While it may have only been two weekends since the official end of the 2013 season, to some it seems like an eternity. Luckily, the NFL Scouting Combine gives us all an opportunity to latch onto football for a couple of days, dissecting every 40-time and bench rep from each of the 2014 NFL rookie prospects. As most have you have heard over the past couple of days, most scouts, coaches, or general managers are more interested in the interviews and medical checkups than that actual on-field workouts. For the most part, examiners of these potential NFL players will rely primarily on game film from college and the information they gather from individual workouts when making their final decisions.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Combine cannot “help or hurt” the stock of some players. For some, their efforts on the field may help solidify a certain aspect of a player’s game. If the evaluaters wrote that a potential running back draftee showed fluidity in cuts and excellent footwork on tape, and saw that again during the Combine drills, it might reinforce their initial report. For others, an outstanding performance might force some scouts to go back and re-assess film on some player; same for poor performances.
So, with the offensive players out of the way, who were the biggest winners and losers from the NFL Scouting Combine?
Winner: Greg Robinson, OL (Auburn)
Heading into the Combine, the mauling Auburn left tackle had already usurped Jake Matthews for the top spot on a majority of analysts’ “big boards.” He did nothing to dissuade that leap up the board this weekend, clocking the second-fastest 40-time (4.92) among the offensive linemen, and ranked among the Top 10 in the broad jump (9’5″) and bench reps (32). His “official” measurables were equally as impressive, hitting the scale at 332 lbs. packed onto a 6’5 tall frame, with 10 in. hands, and 35 in. arms. Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) were also very impressive during their workouts, although their performances took a back seat to the “ehh-ing and ahh-ing” over Robinson.
Loser: Cyrus Kouandjio, OL (Alabama)
The Nick Saban product came into the Combine ranked No.5 on Mike Mayock’s offensive tackle list. However, he may have a tough time sustaining that spot after a poor all-around performance this weekend. Kouandjio ranked near the bottom of the barrel in nearly all of the events, most notably putting up only 21 reps on the bench. His 5.59 40-time and 4.84 20 yard shuttle were also eye-opening, potentially verifying scouts’ concerns about poor footwork and an overall lack of quickness. Worse, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the hefty offensive lineman prospect had been “failed” on his physical by several teams, which might take him completely off the board, in some cases.
Winner: A.J. McCarron, QB (Alabama)
While his blindside protector struggled to impress in his Combine “interview,” the two-time BCS Championship signal caller did just about everything he could on Sunday to raise his stock. With Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater opting out of throwing drills, McCarron stole the spotlight, showing off impressive footwork and arm talent that was obviously a step above the rest of the throwers in his Combine grouping. His 4.94 40-time might not have excited many scouts, but his aerial demonstration will have some heading back to the film room and paying much more attention to his Pro Day. As it stands, McCarron is projected to go in somewhere between the end of Day 2 (i.e. 3rd round) and the start of Day 3 (i.e. 4th round). His performance might also push some injury “red flag” quarterbacks down the draft board, including Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Zach Mettenberger (LSU), where the St. Louis Rams could potentially scoop them up in the 4th or 5th round.
Loser: Kelvin Benjamin, WR (Florida State)
The wide receiver grouping at this year’s Combine was phenomenal overall, which makes picking a “loser” a tad nitpicky. However, after ranking No.4 on Mayock’s top receivers list, Benjamin performance on Sunday did little to add to his resume (i.e. his impressive frame). The 2013 BCS Champion was far from a “freak” during his workouts, with lackluster performances in a number of key areas, including ranking outside the Top 15 in literally every major category: 40 yard dash (4.62), bench reps (13), vertical jump (32.5 in.), broad jump (119 in.). With so many impressive performances from other similarly-graded receivers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Benjamin take a small “hit” in his draft stock. That might be particularly true for those still debating between Benjamin and Mike Evans (Texas A&M), who showed some better-than-expected speed and made several receiver drills look mind-blowingly easy.
Winner: Tre Mason, RB (Auburn)
There were plenty of “lesser name” running backs that impressed scouts with the speed on Sunday, including Dri Archer nearly breaking the Combine 40 yard dash record. However, Tre Mason might have been one of the more impressive players in his grouping, both in the drills and during the individual workouts. To start off, Mason ran a faster-than-expected 4.50 40, which might help in dispelling some reports of the Auburn star lacking true, “breakaway” speed. He also ranked among the Top 5 in the only other events he participated in on Sunday, including posting a 10’9 in. broad jump and 38.5 in. vertical. In a tightly-bunched Top 5 running back ranking, it is doubtful Tre Mason will usurp anyone with his performance on Sunday. However, for teams that had questions about Mason heading into the Combine, he may done just enough to “answer.”