The constant message from NFL coaches and GMs over the past few days has been that the workout portions of the league's scouting combine are merely a minuscule piece of the puzzle. The 40 times, the bench press, the vertical ... all well and good, just don't overhype the results.
"I say this all the time, we miss more so on the person than the player," Arizona GM Steve Keim said. "In this day and age, with these guys and the off-field issues, I can watch tape and see a player’s foot speed and his movement skills, his athleticism. I can’t read his heart and his mind. Those are the two things, to me, we have a tendency to miss on, whether a guy can learn it, whether he loves the game.
"If you can’t learn it, the coach isn’t going to put you on the field because he doesn’t feel comfortable and he doesn’t trust you. And if you don’t love it, it’s going to catch up with you at some point, regardless of how talented you are."
Teams will walk away from the combine with a better plan of attack for the draft not just based on 40 times and broad-jump numbers, but more from the medical checks and interviews completed in Indianapolis.
But the drills still count for something, especially when a player manages to stand out—be it in positive or negative fashion—amid what can be a tedious process. Monday marked the final day of the 2015 combine, and here's what went down:
Byron Jones, CB, UConn: The NFL Network confirmed that no draft prospect had bested Jones' insane 12'3" broad jump since it started covering the event in 2003. Has anyone ever, anywhere topped that mark? The current world record in the broad jump belongs to Norway's Arne Tvervaag at 12'2"—an inch shorter than where Jones landed.
Jones then backed his magnificent show of athleticism with a 44.5-inch vertical, second-best of anyone participating at the 2015 combine behind only Georgia WR Chris Conley, who tapped 45 inches.
The UConn product underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in October, so he sat out some drills in Indianapolis, including the 40-yard dash. He's expected to take part fully in Connecticut's March 31 pro day, and there's no doubt that a few more eyes will be on him then.
Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: Much of the buzz at cornerback this week focused on Marcus Peters, who was dismissed from Washington during the 2014 season. Waynes, though, issued an emphatic reminder Monday that he still deserves a look as the draft's No. 1 CB.
While Peters, a projected press corner, was posting 40 times in the mid-4.5s, Waynes ripped off a pair of sub-4.4s. His official top mark of 4.31 was the fastest of any defensive back. And that's merely backing a physical game, one which Waynes put on display repeatedly at Michigan State. The time should lock Waynes into a top-20 selection.
The two other cornerbacks who clocked in faster than 4.4: Florida State's Ronald Darby (4.38) and Mississippi State's Justin Cox (4.36). The former excelled throughout much of his combine workout, to the point where he may be solidly in the mix as a prospective Round 1 pick.
Charles Gaines, CB, Louisville: Gaines put up a strong showing in the 40, too (4.44)—and he needed it, given his 5'9", 180-pound frame. Gaines is not going to be a Round 1 guy, but his tape shows a cornerback ready to make the NFL leap. He led the Cardinals with five picks in 2013 and had 10 pass break-ups this past year.
That knack for finding the football showed during positional drills Monday. Gaines pulled off a smooth rep when asked to backpedal, turn and run; he was one of the few corners to make it unscatched through the gauntlet drill (a series of seven catch attempts while running).
Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State: "That's definitely a smooth-looking safety," Deion Sanders said on the NFL Network's broadcast when Randall flipped his hips out of a backpedal during one drill. Earlier, Randall sprinted to a 4.46 40 time, among the best marks for the safeties.
In a safety class perceived to be underwhelming, Randall (even at a smallish 5'10", 196 pounds) could continue to emerge over the coming weeks.
Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss: It's no secret that Golson can be a playmaker—he intercepted 10 passes as a senior. Check out the hands he put on display Saturday:
As previously mentioned, many of the DBs struggled running through that gauntlet drill, which until this year had been reserved for the offensive skill-position players. Golson asserted himself, not only by making every grab but doing so with his hands. To top it all off, he ran back-to-back 4.46-second 40s.
He needs some work on his technique, a critique that was evident when he had to backpedal during drills. Teams also may hesitate projecting him as a shut-down corner because of his size (5'8" and change), but there's obvious talent.
Eric Rowe, CB/S, Utah: The Utes shifted Rowe to cornerback this season after multiple years at safety, but where will he play at the next level? While Rowe told Sanders that he would prefer to stay on the outside, he saw action at both CB and S during Senior Bowl week and arguably performed better from the latter spot.
The versatility will be a plus from most teams' perspectives. Even more so after Rowe ran a 4.45 40 and posted a 39-inch vertical on Saturday.
Chris Hackett, S, TCU: It was a weird week all around at the combine for TCU's prospects, who were slower than advertised across the board. Linebacker Paul Dawson even took to Twitter after running a startlingly sluggish 4.93 40 on Sunday.
His teammate, Hackett, was something of a pre-combine riser at the safety spot, but his performance may have halted that. Hackett's 4.81 40 time and 1.70 10-yard split were the slowest in either category during the defensive-back drills Monday. A stilted effort when asked to backpedal and turn did nothing to help Hackett rebound.
"He needs some work," Sanders said. "Just the start [of his drill] was dysfunctional, wasn't right.
As is the case with Dawson, Hackett's play at TCU paints a far more positive picture. "I think I bring a lot of ball-hawking skills," he said, "and I’m a playmaker in the air, on the ground. I think defenses will like me. "
Tye Smith, CB, Towson: Smith earned his way to Indianapolis by shining at the East-West Shrine Game. (Same goes for USC CB Josh Shaw, who hopscotched from the Shrine Game to the Senior Bowl to a pair of nice 4.4 40s on Monday.)
Unfortunately, he lost a little momentum in the 40-yard dash with runs of 4.6 and 4.7. Smith (6'1", 195) appears to play faster than that so we'll see where he goes from here. Remember, running back Terrance West lit up Towson's 2014 pro day to cement his stock.
Rich Eisen, announcer, NFL Network: Bovada listed the over/under on Eisen's annual 40 time at 6.05 seconds, a year after Eisen broke the six-second barrier for the first time (5.98). The over hit—Eisen's best time of two runs in 2015 was 6.10. The NFL Network piled on by superimposing Eisen's sprint against the 5.64-second time notched by 339-pound Washington DT Danny Shelton.
All kidding aside, though, kudos to Eisen and the NFL Network. This year's combine-ending Eisen sprint helped raise money and awareness for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. You can donate to the cause by visiting NFL.com's "Run Rich Run" page.