The NFL Combine: LSU Players Shine in Indianapolis

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Paul recaps the NFL combine and how each LSU athlete performed.

The NFL combine is a tricky animal. Following it the past few days, my TL on Twitter is largely a 50/50 split of "Dis damm unda-ware Olympicks dont mean nuttin' Pawwwwllll!" to "OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG 4.23 45 29 reps OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!" I fall somewhere on the middle of the spectrum. It's certainly fun to see some of the physical specimens that pop up every year in Indianapolis, yet then I'm often left wondering why the 6'5", 260 pound guy running the 4.4, throwing up 30 reps never did much of anything in college. These are the type of guys football fanatics love to poke fun at, the so called "workout warrior." Of course, the other end of the spectrum is the guy on every team that fans spent 3-4 years watching and is resolutely sure they'll dominate the NFL because they dominated college and "those damn workout don't mean nothin' Pawwllll."

The reality lies somewhere in between. The workouts do matter, in proper context. The tape does matter... in proper context. The list of players who can blow out the gym but hardly know what they are doing on the gridiron is long... Just as long as the list of guys who lit it up in college only to disappear from the professional landscape in short order. Just look at your all-time leading passers in college. Nine of the 10 played in the past 10 years. Only one of them is a bonafide NFL starter, the rest an assortment of backups and castoffs, with a single player yet to declare.

The mistake most make is in not performing a holistic evaluation. Workout + Tape + Character should all be considered, perhaps not all in equal measure, but all should be heavily considered. Tim Tebow is a guy who you'd think would hit all three boxes. He's a physical specimen (workout), with an uber-productive collegiate career (tape) and outstanding morals (character). But his NFL career is likely done. Why? Well, it's likely that his particular skill set doesn't match the NFL game.

Keep in mind, though, that each combine exercise is designed to measure actual skills. I think where people get lost is in associating an exercise to the wrong skill. Or at least interpreting an exercise incorrectly. So here's a quick and dirty guide as to what each exercise is attempting to capture:

40-yard Dash - Speed

10-yard Split (40) - Quickness

20-yard Split (40) - Burst

Bench Reps - Upper Body Strength

Vertical Jump - Explosiveness

Broad Jump - Explosiveness

20-yard Shuttle - Flexibility, Burst, Fluidity

60-yard Shuttle - Flexibility, Endurance

3-Cone Drill - Agility

Of course running a sub 4.6 40 isn't terribly relevant to playing offensive tackle. But those first 10 yards are... because they measure a player's quickness and explosion off the line. That said, athletes also train for the specific tests, so it's still an incomplete picture. That's when you turn to the tape and say, "Ok, so in a workout setting he's quick as a cat, but on tape, how does he get out of a stance? Does he fire off?"

The best way to look at the combine results is from more of a perspective of benchmarks rather than high-end numbers. These, of course, will vary by position. With that in mind, let's take a look at how LSU's prospective NFL players performed in Indianapolis these past few days.

Lamin Barrow

6'1", 237 pounds, 33 3/8 arm length, 10 3/8" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.71(OLB)/ 4.81(ILB) 4.64
Bench Reps 23 (OLB)/ 24 (ILB) 22
Vertical Jump 36" (OLB)/ 33" (ILB) 35"
Broad Jump 9'9" (OLB)/ 9'6" (ILB) 10'3"
20-yard Shuttle 4.11 (OLB)/ 4.21 (ILB) 4.36
3-Cone Drill 7.11 (OLB)/ 7.21 (ILB) 7.24

What the Numbers Say

The important numbers for LB: Shuttle, 3-cone, jumps. Barrow crushed his broad jump and hit right in the range on the vertical. His shuttle and cone drills were a bit on the slower slide, but I'm not sure if it's enough to question the overall athleticism, considering he nailed his 40.

Summary

Barrow's play dropped off in 2013, after a tremendous 2012 campaign. He was still a 2nd Team All-SEC selection according to the coaches, so it's likely we judged his play a little more harshly than we should. His athletic numbers aren't terribly surprising. Those were never in question as they may have been for a player like, say, Kevin Minter. The mental side of the game is the major area where he may need improvement. That said, this weekend, combined with a good Senior Bowl showing have helped his draft status. Don't be surprised if he goes higher than you first anticipated.

Odell Beckham Jr.

5'11 1/4", 198 lbs., 32 3/4" arm length, 10" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.55 4.43
Bench Reps 12 7
Vertical Jump 36" 38.5"
Broad Jump 10'0" 10'2"
20-yard Shuttle 4.15 3.94
60-yard Shuttle 11.4 10.93
3-cone Drill 7.01 6.69


What the Numbers Say

Beckham crushed every bench mark except the bench press, which isn't terribly important. The top drills for wideouts are the 40, the jumps and shuttles. Bekcham smoked them all with ease.

Summary

Any remaining doubts that Beckham belonged in the 1st round are completely quelled. Quite honestly, I think that's a byproduct of lack of media research rather than actual NFL personnel-men perspective. Beckham's testing numbers back up his game film: he's a fluid, explosive game changer with the ball in his hands. And oh yeah, those mitts are pretty special too. I'll go on record now, Beckham will be the best NFL WR to come from LSU in the past 20 years.

Alfred Blue

6'2", 223 lbs., 32 3/8" arms, 9 7/8" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.55 4.63
Bench Reps 20 13
Vertical Jump 36" 32"
Broad Jump 9'9" 10'1"
20-yard Shuttle 4.21 4.5
3-Cone Drill 7.25 7.15


What the Numbers Say

Blue's numbers are an interesting mishmash. His 40 is right near the benchmark and considering the inconsistency of timing, not an issue. His vert is a little short, but he topped out well in the broad. His shuttle was slow, but his 3-cone was great. Overall, these are very solid numbers for a taller, bigger back.

Summary

I'm almost always a proponent of backs leaving early because it's the position with the shortest shelf life and the one that is easiest to impact early. Blue had almost nothing to gain by returning for his senior year. Carries were already thin, and the picture didn't look any clearer for next season. My main concern with Blue is that his physical attributes would be subpar, but these are pretty solid testing numbers that prove he's a draftable back. I remain skeptical of his vision, but there's a package here that someone will take a chance on.

J.C. Copeland

5'11", 271 lbs., 32" arms, 10" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.85 4.95
Bench Reps 22 23
Vertical Jump 30" 28.5"
Broad Jump 9'3" 9'3"
20-yard Shuttle 4.25 4.58
3-Cone Drill 7.41 7.68


What the Numbers Say

Nothing terribly surprising here. We knew he wasn't an overly explosive athlete. It does look like he's shed some weight from his playing days. If he can dip that total lower into the high 250s or low 260s, it'll probably help his overall explosiveness.

Summary

I got to watch JC run some of the drills and I was impressed with his footwork and movement. He's pretty fluid for a guy that's a bit of a chunk. I think J.C. is a draftable guy, but the fact that the FB is becoming more and more remote will hurt his cause. Teams may take the risk of letting him go undrafted and trying to sign him as a priority free agent. I think his major issue is that he doesn't have one standout skill. He blocks okay. He catches okay. He runs okay. It is, however, funny to think back to him being a Signing Day switch to LSU, following his teammate, Brandon Worle, whom we recruited to play... full back. Worle is nowhere to be seen and Copeland is now vying for an NFL roster spot.

Ego Ferguson

6'3", 315 lb., 32 1/2" arms, 10 3/4" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 5.15 DNP
Bench Reps 26 24
Vertical Jump 30" DNP
Broad Jump 8'9" DNP
20-yard Shuttle 4.55 DNP
3-cone Drill 7.75 DNP


What the Numbers Say

Ferguson looks good on the hoof. Checking it at a legit 6'3" and solid 315 is really good size for a 3-tech. I believe his hands were some of the largest among all DL. He participated in the bench and then claimed an injury and skipped all other tests and drills. It could be a legitimate injury or Ego could have been advised to hold off on testing because his agents don't think the numbers are quite where they need to be yet.

Summary

Not a ton to take away. I think he'll test out fine athletically, when the time comes. Showing legit size and a solid bench number should help his cause. The interviews were also pretty important for him, considering his suspension at the end of the year. Reading around, Ego seems to be a guy a lot of NFL people like. I won't be shocked if he goes fairly high (2-3 round).

Jeremy Hill

6'1", 233 lbs., 32 5/8" arms, 10 3/8" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.55 4.66
Bench Reps 20 20
Vertical Jump 36" 29"
Broad Jump 9'9" 9'5"
20-yard Shuttle 4.21 DNP
3-cone Drill 7.25 DNP


What the Numbers Say

Hill is a little under the mark on everything but bench. I got to watch him perform as well. Mike Mayock, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Marshall Faulk didn't seem overly concerned with the 40. He may not be a truly explosive athlete, or maybe he just had a bad day testing.

Summary

First off, he looked like a god damn war daddy. To me he looked more muscular and defined than when we last saw him. He really shined in the RB drills. Hill is just a fluid and easy mover. He's a guy that might defy test times because he's just a natural. His past will hurt him. I do think he put his best foot forward in interviews.

Overall, I think he helped his case.

Anthony Johnson

6'2", 308 lbs., 33" arms, 10 3/8" hands

Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 5.15 5.24
Bench Reps 26 20
Vertical Jump 30" 24.5"
Broad Jump 8'9" 8'8"
20-yard Shuttle 4.55 DNP
3-cone Drill 7.75 7.93


What the Numbers Say

Not an explosive athlete. He's under in every category, only coming close in the broad. I did see him run his 40 and he had awful form but actually looked good moving. He moves well for a big man.

Summary

Physically there's nothing standout about Johnson. His size is adequate, his athletic numbers are adequate. When you flip to the tape, isn't that a pretty fair way to describe his play? Adequate? He's a maddening player in that you see those moments of rare get-off and burst. He can be a guy that wreaks havoc in a backfield. Unfortunately, he's also a guy that can just easily camp out and do nothing. He disappears. Great testing numbers may have helped raise his stock, but it didn't happen. Curious how interviews went. Surely he didn't take the "I take plays off" route of Sam Montgomery.

Jarvis Landry

5'11", 205 lbs., 31 3/4" arms, 10 1/4" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.55 4.77
Bench Reps 12 12
Vertical Jump 36" 28.5"
Broad Jump 10'0" 9'2"
20-yard Shuttle 4.15 DNP
60-yard Shuttle 11.4 DNP
3-cone Drill 7.01 DNP

Benchmarks  |  Actual

40-yard Dash 4.55  4.77

Bench Reps 12  12

Vertical Jump 36"  28.5"

Broad Jump 10'0"  9'2"

20-yard Shuttle 4.15  DNP

60-yard Shuttle 11.4  DNP

3-Cone Drill  7.01  DNP

What the Numbers Say

Plain and simple, that Landry is not a great athlete. He pulled up after his first 40 and didn't participate in any other events. Hard to know if that was a legit injury, agent advised or what. I didn't suspect Landry would test well, but these numbers do surprise me. I expected better than this.

Summary

I'll draw ire for this and that's okay, but these simply aren't NFL measurements. Not for a guy that's short. It could be a bad day at the office. I'm certain he'll come back to his Pro Day and put up better times (everyone always does). But Landry finished last amongst all WRs at the combine in the 40, the vert and the broad. Further, his 10-yard split was 2nd worst... to a player 6 inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than him. I checked his 40 and vertical against last year's crop of combine WRs... last amongst them as well.

I know the opinion will be that I must not have really watched him (I did) and that the combine is stupid anyway (ok). I know that people will cite the random examples of slow WRs who have been good, like Anquan Boldin (it's worth noting his 40 was better, as well as his vertical and broad... all at two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier). My real issue here is less with the 40 and more with the 10-yard split and the jumps. The argument for Jarvis being an excellent pro will all be about his route running (which is very good, but in my opinion not the best on the team), tremendous hands and toughness. Points A and B can be quantified, point C not as much.

Route running is a craft. A guy like Hines Ward, who comps pretty well to Jarvis physically, was able to get open a lot in his NFL career (to note he ran a 4.55,  with a better vert and broad than Jarvis). I think Hines is the best high-end comparison to Jarvis, but he's also a superior athlete (or was in his younger days). This, again, all ties back to benchmarks for me. Most of route running is about quickness and the ability to get in and out of breaks swiftly and easily without breaking stride. In a dead sprint, a lot of people beat Jerry Rice. But he was so smooth and fluid in the way he ran routes. He ran a 4.6... all the time. The lack of explosion, as exhibited in the jumps, will make it harder for Jarvis to separate from NFL-caliber athletes.

That being said, there's a few things we can't ignore. It's one workout. Maybe he was having a bad day for whatever reason. If he completes the testing and shows out on the cone and shuttle drills, it's a lot less alarming. Most of Twitter (LSU fans and not) quickly took to his defense to say the testing numbers simply don't matter because of the tape. Todd McShay argued he played faster. It's a fair argument.

For me, it's put me on the fence about him as an NFL player. Citing a player's great college career isn't evidence for why they will become great pros (see Reed, Josh). If Jarvis comes back to the Pro Day and puts up much better numbers, I'll be inclined to completely dismiss this opinion. I love his grit, his attitude, his hands and how physical he plays. But I also try and take my LSU blinders off when it comes to next level evaluations. I'd be more than happy for him to prove me wrong, wrong, wrong.

At the end of the day, I'm playing the odds here. Players with inferior measurables can and do excel in the NFL. Perhaps Jarvis is that rare exception. The key word here is rare.

Craig Loston

5'11", 217 lbs., 30 3/4" arms, 9 3/4" hands

Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 4.61 4.65
Bench Reps 18 12
Vertical Jump 36" 32.5"
Broad Jump 10'0" 9'11"
20-yard Shuttle 4.05 4.35
60-yard Shuttle 11.2 DNP
3-cone Drill 7.11 7.15


What the Numbers Say

Solid, NFL quality numbers. He's right there in the broad and 3-cone, though a bit off on the 20-yard and vertical. his 40 is fine. Loston is a little shorter than anticipated, but he's well put together.

Summary

He's a mid-round safety prospect. I think his physical traits are adequate to become a starting caliber player if he can put together the mental aspect of the game. Far too often, he simply lapsed in that area. He does have ball skills... he can be a big hitter... but he can also horribly misplay things and completely whiff going for big hits. Overall he needs to hone his skills.

Zach Mettenberger

6'5", 224 lbs., 32 3/8" arms, 9 3/4" hands

No testing numbers due to injury.

Summary

The injury prohibited us from seeing how Mett would fair physically, though I'm not sure it matters much, as it's not going to be his strong suit. The biggest things he'll need to improve are his feet (a bit plodding even for a pure pocket guy) and decision-making. Mett is probably right on the border of a project QB.  He's got a big arm and he's not afraid to stand tough to deliver a strike. His release is adequate. How far can he come mentally?

Trai Turner

6'3", 310 lbs., 34" arms, 9 1/2" hands


Benchmarks

Actual

40-yard Dash 5.29 4.93
Bench Reps 26 25
Vertical Jump 30" 27.5"
Broad Jump 8'6" DNP
20-yard Shuttle 4.65 DNP
3-Cone Drill 7.85 DNP


What the Numbers Say

Incomplete testing numbers, but that 40 sticks out like a sore thumb. Can't find a 10-yard split, but it has to be above average with him running a 4.93. Trai isn't a freak-of-nature athlete, but he's a very good one, and I think we're starting to see why he may have opted to go pro.

Summary

It's no shock that Turner can move. He was always at his best, dating back to his HS days, as a pulling/trapping player. At 6'3" 310 pounds he's got solid size for the position. His bench press numbers are right on path. The 34" arms are what really stand out. 32-34" arms are considered very good numbers for a tackle prospect. That only adds to his value. While he may be comparatively short to play tackle, the arm length can compensate. We're now talking about a guy that most naturally fits at guard, but could play RT with the type of athleticism and strength to be scheme diverse. That's a very draftable prospect. It may have seemed odd two months ago, but I suspect he'll be a 2nd day draft pick based on his combination of good tools and solid production.

What It All Means

A bunch of LSU guys helped themselves. I think Barrow, Beckham, Blue, Ferguson, Hill and Turner all made good cases for their NFL prospects. Copeland, Johnson and Loston didn't do anything to damage their stocks. Landry is the wild card. Media still seem to be high on him, but it'll be interesting to see how much or how little NFL personnel men care about the testing times. Mettenberger reportedly did well in interviews, but the injury kept us from seeing him throw.

Overall, a very good few days for LSU athletes in Indianapolis. I think there's a realistic chance that we could hear 11 guys get their names called in May. That's the type of thing that will keep top talent funneling into Baton Rouge.

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