NFL Draft Analysis: Obscure Combine Performers
by Trevor Whenham - 3/3/2011
Every year at the Combine there are a few guys from reasonably obscure schools who put up eye-popping performances and get a lot more attention after the event than they did before. Sometimes those players turn into stars. More often they fade back into obscurity sooner or later. Regardless, they are a lot of fun to pay attention to. Here are five guys, according to my NFL Draft analysis, that are decidedly on the radar now after what they managed to do in Indianapolis:
Edmund Gates, WR, Abilene Christian - There is nothing that gets more attention at the Combine that the 40-yard dash. You can debate endlessly about whether that makes sense or not. There are easy arguments on both sides -- Chris Johnson ran the fastest 40 ever at 4.24 seconds and has turned into a superstar, but CB Stanford Routt went from running the second fastest 40 ever straight into obscurity as an underwhelming part-time starter for the Raiders.
However you feel about the 40 there is no doubt that posting a fast time is a great way for a guy from an obscure school to get noticed. Gates is one of two receivers to draw plenty of attention with his time. He tied Ricardo Lockette, who we will see in a minute, for the fastest time in the dash among wide receivers, and the fourth fastest overall.
Gates is a converted basketball player who is drawing a lot of comparisons to Greg Jennings -- certainly not a bad guy to be compared to. He’s good friends with Johnny Knox -- another former Abilene Christian player -- and the strong play of Knox will certainly help Gates’ case. Gates posted some solid numbers, and is obviously freakishly athletic, so he’ll climb some draft boards after his performance in Indianapolis.
Ricardo Lockette, WR, Fort Valley State - As I mentioned, Lockette tied Gates for the fastest 40 time among wide receivers. Lockette is far less polished and ready than Gates, and would be an uncertain project for whoever picks him. With athleticism like this, though, the chances have improved dramatically that a team will take a gamble and pick him -- even if it’s only to play him on special teams. As the cliche goes, you can’t teach speed.
Chris Carter, DE, Fresno State - One theme that emerged this year was the large number of incredibly impressive performances there were from DE or LB prospects -- the type of guys who could hunt quarterbacks with a hand down or not. It’s a position that’s in vogue right now, and the talent available this year will only increase that trend.
Carter ran the second best time for a defensive linemen -- a freakish 4.62 seconds -- and some of his other measurables were top-notch as well. Carter was getting noticed as a middle-round type of guy. In a league always starved for pass rushing potential, though, his performance could have moved him up.
Dontay Moch, DE, Nevada - If Carter climbed the rankings then Moch rocketed up them. Coming into the Combine he was getting plenty of attention, but he was a tweener -- too small to play DE, but inexperienced playing standing up.
Teams will forgive those problems after the ridiculous performance Moch put on display at the Combine. He didn’t just look good compared to the field -- he annihilated the competition. His 40 time was the second fastest ever for a defensive linemen, and at 4.44 seconds it was a time that would be respectable for a cornerback not a pass rusher. It was also .18 seconds faster than Carter, and Carter was impressive.
He wasn’t done there, though -- he also was five inches better than the rest of the linemen in the high jump, and six inches better than anyone in the broad jump. He was a machine.
He’s going to get a lot of attention form that performance, and that’s going to make him much richer than he would have been. There’s probably no one who benefited more from the trip to Indianapolis than Moch.
Cecil Shorts, WR, Mount Union - Unlike some of the guys we have already discussed, Shorts didn’t blow guys away with any eye-opening performances. What he did, though, is absolutely gave any team thinking about drafting him a good reason to do so.
Of the seven athletic drills that the players perform, Shorts was in the top eight for four of them, and in the top five for three. He also looked very solid in the pass catching drills.
Mount Union is a power in Division III, so scouts will pay attention to Shorts -- especially since Pierre Garcon, a close friend of Shorts, has blossomed since joining the Colts. He was solidly athletic in Indy, and he’s versatile -- he can play receiver, return kicks and play the wildcat. Sometimes pretty good is good enough, and that should be the case here.
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