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NFL SHOCK AND AWE

Jadeveon Clowney

After a substandard 2013 season for South Carolina, the defensive end has been dogged by questions about his work ethic and focus. But his blend of physical traits at 6 feet 5 and 265 pounds is so promising that he could still be the first pick in the draft. For him to fall out of the top five would be almost unfathomable. This, then, was fitting. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, the fastest at his position, but managed only 21 repetitions of the 225-pound bench press, fewer than several defensive backs and running backs and even one punter, Pat O'Donnell of Miami. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock summed up the enigma nicely. "I already think I know what he is: he's the scariest, freakiest, physical specimen I've ever seen since I've been doing this," Mayock said. "However, that doesn't mean I'm saying he's the best defensive lineman in the draft or the best player in the draft because he worries me with some of the red flags."

Johnny Manziel

Like fellow top-tier quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater, "Johnny Football" opted not to throw for scouts over the weekend, preferring to wait until his pro day workout at Texas A&M. But while Bridgewater skipped the 40-yard dash, too, Manziel zipped right through it in 4.68 seconds. At 6 feet and less than 210 pounds, Manziel is smaller than the prototype for the position, but as he showed often in college he has the speed to make all kinds of excitement happen on the field.

Michael Sam

The Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year for Missouri has proven his pass-rushing prowess. He has made headlines for his quest to become the league's first openly gay player. But ultimately, the biggest issue with Sam is he has the skills and the build that's caught between a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme and an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. The "tweener" label could keep him as a mid-round pick at best. Sam didn't boost his stock at the combine much, either. He ran the 40 in 4.91 seconds, hardly in Clowney's company. He also had the lowest vertical jump, 25 ½ inches, and the second-fewest bench press reps, 17, among those at his position who participated.

Dri Archer

The Kent State running back is a fringe prospect in this draft, at a mere 5 feet 8 and 175 pounds coming off an injury-affected senior season. He's considered a late-round pick, but Archer sure helped himself by running the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds, the best official time this year and a hair behind Chris Johnson's 2008 record of 4.24. Archer can also return kickoffs, which gives teams another value to consider.

Brock Vereen

The Minnesota safety is projected a late-round pick at best, but the younger brother of New England running back Shane Vereen ran a 4.47 in the 40, the 11th-fastest among all defensive players and second among safeties. Vereen also fared well in agility drills and led his position with 25 reps on the bench press. Asked over the weekend about whether he wanted to be drafted higher than his brother — a long-shot goal because the Patriots took their Vereen in the second round in 2011 — he brushed that off. "I think the biggest part of me just wants to hit him," Vereen said. "I just can't wait until we meet on the field."

Justin Gilbert

The depth of talent at so many positions this year might have left the cornerbacks a bit overlooked, but in this pass-driven league there is never a time when they've been more valuable. After Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, the other guy at this position with a consensus first-round grade is Oklahoma State's Gilbert. He ran the fastest 40 time among defensive players with a 4.37.

NFL SHOCK AND AWE 02/26/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:18pm]

    

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