published Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Surprises enhance NFL draft combine's info value

The ultimate winners and losers from this year's NFL draft combine won't truly be known until the first week in May.

But the running and lifting and jumping and (limited) throwing that has happened in Indianapolis and that will continue today is shaping the draft class and the perceptions of those in it. And in no other place in sports is perception as close to truth and truth as valid as perception as in the draft.

It's part of its charm and at the heart of its enigmatic core.

Here are our takeaways from the combine (and the answer is absolutely, I watched more of this than just about any other sporting event this weekend):

• There was a punter who benched 225 pounds more times than Jadeveon Clowney. That seems less than good.

Miami punter Pat O'Donnell benched 225 23 times; Clowney did it 21. Clowney completed his full-circle enigma path by running a 4.53 40-yard dash, meaning that the former South Carolina defensive end was faster than the average time of the wide receivers for the last three years. Yes, faster than the average wide receiver. At 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds.

• Former Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, the highly regarded 320-pound-plus tackle, ran faster than Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. And top-ranked quarterback Blake Bortles.

• Mike Evans, the former Texas A&M wide receiver, made himself some money Sunday by running a sub-4.6 40 at 6-5, 235ish. He also looked effortless catching the ball. Dude looks like a surefire No. 1 receiver.

• There was a lot of talent at wide receiver. A lot. Evans looked great, as did former Clemson star Mr. Sammy Watkins. Also, Brandin Cooks was legit fast and Odell Beckham may have jumped into round one. Know this, as more and more high school teams convert to spreads and passing games become more prevalent, the old-school, pro-style quarterbacks are going to be more rare.

The reverse of that is there will be more and more polished and explosive wide receivers. Add that fact to the knowledge that the overall value -- and career span -- of running backs is dwindling every year, more and more talented and athletic guys who would have been tailbacks a decade ago are lining up wide. This -- starting with Megatron and A.J. Green and Julio Jones and Co. -- could be the golden age of wide receiver.

• Best line from a lineman -- Louis Nix on dropping 20-plus pounds to get to a svelte 331 at 6-2 -- "I just feel sexier." Here's his exchange according to CBSsports.com: A quick sampling of the verbiage of Mr. Nix:

On why he lost 23 pounds: "I enjoy my weight. But people wanted me down, so I lost it. ... My stomach doesn't stick out as much. That's nice. I just feel sexier."

On if he'll stay slimmed down after he's drafted: "If they want me to stay, I'll stay. If they want me to get sexy, I've got it."

When a reporter asked how his knee, the source of some concern, is feeling: "How's the knee? It's fantastic. How's your knee?"

• Many of the numbers and drills mean very little when it comes to making plays on Sundays. Offensive linemen rarely need to run 40 yards to make a play. Doing a slew of bench reps would be more helpful in the National Pushup League than in the National Football League.

But here's the kicker about these drills: All the players know they are coming, and whether they are prepared to do their best at them speaks volumes about the player. It even speaks more than the results in most of the drills.

The biggest takeaway we have with the combine is "Are you prepared?" This is a monster job interview for seven-figure salaries. Did you give yourself a chance to succeed? If you are not prepared for this, you can't be counted on to be prepared for Sundays.

The preparation is as important as the production. In fact, the combined image is all part of the package.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. You can follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp and listen to "Press Row" with Jay and TFP sports writer David Paschall 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 105.1 FM or at timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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