Speed has been the theme through the first couple of testing days at the NFL Combine. Size AND speed became a theme when the Big Men marched into Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night. They weren't alone as the running backs tested as well. Here are my Harris Hits from Day 2 of testing from Indy - the RBs and OL. Check out my Harris Hits from Day 1 if you missed them.
With the running back position, there's been far from a consensus on the number one running back in this class. Iowa State RB Breece Hall has been that guy for me for two years, proved he was worthy of RB1 status throughout his career and he more than cemented that status with his testing on Friday night. He measured in at 5-11, 217 lb. and ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. I mean, what?? He posted a 40-inch vertical and a 10-6 broad jump for good measure. Seeing those numbers got me thinking…
5-11, 217 lb.
Three-year college star
4.39 40-yard dash
10-6 broad jump
5-11, 226 lb.
Three-year college star
4.39 40-yard dash
10-3 broad jump
We've seen Taylor go off four times in his first two years on the Texans. Perhaps…well, you know what I'm thinking. I don't have to say it.
I got a call from one of my great friends, a high school teammate of mine, who is an agent. Each spring, I ask him who he signed from the rookie class.
"So, uh, Calvin Austin III"
"One of my favorites"
"Oh, J, have you seen Pierre Strong from South Dakota State?"
"C'mon, man, of course, I've seen Strong…would love for him to come to Houston"
That conversation rang in my head throughout the weekend because Austin III tore IT UP on Thursday night and Strong did the same on Friday night. The Jackrabbit All-American ran the fastest 40-time in the running back group with a blazing 4.37 40-yard dash. He also posted a 36-inch vertical and a 10-4 broad jump. A ridiculously successful evening for a wonderful young man.
Six running backs went sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash. That's a ridiculous number. Two of my top three backs - Hall and Kenny Walker (Michigan State) went 4.39 and 4.38, respectively. I've been saying it for a while, there are a TON of options at running back in this draft and it's a much better group than most have surmised. I have 11 in the Harris 100 and there are two or three more that could find their way in by the final version.
My favorite moment of the entire draft happened on Friday during the bench press. As I noted in yesterday's Harris Hits, the bench press has been sacrificed, for the most part, by many players. A total of three WR/QB, out of nearly 55 players, performed the bench press on Thursday. So, in the RB group, a small handful stepped up to throw up 225-lb on the bench. Florida RB Dameon Pierce walked on stage with a smile on his face. He was about to sit down and bench and the scout running the drill gave him the mic to tell the scouts who he was. Pierce grabbed the mic and said his name and school as if everyone knew who he was. It was like "I'm Dameon Pierce, they all know me." So, I chuckled a bit. Then, I looked down and Pierce had Ugg slides on his feet. He was benching in Ugg bedroom slippers!! I died laughing. He then put up a wildly impressive 21 reps. He then ran 4.59 later that night and posted a 34.5-inch vertical jump. I really liked him at Florida, loved him at the Senior Bowl and had a full-on running back crush on him at the Combine.
Michigan RB Hassan Haskins put on a show on the bench press, putting up 27 (!!) reps of 225-lb. He runs the rock with such anger and ferocity but with patience and athleticism as well. But, the power? That was clearly seen in that bench press performance. It does make sense, though, as he played linebacker during his career at Michigan, one of a handful of running backs in this draft class that did that (Ty Allgeier - BYU, Abram Smith - Baylor, ZaQuandre White - South Carolina)
The only thing better than fast is BIG AND FAST so when the offensive linemen stepped into the building, it was HIGHLY impressive, staring with #4 overall in the Harris 100 OT/OG Ikem Ekwonu. He ran a 4.93 in the 40-yard dash at 6-4, 310 lb. Only six OL had a better time and the best time (Dare Rosenthal, Kentucky) was just 0.05 ahead of Ekwonu's. The big fella from NC State came away as a Combine winner.
Northern Iowa OT Trevor Penning doesn't look like a lineman and he's built like a house. He's got bend, agility and speed and when combined with the controlled violence he shows on the field, wow, look out. He ran a 4.89 in the 40-yard dash, just 0.01 off the best mark of the Combine. Keep in mind he's 6-7, 325 lb. He also had a 28-inch vertical jump which explains his ability to do a windmill dunk on a basketball court. Go find the video - it's impressive. What an athlete.
When a guy is nicknamed Beef Jerky, I'm paying attention. Nebraska OC Cam Jurgens makes beef jerky as a hobby but plays center like he's filet mignon. He benched 225-lb. 25 times and ran a 4.92 which garnered a ton of attention for the Huskers center. He's got a future in this league and one of the best nicknames ever.
Alright, it's time for the defensive guys to step into the Lucas Oil three-ring circus on Saturday night. See ya then, everyone!!