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INDIANAPOLIS -- There's far more than meets the eye when it comes to the 40-yard dash, the television darling of the combine workouts.
The times posted by the NFL Network, the only media outlet allowed on the field during the event, are unofficial. And they're taken independent of the three official times clocked by National Football Scouting -- two electronic and one handheld. Of those, only the top 10 top electronic times are posted to the league's website. Throw in the fact that coaches, scouts and personnel men take their own handheld times, and you have a mush pot of times to sift through.
Oh yeah, and everyone runs twice.
Hence, the confusion regarding the times of players such as Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The NFL Network posted 4.40 seconds immediately after one of his two runs Sunday, while scouts and personnel men on hand were buzzing about clockings as low as 4.29 while other sources told NFLDraftScout.com that he was in the 4.45-4.50. The top 10 "official" electronic times posted didn't list Maclin at all. South Carolina's Kenny McKinley was listed 10th at 4.44, meaning Maclin's top electronic time was 4.5 or higher.
That doesn't concern St. Louis Rams general manager Billy Devaney, who said, "The bottom line is he can run away from people. And he runs as fast in pads as he does in shorts. A lot of players don't, but he does.
"Larry Fitzgerald ran more than 4.6 when he was here (Fitzgerald didn't work out at the combine, but did post a 4.63 in another workout), and I don't hear too many people now talking about what he ran at Indianapolis."
Maclin fell during a drill and banged his knee on the turf. He got up and continued to work briefly, but then pulled himself out again. The injury appeared to be a hyperextension and not serious, but Maclin will have an MRI to be sure.
The big name who didn't take the field at all was Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree. He didn't pull an Andre' Smith and bolt town without telling anyone. He was still in Indianapolis, and took the podium just long enough to confirm that he will delay surgery on the stress fracture in his foot until after working out for scouts at his March 26 pro day.
"I come here today involving my injury report. It's an old injury I've been having," Crabtree said. "I've never had any pain in it. I will run my 40 (March 26). After I do that I'm going to do surgery and I'm looking forward to going to the next level. And that's it."
Even before the news of his foot injury surfaced, Crabtree wasn't scheduled to run at the combine due to an ankle injury. However, he did agree to catch some passes from quarterbacks when requested to. He was stationary, but caught roughly 100 balls without a drop from quarterbacks trying to impress scouts with their arm strength.
The quarterback positional drills is the one workout session the media is allowed to attend, with NFLDraftScout.com analysts Rob Rang and Chad Reuter each watching a group Sunday.
Southern Cal's Mark Sanchez and Georgia's Matt Stafford were part of the same workout group Sunday afternoon. Stafford chose not to throw, giving Sanchez the chance to make up some ground. Although the former Trojan was clearly the most technically sound of the quarterbacks in his group, he did not have a jaw-dropping throwing session that will threaten Stafford for the first quarterback off the board. Although Sanchez's 40 times were only adequate, his efficient footwork and ability to throw on the run gave teams an indication of his mobility inside and outside the pocket.
Juniors Josh Freeman (Kansas State) and Nate Davis (Ball State) were the two quarterbacks scouts were most interested to see in the morning session. Freeman has good arm strength, but his accuracy was inconsistent. On many of his shorter and intermediate routes, he often was a bit high or wide with his throws. Overall, it was a solid performance, but not the jaw-dropping one some had projected. Davis was a little erratic early, but improved as the practice went on. He has the best deep ball (in terms of accuracy, velocity and trajectory) of any of the quarterbacks here. He did not wear gloves, as he did in college.
Perhaps the most impressive player on the field in the morning session was Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Scouts were impressed, but not altogether surprised, by his 4.30-second 40-yard dash - the fastest time recorded yet at this year's event. It was his improved fluidity and consistency of his route-running and his secure hands that real caught their attention.
Fresno State's Tom Brandstater was the most consistently impressive passer of the first session. He was accurate with good velocity.
Central Arkansas's Nathan Brown also helped himself. His passes had enough zip to assure scouts that he can make every throw. His accuracy and trajectory on the post corner routes were particularly impressive.WORKOUT WATCH
--Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" posted a 4.59-second 40-yard dash. It was the 10th-fasted official time among running backs Sunday, but it was a bit slower than the mid-4.5s most experts expected to see.
--Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno appeared to get off the line slowly and failed to record an official 40 time among the top 10 running backs. The unofficial time listed by NFL Network was 4.62.
--Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey posted the top official 40 among wide receivers at 4.30. It confirms what scouts already knew - he's a legitimate deep threat. However, questions still remain about his route-running and hands.
--Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin continues to have a strong combine. Measuring in taller than expected at 5-feet-11 3/4, Harvin followed it up with a 4.41 times in the 40. He will wait until Florida's Pro Day on March 18 to do positional drills.
--North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks pulled up during receiver drills with what was reported to be a strained hamstring.
--Rice tight end James Casey was expected to work out extremely well. While he didn't post a 40 time among the top 10 tight ends, he did tie Wisconsin's Travis Beckum for the lead among the position with 28 reps at 225 pounds. He also posted a 36.0-inch vertical jump.
--Connecticut's Donald Brown and Boise State's Ian Johnson turned in impressive all-around workouts. Brown was among the top five running backs in the 40-yard dash (4.51 seconds), broad jump (10'5") and led the group in the vertical jump (41.5 inches). Johnson impressed scouts with his rare blend of speed -- second among running backs at 4.46 seconds -- and strength (26 reps at 225 pounds).
--Texas A&M's Stephen McGee blew away the rest of the quarterback field with a 4.66 clocking in the 40, well ahead of Sam Houston State's Rhett Bomar (4.82).
--Virginia running back Cedric Peerman led all running backs with a 4.45 in the 40 in official electronic times posted Sunday. He was second with a 40.0-inch vertical jump and fourth among the position group with 27 reps at 225 pounds.
--Washington State wide receiver Brandon Gibson did not work out. Gibson pulled a hamstring at the Senior Bowl, which may have limited his combine preparation, but the decision not to run here could be costly, as few scouts will be willing to travel to Pullman, Washington to see him work out.
--Abilene Christian wide receiver Johnny Knox caught the attention of scouts by running a 4.34 and catching the ball cleanly throughout his workout.WORTH NOTING
-- Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, listed by the Seminoles at 6-4, 252 pounds, measured in at 6-1 7/8, 256 pounds. The two-inch difference is significant for teams who wonder if Brown has the height required to remain at defensive end. Brown told the media Sunday that he'd be participating in defensive end and linebacker drills this week.
--Despite playing for a high-profile Louisiana State program, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois is one of the more underrated players at the combine. However, he's known mostly for the academic suspension that cost him his sophomore season and his statement about trying to take Florida quarterback Tim Tebow "out of the game." He stuck to talking about his own game Sunday, saying he has "spidey sense" for when the snap is about to come. That quick get-off, combined with his natural strength, makes Francois a versatile lineman who could play 3-4 defensive end or any interior spot.
--Hampton defensive lineman Chris Baker, an Auburn transfer, said his role in a campus fight was overblown. He said he took a plea agreement to lessen the financial burden on his family, explaining "trials are expensive." Despite his size (6-2, 308), Baker played end in the Pirates' 3-4 defense as a junior and performed very well. He expects to run a sub-5.0 40-yard dash. If that happens, you'll hear a lot about him in the coming weeks.
--Tennessee DE Robert Ayers proved himself a potential top 40 pick by matching strength and quickness with All-American left tackle Michael Oher at the Senior Bowl. He measured in at 6-3, 272 pounds at the combine, helping his cause for teams looking at him at defensive end. He's yet another potential 3-4 linebacker if he looks good in linebacker drills Monday. Ayers is one of the few players who said he wanted to improve his overall game during pre-combine workouts, not just working on becoming a "track star." QUOTE BOOK
"Maybe the media wants access because it doesn't have access - I think that's an important element to evaluate. Is there really some value in it or is it just perception? And if it's just perception, then are we compromising the working environment for the sake of perception or is there really some value? It's something we need to collectively discuss in the offseason. -- National Football Scouting president Jeff Foster, on why the media is only granted access for the quarterback workouts at the combine.NFLDraftScout.com is distributed by The Sports Xchange.
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