As I stated prior to the Combine, the goal for evaluators is to be as prepared as possible heading into the event. The hope is to avoid surprising results. However, a few prospects each year make this an impossible effort. The question is, why? Why can these prospects show superior (or inferior) athleticism than they put on tape for 12 games, and in many cases multiple seasons?
There are a couple of reasons. First, coaching at the college level isn’t universally great, so prospects might have been put in situations where they couldn’t shine. Also, these future draftees have been training for their workouts for a month, or even longer. In many cases, that is very high level coaching from experts who know how to make the most of the prospect they are given. Now, not every player is receptive to or implements this kind of coaching, so the proverbial leg up does not apply to everyone.
The other conclusion is an obvious one... I could have been wrong about the prospect’s athleticism following initial exposures. With this in mind, I will offer three names of prospects that unexpectedly impressed me during workouts and three that left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Before we get started, let me re-post something I wrote in my Combine preview about not counting the athletic upside of a prospect twice:
When watching prospects’ game action, an evaluation takes athletic upside into account if it is a noticeable trait. Therefore, any notable times, repetitions, or numbers should be expected, not counted again as an extra positive. It is putting a score to that athletic upside, not adding to the evaluation. It was already there.
Keep this in mind when reviewing workout numbers from the last four days.
1. South Carolina DE Devin Taylor - There’s a lot to like about Taylor’s frame. He’s long and lean, which might lead many to believe he can add weight. The Gamecock should be one of the first players off the bus. However, on the field, I considered Taylor a sixth-round prospect due to his lack of aggressiveness, high pad level, stiff hips, and inability to change directions. That is quite the combination for a pass rusher. However, in Indianapolis, Taylor finished in the top two in the short shuttle (4.30) and three cone (6.89) drills, two tests I think project pass rushers’ success better than any other. This is stunning. I haven’t seen how he ran the drill, but I must stress again how stiff Taylor looked in games. Usually, stiff players do poorly in both of these events, so unless Taylor has turned into Gumby, I do not know what to think. If Taylor has learned how to bend and can implement it into his game, that is scary. Perhaps I’m the stiff, after all.
2. Arkansas RB Knile Davis - The Razorbacks running back had his set of struggles the last two years. In 2011, Davis suffered an ankle injury and missed the entire season. It didn’t get much better in 2012 as Davis was benched from his starting role after coughing up eight fumbles and frequently going down on first contact. After running a 4.37 forty, 31 reps on the bench press, 33.5” vertical, and 121” broad jump, Davis is a size and speed freak. I question if he was running at full health this season, since he tended to hesitate when facing contact or a clogged path.
3. Florida LB Jon Bostic - From film work, I considered Bostic a hammer between the tackles due to his physical presence on first contact. Then he ran a 4.61 forty with a 1.58 10 yard split. With two inside linebackers ranked ahead of him, Kevin Minter and Manti Te’o, who struggle at times to get to the edge, Bostic showed his sideline and straight-line speed while in Indianapolis. Now the question is if his slowness to the outside in games was due to hesitation or indecisiveness. I think he has locked up a third-round selection.
Rubbed Me The Wrong Way
1. Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore - There are some simple aspects of Moore’s game that I love, namely his motor to chase down plays and his ability to make things happen when asked to loop inside. He can be a good second pass rusher because of these traits. However, I was hoping for more athleticism that would make an “upside” tag available. Instead Moore posted 12 reps on the bench press and a 4.95 official forty that included a pulled muscle. This tells me Moore will need to maximize his length, hand use, and footwork to naturally work back inside on a counter move, something he has not done in the past.
2. Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o - I am somewhat surprised to read how comfortable teams are with Te’o, not because I think his off-field fiasco is a big issue, but it is unique. Teams have dealt with prospects that have DUI or drug issues, but Te’o’s situation is an odd one. His forty of 4.82 was expected, and I know the linebacker is dealing with a shoulder injury, but I wonder if Te’o adds the 15 pounds he lost prior to the Combine to boost his strength numbers at the school’s Pro Day. I found it interesting ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said team’s consider Te’o undersized for the inside linebacker position because there isn’t a better positional fit. Finally, the Irish linebacker said he ran in the 4.6s during workouts, but blamed the long days in Indianapolis for the slower time. Right, because he was the only one having to deal with the Combine grind.
3. LSU DE Sam Montgomery - The Tiger defensive end delivered the quote of the week, for the wrong reasons: "Some weeks when we didn’t have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed. But when we had the big boys coming in, the ‘Bamas or the South Carolinas, I grabbed close to those guys and went all out." I’ve heard about taking plays off, but Montgomery alluded to taking full weeks off. Add on the fact that LSU coaches reportedly slammed Montgomery during interviews with NFL teams, and his evaluation is looking worse and worse.