--Purdue tight end Dustin Keller was arguably the most impressive athlete on
the field. He needed a strong day after measuring in at only 6-feet-2 and 242
pounds, but in finishing among the positional leaders in several categories
and as the fastest and most explosive tight end, his stock is undeniably on
It is important to note the 40 times reported by the NFL Network are not official,
but in leading the position with times at 4.53 and 4.54 seconds, he certainly
showed the speed necessary to attack defenses down the seam. In posting a 38-inch
vertical, Keller also led the position in one of the categories scouts use to
determine explosiveness. By posting 26 repetitions of 225 pounds (one behind
leader Craig Stevens of California), Keller also showed explosive strength in
his upper body.
Some teams simply won't consider a 6-2, 242-pound tight end regardless of how
well he works out, but of those teams that will, Keller's stock rose significantly
--One of the fastest rising
tight ends in the draft continues to be Tennessee's Brad Cottam. Cottam, who
measured in at 6-7 1/2, 270 pounds, also showed an impressive combination of
speed and strength. Cottam was timed by scouts in the 4.6s and finished among
the position's leaders with 24 repetitions of 225 pounds despite fighting physics
with his long arms. Cottam was plagued by injuries throughout his career and
missed nearly all of last season due to a broken wrist. Cottam's rare size/speed
combination, along with resurgence during the Outback Bowl led to a Senior Bowl
invitation, where he was among the better tight ends. Saturday in Indy, he also
proved amongst the most athletic.
--As impressive as Keller
and Cottam were in the 40 and bench press drills, scouts left the RCA Dome buzzing
about the fluidity and athleticism of Texas redshirt sophomore JerMichael Finley.
Finley caught the ball cleanly and showed the body control to adjust to the
pass and accelerate upfield quickly. Finley reportedly received a fourth-round
grade from the NFL Advisory Committee, but his potential could cause him to
ultimately be drafted a full round -- or more -- earlier.
--The workout reviews weren't
all positive among the tight end prospects as Southern California's Fred Davis,
nearly universally ranked as the top talent at the position, struggled mightily
in drills. Davis had been impressive early with 24 reps of 225 pounds, but dropped
several passes Saturday and elected not to run the 40-yard dash. He could be
a classic case of a player struggling with the pressure of the Combine, as he
stood out at the Senior Bowl and won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight
end, but his struggles with drops definitely caught the attention of scouts.
--Notre Dame's John Carlson
ran a 4.90 and 4.98 in the 40 -- among the position's slowest times. Carlson,
who had reportedly been timed in the 4.7s by NFL scouts last spring, caught
the ball smoothly throughout the rest of the workout, but his lack of speed
on this big stage looms as a considerable red flag.
--Forty times aren't nearly as important for offensive linemen, but a surprisingly
disappointing time was turned in by Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah. With first-round
offensive tackles of past years averaging times in the 5.10-5.20 range, Otah
was timed by The NFL Network at 5.56. The time, while certainly cause for some
concern, may not harm Otah's stock as much as it would initially appear. Otah
had only recently begun training for the workout after sustaining a high ankle
sprain late in the season that prevented him from playing in the Senior Bowl.
--Much of the talk regarding
the top offensive line performances during the workouts will revolve around
Otah's slow time and Jake Long's consistency, but Connecticut's Shawn Murphy
(6-4, 292) is a sleeper candidate who significantly helped himself during drills.
His quickness and agility may not necessarily lend itself to the timed drills
shown during the Combine coverage, but scouts left the workouts speaking highly
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
--Amid all of the hype, health and Herculean physiques that characterize the
annual Combine workouts, media darling Joe Flacco moved up a few spots in my
book with a much less publicized event.
Free for a few moments between workouts and interviews, Flacco was asked by
a group of youngsters for his autograph. While nearly every recognizable coach
and even the least recognizable players are besieged by autograph hounds every
time they venture into the public hallways of the Indianapolis Convention Center,
few take the time to provide autographs. Flacco, surrounded by kids whose ages
appeared to be between 5-15, not only signed for a solid 15 minutes, he did
so while addressing each child.
On one occasion, I overheard the crouching 6-6, 236-pound quarterback ask a
preschool aged girl if she'd like her football to be autographed "big or
small," to which she, as any child her age would, exclaimed "BIG."
With the national media focusing on the NFL head coaches at the other end of
the hall and no other adults seemingly around the scene other than security
and the childrens' parents, Flacco wasn't signing autographs to appear classy.
I'm not as high on Flacco's accuracy and upside at the next level as some other
analysts. However, he impressed me more with his character during those 15 minutes
than he could possibly hope to when throwing Sunday.