Skip to main content

Top-six combine performers


Plenty of memorable moments emerged from the last NFL combine to be held at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis before the event moves down the street to the Lucas Oil Stadium next season.

Two "Long-fellows" grabbed the spotlight as potential top-five picks. Running backs and cornerbacks impressed with their speed, and defensive linemen wowed with their strength. Here is a breakdown of the top-six performers at this year's scouting combine.

1. Jake Long, OT, (6-7, 313): Michigan's Long ranks as the premier offensive lineman in the draft and could go as the top overall selection. The versatile lineman, who can line up at left or right tackle, looked especially impressive during his workout sessions, posting a position-best 37 bench press reps. He also was among the top-five linemen in the vertical jump (27.5 inches) and three-cone drill (7.44 seconds).

In his last two seasons, Long registered 245 knockdown blocks, including 33 that resulted in Wolverine touchdowns.

"They (NFL teams) will get a hard-working, passionate player," Long said. "I'm someone that comes to work and gives 100 percent every single day and has a true passion and love for the game."

Long said he would like to follow in the footsteps of Joe Thomas, last year's third overall pick by the Cleveland Browns who earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie.

"He had a great rookie season," Long said. "I'm going to have to follow in his footsteps and represent for the Big Ten. He showed me and all the other rookies that you can come in and make a huge impact and have a great season."

2. Chris Long, DE, (6-3, 272): Virginia's Long also could hear his name called first on draft day. If he does, it would make him the second defensive end taken at No. 1 in the past three years with the Texans choosing Mario Williams in 2006. Long, like Williams, notched 14 sacks last season and is considered a freakish athlete.

He also can be compared to NFL legend Howie Long, his father, who anchored the Oakland defense for 13 years and helped lead the team to a Super Bowl championship.

"Being versatile is a plus and I believe I have the capabilities of being versatile at the next level," Long said. "I am going to have to work hard and I'm going to have to make some adjustments. One thing you have to do is check any expectations at the door. I don't expect to play any position or anything like that. I just want to be a football player."

Talent evaluators believe he will be just that. Long placed third in the vertical jump with a leap of 34 inches, fourth in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.02 seconds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, which was good for a top-10 finish.

3. Vernon Gholston, DE, (6-3, 266): The other defensive lineman impressing talent evaluators in Indy was Gholston of Ohio State. He has been marketed as a tweener who can play outside linebacker or defensive end. Last season, Gholston enjoyed a breakout year, notching 14 sacks and 37 tackles, 15.5 of which were for a loss.

At the combine, he dominated the defensive linemen workouts, tying Jake Long for a combine-best in the bench press with 37 reps. Gholston also placed fourth among defensive linemen in the 40 (4.67 seconds) and first in the vertical jump (35.5 inches).

His skill set is perfect for a team needing an athletic player who wreaks havoc in the backfield, and his combine performance could elevate him to top-10 status.

"I know how big the defensive line is (for NFL teams)," Gholston said. "If you've got a front four that can control the game, you're destined for championships."

4. Chris Johnson, RB, (5-11, 195): Johnson was a relatively unknown prospect out of East Carolina before the Senior Bowl, where he showed that he can make catches in the backfield, hit holes as a ball carrier and return punts and kicks.

In Indy, Johnson showcased his speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.24 seconds, which ranks as the best time at the combine this year. He also placed fourth among all running backs prospects in the vertical jump (35 inches).

Before his workouts, Johnson predicted he would run a 4.2.

"I've got to come out here, show my speed and catch the ball in my workouts and I should be good," said Johnson, who has been likened to Eagles running back Brian Westbrook.

All appears to be great for Johnson, who now is generating first-round buzz.

5. Darren McFadden, RB, (6-1, 211): Arkansas' McFadden solidified himself as the star underclassman back in the draft, running a 4.33 in the 40. McFadden, who rushed for 4,590 yards in three seasons, separated himself in the 40 from other standout rushers, including Oregon's Jonathan Stewart (4.48), Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall (4.45), Arkansas' Felix Jones (4.47) and Rutgers' Ray Rice (4.4).

"I feel like I am the best player in the draft," McFadden said. "I feel like I can adjust to any type of offense there is. I'm just a natural ballplayer, so whatever offense I'm put in, I feel like I'm going to be able to perform in it."

{QUOTE}It's unlikely that Miami will select McFadden with their No. 1 pick, but McFadden will be taken early because many NFL general managers believe he's the next Adrian Peterson.

"I admire Adrian Peterson," McFadden said of the Vikings running back. "He's a great running back, and I feel like if I go in and do all the work that I should do and put in the right work necessary, I could have the type of season he did."

6. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, (6-1, 184): Rodgers-Cromartie of Tennessee State may have done more for his draft stock than any of the 330 players at the combine.

The senior prospect looked like a freakish athlete, placing first in his position group in the vertical jump with a leap of 38.5 inches and third in the 40-yard dash with a run of 4.33 seconds.

Being a cousin of San Diego Chargers Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie also helped his name recognition.

"He (Antonio Cromartie) told me to make sure I stay focused and relaxed," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He told me, coming from a small school, don't just try to kill everything. He said just go out and be me."

Honorable mentions:Of course, several other players produced solid workouts, including Cal's DeSean Jackson(5-9, 169), who recorded the fastest 40 among the wide receivers at 4.35. Sedrick Ellis(6-1, 305), a highly-touted defensive tackle from USC, placed fourth among defensive linemen in the bench press with 34 reps. And Leodis McKelvin(5-11, 190) of Troy ran the 40 in 4.38 and impressed coaches in pedal-and-turn drills.

The jury is still out on LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorseyand Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan, who both elected to work out for team officials on their Pro Days. A strong showing from Ryan would make him the highest-rated quarterback in April.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content