Cleveland Browns' 2014 Combine Stock Report
As arbitrary as 40-yard dash times and broad-jump numbers can be, the NFL Scouting Combine is where players can make or break their draft status. Cleveland Browns new general manager Ray Farmer will have the tough task of balancing the meat market that is the combine with years of actual game film.
It doesn’t matter how much stock you put in the combine, it is an undeniable force when making decisions. If a front office grades two players in a similar fashion, then a 40-yard dash time could be the tiebreaker.
The Browns have had their eyes on plenty of players the past few days. Some of them have excelled, while others have shown reason to be skeptical.
Just like the stock market, each player’s value can rise and fall with each drill. Here are some guys who have either helped or hurt their status throughout the first few days of the combine.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
Stock Up: Blake Bortles
It is tough to not have your stock rise when you are the only quarterback of the top three who throws at the combine. Blake Bortles chose to throw and did not disappoint.
According to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, Bortles showed touch and strength in his throwing drills. Brooks said that Bortles was inaccurate on a handful of passes, but most were where they needed to be:
In throwing drills, Bortles showed above-average arm strength and touch on vertical tosses, dropping the ball down the chute on go-routes and post-corners. He also flashed superb anticipation on intermediate routes by routinely delivering the ball right in the strike zone on digs and speed outs. Although he was slightly off target on a handful of throws, Bortles' ball placement was on point for most of the session. With a few more workouts (including his pro day) to strut his stuff, Bortles' draft stock should just continue to rise.
Bortles was no slouch in the drills, either. He posted the fourth-best vertical jump of all quarterbacks at 32.5 inches. He also posted the third-best broad jump at 115 inches.
Stock Down: Yawin Smallwood
Inside linebacker Yawin Smallwood from UConn was originally thought to be a second- or third-round draft pick, according to CBSSports.com. While that still may end up being the case, he will have to overcome a 5.01-second 40-yard dash time.
Smallwood pulled up with an injury and did not get a chance to show off his athletic ability, according to Doug Kyed from FoxSports.com:
"Smallwood was expected to shine in the athletic drills, but he pulled up with an injury in the middle of running a 5.01-second 40-yard dash. Unfortunately, that attempt was not stricken from the record, so he'll forever be known as a 5-second 40-yard dash guy."
The Browns desperately need to find an athletic inside linebacker in the draft to replace D’Qwell Jackson, who was released on Wednesday, according to the team's website.
Stock Up: Odell Beckham
While Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans are the hot names at wide receiver, LSU’s Odell Beckham had a very impressive day on Monday.
Beckham, who is the smallest of the top-tier receiver prospects at 5’11”, is projected by CBSSports.com to go somewhere in the first or second round. He posted great numbers in the drills, and his versatility makes Bucky Brooks of NFL.com think Beckham may be snatched up earlier rather than later:
The LSU star has rarely been mentioned as a top prospect, but he should get plenty of burn after posting impressive times in the 40 (4.43), 20-yard shuttle (3.94) and 60-yard shuttle (10.93). This confirms the explosiveness displayed by Beckham on tape, solidifying his status as one of the most dynamic offensive weapons in the draft. Additionally, Beckham caught the ball well and was more polished as a route runner than I expected. With Beckham also regarded as one of the top returners in college football, it's quite possible he enters the discussion as a Day 1 selection.
The most intriguing part of Beckham is the fact that he is not only a game-breaking wide receiver but also a dangerous returner. The Browns need to find a returner somewhere in the draft. Last year, they did kickoffs by committee and were left dead in the water on punts after Travis Benjamin went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Stock Down: Cyrus Kouandjio
Cyrus Kouandjio, the massive 6’7”, 322-pound offensive tackle from Alabama, was certainly a name in play for the Browns if they decided to select his position late in the first round. That may not be that case anymore.
While it was fairly obvious that a man of his size would struggle in drills, no one anticipated he would struggle as much as he did, according to Brooks of NFL.com:
Kouandjio ranked near the bottom of his position group in the 40, broad jump, short shuttle and three-cone drill. Additionally, he looked a little sluggish in the change-of-direction drills of the positional workout. Although that's not surprising, based on his mauler/brawler style, the lack of short-area quickness and body control leads to more questions about his ability to handle speed and quickness off the edge.
These subpar numbers follow reports of him failing some teams' physicals at the combine. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (h/t Chase Goodbread, NFL.com), teams failed him due to “Arthritic knee from failed surgery.”
The Browns already have one large tackle who struggles with the outside pass rush on the roster, and his name is Mitchell Schwartz. The Browns should steer clear of Kouandjio.
Stock Up: Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is going to make for some pretty interesting debates in draft rooms. He is the guy who most people consider the best athlete in the draft. Unfortunately, many also questioned his commitment to football last season.
Clowney just made it that much tougher to knock him down the draft board in the combine. He posted freakish numbers, including a 4.53 40-yard dash time. Many, including Bleacher Report’s very own Matt Bowen, were extremely impressed:
"Clowney’s official 4.53 40-yard dash time at 266 pounds (along with his 37.5 inch vertical jump and 10’4” broad jump) reinforces what we already knew about the South Carolina defensive end: he has ridiculous athletic ability."
If the Browns are not smitten with any of the quarterbacks at the top of the draft, then they have to seriously consider Clowney with the fourth pick. Their pass rush tapered off in the second half of last season, and Farmer is on record saying he will take the best player available regardless of position.
“I would say that you definitely want to make sure that you’re finding the best players,” said Farmer to the media via Ohio.com. “It’s hard to go wrong when you add good players to your football team."
Stock Down: Chris Borland
Wisconsin inside linebacker Chris Borland did not help himself at the combine, but most knew this was coming. Borland is not a drills player. He just makes big plays during games.
That is the big question mark with players like Borland. How can you accurately assess his transition to the NFL? Sure, the tape looks great, but will his lack of athleticism hurt him at the next level?
Bleacher Report’s Matt Bowen does not find the poor combine numbers very disheartening:
"The combine isn’t the best judge of talent for Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. His 40 time (4.83) wasn’t impressive, and his size (5'11”, 248) has been questioned. However, Borland plays with solid lateral quickness and consistently shows up on the tape."
I tend to agree with Bowen. Borland is the type of player who just needs to be on the field during game time. He also played in the Big Ten against NFL talent, so it should be an easier transition.
CBSSports.com has him projected as a third-round pick. The Browns have two picks in that round, and despite his poor combine results, they should consider using one of them on him.
Stock Up: Dri Archer
Before the NFL combine, Dri Archer, the speedy athlete who was a running back at Kent State University, predicted he would break the 40-yard dash record held by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.
His 4.26 40-yard dash time just missed Johnson’s 4.24 mark. After Archer’s official time was released, Johnson tweeted a sigh of relief:
Can't lie archer had the boi nervous— Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson28) February 23, 2014
It’s tough to predict where Archer will be drafted, but he certainly won't last until the late rounds. His rare speed and athleticism make him a weapon any team could use.
The Browns need to take a serious look at Archer. While he does not fill one position in particular, he does add elements all over the field. He can return kicks, line up at receiver, line up in the backfield and even play quarterback.
He would be an interesting weapon for new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to play with in 2014.
Stock Down: Carlos Hyde
Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde was trying to make a case to be selected in the second or possibly even the first round. That could still happen, but it will be a little tougher after he suffered a hamstring injury during the 40-yard dash.
Shame to see Ohio St. RB Carlos Hyde pull up w/ hamstring injury at #NFLCombine. Could've solidified himself as top runner and 1st Rounder.— Scott Wright (@DraftCountdown) February 23, 2014
According to Tom Reed of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hyde did not speak with any media after the injury. The good news is it is just a hamstring pull. The bad news is that he will not be able to improve his draft stock.
His bad news could end up as the Browns’ good news, however. If he slips at all in the draft, the Browns could be in a position to snag him. If he were to garner a first-round grade, then the Browns would almost assuredly stay away from drafting him.