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NFL Combine Highs And Lows

There were the usual compilations of prospects and suspects at last week’s combine in Indiana. Some players impressed, like WVU receiver Tavon Austin, who recorded a 4.34 40-yard dash and caught everything in sight, or Alabama corner Dee Milliner, who also ran a blazing time and killed it in drills, guaranteeing he’ll be a top pick in April.

For others, not so great. Much was made of Manti Te’o’s plodding 4.82 40-yard dash, which was about a tenth of a second slower than expected. His other measured tests were fine, though, leaving some analysts, like former Cowboy executive Gil Brandt, to say he created a portrait of a player more quick than fast.

For Texas A&M OLB prospect Damontre Moore, the combine was even worse, A projected high first-rounder as a pass rusher, Moore clocked a 4.95 40 and managed only 12 reps on the bench, appearing both slow and weak compared to his position competition. Both Te’o and Moore can rehabilitate their stock on their schools’ pro days, as each has a long body of work for teams to evaluate on tape.

Some of the D-line candidates were really impressive, like LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, whose strength, speed and agility were awe-inspiring. How about SMU defensive end Margus Hunt? An Estonian who came to SMU to compete in discus and shot put, he ended up on the football team when the school dropped track and field. At 6-foot-8 and 282 pounds, Hunt is an athletic freak – he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, showed a 36-inch vertical jump and repped 37 times on the bench. Fresno State could not block him in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. He’s still raw, but the tremendous upside probably catapulted him into the second round, where he looks like a steal. Same for another foreign national, BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

For Hawaii prospects Mike Edward, Alex Dunnachie and Luke Ingram, it was a mixed bag. Cornerback Edwards initially had a very respectable 4.47 posted on his 40-yard dash that was later changed to 4.56, which for a small corner is not very good. And the 40 is probably taken more seriously at this position than at any other. Even with a good pro day, Edwards could be looking at a sixth, seventh round slot or even have to go as an undrafted free agent. Better news for Dunnachie, who hit every punt for a minimum 47 yards, and a five-second average hang time. If he can do that in somebody’s camp, he’ll have a home in the league. Long snapper Ingram also fared well, impressing with his velocity and accuracy, and could be a late-round draft pick. He may be around the longest of the three.

All of which provides grist for the mill for all NFL media until April’s draft. And the irony is that the best use of draft picks in the whole process might be the pair of picks, a second-rounder in April and a conditional mid-rounder in 2014, which will be sent by Kansas City to San Francisco to obtain quarterback Alex Smith, who appears far stronger than any prospect coming out of college this year. That trade becomes official March 12.