ESPN Insider Request NFL Combine "Wow" Guys

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NFL combine workouts will start later this week; there are a lot of prominent prospects with legit track credentials, meaning someone might beat Chris Johnson's 4.24 40 time from a few years ago. In fact, there is a big group of guys that should be very interesting to keep an eye on, as more than one combine record might be in danger. So in the spirit of the annual spring "Freaks" list, we present the 10 guys most likely to wow NFL personnel folks with their athleticism as the draft approaches: 1. http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25551Jacoby Ford (from the Clemson Tigers): Seeing the reigning fastest man on the NCAA track circuit competing at the NFL combine should really be something. As I wrote yesterday, the combine setting will be an adjustment compared to the work Ford is used to doing, but he has been working hard to be ready for it. Ford has decent size and spectacular speed. He can claim he's the fastest man at Clemson, which makes a good case for him to be No. 1 on this list. Never mind that the 185-pounder also won the indoor NCAA championship in the 60 meters in February 2009 and had a streak of 18 straight wins in 60 meter and 100 meter races over the indoor and outdoor seasons. Here's Ford from the 100 indoors. 2. Bruce Campbell (from the Maryland Terrapins): It seems like every so often the Terps unveil another freak on the combine, and the 6-foot-7, 310-pound lineman sounds like the O-line version of Vernon Davis. Supposedly, Campbell -- a guy who, despite those really long arms, is a 500-pound bencher -- has run in the low 4.8s in terms of 40-yard dash time. Now, that doesn't mean he's going to blossom into the next Anthony Munoz, but his stunning athleticism will still give people in draft rooms lots to think about. 3. http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25816Trindon Holliday (from the LSU Tigers): Another track star; he's a shorter version of Ford. The 5-5, 160-pound Holliday also has an NCAA title after winning the 100-meter dash by clocking 10.00 in the national final at the 2009 outdoor meet. (Check the video here.) Don't be surprised if Holliday runs in the 4.2s in Indy. This is a good story from ESPN The Magazine on Holliday. 4. Taylor Mays (from the USC Trojans) : The huge DB appears to be made for events like the combine. Just watch this. His stock reportedly has been sinking since about midseason. There are concerns that he simply doesn't make enough plays and that he is very stiff. No doubt he has great straight-line speed and explosiveness, but how will he do in footwork drills like the shuttles and 3-cone? We'll see. Since http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=24889Tim Tebow is not throwing, Mays' performance will be one of the most compelling storylines in Indy. There is plenty of skepticism about how close Mays will come to some of the numbers former Trojans strength coach Chris Carlisle (now with the Seattle Seahawks) attests to: a vertical jump of 41 inches, a standing broad jump of 11 feet and 4 inches, a bench max of 225 pounds over 29 times and a 4.32 in the 40. 5a/5b. http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25503C.J. Spiller (of the Clemson Tigers) and http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25711Jahvid Best (of the California Golden Bears): Two dazzling all-purpose talents, both with terrific track résumés and dazzling football highlights. Both expect to weigh in around 200 pounds and will be looking to cash in on the http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25259Chris Johnson factor of being a super-fast back without great size. 6. Eric Berry (from the Tennessee Volunteers) : Considered the most complete safety to come out of college since Sean Taylor, Berry doesn't just have great straight-ahead speed; scouts also rave about his change of direction, lateral movement and ball skills. Scouts expect to be "wowed" by him. Here's the Mag feature I wrote on Berry in the fall, and here's an old blog I wrote about how he will rise up in the draft. 7. Jared Veldheer (from Hillsdale College in Michigan): This guy is like the Loch Ness Monster, it seems. His school -- a Div. II program with under 1,500 students -- lists him as big as 6-9, 321 pounds. (It also says he has run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds, has a hang clean mark of 425 and bench-pressed 225 pounds 32 times.) I actually found some YouTube video of him hang cleaning 425 pounds. If he runs that 40 at anywhere near 4.8, there will be a lot of jaws on the floor. That bench-press number is impressive -- if true -- considering that usually guys who are that tall aren't built for it as much as squatty, shorter-armed guys are. One scout I spoke to is curious about Veldheer but admitted he wasn't exactly impressed with how the guy performed in a postseason all-star game. Another scout thinks he's raw but a keeper. 8. Brandon Graham (from the Michigan Wolverines): The former Michigan star isn't tall, but so what? Neither is Dwight Freeney or Elvis Dumervil. Graham has superb first-step quickness and burst. He's also a powerhouse in the weight room, having set the Michigan record in the bench press, hang clean and power clean. 9. http://insider.espn.go.com/nfldraft/draft/tracker/player?draftyear=2010&id=25746Jimmy Graham (from the Miami (FL) Hurricanes) : The former Canes basketball player only played one season of college football, but he did flash some potential to evoke thoughts of other former basketball playing-tight ends (Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez). Graham caught five TD passes in 2009. Scouts are certainly intrigued. He's around 6-7, 260 pounds, and reportedly has a 39-inch vertical jump and can run a sub-4.6 40. 10. Junior Galette (from Stillman): A onetime Temple Owls recruit who arrived there at 195 pounds, Galette has developed into a promising 6-2, 250-pound edge rusher -- who scouts think might run in the 4.4s. "He should run very fast," says Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout who runs the MovetheSticks.com site. Thanks to Galette's great flexibility, he also could really turn some heads in the position drills. Galette has readied himself by training with former track star Ato Boldon. If you're unfamiliar with Galette, here's some video. [h3]Around college football now [/h3]• Former Ohio State Buckeyes star and long-time NFL O-lineman LeCharles Bentley wrote a good column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer about why the combine is often more show than substance: Every player will be evaluated through the NFL's battery of testing procedures, many of which have absolutely zero bearing on the athletes' ability to play the game of football. There aren't any opportunities during a game to bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible or run a 40-yard dash without a helmet. What ensues are general managers and coaches falling in love with a guy who could potentially be a workout warrior. All of the game film that has been studied suddenly becomes irrelevant because a guy ran a great 40. Every coach in the league believes he is the best, or he wouldn't be coaching in the NFL. This fact leads them to believe they can coach any wide receiver who is 6-6 and runs a 4.3 40 to be the next Randy Moss. The NFL is a business of attrition and is not designed to be a developmental league. Some may refute this by pointing to practice squads, but the term "practice squad" is fancy for "irrelevant body." When a player signs an NFL contract, he is immediately in a battle with time, and unfortunately time -- through age or lack of performance -- always wins out. This is why it is vital for every team to know who they are drafting and more importantly, why. Far too often, team officials leave Indianapolis with a rose-colored view of potential draft picks. The Combine's real value is the mental component. All teams that draft the best recognize this. This doesn't apply to the Raiders as much as it does the Colts, Ravens and Patriots. Sure, the testing is strenuous but athletes are built for that. What a 21-year-old isn't equipped for is the harsh reality of transitioning from coddled collegiate athlete to highly expendable product with an expiration date. Amateur athletes are thrust into a world of seasoned men whose livelihoods are contingent upon the performance of these young men. • Pretty riveting exchange between Oregon columnist/radio host John Canzano and Ducks coach Chip Kelly. Listen to the audio here. There are a lot of fireworks here. Generalizations are a tricky thing when dealing with discipline. We seldom know exactly how much of a headache some of these players may be (in terms of missing classes or meetings or having academic issues, etc). My colleague Ted Miller highlights some good points from this debate: Canzano talks about public perception and how Kelly needs to send a message to his team. "I don't speak for the public, but I speak for this team," Kelly replied. That's an interesting assertion in a way that might not be immediately clear. While Kelly's program is getting trenched by the media -- and rightfully so, by the way -- Kelly's handing of events is almost certainly playing well in the locker room. And it will help Kelly in recruiting. Players -- and players' families -- want to a coach who's got their backs, even when they're in trouble. Know who first told me that? Bobby Bowden, who was often accused of being lax on discipline. Zero-tolerance discipline makes for a good sound bite. There are plenty of people who love its seeming righteousness. It's just not the only -- or necessarily most effective -- way to manage people in the real world, particularly when many controversies have significant gray areas. As I listened to the radio interview last night, I got to thinking about how Joe Paterno had stuck by one of his players, QB Rashard Casey, after Casey had gotten in trouble. I'm not saying that LaMichael James is Casey from a character standpoint, but a coach's belief in his player in the face of criticism can be a very powerful statement. • Texas has another big Junior Day weekend coming up, writes Mark Francescutti. Among the names are Abilene running back Herschel Sims and Waxahachie receiver Ladarius Brown. • It was sad to hear that former USC star Mosi Tatupu passed away at only 54. He was one of the first celebrated great special-teams players in NFL history. I had spent a decent amount of time with his son Lofa for an ESPN The Mag feature leading up to the Orange Bowl game against Oklahoma. Lofa is one of the guys in the NFL I really pull for. In reporting the story I ended up speaking with the rest of the family and was so impressed by how passionate they were, and what tough people they are. My thoughts are with them. • I saw "Couples Retreat" the other night. When it came out in the theaters it looked good, but I figured it probably wasn't because it seemed like the buzz on it quickly fizzled. After watching it, I thought it was OK, but not much more than that, and it would have been pretty mediocre if it weren't for Jon Favreau's character. • Just a reminder if you're in the Orlando area: Come by my session at ESPN The Weekend on Friday or Sunday.
 
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Originally Posted by Scott Frost

6. Eric Berry (from the Tennessee Volunteers) : Considered the most complete safety to come out of college since Sean Taylor, Berry doesn't just have great straight-ahead speed; scouts also rave about his change of direction, lateral movement and ball skills. Scouts expect to be "wowed" by him. Here's the Mag feature I wrote on Berry in the fall, and here's an old blog I wrote about how he will rise up in the draft.
And according to Gunna, EB is clocking 4.3's right about now.
 
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Cromartie giving my dude Mays coverage tips
He ain't gonna make it in the L
 
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