The 2014 NFL Combine has come and gone. Another year of measuring, poking and prodding every inch of NFL prospects as if they were cattle is in the books, and with that comes the next step in the long road to the 2014 NFL Draft: figuring out what the hell it all means.
The MAC sent 10 players to the Combine this year, but with only two having a legit shot at going in the early rounds that meant the Combine was especially important for several MAC players fighting for a chance to get picked in the late rounds of the Draft. Some players took the national spotlight and used it to their advantage, impressing scouts and catching fans' eyes at the same time. Others flopped, confirming every doubt scouts had about their abilities heading into the event.
To get a better grasp we've looked at who won, lost and didn't really do either at the Combine.
Khalil Mack - Without a doubt Khalil Mack is the best NFL prospect out of the MAC this year. Since the college football season ended, just about everyone has known Mack was going to be a Top 10 pick. After his time in Indianapolis though, he may have just landed a serious shot at going No. 1 overall.
Mack didn't need to do a whole lot in the Combine to succeed. He was already the most talked about defensive player not named Jadeveon Clowney. Considered one of the most pro ready prospects in recent years, it's clear that wherever Mack lands, barring some unforeseen issues, he's going to make an immediate impact. He has the size, the athleticism, the tenacity, and most importantly the instincts of a veteran NFL linebacker. He would have been a late first round pick had he entered the Draft last year. The only knock on Mack was the level of competition he faced in college.
More On Mack
More On Mack
After giving NFL scouts a chance to see his athleticism and instincts in person, and having the impressive game film from games against teams such as Ohio State, Mack has erased all doubts. Scouts swooned over him on Monday. Mike Mayock, NFL.com's lead Draft analyst, who was already in love with Mack's potential, wouldn't stop talking about him on the national broadcast of the day. As Mack progressed through the drills, more chimed in. Since the Combine ended the list of people on the Khalil Mack wagon has only grown. Just look at all these articles popping up on him.
Mack dominated fellow top linebacking prospect Anthony Barr, posting better numbers in every single category, sometimes by a wide margin. He showed that he was better fundamentally than linebackers such as Ryan Shazier, clearly placing him as the uncontested top linebacking prospect in the Draft. Forget being the top winner from the MAC, Mack may have won the entire Combine and made himself tens of millions of dollars in the process.
Dri Archer - Before Mack's day came, Dri Archer was the talk of the NFL Combine. The former Kent State speedster caught the nation's attention with his blazing 4.26 40-yard-dash time, a full .07 seconds faster than the next closest time. By coming within tenths of a second of breaking Chris Johnson's NFL Combine 40 record he asserted his claim as a legit NFL speed guy, but it's what he did in the other categories that really helped him out. Archer showed his lack in size doesn't equate to a lack in speed, putting up 20 reps on the bench (one less than Clwoney).
It's important to note here that the biggest knock against Archer is still his size, as it's hard to place him in a real position at the NFL. He is too small to be an every down running back. Too small to be a wideout, and not quite there in the receiving department to be a sure thing in the slot. He can't overcome his size. But, by having one of the most memorable days at the Combine Archer got himself some invaluable press.
For a player that was projecting to be a 7th round pick a year removed from being projected as a mid-round guy this could result in a couple extra millions thrown his way. He assured he will be drafted, and now it's a question of where. Some places still have him going in the 7th round, but I think we will see him go no later than the late fifth, and possible as high as the third. The fact is Archer is a world class athlete and in a game that's evolving in the way it is, Archer has the potential to develop into a once-in-a-lifetime offensive weapon, and if nothing else will come in and make an immediate impact on special teams. The kind of impact that has turned Trindon Holliday into a valued asset on the Denver Broncos.
Jonathan Newsome - Newsome was projected to be a sixth- or seventh-rounder heading into the Combine. After posting impressive numbers with the defensive lineman and showing the ability to stand up and play some outside linebacker in the popular 3-4 scheme he is now looking more like a possible fifth- or sixth-rounder.
Not quite the athlete of the other two MAC winners, Newsome needed to show he could hold his own in the drills, and he did that. Warren Sapp was especially impressed with Newsome's performances in the drills on Monday saying "Jonathan Newsome of Ball State is making some money today" at one point in his workouts. I think there are still some questions about the fluidity of his hips, and whether or not he is strong enough to provide the explosion off the line he'd need to be a successful traditional pass-rushing defensive end, but it's clear after Indy that he has some things going for him and with a little development in the right system could turn into a successful edge rusher. Expect to hear his name called somewhere in the late fifth, early sixth rounds.
Jordan Lynch - Jordan Lynch may have been the bell of the ball for the 2014 MAC Football season, but any hope of him moving onto the NFL level at quarterback was dashed with his performance at the Combine. Already coming off a miserable performance at the East-West Shrine Game, Lynch needed to perform well in the throwing drills and show that his mechanics were solid. He did neither. Not to mention he wasn't especially fast either with a 4.76 40; which should actually come as no shock. Lynch's style of running was more like that of a bruising fullback than a dancing slot; he got those yards the hard way, by running right through defenders.
They need to send Jordan Lynch home or make him play receiver. He can't throw. Wasting time.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) February 23, 2014
Lynch was terrible in the throwing drills, earning some public criticism from several big names. However, Lynch did show off his athleticism, and wisely chose to participate in running back drills as well. If he is as open to switching positions at the next level as he has previously said he is, it may be good to get workouts in with DB's and running backs at NIU's pro day. As athletic as he is he still has a decent shot of being a sixth or seventh round (likely the later) pick.
QB 3-cone drill: Jordan Lynch 6.55 (best since '06) Manziel 6.75 Garoppolo 7.04 Thomas 7.05 Shaw 7.07 Bortles 7.08 Bridgewater 7.17— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 23, 2014
David Fluellen - This one really stings. I was a huge fan of Fluellen in Toledo. He appeared to be the perfect package. Big. Bruising. Fearless. Not the fastest, but agile enough to juke some defensive backs when he needed too. And had great field vision. But the further we get away from his time at Toledo the more it looks like his numbers there may be more of a testament to the Rockets' dominant offensive line than his own skills.
Look at it this way: When Fluellen went down late in the season, UT's run game didn't miss a beat. Against EMU & Buffalo, two games in which Fluellen was rulled out completely, freshman Kareem Hunt ran for 354 yards and three scores on 51 attempts filling in as the starter. Fellow freshman running back Damion Jones-Moore added another 120 yards and two scores on just eight carries.
Fluellen had a good enough performance at the Senior Bowl, but raised questions among scouts about his speed and upright running style. At the combine he ran a 4.72 40, one of the worst among the running backs. He did not bench and was average at best in all the other categories. Already projected as a seventh round pick, Fluellen is looking more like an undrafted free agent now. I still think he can develop into a productive NFL running back, but he'll need more time to prove that.
Travis Carrie - It's rough listing Travis Carrie as a loser here, but considering all he did was bench at the Combine it's hard to see it as any other way. Carrie already has a lot working against him. He's not the most fundamentally sound. Played against lesser competition. Had some injury problems. And he'll be 24 soon. All of these things are major knocks on him.
Unlike NIU's Jimmie Ward (who also didn't work out, but in this case due to an injury) Carrie doesn't have the scouts swooning over him. Despite his plus size, he needed to impress scouts to have a shot at going in the late rounds. By choosing not to work out (for reasons unknown) Carrie severely limited his opportunity to turn some heads. He'll get the chance to do so at Ohio's pro day, but before far fewer scouts.
Rob Blanchflower - Had a good day at the Draft on Saturday, but was neither impressive nor disappointing in any one category.
Jimmie Ward - Didn't participate due to a foot injury, but still has scouts drooling over him and could easily be a second round pick.
Keith Wenning - Didn't look spectacular, but didn't do anything to hurt his already low Draft stock.
Willie Snead - I realize some people may disagree here and think he had a rather disappointing day, which is true, but his stock was already low and unlike Carrie, he did still get in front of the scouts and show off some positives. It was well known coming in he wasn't a spectacular athlete. Snead will need a strong pro day, but is ultimately likely going to the an undrafted free agent.