Monday, March 03, 2008

Measuring the measurables | by Pat

The final NFL Combine ever to be held in the Indianapolis RCA Dome is over and it was a bit of a mixed bag for the Irish participants. Here is a quick numbers breakdown of how each Domer did. The number in parenthesis is how they ranked in each particular category against other players at their position (TE, OL, DT, S).

Player 40 Yard
20 Yard
60 Yard
John Carlson 4.89 (13th)
20 (T-10th)
30.5 (6th)
4.28 (5th)
11.50 (3rd)
John Sullivan
5.40 (27th) 21( T-35th)
30.0 (2nd)
4.55 (T-5th)
Trevor Laws
5.08 (7th)
35 (T-1st)
30.5 (1st)
- -
Tom Zbikowski
4.52 (7th)
24 (2nd)
- - -

NFL Network featured all four Irish players in video interviews. Click the links to hear from Carlson, Sullivan, Laws, and Zibby. You can also check out Trevor Laws in action at the combine.

It's typical for print and online draftniks to overreact to the Combine results while NFL coaches and GMs tend to value the interview and medical results as more important than what happens on the Hoosier Dome turf. Still, there is no denying that a player's performance at the Combine affects his ultimate draft spot in April. The takeaway for the Irish quartet is that Carlson's stock slipped a bit, Zibby and Sully improved theirs slightly, and Trevor saw his stock continue to shoot up following his impressive Senior Bowl showing.

Carlson's 40 time and bench result were lower than expected, but he looked solid catching the ball in the passing drills. Whether or not Carlson's speed and strength were affected by his recent bout with a virus will be answered by how he does in the same events at ND's Pro Day. If he can improve, he will likely be drafted somewhere around his current 2nd round projection.

Zibby wasn't always as smooth catching the ball, but he showed a good mix of speed and strength as expected. He also provided a few good lines.
"The one story I heard that I like was Zbikowski was meeting with a defensive coordinator (during the combine interview process)," Wright said. "The coach had him draw up a play and then he said, 'I still don't think you can cover that receiver.'

"And he told the coach, 'Well, if I can't cover him, I'll knock the ball loose when he tries to catch it. And if you don't think I can, I'll go to one of the other three teams in your division and show you I can.'
Zibby followed that up by snapping "Don't call me that again" in the middle of his bench press test when the spotter tried to motivate him with a "Come on Rudy!" Where he'll fall in the draft iis a bit of a question mark as he's currently being projected anywhere from the 3rd to 6th round. His versatility as a special teams player will help, but some NFL coaches, like the one above presumably, aren't completely convinced at his ability to be a front line safety in the NFL. I like how Mike Mayock of the NFL Network put it. "This is the kind of kid that gets in the starting lineup somehow and you just can't get him out of it." After watching Ndukwe go from 7th round draft pick to end of the year starter and Ryan Grant emerge as one of the league's leading rushers, I'm not ruling anything out.

Sullivan's bench press numbers weren't great for an offensive lineman, and we'll take a closer look at ND players and combine performances, especially in the bench press, in another post shortly. But Sully did earn some praise once the action moved on to the field.
Sullivan is trying to make up for a poor senior campaign and did well in Indianapolis. He displayed terrific quickness and explosion through the midday workout and had some of the best footwork of any linemen in attendance.
Centers rarely get drafted high, so even with a solid performance in Indy, Sully will likely have to wait until the mid to later rounds to hear his name.

Laws was the big winner as far as players that had a great start to finish Combine. Starting from when he officially measured in at over 6 feet to his outstanding performance on the bench, Laws did a great job countering the knocks that he's too short and/or not strong enough to man the middle in the NFL. Most of the current projections have him being picked up in the 2nd or 3rd round.

With the combine, the next step will be the Notre Dame Pro Day on March 19th where Carlson, Sully, Zibby, and Laws will be joined by the rest of the 5th year and senior players looking to make an NFL roster.