Combine winners and losers
Aaron Donald, DE/DT
WINNER: He’s too short...he’s not strong enough. Those were the two questions regarding Donald at the end of the season. Yes, he is undersized at 6-foot-1, but the national defensive player of the year did all he could to stop the questions regarding his athleticism and strength. The former Pitt Panther ranked in the top five of defensive linemen in the bench (35 reps), three-cone drill (7.11 seconds) and 40 (4.68 seconds). At 285-pounds, Donald looked like a giant gazelle in all his drills, showing the explosiveness that helped him lead the nation with 28.5 tackles for loss in 2013. He’s now a surefire first-rounder.
Kyle Fuller, CB
WINNER: Fuller missed the last three games and Senior Bowl after sports hernia surgery in November. His durability and overall speed became the only thing holding him back from being an elite prospect. Fuller checked out healthy with doctors, and then ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, in addition to his 128-inch broad jump. When scouts check the tape they’ll find a solid-tackling corner that held Alabama receivers to just one reception for five yards in the opening game of his season. He’s now in the conversation to be drafted Day 1.
Taylor Lewan, OT
WINNER: Wildly considered a first-round pick in the May NFL Draft, Lewan solidified himself among the top-3 tackles with his performance on Saturday. Not only is he a behemoth of a man at 6-foot-7, 309-pounds and nearly 34-inch arms, but he showed off his athletic prowess with the fastest 40 time (4.87) and farthest broad jump (9’9”) of all offensive linemen. In the specific drills, Lewan had balletic footwork and good balance. He's creeping towards the top-10.
Brandin Cooks, WR
WINNER: The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner put on a show Sunday with his display of quickness, speed and explosiveness. Cooks led all receivers with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, then ran the fastest 20 (3.81 seconds) and 60-yard shuttles (10.72 seconds) of any player in nine years. In the specific receiver drills, the Oregon State alum showed the fluidity and concentration that helped him catch 128 passes for 1,730 yards as a senior.
Mike Evans, WR
WINNER: While his former quarterback Johnny Manziel was impressive in the Combine, former Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans opened many eyes with his 4.53 second 40-yard dash and 37-inch vertical leap. Put those numbers on a nearly 6-foot-5, 231 pound physical receiver and you’ll understand why general managers are salivating. With this performance Evans should hear his name within the first 15 draft picks.
LOSER: Michael Sam didn’t do his draft stock any favors with his performance on Monday. At an undersized 6-foot-2, the defensive end was already fighting the perception that he wasn’t strong or athletic enough to be an impact player in the NFL. He posted a marginal 4.91-second 40-yard dash, followed by an even more pedestrian 25.5-inch vertical jump and only 17 reps on the bench. Sam’s stock continued to fall with his inability to drop and move in linebacker drills, which limits him to solely a pass rush specialist player.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB
LOSER: The lanky corner from Nebraska had been picking up hype as the draft nears because of his 6-foot-3 frame and perceived athleticism. At the combine Jean-Baptiste did post an impressive 41.5-inch vertical (No. 1 among defensive backs) and a 10-foot-8 broad jump, but his paltry 4.61 second 40-yard dash and 4.33 second 20-yard shuttle (third worst among corners) show that he doesn’t have the quick-twitch muscles and overall speed to cover NFL wide receivers.
Jarvis Landry, WR
LOSER: Prior to the Combine there were rumors swirling that the former LSU wide receiver could be a first-round draft pick. That changed with Landry’s completion of the 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds, the slowest of all wideouts. At 5-foot-11, the Second-Team All-SEC selection’s 28.5-inch vertical leap also raised flags. With the depth at receiver in the draft, his lack of explosiveness and below-average size, Landry is falling, and falling fast on draft boards.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT
LOSER: Kouandjio has been on the decline since his terrible play in Alabama’s opening game against Virginia Tech. At 6-foot-7 with nearly 36-inch arms, he has the physical size to be a prototypical left tackle in the NFL. But he looked sluggish and out of shape in drills -- along with ranking at or near the bottom in the 40, broad jump and bench. Kouandjio, a supreme run-blocker, limited himself to right tackle only with his athletic showing over the weekend.
Carlos Hyde, RB
LOSER: The former Ohio State running back's disappointment was the result of a pulled his hamstring during his first attempt of the 40-yard dash. He subsequently missed all other tests and drills. Hyde was thought by some to be a first-round pick, but had questions about his speed and quickness to go along with his previous off-the-field issues. His quest to become the first running back drafted will be all on the line March 7 at Ohio State’s Pro Day.