Yes, by now half of the world has heard about Darren McFadden’s fabulous showing at the NFL Combine. Much has been written and said about Mcfadden’s 4.33 time in the 40, and how he secured himself a “Top 5” spot in the draft because of it. Yet McFadden was not the only prospect to have enhanced his stock value with a good showing at this year’s event. Here then are four additional players who impressed scouts at this year’s gathering in Indianapolis.
Chris Johnson (East Carolina) RB
If Darren McFadden was fast, Johnson was that much faster, clocking a ridiculously low 4.24 for the 40. That is not just fast, as in Adrian Peterson fast, that is scary fast, as in Reggie Bush fast. Add to that a vertical leap of 35″ and you are talking about a player with a tremendous explosiveness and athletic upside. Johnson can hit a hole and disappear into an opponents secondary in nothing flat. Though a bit undersized at 5-11 and 197-pounds, Johnson has a great shot at being more than just a change of pace back in the NFL, and even if that fails, he could probably land a job as a top flight receiver. Johnson, who hails from my hometown of Orlando, had an electrifying senior season in school collecting 1423 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground, and another 528 yards and six touchdowns receiving. In route he recorded a 301 yard rushing day against Memphis, as well as a 223 yard rushing day against Boise State. Look for a team like Tampa Bay, who has lost Cadillac Williams for the year, to take a flyer on him.
Marcus Howard (Georgia) DE
Is he undersized for the position? Yes. Did he have an eye popping performance at the Combine? Yes. This is a kid who had a fantastic season at Georgia with 10 -1/2 sacks, and who could be drafted to play Linebacker in the NFL, a position he played back a few seasons ago. Few if any lineman or linebackers can match his raw speed, being clocked in 4.47 for the 40. Breaks extremely well from the line, and has more than enough agility and balance to justify taking a chance on him. Among the teams that could use him are the Bengals and the Falcons, both of whom had trouble getting to the Quarterback last year.
Kevin Smith (UCF) RB
Okay, forget that the kid is from my alma mater UCF, and that he played in Conference USA. Those who saw Smith run for a Barry Sander-ish 2,557 yards and 29 touchdowns last year, know that his kid can flat out run. Like McFadden, he might run a bit too upright, but he has great vision and acceleration, not to mention agility. If fact, Smith placed second among backs at the Combine in the 3 cone event, showing that for his size, he is extremely agile. Some had questioned his speed , but he covered the 40 in 4.43, which is plenty fast enough for the NFL. A team like the Chicago Bears, who really need help at the position, could benefit from taking this kid in a later round.
Jordy Nelson (Kansas State) WR
This big physical receiver (6-3, 220 lbs), had a monster year in 2007, setting a team record with 122 receptions for 1,606 yards. He put up big numbers even against top flight competition like Kansas’ Cornerback Aqib Talib. Not fast, but very explosive off the line, and did not embarrass himself in the Combine where he ran a good, if not great 4.49. Scouts were impressive with his showing at the Senior Bowl and they say he has a good attitude and is always looking to improve. He is best suited for a West Coast offense, and might be a good pick up for the Miami Dolphins in the middle rounds, where he will help compliment last years pick, Ted Ginn Jr.