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NFL Offseason Watch: Combine Winners, Losers

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Chip Kelly, James Harrison and David Bowie.

The Combine has come and gone, and there are finally some concrete workout numbers we can tag to the players involved.

The biggest winners at the Combine among offensive players might be Alabama wideout Julio Jones, who posted a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash despite running with a broken foot, and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who drew rave reviews in passing drills. Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray also did great with a 4.41 40-yard dash at 213 pounds.

Mark Ingram (Alabama) and Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech) remain two of the top runners in the draft, but they didn't help themselves by running 40-yard dashes in the 4.6-second range.

Titus Young (Boise State) might have been the biggest disappointment among wideouts, as he timed in the low 4.5-second range despite the expectation being that he'd run in the 4.3 range. That discrepancy could be the difference between landing in the late first and the early third round.

Beyond those players, there are plenty more odds and ends to reflect upon. Check below for a more detailed summary of how some of the Combine's top offensive players performed, and how they might fit into the draft in light of the information revealed in the last week.

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton
didn't do badly per se, but he was probably a mild disappointment. His measurements (6-foot-5, 248) and 4.59-second 40-yard dash were both impressive, and he handled media attention well when he was at the podium, but other showings weren't as impressive. His performance in passing drills was particularly concerning, as he completed just 11-of-21 of his attempts. Since Blaine Gabbert didn't throw at the Combine, however, Newton's stock relative to other quarterbacks remains mostly the same.

Florida State's Christian Ponder might have stolen the show among quarterbacks, as many accounts indicate he was better than anyone in the Combine's passing drills. The game film isn't as impressive, however, so there should be concern over whether Ponder can display the same skills when he's in pads. Still, it's looking like Ponder won't fall out of the top 40 or so.

Washington's Jake Locker and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick both impressed as athletic quarterbacks, though neither was able to put concerns over their accuracy to rest. Both registered 40-yard dashes less than 4.6 seconds, however, and arm strength remains a positive for both, particularly Kaepernick. While Newton and Gabbert appear to have the top two quarterback spots locked down, these two (and Ponder) are very much in the fight to be the third quarterback selected.

Also in that conversation is the mercurial Ryan Mallett of Arkansas, though he remains perhaps the most polarizing figure in the draft. He refused to answer questions regarding alleged drug use when speaking to the media, prompting many reporters to take offense. Indications are NFL teams were more forgiving than the media, however. As far as on-field considerations go, however, there is no disagreement regarding the fact that Mallett put on a show in passing drills. Simply stated, any team that wants a downfield passer is going to be looking very, very hard at Mallett on draft day. He appears to be a likely top-50 pick despite the questions surrounding him.

Running Backs

Some might fuss over the 4.62 time posted by Alabama's Mark Ingram in the 40-yard dash, but it shouldn't have been so surprising. Ingram's game never was built on pure speed, and a 4.6 time for a running back just isn't a big deal if the player has other strengths. Considering the game film shows Ingram has more than enough balance, vision and explosiveness, the 40-yard dash won't affect his stock too much. He did, however, miss an opportunity to improve his stock.

Mikel Leshoure (Illinois) is the guy Ingram should be most worried about. Despite outweighing Ingram by 12 pounds, Leshoure outdid Ingram in the 40, running a 4.59. The difference is mostly negligible, but the weight difference makes it more significant than it'd normally be. Like Ingram, Leshoure is a naturally talented receiver and a strong runner with quick feet, but the size difference could distinguish the two.

DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma) and Jordan Todman (Connecticut) both had excellent performances, as Murray ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at 213 pounds and Todman ran a 4.40, though at just 203 pounds. Murray solidified himself as a top-50 pick and might even be in the running with Leshoure and Ingram to be the first selected. His exceedingly rare receiving abilities could be a major selling point when combined with 4.4 speed. Todman isn't as well rounded of a back as Murray, but he still looks like a great fit for a team looking to add some explosiveness to its backfield.

Besides Murray, the runner who might be closest to third in line behind Ingram and Leshoure could be Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams, though his stock is stagnant at the moment given that his 40-yard dash hovered just below 4.6. As a player who doesn't offer much brute strength, the hope was that Williams would show some deep speed to make up for it. Williams' stock is relatively safe due to the incredible film provided by his 2009 redshirt freshman season, but his ability to take up a feature role in the NFL is very much under question at the moment.

Although I personally have him ranked third among running backs, North Carolina's Johnny White is probably my favorite runner in the draft. He displayed exceptional balance and strength as a runner last year, and his 40-yard dash of 4.56 seconds showed he has enough speed to stand on an NFL field. If NFL teams pay enough attention to his game film, White could make a push for the third round.

Two other interesting cases are Maryland's Da'Rel Scott and Auburn's Mario Fannin. Neither figures to get a shot at a feature back role any time soon, but their 40-yard dash times (4.34 for Scott, 4.38 for Fannin) will no doubt gain them more attention. Fannin in particular is intriguing, as he is a RB/WR hybrid and built like a tank at 5-10, 231.

The biggest loser among Combine running backs is almost definitely Wisconsin's John Clay. After initially wowing everyone by weighing in at just 230 pounds (after playing in the 260-pound range at Wisconsin), Clay choked in a monumental fashion by running the 40-yard dash in the 4.8-second range. Anyone who's seen the guy run, particularly early in his Wisconsin career, can tell you that his 40-yard dash time is not a legitimate indicator of his on-field speed. But the time probably does tell us that he started training far too late for the Combine, and when he did start training, he had to spend all of his time trying to burn off fat instead of perfecting his running form. He'll need to bounce back in a big way at the Wisconsin Pro Day if he's going to get drafted.

Wide Receivers

By running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at 6-3, 220, (on a broken foot, no less), Alabama's Julio Jones could have made his way into the first 10 picks of the draft. The Rams at 14 are his absolute worst-case scenario at this point, but they might need to trade up if they still want him.

Despite Jones' big moves, Georgia's A.J. Green likely remains unchallenged as the draft's top receiver. He measured at 6-3.5, and his 40-yard dash of 4.50 was more than good enough. Otherwise, the game film still says all you need to know about Green: he's a monster. Cleveland at six looks like the lowest he'll go.

Leonard Hankerson of Miami (Fla.) and Randall Cobb of Kentucky both helped themselves at the Combine, and both could be in the discussion at the end of the first round and/or start of the second. Hankerson was expected by most to run in the mid 4.5s for the 40-yard dash, but he burned his way to a 4.43-second time instead. Cobb, meanwhile, showed well with a 4.46 time in the 40. Cobb's stock could be in the exact same place it was for Dexter McCluster in last year's draft, when he went 36th overall to the Chiefs.

Titus Young (Boise State) almost definitely hurt himself with a 40-yard dash time of just 4.51 when he and everyone else expected him to run in the 4.4s at the absolute worst. There's now a legitimate concern that Young won't look like such a burner in the NFL, and he could be closer to the third round than the first at the moment.

Luckily for Young, San Diego State's Vincent Brown stole the spotlight as far as bad workout numbers go, running in the low 4.7s. Brown will still impress with his hands and route running, but he'll have a hard time showing up in the first four rounds at this point.

Two relatively obscure wideouts who helped their stock are Greg Salas of Hawaii and Aldrick Robinson of SMU.

Salas could be going as high as the second round after running under a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash. Since he's almost flawlessly refined as a possession wideout, 4.5 speed of any sort should lock Salas into the top 100.

Robinson is almost the opposite of Salas -- he specialized in big plays at SMU, averaging 20 yards per catch in 2010. Robinson further demonstrated his ability to take teams deep by running a 4.43-second 40, which ties him with Hankerson for the fourth best time among receivers. With his college accomplishments and showing in the 40, Robinson is no doubt intriguing teams who are looking for a deep threat. It doesn't hurt him that his former teammate, Emmanuel Sanders of the Steelers, is doing well in the league.

Tight Ends

Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame) didn't have to do a whole lot to remain the draft's top-rated tight end prospect. All he needed was for Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks to not post a blazing 40-yard dash time. Given that Kendricks timed around 4.75 seconds, Rudolph should remain safe. Kendricks, on the other hand, is looking like he'll go no earlier than the 45th selection or so.

The most intriguing tight ends at the Combine, without a doubt, were the athletic trio of Rob Housler (Florida Atlantic), Jordan Cameron (USC) and Virgil Green (Nevada).

At 6-5, 248, Housler paced all tight ends with an impressive 4.55-second 40-yard dash. Cameron (6-5, 254) was right behind with a 4.59. Green, who measured in at 6-3, 249, timed at 4.64. Green's most notable accomplishment, however, was his freakish 42.5-inch vertical. When you combine his good long speed with rare explosiveness, Green could be the closest thing to Aaron Hernandez in this draft. Housler and Cameron figure to get auditions in similar roles.