The NFL Scouting Combine ended Tuesday with timing and drills for defensive backs.
Did all of the tests and meetings define who the Lions will draft with their first pick?
Mike: I can’t say they returned home from Indianapolis knowing exactly who they’ll take, but one player gave put himself in stronger contention to be drafted by the Lions with the fifth pick.
Cornerback Dee Milliner ended any questions about whether he is fast enough with his performance in the 40-yard dash on Tuesday. He was timed in 4.31 on his first attempt and 4.37 on the second. General manager Martin Mayhew said on Friday that he likes “fast,” and that anything under 4.5 is fast enough.
By going under 4.4, Milliner didn’t just prove he was fast enough. He was faster than enough.
But did his 40 time clinch a draft spot for Milliner?
Tim: It clinched a Top 10 spot – maybe even Top 5. Does it clinch it for the Lions at No. 5? I don’t think we can call that one yet.
What it did do was prove he’s an elite athlete, and when you combine that with his game film, he’s a terrific prospect.
Mayhew said he likes fast cornerbacks – check. He also said he’s on the lookout for a playmaker on defense – check.
The one caution mark would have to be the torn Labrum. Milliner is getting surgery on March 12. He’ll be out the entire offseason. The Lions have a pretty bad history when it comes to shoulder injuries with their cornerbacks. That should make me pause and do a double check if I’m Mayhew.
Bottom line, Milliner did well for himself Tuesday and has to be in the conversation now.
Who else impressed in workouts?
Mike: Right about the injury, and the timing of the surgery has to create some doubt about how well he’ll recover, and how soon. But Milliner did what he had to do at the Combine. He separated himself from the pack and made himself worthy of a top-five draft pick.
I don’t know about you, but I went to Indy thinking the defensive ends would stand out, and it would only be a question of which one the Lions drafted. But that didn’t happen. The offensive tackles performed better, and so did Milliner.
How did you see it?
Tim: The defensive ends tested very well, but I think there are a lot of question marks surrounding that group. Dion Jordan, Margus Hunt and Ziggy Ansah all ran in the 4.6’s, which is amazing for their size, but they’re all raw. In the case of Hunt and Ansah, they’ve only been playing football for a couple years. When will they be ready to contribute? The Lions need an impact player for 2013 at No. 5.
The guys who have the pedigrees, like a Bjoern Werner, didn’t test out all that well.
I have a different view of the DE’s after the combine.
I think you’re onto something, Mike, when it comes to the tackles. Eric Fisher looked very good and there’s not a whole lot of difference between he and Luke Joeckel, who’s widely considered the top tackle prospect.
If you’re talking impact at No. 5, few have as much impact as a starting left tackle. I certainly wouldn’t be mad if that’s the way the Lions go.
Which players helped themselves the most in your opinion?
Mike: I’ve got to back up here, about your comment on impact from left tackles. I don’t see it that way. Impact comes from players who make impact plays – throw TD passes, score TDs and prevent them.
Case in point: in the 2007 draft, the Browns took tackle Joe Thomas, and he’s been voted to the Pro Bowl all six seasons. And the Browns are still searching for offense. They wouldn’t be if the Browns had drafted Adrian Peterson.
As far as helping themselves, Milliner is one, obviously. Tyrann Mathieu might have re-established himself at some level after leaving LSU with drug problems.
Tavon Austin’s speed light up the stadium Saturday. And so did Denard Robinson. He ran well enough, and he looked more comfortable catching the ball. He won’t be a high draft pick – fourth round or lower – but he looked better than he did at the Senior Bowl a month ago.
Tim: Valid point about the Browns, but the Browns also haven’t had a quarterback since 2007.
I think you’re right on with Tavon Austin. As dynamic a player in the draft as you’ll find. Don’t believe me? Watch his highlights from the Oklahoma game this year.
We all know Milliner helped himself.
I thought another player who really helped himself was Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson. He ran 4.72 in the 40-yard dash at over 300 pounds with 34-inch vertical. His ceiling is high.
Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who at 6-foot-1 1/2 and 210 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41. The Lions are on the lookout for both bigger and faster cornerbacks.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant and his unofficial 4.31 was impressive, too. Denard Robinson ran fast and showed that he could catch the football in drills, which he didn’t do well down at the Senior Bowl.
Overall impressions after a week at the Combine?
Mike: Overall . . . a little different than last year. The stars arrived last year, in the person of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. They developed this year – with the exception of Manti Te’o, who was a celebrity when he got here.
The Combine never disappoints. It started Wednesday night, when the cocktail sauce at St. Elmo’s lived up to it's billing. Wow. Someone asked me when I’d started parting my hair on the right side when actually that hot sauce burned a crease in my scalp. That’s my story, anyway.
My two favorite stories of the week were Terron Armstead, an offensive tackle from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who blew away the competition in the drills, and Denard Robinson saying the two reasons he has remained in Ann Arbor to train.
The second reason was most important. He’ll be the first member of his family to graduate from a four-year university, and he’ll do that in May. I like that better than all the 40 times and reps in the bench-press.
From the Lions’ standpoint, Dee Milliner gave them another prime choice with the fifth pick.
He could be a Lion come April 25.
Tim: While this draft is short on star power, it appears to be very deep in talent. It seems like one of the deepest drafts in recent history, actually. One where teams are going to get really good talent into the second round – maybe even the third.
I can’t argue with you about the cocktail sauce all of us Lions beat writers enjoyed at St. Elmo’s Wednesday night. That stuff will clear out the sinuses. I had a cold last year coming to the Combine and my symptoms went away for about a half hour after the cocktail sauce. That stuff will clear you out.
After five days of watching guys get poked, prodded, measured and tested, I was ready to come home. But the Combine is a great resource heading into the draft. It’s an opportunity to talk to all 333 prospects… form some of our own opinions. It’s a grind, but there’s a wealth of information there.