Day 1 NFL combine risers and sliders: Marpet impresses, Flowers whiffs
Though NFL teams will use game tape to gather the majority of their pre-draft evaluation, it's also true that draft prospects can alter their professional futures, sometimes radically, with great or terrible performances at the scouting combine. Day 1 of the actual drills, in which offensive linemen and tight ends worked out for the NFL cognoscenti, had a few players who stood out in both directions.
Hobart OG Ali Marpet
After a collegiate career at little-known Division III Hobart College, Marpet's entire new year has been one exercise after another in kicking butt and exceeding expectations. He did a tremendous job during Senior Bowl week dealing with the likes of Danny Shelton and Nate Orchard, proving incontrovertibly that he belonged on a bigger stage. Marpet also aced the media portion of the combine this week, delighting reporters with details of his 9,000-calorie per day diet and getting specific about his nasty playing attitude. When he got on the field for drills at Lucas Oil Stadium, Marpet was all set to impress again, and he did. He ran a 4.98 40 time with an impressive 10-yard split (the more important measurement for offensive linemen), and continued to put forth maximum effort in drills. He put up 30 reps in the bench press, and hit 30 1/2 inches in the vertical jump -- both totals ranked second among all players listed as guards. Marpet has solidified his status as a player who will gain a lot of interest from teams looking for a tough, smart interior offensive lineman.
Southern Illinois TE MyCole Pruitt
I had Pruitt on my list of smaller-school players who had the most to prove at the combine by dint of his relatively unheralded status. The 6'3", 254-pound Pruitt came through in a big way, running a 4.58 40 -- by far the fastest in this group of relatively unimpressive tight ends -- and maxing out in the 20-yard shuttle and bench press. Pruitt has field speed for his size, and he didn't just ball out against the Missouri Valley Football Conference; he also grabbed 10 passes for 136 yards against Purdue. Pruitt finished his 2014 season with a school-record 81 receptions, adding 13 touchdowns, and he's looking more and more like a legitimate mid-round prospect.
Oregon OT Jake Fisher
Fisher's 4.33-second 20-yard short shuttle was the third-fastest by any offensive lineman since 2006, per Rotoworld, and Fisher wasn't just a workout wonder. He was outstanding in the drills, and though he expressed a bit of dismay at his overall drill times (not sure why, when he ran a 5.01 40 at 6'6" and 306 pounds), Fisher proved in this particular arena that he has the tools to become a top-level tackle over time. A right tackle for the Ducks in his first two seasons, Fisher was moved to the left side after an injury to Tyler Johnstone, and Fisher made the most of the switch despite the fact that he was playing in pain from a knee injury of his own. Fisher might not be a starter on the left side from Day 1, depending on his NFL system, but he showed here that he can help any team right away.
Miami OT Ereck Flowers
Flowers actually performed pretty decently in the drills: he led all offensive linemen with 37 bench press reps and ran a respectable 5.31 40, not horrid for a 6'6", 329-pound power tackle known more for driving forward in run-blocking. But this example of his kick-step in drills went viral for all the wrong reasons.
That's just one whiff, but when you put on Flowers's tape, he shows up as slightly logey when pass-blocking -- not as bad as he was in that combine drill, but enough to make teams wonder if he's worth a first-round pick as they go through the pre-draft process.
Michigan DE Frank Clark
Clark hasn't done any drills yet, and it may not matter when he does. A middle-round prospect from a pure talent perspective, Clark was kicked off the Michigan football team after a serious domestic incident in which he was accused of assaulting his girlfriend in a hotel room. There's no way to get around that in the combine media scramble, but Clark didn't even try. After a perfunctory statement about how he's going through counseling and has learned from his mistakes, Clark changed the landscape by essentially blaming the victim.
"The detail I did get into I did with NFL teams. When we were in the room, the person involved [his girlfriend] let something get out of hand and took something further than what it was planned. You look at a phone and nowadays these phones get a lot of people in trouble. I’m not saying I’m a womanizer or anything of that nature. I’m just saying it was a confrontation between me and one of my friends and the woman involved took it to another level that it shouldn’t have been taken to.
"That’s fine. I’m not throwing her under the bus. I’m not saying she did anything wrong. I’m just saying that a lot of things that happened in that room that night could have been avoided."
Some who analyze the draft for a living deemed Clark undraftable for the incident alone, but when you add in this abdication of responsibility, and the NFL's increased focus on domestic violence, it's tough to imagine a situation in which Clark is very high on any draft board.