs - now led by Andy Reid - reaching a deal with the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Alex Smith. This means they’re not likely to draft a quarterback with the No. 1 pick and could be eyeing Luke Joeckel.
Any first-round worthy quarterbacks?
This year’s quarterback crop went into the combine with the scouting community hoping a minimum of one would step up and allow a team to - at the very least - be able to defend its decision when it reaches for a quarterback in the first round. Smith had a good performance but didn’t wow anyone, while other prospects like Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon were unable to pull off any surprises.
Company for Joeckel?
Texas A&M’s Joeckel is still considered the top tackle prospect and will be one of the first players selected in the draft, but he has close competition at the top of the tackle class. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher has moved steadily up the first round since the college season ended, and now Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson has joined them. Johnson, a former quarterback and tight end, put on a show at the Combine, running a 4.72 40-yard dash at 303 pounds. With how teams value offensive tackles, Johnson could leap up draft boards.
Denard Robinson’s transition
The former Michigan star is in the process of moving from quarterback to wide receiver. He struggled as a receiver at the Senior Bowl, but made every catch in the gauntlet drill and ran the forty in 4.43 seconds. Can Robinson return kicks or punts though? That may be the role he needs to fill, at least initially, if he is to make it in the NFL.
BEST OF THE COMBINE
Defensive players have yet to work out, but here’s a look at the best individual performances in drills:
40-Yard Dash: 4.27 seconds, Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas
Bench Press: 38 reps, Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist University
Vertical Jump: 43.0 inches, Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
Broad Jump: 11’4”, Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Three Cone Drill: 6.53 seconds, T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri
20-Yard Shuttle: 3.96 seconds, T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri
60-Yard Shuttle: 10.87 seconds, T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri