BBD Assistant Editor: Joe Marino
In an ideal world, every prospect would have the prototypical size and athletic ability that scouts envision to play a given position, but that is far from the case. Despite that, every year rookies who didn’t check an important box still succeed at the professional level. Whether it’s Anquan Boldin and his 4.72-second 40-yard dash dominating at wide receiver, or London Fletcher playing linebacker at a high level for 16 seasons at a height of 5’10″, limited physical traits do not preclude a player from NFL success.
The 2014 NFL draft class has several players who perform well on tape but lack the desired physical tools for their positions.
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Borland is the poster boy for this conversation. At 5’11’’ with 29 1/4″ arms and 4.83-second 40-yard dash speed, Borland is far from the prototype in terms of athletic ability and height from a middle linebacker.
Borland is one of the most instinctive, playmaking linebackers in this class. He makes solid football play after solid football play. What Borland lacks athletically is made up for with his ability to diagnose plays and react to what he sees. He is hard-nosed, tough, physical and the emotional leader of his defense. Those traits are vital, and cannot be measured with a ruler or stop watch.
An NFL team should be very pleased if they select him on Day 2 of the draft, and should get a player reminiscent to Zach Thomas, who was a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Miami Dolphins despite standing just 5’11″.
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Carey failed to impress at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a disappointing 4.70-second 40-yard dash, but that shouldn’t change one’s opinion of Carey as a prospect.
His game is not predicated on speed but on his ability to run physically, break tackles and wear down defenses. He has strong field vision and reactionary skills while he is a solid receiving threat out of the backfield. Anyone would like his timed speed to be better, but he could still be a good starting running back in the NFL. How exactly does being hard to tackle get measured at the combine?
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Landry left many prospect evaluators scratching their heads after turning in a 28.5” vertical jump and 4.77-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. While those numbers were not what anyone expected, few questioned Landry’s ability to become a productive NFL receiver going into the combine.
Landry is a superb route runner with great balance and body control. He has arguably the best hands in the draft class and adjusts to the football extremely well. He can go into traffic and make acrobatic catches while he fights for extra yards after completing catches. His hands, toughness and ability to get open is where he wins despite a lack of explosiveness. His game speed is good enough.
David Yankey, G, Stanford
Yankey is a road-grading guard with a strong anchor in pass protection. His functional strength is outstanding and his ability to dominate at the point of attack is one of the best in this class.
Yankey turned in a subpar 5.48 40 at the combine, and managed just 22 bench press reps of 225 pounds. While those numbers aren’t top notch, I don’t see either as an issue. He is quick enough to win in the trenches and has no issues generating movement as a run blocker. He is a plug-and-play guard.
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Nix left a lot to be desired in his combine workout. He ran a 5.42-second 40 and recorded a 25.5” vertical jump, 8’1″ broad jump and 8.29-second three-cone drill. With other prospects like Justin Ellis and Zack Kerr turning in far better numbers at a similar size, Nix didn’t have numbers that suggest he is the top nose tackle in this year’s draft class, but his film says otherwise.
Nix is a disruptive interior presence who is a load for his opponents to deal with. Nix wins with power and his ability to penetrate. Heading into the combine, Nix was a likely top-20 selection. If he falls past that, a playoff team like the New England Patriots should get a quality interior defensive lineman to anchor their run defense.
IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech
Enemkpali turned in disappointing measurables at the combine. His 6’1’’ height, 5.01-second 40-yard dash and 7.67-second three-cone drill are far less than desirable for an NFL defensive end.
Enemkpali wins with his ability to burst upfield and bend around the edge to get to the quarterback. His motor is relentless and his hands are violent. Despite his poor combine results, he has upside as a pass-rusher.
Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
Brown had some of the worst measurables among linebackers at the combine, measuring in at 6’0″ and 238 pounds while running a 5.03 40, recording a 7.77 three-cone drill and managing just 16 bench press repetitions.
Despite those less than ideal numbers, Brown has been one of the top playmaking linebackers in this year’s draft class, with 317 career tackles, 45.5 total tackles for loss and 14 sacks. Brown is a cerebral player who is relentless in pursuit. He executes blitzes well to make plays at or near the line of scrimmage. Brown isn’t a top prospect, but his ability to play football shouldn’t be overlooked because of his combine performance.
Willie Snead, WR, Ball State
Snead’s 4.62-second 40 speed did not prevent him from catching 195 balls for 2,664 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Ball State.
Snead was the engine that made the Cardinals offense work. He always seems to be open with his ability to run precise routes and cleanly get in and out of breaks. He has terrific hands and concentration to naturally pluck the football out of the air. He is not the biggest or fastest prospect but is a reliable, chain-moving receiver.
Victor Hampton, CB, South Carolina
At 5’9’’, Hampton checked in shorter than expected, and his 4.69-second 40-yard dash was disappointing. On the Gamecocks defense, however, Hampton consistently showed up.
Hampton is extremely physical and is a big-time contributor in run support. He plays the ball well and has great reactionary skills. His best NFL fit may come at safety if his speed limits him in man coverage, but he is a really good football player.
Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
Heading into the combine, there seemed to be a buzz surrounding Breeland, but that has died down considerably after he disappointed with a 4.62-second 40-yard dash and 4.33-second three-cone drill.
Breeland is a physical press cornerback who mirrors well and is ultra-competitive. He is good in run support and plays the ball well. His game speed isn’t an issue, so his timed speed should not change his evaluation.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Arizona, Ball State, Bashaud Breeland, Chris Borland, Clemson, David Yankey, IK Enemkpali, Illinois, Jarvis Landry, Jonathan Brown, Ka'Deem Carey, Louis Nix, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Stanford, Victor Hampton, Willie Snead, Wisconsin