published Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Greeson: NFL combine leaves us with ups, downs

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    Auburn offensive lineman Greg Robinson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The combine has concluded, and yes, we're a little sad about that.

Still, we got a lot of information to dissect. Let's go.

Rising

Greg Robinson went from relatively unknown starting left tackle at Auburn in September to potentially the No. 1 overall pick. Robinson dazzled all the physical aspects of the draft and looks the part of the safest top-five pick in round one.

Jadeveon Clowney is a physical freak who leaves scouts and experts puzzled. The combine enhanced his reputation as the most gifted athlete in this class -- 6-foot-6, 266; 4.53 electrically clocked 40; 38-inch vertical jump -- and somehow managed to add to the convoluted image he has after an indifferent junior season at South Carolina. He had not put a lot of prep work in on the bench press and elected to skip the other running drills. Like most of the gifted among us, Clowney's talents come with trepidation.

Louis Nix is now a class favorite. We talked about Nix -- a likely late first-rounder -- losing weight because scouts said he should and he wanted to feel "sexier." Good times. Now comes the video, where Nix falls not once, not twice, but five times during the standing broad jump. His good-natured reaction to the potential embarrassing moment is great. And scouts know a guy like that can help in the locker room, too.

Justin Gilbert clocked a sub-4.4 40, and 6-foot cornerbacks who are that fast will get a lot of chances to play on Sundays. And they get paid very well to do so.

It's official -- no matter the rule changes or the equipment alterations or whatever measures the football czars take, the NFL is going to be a violent place. When you have guys like Clowney and linebackers Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr -- two cats who measured 6-4 or better and between 245 and 255 pounds and ran low 4.6 times in the 40 -- and defensive tackles such as Aaron Donald, 285 pounds with an unofficial 4.65 40 time and 35 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, it's never going to be safe. Those are big guys who get to places in a big hurry with bad intentions.

Georgia Southern quarterback Jeris McKinnon wowed scouts with his physical skills and speed. He did not throw because he will not throw on Sundays. McKinnon answered questions about whether the former Southern Conference star has the physica skills to play; the questions about where he will play will linger for whoever may draft him.

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    Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Falling

Michael Sam made the biggest headlines before the draft, sharing his personal life with all of us. Sam then was articulate and direct and forthright in the interviewing process. However, his on-the-field work was less than impressive. He posted a 4.91 40 time. He benched 225 pounds 17 times, which was tied for second-to-last among defensive linemen, and was in the bottom quarter in the vertical jump. No matter what the critics or supporters of Sam's personal life may say, whether he can make plays will be the deciding factor in his NFL future.

Teddy Bridgewater started the college football season as almost a sure-fire bet as the top-ranked quarterback on everyone's draft board. His stock has stagnated, even getting passed by fellow AAC quarterback Blake Bortles. His decision not to participate in the combine was met with indifference by the league's scouts, but it certainly raises the stakes for his on-campus workout. There's a chance that Bridgewater could slip to No. 4 among quarterbacks.

Oregon running back D'Anthony Thomas was viewed as a speed back who could return punts at under 6 feet tall and roughly 170 pounds. Well, Thomas clocked a 4.5 time that was almost exactly what Clowney ran. Speed backs need to be able to outrun 6-6, 266-pound defensive ends.

Not unlike Clowney and maybe Bridgewater, Cyrus Kouandjio could have been a top-10 pick if he could have left Alabama last year after a standout sophomore season. Kouandjio, however, was not eligible then. Fast forward to this combine, and he failed some medical exams at this combine and his power game at Alabama was betrayed by his 21 reps on the bench.

Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy were the country's best cornerback duo last year at Florida. They posted matching 4.61 times in the 40. Cornerbacks, like speed backs, need to outrun defensive linemen.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and follow him at Twitter @jgreesontfp. Listen to Jay and Times Free Press sports writer David Paschall on "Press Row" from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 105.1 FM or on 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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