by Rob Joyce
The NFL combine is a perplexing time for fans and scouts alike. On one hand, it’s a chance to interview the best college players from around the country and see their raw athleticism over a couple of days. On the other hand, the numbers can be misleading – plenty of “workout warriors” who dazzled without pads on have struggled on the field, and vice versa.
Still, plenty of NFL hopefuls will make enough noise where they will either secure their place atop the first-round, or skyrocket up draft boards league-wide. Here are the five who have made the most noise in Indianapolis:
Garrett won’t be rising up any draft boards… that’s because he was already the top choice on most of them. However, the Texas A&M defensive end cemented his status as the best player available with his combine performance. He showed his strength with 33 reps on the bench press. He exploded for a 41-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 10 feet, 8 inches (that’s exceptional). He ran a 4.64 dash, a low-end time for running backs. Oh, and he’s 272 lbs. Put it all together, and you have a freak athlete that doesn’t come around often. The Browns could be collecting the anchor of their defense.
Ohio State’s string of defensive backs being drafted will continue with both Lattimore and teammate Malik Hooker. For Lattimore, his numbers secured that place as he may have risen into the top-10 after a 4.36 40-time, a broad jump of 11 feet and a 38.5-inch vertical. However, after his 40 he appeared to pull up, drawing questions about the health of his hamstring, which has been an issue for the last two years. If that turns out to only be a minor issue, there’s no question Lattimore will be a mid-to-high first-round selection.
UConn has a history of having pure athletes in the secondary – two years ago Byron Jones set the combine record in the broad jump. This year it’s Melifonwu who’s turning heads. He nearly broke his former teammates’ record with a broad jump of 11 feet, 9 inches. He ran the 40 in 4.4 and 4.46, and had a 44-inch vertical leap. Already a second- or third-round target, the former Husky could have climbed his way into the high second, or even the first round.
The defensive lineman out of Temple has been steadily rising since a strong Senior Bowl. His 4.52 40-yard dash would have been tops among linebackers, and his 38-inch vertical and 11 feet, 1 inch broad jump (a record for D-linemen) proved his athleticism is NFL-quality. In the course of a few months he went from a fringe Day 2 pick to a potential first-rounder.
The Washington wide receiver scorched secondaries in his final year in the Pac-12, by both catching passes and returning both kicks and punts. As a receiver he caught 81 balls for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. The speedster really made noise, though, when he proved just how fast he was in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. His 4.22-second dash broke the previous record, held by Chris Johnson. Though plenty of fast receivers have failed to catch on in the NFL, Ross is certainly drawing more attention than he was last week.