The NFL Scouting Combine is often described as the biggest interview of any amateur football player’s life. Yes, these potential draftees have their own pro days at their respective universities, but the NFL Scouting Combine is a truly selective process. Only the premier athletes and exceptional football players from all levels of NCAA competition are invited to this audition. The combine reveals the players’ measurables, their physical talents in running drills, their football skills in shorts (yeah, I laughed too), their mental capacity through the interviewing stage and their intelligence with the Wonderlic test… good luck.
Every year when this event rolls around, several players are put in the public eye more than ever before. This year was no exception with the “catfish” hoax story of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and the drug issues of former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu.
There are always movers and shakers at the NFL Scouting Combine and this year was full of surprises and excitement.
Tavon Austin stood out the MOST among all of those invited to work out in Indianapolis
It’s hard to miss the show that Baltimore native and former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin put on for those in attendance in Indianapolis and those watching the NFL Scouting Combine on NFL Network around the country. The Dunbar High School product wowed scouts with an explosive time in the 40, 4.34, and stood out in his drill period catching everything in sight and running crisp routes. A lot of comparisons have been drawn to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin. These are not justified.
Austin stands at 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 174 pounds. He is a much smaller player that relies a lot more on his versatility to line up anywhere on the field, return kicks and punts like Harvin, and especially catch the football and run in space. What has drawn teams to Austin is his downhill explosiveness in that he is always moving forward. Whether he is cutting. juking or changing fields, Austin is always gaining positive yardage.
His size may scare people away, but his workouts and game film will not. Just watch the Oklahoma game from this year and last season’s Discover Orange Bowl against Clemson.
I also think it is pretty cool that I can say I played against Tavon on the high school level; gosh I feel old…
Tyrann Mathieu didn’t help OR hurt his draft stock
One of the more mysterious players in this 2013 NFL Draft is former LSU Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. “The Honey Badger” hasn’t played a down of competitive football since the 2011 season as he was dismissed from the football program this year by Tigers head coach Les Miles, due to numerous run-ins with the law. His battles with marijuana usage are very publicized and have many NFL scouts wondering of he truly is mature enough for the NFL.
Mathieu has no game tape from this season to impress NFL scouts with, making his combine workout and pro day that much more important. He was measured at 5 feet 8 inches and 186 pounds. His official 40 time was 4.50. He has a 34 inch vertical leap and he only bench pressed 225 four times. Not impressive numbers from the former Heisman trophy candidate, but that was expected.
Mathieu performed fairly well during the drill period of the combine with the other defensive backs in the draft class. HE showed the impressive instincts that have always been tied to his outstanding playmaking ability. When he was on the field for LSU, he was always around or touching the football. However, his size, speed and strength have to be additional concerns to the off-the-field issues already tied to his draft status.
Someone will take a chance on him. Someone will look past the issues he is dealing with outside of football. A project like Mathieu was never going to be a Day One player regardless of how he worked out.
Manti Te’o confirmed what a lot of scouts believed; he isn’t very athletic
Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has been the most talked about college football player in the last two months. With all of the headlines he grabbed in his girlfriend hoax, the NFL Combine was his place to bury the hatchet of lies and prove to scouts that he isn’t the guy who disappeared against NFL caliber players in the BCS National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Then, it’s time for him to work out.
Te’o claims to have lost 15 pounds to be better prepared for the combine and the next level. He measured at 6 feet 1 inch and weighed 241 pounds. However, it wasn’t a healthy 241. Te’o appeared to look more like he had a date with the Pillsbury doughboy, than he did a treadmill and it showed in his 40 time. He finished 20th out of 26 linebackers with a best time of 4.81. He opted out of the bench press due to a right shoulder stinger. His vertical leap was a respectable 33 inches and his broad jump was a below average jump of 9 feet 5 inches.
With Te’o not jumping off the page to scouts with those numbers, he will HAVE to perform better at his pro day on March 26 or else his dream of being picked in the first round of the NFL Draft will disappear in thin air.
Just ask Super Bowl champion and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about what he thought of Manti Te’o's performance.
These numbers will also cause scouts to look back at a fairly weak schedule of the Fighting Irish and watch the game films a lot more intently. Watch Te’o against Stanford and Alabama, the two teams with the most NFL-ready lineman and talent, and watch how exposed his skill-set becomes. Football is ultimately a team game, but the NFL Draft scrutinizes individual performances more than anything.
He interviewed very well, but many questions still remain: Can he be an every down linebacker in the NFL? Can he chase down guys in space and tackle them one-on-one? How will he handle NFL-caliber lineman getting to the second level? How will he handle the laughter and jokes he will most likely received when he is drafted by an NFL team?
Regardless of how he works out at his pro day, Te’o will still most likely be a late first-round or second-round pick.
At least we know the Oakland Raiders will not pick him based on his 40 time.