For anyone that loves football, the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend was truly a breath of fresh air. While 40-times, bench reps, and verticals might not be the primarly attributes that teams are looking for in a player, it does not hurt to put up top numbers against what is essentially your competition in the upcoming NFL Draft. With no perrential talents in this years class, the weekend can certainly cause some drastic shifts in players’ stock. So, who out of the four “groups” helped themselves this week that the St. Louis Rams could be interested in?
Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
The Tight End group was all about the “Three Es,” Eifert, Ertz, and Escobar, although the real battle was between the Irish and the Cardinal for who would be the first off the board in April. While the two top prospects are virtually identical in size, Eifert showcased his superior athleticism in the drills, beating out Ertz in nearly every facet of the Combine: 40-time (4.68 s versus 4.76 s), vertical jump (35.5 in. versus 30.5 in.), broad jump (119.0 in. versus 111.0 in.), and the 3-cone drill (6.92 s versus 7.08 s).While, some scouts have Ertz as the best “pure catcher” and Eifert as the better all-around tight end, the difference between the two is minimal. Both will likely hear their name called before the 2nd round rolls around, but Eifert’s performance here might give him the slight edge over the other “E” and the rest of the tight end class, if he wasn’t already ahead. With the two-tight end system gaining popularity, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to see Eifert pairing with Lance Kendricks in 2013.
Kyle Long (OT, Oregon)
The Senior Bowl left some questioning the “rawness” of the Oregon tackle, citing his lack of technique and inconsistent footwork as major areas of needed improvement. However, there was never any doubt about his pure athleticism and ability to learn and adapt quickly. He did nothing to disappoint on Saturday, clocking a sub-5.0 40-time (4.94 s), a Top 15 broad jump (107 in.), and a Top 10 20-yard shuffle time (4.63 s). Long showed excellent footwork and speed through the drills, and drew a ton of praise from Mike Mayock, even going so far as to tag him as a potential 1st rounder and an inevitable “starter” in the NFL. There are still questions about whether or not he will be an offensive tackle or guard at the next level, but Kyle Long did nothing to decrease his stock this weekend. Assuming his Pro Day goes well, Long could easily see himself swing a spot anywhere from 25-40 in April, although many in St. Louis will hope that he falls a little farther in the 2nd round; 46th, to be exact.
Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
Tavon Austin and Marquise Goodwin started off Sunday morning with a bang, hammering out sub-4.3 unofficial 40-times to lead off the first group of Wide Receivers in the 2013 class. Austin’s time would eventually get adjusted to a 4.34, but he left an impression much larger than pure, straight-line speed. He landed a Top 3 performancce in the 20-yard shuffle (4.01 s) and tallied respectable numbers in both his broad jump and vertical. The hardest knock against Austin is his size and strength, limiting his 5’8 frame to solely slot play at the next level. However, he pushed up 14 reps at 225 lbs., showcasing a overall impressive day under the microscope of the NFL Combine. However, Austin was most impressive during the receiving drills, displaying fluid route running and “natural” catching abilities. Austin has been compared to Randall Cobb at the next level in terms of utility and playmaking ability once the ball is in his hands. For the St. Louis Rams, who are hoping to feature Quick and Givens on the outside, a shifty slot receiver with elite acceleration would be a steal if he was available in the middle of the 2nd round.
Tommy Bohanon (FB, Wake Forest)
The jury is still out on whether or not Steven Jackson will remain in St. Louis through the 2013 season, meaning that the Rams might be in search of a “replacement.” While players like Giovani Bernard and Eddy Lacy will man to top of a majority of draft boards, those are not necessarily the players that will make a name for themselves at the NFL Combine. Tommy Bohanon was one of the few fullbacks that received an invitation to the workout, and made the most of his time under the spotlight. At 246 lbs., he fits the bill for prototypical fullback size. However, pure weight without power is useless in the NFL, and Bohanon showed that he packed plenty of power into his 6’1 tall frame. He led all running backs in bench reps, pumping out an impressive 36 lifts. In fact, he tied Eric Herman, the guard out of Ohio, for the overall top performance of the weekend, beating out the entire offense line class in the only quantitive measure of strength at the Combine. Although Bohanon clocked a mediocre 40-time (4.88 s), he did manage to hammer out a solid 3-cone and 20-yard shuffle time, displaying the quickness necessary for an elite fullback at the next level. He showed exceptional footwork and adequate catching ability during the remainder of the Combine drills, ending his day with an overall impressive showing. While the “value” of a fullback will limit Bohanon to the latter rounds of the draft, he could be a “steal” for a team in need. In St. Louis, Lance Kendricks has no business wasting his talent lined up in the backfield and Richardson and Pead could use a powerful lead blocker to break open holes between the guards; an area where the Rams struggled in the run game last season. If you think having a “true” fullback on the roster is overrated, ask Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice how much they value their lead blockers…