I don't work for an NFL team anymore (my readers are who I report to now) but on Day 4 of the 2005 combine I huddled with four of the most influential people in the National Football League. Who better to sit and watch players work out with than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son, Steve and head coach Bill Parcells, along with Raiders owner Al Davis?
I'm telling you, they should sell tickets or broadcast them on Sirius NFL Radio just so people can sit and listen to the stories they tell. It's also like a trivia session -- everyone tries to compare the prospects with someone who was already in the NFL, and it's a lot of fun. For example, Al Davis compared Mark Clayton of Oklahoma to Isaac Bruce.
Group 6 consisted of quarterbacks, which included Cal's Aaron Rodgers and Purdue's Kyle Orton. There were 13 of them, and 12 of them ran. The only one that didn't run was Arizona State's Andrew Walter, who was hurt. Also in that group was Matt Jones, a quarterback from Arkansas who is also trying out as a wide receiver. The consensus from our fivesome was that he ran probably the fastest time of any quarterback we've ever seen at the combine.
So what did he do? Jones ran a 4.41, a 4.44, a 4.47 and a 4.50. In case you were wondering, if 4.50 is your slowest time in the 40, you know you're doing something right.
One other notable: Rodgers ran just a little bit under 4.70, and a lot of eyeballs were watching that run. Former Florida State quarterback Adrian McPherson also worked out.
In Group 5, we had 11 quarterbacks. Ten of them ran -- the only one who didn't was Auburn's Jason Campbell on the advice of his agent, Joel Siegel. Alex Smith was one of those running, and he ran a time comparable to Rodgers.
Of the 20 wide receivers in Group 6, all but four ran. Three of them were medically excused.
In that group, USC's Mike Williams ran well, running under 4.60. Terrence Murphy ran under 4.4, Troy Williamson of South Carolina ran a 4.4.
Speaking of Williams, I spent some time with him last night in the Reebok room and there was a lot of question whether he was going to run or not. He said he needed to find the right shoes in order to run. So when he got ready to run, he looked at our group and winked at us. We knew he was going to give it a shot, and he did well.
Our fivesome believes that Hampton's Jerome Mathis, who ran somewhere between 4.25 and 4.29 in the 40, ran the fastest 40 in the history of the combine. We think Deion Sanders ran something like 4.28 when he was at the combine over 10 years ago, so Mathis is extremely close to being one of the fastest people at the combine. He made himself some money because he also did a good job in receiving drills.
There were also 20 wide receivers in Group 5, and 19 of them ran. The only one that didn't run was Michigan's Braylon Edwards. That's really good, and I'll tell you right now that all of the coaches and GMs on hand were appreciative of that.
The guy that really helped himself in this group was Mark Clayton. He ran well, caught the ball well and really gave his stock a boost.
Group 4 had 17 running backs, of which a dozen of them ran. Of the five that didn't run, two had medical excuses and three chose not to run.
The fastest guy was probably Kansas State's Darren Sproles, who ran a 4.38 and a 4.40. Carnell Williams was right on his tail with a 4.40 and a 4.43. Williams is a super looking player -- he caught the ball well, ran smoothly and looked good.
But the guy who got us talking was someone who was 252 pounds and ran a 4.59! That would be Brandon Jacobs, who is from Southern Illinois but started at Auburn (so make it three impressive running backs from Auburn).
IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE
The guys that worked out, the Charlie Fryes and Mike Claytons, the Dante Ridgeways and Carnell Williamses of the draft class, did themselves some good compared to those who didn't work out. For example, there was a general consensus that the three big running backs -- Williams, Cedric Benson and Ronnie Brown -- were bunched at the top of the class. But after the combine, I can promise you that Benson will have ground to make up because he opted not to work out. That's a big mistake -- there are 28 to 30 NFL head coaches here, and I doubt there will be that many in Texas at his Pro Day coming up soon.
The agents that advised their clients not to work out at Indy are costing their players big bucks, and those who told their clients to show their stuff are going to make more money. It's as simple as that -- there are plenty of people that NFL personnel are talking about because of their workouts.
Furthermore, GMs and coaches across the league better watch out because this crop of wide receivers is starting to look real good. It was a great way to spend a Sunday watching these players. There are some really good looking players in these groups.