NFL Combine News and Notes: Day 1

Prospects took the field Friday for Day 1 of the NFL Combine. On the menu were the Offensive Linemen and Tight End’s. In case you missed it, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know:

As expected TJ Clemmings of Pittsburgh tested out well running a 5.14 40 yd dash, a 32.5 inch vertical jump, a respectable 9’3″ broad jump, and finished 4th in the 20 yd shuttle. During drills, Clemmings continued to struggle in all scenarios related to playing Left Tackle. All through the scouting process, I’ve said for Clemmings to be 1st round worthy, he needs to be drafted as a Right Tackle, and he solidified that with his Combine performance.

Florida State’s Cameron Erving continued to impress, closely mirroring TJ Clemmings’ Combine performance in the 40 with a time of 5.16 and duplicating a 9’3″ mark in the broad jump. Erving garnered praise from Mike Mayock, when Mayock mentioned that Erving was a “Starting Pro-Bowl quality Center”.

If you haven’t heard the story about Virginia Tech’s Offensive Tackle Laurence Gibson, it’s worth mentioning. Gibson was selected to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, but Virginia Tech’s email system has a spam blocker that’s almost as effective as Bud Foster’s Defense. The spam blocker kept Gibson from seeing the bowl invitation, and he almost missed the Combine invite. Fortunately, someone contacted Gibson and he was given the chance to perform in Indy… And perform he did. Gibson finished 4th in the 40 yd dash with a time of 5.04 seconds, 1st in the vertical jump with 33.5 inches, 1st in the broad jump with 9’5″, and finished 5th in the 20 yd shuttle. He came in a little light at 6’6″ and 305 lbs, but Gibson helped himself a lot with his performance.

Miami’s Ereck Flowers took care of business. In the bench press, his 37 reps at 225 was tops in the group. He didn’t wow in any drill, but he performed solidly across the board, and at this point, that’s all he needed to do. Flowers has checked off just about everything on the list and has positioned himself well with only his Pro Day left. The same can be said for Duke’s Laken Tomlinson. Tomlinson also performed well and continued his steady rise up the draft boards. Sean Hickey of Syracuse wasn’t extremely impressive in the drills, but did manage 35 reps in the bench press. Hickey doesn’t have much of a future as an Offensive Tackle, but I think there is some promise if he moves inside to Guard. He has the raw power, he just has to get his feet working in tandem with his upper body.

While the Offensive Linemen held their own, the Tight End class this year was a massive disappointment. This held true for the ACC’s two best TE prospects, Miami’s Clive Walford and FSU’s Nick O’Leary. I’ve been a fan of O’Leary’s game for a long time. O’Leary is just an old-fashioned throw-back football player, even to the point of playing without gloves. I’ve always viewed O’Leary as a Jason Witten type, only smaller. While I think there is still some merit to that comparison, I was really disappointed with O’Leary’s Combine. I didn’t expect him to wow anybody with his 40 time, but producing a 4.93 is bad. He’ll still be drafted, but after seeing just how slow he ran, I question whether he will be able to separate from Linebackers in the NFL.  He’s relied on his natural feel for the game in college, but he may be heading down the path of “great college player who gets lost in the NFL”.

I’m not sure which 40 was worse, O’Leary’s or this one:

As for Walford, he’s still a raw prospect, but his athleticism was a draw for scouts. That athleticism didn’t make the trip to Indy. Scouts perceived Walford to be the kind of TE that could challenge coverage down the seam. After running a 4.79 in the 40, scouts will be taking a second look at his film to see if maybe they over-estimated his athleticism because he had a U on his helmet. There were already questions about his hands coming into the Combine, but his athleticism was believed to be enough to overlook the drops. Walford’s Pro Day just became incredibly important.

The other big news of the day came from QB Jameis Winston, as he announced he will be throwing at the Combine. If you’ve read any of my commentary on Winston, you know by now that I’m not a fan of his, though I don’t hate the guy either. As a QB, you are the face and leader of a franchise. That’s a lot of pressure, and it takes a certain amount of maturity that I believe Jameis lacks. However, I will say this: He can win a press conference. He has supreme confidence, and that’s something you want for a QB. At this point, If Im comparing him to a current QB, I’m going with Jay Cutler. With Cutler you never know what you’re going to get. He can be a Pro-Bowl QB one game, or he can be the QB that throws 4 INT’s to DeAngelo Hall in the same game. Jameis Winston is cut from that same enigmatic cloth.

At least Winston is throwing. Saturday is the sexy day of the Combine, as the QB’s, RB’s, and WR’s perform, so be sure to tune in to the NFL Network. If not, Check back here and we’ll break down the day for you once again.

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