We’ve been talking about the draft for a couple months now (at least in Jacksonville we have), but now we finally have something to talk about. The first mock draft shakeup occurred after senior bowl week when we saw players like LT Eric Fisher and QB Mike Glennon rise on mock drafts, but the combine is the first of two major events (Combine, Pro Day) in the pre-draft process that can cause top prospects to rise and fall for a reason outside of NFL coaches becoming more familiar with the their game tape. As draftniks and armchair GMs alike have noted, this is one of the few drafts in the last few years where basically the entire top 10 is up for grabs – making the combine even more important for top players in this draft. Teams like the Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders, Eagles, and Lions who have top 5 picks were hoping that the top players on their boards answered questions and cemented their status as top picks. In what was perfectly fitting for this draft, there were some eye-opening results from the combine that should keep the top 10 more fluid than ever. Our own David R. Johns gave us some of the Combine highlights from the weekend, but now let’s take a deeper look at how the players most often mocked to the Jaguars performed.
The Top 5 Pre-Combine Contenders
Lotulelei made some of the biggest headlines this weekend, as a heart “condition” forced him to abandon all Combine workouts and push them to his Pro Day. Lotulelei was found to have an abnormally low ejection fraction – a measure of the heart’s contraction efficiency – and has spent the next few days undergoing further tests. While there’s been rampant speculation about what this will do to Lotulelei’s draft stock, the honest truth is that no one, except perhaps Lotulelei and his doctors, can come even close to speculating on that. Low ejection fraction isn’t a condition itself – it’s just a test result. While the test suggests that there was something wrong with his heart ability to contract on that day, only further testing will show whether it’s due to something as innocuous as rapid weight loss or something as devastating as some types of cardiomyopathy. For you Lotulelei fans out there, Dave Siebert did a decent write-up on Lotulelei’s abnormal test over at Bleacher Report. Regardless of what his doctors end up determining as the cause for his test results, you can bet that teams will be on edge, and will be playing close attention to both his medical records and his Pro Day.
The arguable favorite for the number one pick didn’t really have a stellar combine by most reports, but as a (armchair) GM, why should I care about how far my left tackle can broad jump? That being said, during a year when most offensive lineman ran impressively, Joeckel’s athletic ability came off as mediocre at best – even sub-par, according to USA Today, although USA Today admittedly isn’t the first place I go to for nuanced draft analysis. According to them, he looked average even during positional drills, but I have a feeling how he looked against LSU and other SEC heavyweights is going to matter a lot more to Caldwell and co.
There’s not too much to say about Jones, who didn’t participate in the combine except to let doctors take a look at him. His diagnosis of spinal stenosis four years ago scares teams, and rightfully so, and his decision not to participate in the combine will only cause teams to focus more on the potential medical red flag. The number one player on Mel Kiper’s big board seems to be falling out of the top five picks according to draftniks, and even though he is a potential fit as the LEO in Gus Bradley’s defense, he’s likely not the best one, and adding that to his medical history makes it likely that Jones has fallen out of Caldwell’s top five as well.
Arguably the top defensive end prospect in the 2013 NFL draft before the Combine, Werner wasn’t really expected to light up the combine… and he didn’t. Werner ran an unimpressive 4.83s 40 yard dash with a 10 yard split of 1.66s – which was about the same as Florida DT Sharrif Floyd. When you add in his 9’3 broad jump and a 31” vertical leap, Werner just isn’t quite the athletic specimen that some of the other DE prospects in this draft are – not that he was expected to be. With these kind of numbers though, managers will wonder how much his relatively marginal athleticism will hinder his NFL potential. Additionally, after reportedly showing quite a bit of stiffness doing OLB positional drills, he’s likely going to be a better fit as a 4-3 DE. Is he a potential fit on the Jaguars and as the “Leo”? He could be on the short list due to his play this year, but due to his athletic and “fit” limitations, I can’t help but think that he’s not at the top of it.
The other top defensive end prospect in the 2013 NFL draft before the Combine, Moore was supposed to have a better shot at lighting up the Combine than Werner did. Although no one was confusing his athleticism with that of the guy he succeeded at A&M, Von Miller, he looked fast and strong on tape and was a monster in the SEC all year. Yet, he couldn’t have looked worse at the Combine. After putting up 12 reps on the bench press (six less than the one kicker that worked out at the Combine), he ran an arguably even more embarrassing 4.95s 40 yard dash with a 1.69s 10 yard split. Yeah, these numbers would look great if Moore weighed 300 lbs, but he weighs 50 lbs less than that! Like Werner’s, these numbers are comparable or worse than expected first round DT’s like Florida’s Sharrif Floyd and Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson. He came back with a 10’2 broad jump and 35.5” vertical jump, making a minor case that he’s not completely unathletic, but his top finishes in those categories likely won’t compensate for his embarrassing other numbers.
Earlier this year, Moore admitted being complacent and immature early in his college career when he was playing behind Von Miller. One can only wonder whether the “success” of the recognition that comes with being a top 5 pick on a Kiper/McShay mock draft made him complacent in the pre-Combine process, and whether that complacency is something that will dog him throughout his NFL career.
The Top 5 (okay, 7) Post-Combine Risers
His jaw-dropping unofficial 4.53s 40 yard dash turned out to be a less-insane but still blazing 4.60 officially-timed 40 yard dash, and his 1.57s 10-yard split was tied for third amongst defensive lineman. His other numbers were pretty stellar as well (10’2 broad jump, 32.5” vertical jump), but what really stood out was how quick and fluid he was in coverage during OLB drills. Amongst the DE/OLB hybrid types doing the drills, he clearly was the most comfortable in coverage. He bulked up his 6’6 frame to 250lbs and it sure didn’t look like it hindered his speed, but Jordan could definitely stand to add a bit more to that frame. NFL staff didn’t get a chance to see his strength (bench press “strength”), due a torn labrum. He’ll have surgery on the shoulder soon, which has been nagging him throughout the year, but it will likely prevent him from putting on the weight NFL GMs and coaches want to see by the time his Pro Day rolls around; so at some level, the NFL team that picks him will be going based on potential rather than a final product. But his potential sure looks good, and if you made the argument that Jordan is the best and most versatile fit as the Jaguars “Leo” in this draft, I wouldn’t be arguing with you.
How does that vaunted Alabama defense not have a top 10 NFL draft pick? Milliner’s doing his best to show GMs that not only should he be in the top 10, but arguably, in the top 5. A big, physical corner that we highlighted halfway through the college season, Milliner’s big question mark, according to Mike Mayock, was his athleticism. And he squashed those. With an elite 4.37s 40 yard dash, a near elite 1.49s 10 yard split, and good numbers in the jumping dills (10’2 broad, 36” vertical). Like Jordan, Milliner also didn’t do the bench press due to a torn labrum, but for a big corner whose shown physicality on tape, that is likely going to be less of a concern. Although Milliner dropped plenty of balls during his positional workout at the Combine, he likely cemented himself as the top cornerback in this draft, and could be the type of big, physical corner that the Bradley/Babich defense is looking for. The biggest hindrance to Milliner being a Jaguar may be the depth of the cornerback class in this year’s draft. Although this isn’t the most polished of cornerback classes, it does have a ton of big physical corners – and a few of whom (Xavier Rhodes, Desmond Trufant, and David Amerson, and others) showed today that they have elite athleticism to go with their size and physicality. While Milliner may prove to be on the short list for the number two pick, the drop off between Milliner and whose available at 33 (or late in the first round with a trade up) may be the reason why Milliner isn’t the pick at two, despite his arguably stellar combine.
As good as Dion Jordan’s combine was, it still wasn’t as good as Barkevious Mingo’s. These guys are just freaks, and Mingo (barely) out-freaked Jordan this weekend. He had the fastest 40 yard dash and 10 yard split amongst DE/OLBs, at 4.58s and 1.55s respectively, the second highest vertical at 37” and the furthest (tied) broad jump at 10’6. Add that to his incredibly smooth linebacker drills, and Mingo has cemented his top 10 potential as a 3-4 OLB – and potentially as the Jaguar’s “Leo”. Are there character concerns about him and fellow LSU DE Sam Montgomery taking plays off against lesser opponents and making bets as motivation? You bet. Those are the type of red flags you don’t want to see in guy you’re considering with a top 5 pick. Those type of red flags increase the bust potential of a guy like this (who already doesn’t have the production to match his skill set). But will his skill-set and fit in the Jaguars defense offset that? I’ll direct that question to Mr. Caldwell
Ezekiel Ansah / Eric Fisher / Sharrif Floyd / Geno Smith
I put all these guys together because they’re not quite at the top of the pile to get drafted with the #2 pick, but their combine has them skyrocketing up “big boards” everywhere. If you haven’t been following the damage that Ansah did this weekend, you haven’t been following the combine, because he shredded the Combine – even more so than expected. He wasn’t the most natural in OLB drills, but he wasn’t expected to be. He still has potential in that area, but that’s why Ansah’s not at the top of these lists right now – he’s got potential in every area but has shown armchair GMs and NFL staff just a piece of it.
Whereas Luke Joeckel didn’t impress athletically at the Combine, Eric Fisher did just that. The Central Michigan product has been skyrocketing up draftnik big boards, and this weekend Mike Mayock said that the gap between him and Joeckel was very narrow already. If you add in the superior athleticism and quick feet during positional drills that Fisher showed, any team that’s considering Joeckel as their left tackle of the future is likely looking at Fisher too.
Sharrif Floyd is the big winner during the post-season process thus far, as his stock has been steadily rising since Florida’s season ended, and his Combine is only going to fuel that ship further. The Combine showed that he’s the most athletically gifted defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, and now he’s looking to take over Star Lotulelei’s top spot in the defensive tackle class.
Geno Smith. There’s not too much to say about him besides that it’s always been a possibility and the Combine didn’t prove anything different. He wasn’t perfect but showcased a beautiful arm during most of his throwing workout, and really showed off an athletic ability that may surprise people. While he’s still a little bit unfinished at quarterback and is going to need some polishing, his workouts this weekend will carry the “top quarterback” and “top overall pick” conversation until at least his Pro Day.
The guys who have been mocked most often to the Jaguars had a pretty rough go at the Combine overall, while some of the guys that were being mocked in the 5-15 range really made an impression. Unfortunately this makes the Jaguars pick even more difficult for Dave Caldwell and his armchair protégés, and likely is making the Jaguars pick less valuable in a trade=down scenario. On the flip side, it truly gives the Jaguars options in this draft – options that are incredibly diverse and pretty unique in their specific ways, and a lot of these options could actually fit the system that Gus Bradley and co. are trying to put in place. Defensive End, LEO, Cornerback, Left Tackle, and Defensive Tackle are all legitimate options for the Jaguars, and quarterback might be too. Don’t stop mocking drafts now – the best of the pre-draft process is yet to come!
– Zain Gowani