March 02, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL decision makers and scouts gathered at Lucas Oil Stadium today for the final day of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. They were on hand to watch the 58 defensive backs who were invited to work out.

Taylor Mays' workout at the combine will be one talked about for a long time, and with good reason. After weighing in at 230 pounds, Mays completed 24 reps on the bench press, then ran a 40 that most scouts clocked at 4.32 seconds. Normally those numbers would elevate a prospect towards the top of the draft, but we contend that won't be the case with Mays.

During drills, Mays was in poor form. As fast as he was moving forwards, Mays was terribly slow moving in reverse. It was similar to his performance at the Senior Bowl in January. Mays looked uncomfortable backpedaling during drills and one scout called his defensive back fundamentals "just bad." When asked to change direction, Mays would come to a complete stop then start up again. The contrast between Mays and players such as Earl Thomas and T.J. Ward, who lost little momentum changing direction, was striking.

Poor performances in Mobile and Indianapolis do not mean Mays won't be productive in the NFL. It does mean he will be limited to certain systems that don't require him to play man coverage or make plays sideline-to-sideline. In other words Mays is likely to go later in the draft than someone with his measurables usually would.

Eric Berry/S/Tennessee: Berry impressed scouts by weighing 212 pounds and completing 19 reps on the bench. His 40 was fast ... in the high 4.3-second area. He was near flawless in drills, displaying quick and fluid footwork moving in reverse, a terrific burst to the ball and the ability to change direction on a dime without losing momentum.

Devin McCourty/CB/Rutgers: He could come away the biggest winner among defensive backs. He was super fast, timing right around 4.40 seconds, and showed strength by pushing up 16 reps on the bench. And his skills in drills were near outstanding. McCourty now enters the conversation as a late first-round pick.

Earl Thomas/S/Texas: Teams interested in drafting Thomas breathed a sigh of relief when the red-shirt sophomore stepped on the scales and weighed 208 pounds, then completed 21 reps on the bench press. This dispelled many of the myths that Thomas lacked the size and strength to play safety in the NFL. He later ran well (4.5) and looked effective in drills.

TJ Ward/S/Oregon: Ward ran reasonably well (4.55-range) but it was his work in drills that really impressed scouts. Considered more of a straight-line defender, he displayed ball skills that exceeded expectations. Ward changed direction quickly, showed the ability to move in reverse with no hesitation and looked terrific catching the ball.

Chris Cook/CB/Virginia: The big cornerback has been steadily moving up draft boards. He weighed in at a solid 212, then ran his 40 in just under 4.5. Cook's mechanics looked significantly improved since the Senior Bowl and the imposing prospect displayed a lot of athleticism. Cook has solidified himself as a top 75 pick.

Kareem Jackson/CB/Alabama: He answered questions scouts had about his athleticism and defensive back skill set. He ran well in the 40, timing under 4.5 on stop watches. During drills Jackson displayed a quick backpedal, fluid hip movement and the ability to drive to the ball. He's likely assured himself a spot in the draft's initial 40 selections.

Joe Haden/CB/Florida: He was really slow in the 40. His hand times of 4.58 translate into electronic times that will broach 4.65. Haden looked terrific in drills, with outstanding ball skills and showing the makings of a starter at the next level. He was projected as a potential top-eight pick, but as we saw last April with Malcolm Jenkins, cornerbacks who time poorly in the 40 are not early selections in the draft.

Donovan Warren/CB/Michigan: Warren started by struggling to get under 4.7 in the 40. He was ineffective in drills, exhibiting a poor backpedal, no burst out of his plant and an inability to change direction without losing a lot of momentum.

Chad Jones/S/LSU: Jones ran reasonably well, timing in the mid-4.5s, yet did nothing to dispel the belief he's solely a downhill safety. He was incredibly slow in reverse and displayed poor footwork. He looked a bit confused on the field and had to be stopped in drills several times to be given direction.

Dennis Rogan/CB/Tennessee: Rogan was small and slow, not a good combination at cornerback. He checked in under 5-foot-9 and could not break 4.7 in the 40. Rogan may regret leaving Tennessee a year early.

More from Tony Pauline at the NFL combine:Running backs and quarterbacksDefensive line and linebackersWide receiversOffensive line and tight ends

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