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-- The combine reinforced that this year’s class of tight ends is weak. The exception was supposed to be Minnesota’s Maxx Williams, but he didn’t have the kind of workout needed to establish first-round status.
As a receiver on game day, he displays the kind of top-flight speed that exposes linebackers and safeties in coverage. His workout numbers didn’t collaborate this, though, as he ran a 4.78 forty. While he remains the top tight end of his class, he had a chance to fill the first-round void at tight end with a strong combine. Instead, it looks as if he’ll hear his name called in the second round rather than the first.
Williams wasn’t the only underwhelming performer among tight ends. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary was a dud. He ran a 4.93 forty, a huge red flag for a tight end that isn’t known for his blocking. He was clearly Jameis Winston’s top target at Florida State. His hands and route running are very good, so he isn't a bad prospect. Nevertheless, his stock probably dropped.
-- A strong Senior Bowl had Duke receiver Jamison Crowder in first-round discussion. That’s probably not going to happen now. Undersized (5-foot-8, 185) receivers usually have to test well in order to warrant first-round consideration. The most recent example was 5-foot-10, 185-pound Brandin Cooks, who was among the standout performers at last year’s combine.
Crowder obviously wasn’t a standout, hence his inclusion in this article. His stock won’t take a dramatic tumble, however. His tape is excellent, as he makes plays out of the backfield, in the return game, and obviously as a receiver. In fact, he looked special against Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Still, he needed a special workout to sneak his way into round one. He didn’t deliver, so he’ll instead be a day two pick.
-- The inside linebacker class looks good on paper, with several standouts available in this draft. Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks and Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney all tested well, solidifying their status. Two other top five linebackers did not, though.
And it starts at the top with TCU’s Paul Dawson, who I had going No. 30 overall to the Packers in my initial mock draft. Dawson looked stiff throughout positional drills, and clocked in with a disappointing 4.93 forty.
Teams were already worried about his work ethic. Now they’ll red flag him for poor athleticism. With the concerns piling up, you can begin to understand why teams may hesitate on him.
That said Dawson is a stud on game day and nobody thought he was going to run a 4.6. He’s more of a football player than track star, something he tweeted out following his workout. He’s active at the line of scrimmage; he pretty much lived in his opponent’s backfield. He has great instincts, is physical against the run, and does a wonderful job of recognizing plays. One workout doesn’t destroy an entire body of work.
In addition to Dawson, Miami (FL) Denzel Perryman didn’t test well. Perryman is more of a two-down player, so it was somewhat expected his running -- a 4.78 in the forty -- would disappoint. Nonetheless, he and Kendricks were widely perceived as the top linebackers of this class. You could see a clear disparity between the two, with Kendricks definitely being the easier first-round sell.