The Observer’s Jonathan Jones was in Indianapolis last week for most of the NFL Scouting Combine. He takes a look at the winners and losers from the combine, which concluded Monday afternoon.
Jonathan Jones: Of course I’m going to start off with him.
At 5-foot-9 and 186 pounds, the Auburn cornerback had to come to the combine and show he has it all. Receivers are getting bigger in the NFL, and teams may be reluctant to take a much smaller corner.
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So Jones, who had seven interceptions in his final two season with the Tigers, showed off at Lucas Oil Stadium. His 4.33-second 40-yard dash was the fastest of all defensive backs and third-fastest among all combine participants.
Then he showed his strength by putting up 19 repetitions of 225 pounds, tying him for second-most among all cornerbacks in the draft.
Jones showed his ball skills in his final two seasons at Auburn, and this week he showed his speed and strength despite his size.
A pretty good week for my namesake.
Harvard: The Ivy League school sent two players to the combine, which was one more than Texas. While All-America tackle Cole Toner didn’t exactly wow at the combine, Crimson tight end Ben Braunecker certainly did.
Braunecker was in the top five in every combine drill for his position group. He finished second in vertical, broad jump, three-cone and 20-yard shuttle, and his 11.32-second 60-yard shuttle was the best among all tight ends.
How about them apples?
Josh Doctson: Doctson had back-to-back 1,000-receiving yard seasons at TCU, but teams needed to know just how fast he was.
It was clear Doctson has great hands. But when he posted a 4.50 40, he showed he had speed. His 41-inch vertical and 131-inch broad jumps were among the best in the receiving group.
At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, Doctson was believed to be a No. 2 receiver in the league before his combine. Now, with the explosiveness proven, he could be considered a team’s top receiving target.
Emmanuel Ogbah: One of the biggest knocks on the Oklahoma State defensive end was that he isn’t a dynamic athlete. Sure, he had 13 sacks last season, but some of that was against lesser competition.
Well Ogbah showed he has that explosion last week. His 4.63 40 was the second-best among all defensive linemen, and it’s even more impressive when you consider he’s 273 pounds.
His vertical of 35 1/2 inches was tied for second-best in his group, and his 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump was tied for third-best in the group.
Those three drills prove explosion, and that should help the long-armed, aggressive Ogbah.
Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey entered the combine with some thinking he was the second-best defensive back in the class.
He moved up to No. 1 after the combine.
The Florida State product vaulted over Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III with one of the most impressive combine performances of the week.
He ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds, had a 41 1/2-inch vertical and a broad jump of 11-foot, 3-inches.
He did all of that at 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds. Throw in his versatility as a corner or safety, and there’s little doubt Ramsey will be the first defensive back off the board in April.
Robert Nkemdiche: He was definitely a winner on the field in Indianapolis. Nkemdiche ran a 4.87 40 at 294 pounds, which, if you didn’t know, is freakish. He’s one of the best athletes in the draft, and the film shows he can be the most disruptive defender available when he wants to be.
But Nkemdiche had what I consider to be the worst combine interview in my three years covering it. He told a tough-to-believe story about how he fell off an Atlanta hotel balcony, intimated the media had tarnished his name and then sold out teammate Laremy Tunsil by saying Tunsil was also in the room where drugs were found (the drugs were, of course, not Nkemdiche’s according to Nkemdiche).
“I’m going to stick to my story. That’s what it is,” Nkemdiche said. That’s not what someone telling the truth usually says.
If that’s what he’s telling teams in interviews, and it goes as poorly as it did with the media, he could be take a big drop in the draft.
Joey Bosa: The potential top pick in this year’s draft didn’t prove to have the power or explosion you look for out of the top defensive end.
Bosa showed some potential to drop into coverage as teams look at him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he was lacking in other areas.
Bosa’s 4.86 40 was nothing short of disappointing. At 269 pounds, he needed to be faster. Couple that with his 32-inch vertical, and it’s clear Bosa lacks the kind of explosion that you see in a Von Miller or Khalil Mack.
His 24 reps on the 225-pound bench press also weren’t impressive.
Bosa’s tape is much better than what he did at the combine, but his numbers say he’s just not as explosive as you want a top pass rusher to be.
Noah Spence: The Eastern Kentucky product needed to show explosion this week and, like Bosa, did not.
At 6-foot-2 and 251 pounds, Spence should have blown away the competition in athletic drills such as the 40 and vertical. Instead he only posted a 4.80 40, which is OK for his position but very slow adjusted for his weight.
His 25 reps and 35-inch vertical also weren’t spectacular, though he had one of the best broad jumps (10-foot, 1-inch) of all defensive linemen.
Spence was kicked out of Ohio State for violating team rules, including testing positive for ecstasy. He said last week it wasn’t an addiction – he just did it when he went to parties – and that he’s been drug-tested frequently in the time since.
We’ll see if he stays clean.
Cardale Jones: The Ohio State quarterback pulled his hamstring during his second 40-yard dash and had to shut it down for the rest of the combine.
That’s a shame, because Jones had a lot to prove in front of NFL scouts and coaches.
Jones was a superstar in the final three games of Ohio State’s national title season two years ago, but he was up and down last year and eventually lost his starting job.
He’s a heavy 253 pounds compared to the 260-pound Cam Newton, so he needed to prove he could move around at the combine while flashing his huge arm. Basically, Jones has one season of college tape and needs to show a little more.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. If he can heal that hamstring in the next two weeks and put on a good show at Ohio State’s pro day on March 11, his inactivity at the combine won’t be an issue.
Jaylon Smith: It’s through no fault of his own, but the Notre Dame linebacker was dealt even more bad news this week.
Smith, a top-10 talent with potential to be the top pick, blew out his knee in a meaningless bowl game and now he likely won’t play in 2016.
There was some concern, after Smith posted a video of himself walking, that he has nerve damage, which would really scare off teams.
Smith was upbeat talking to the media last week, but it’s clear 2016 will be a redshirt year for him. He’ll likely lose at least $10 million for how far he’ll fall in the draft, and he’ll deal with the stigma of a Marcus Lattimore, who tore up his knee and never fully recovered after being picked in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.
Here’s hoping Smith comes back better than before and makes a team very happy it took a chance on him.