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Climbing stock

Combine giving players a chance to move up in draft

Posted: Saturday February 22, 2003 5:27 PM
Updated: Saturday February 22, 2003 8:23 PM
  Justin Fargas Justin Fargas was the big winner at the combine Saturday. Robert Laberge/Getty Images

By Tony Pauline, TFY Draft Preview

INDIANAPOLIS -- While there have been a few standout performances, this gathering has had a large number of the 300-plus pro prospects decide to wait for another day to be timed and tested.

Terrell Suggs, Jimmy Kennedy and Larry Johnson were some of the elite names opting out of the festivities, favoring individual workouts to show their talents to scouts.

Despite that, several players have substantially enhanced their draft rankings since Thursday.

The offensive linemen were the first to take the turf Friday morning, and Jordan Gross of Utah was one of the standouts. He ran as fast as any blocker in attendance, and turned in a terrific drill session which garnered the attention of several teams. Gross is stating his case to be a top-five pick and there is plenty of buzz about Houston tabbing him third overall.

Coming off a strong Senior Bowl, Iowa tackle Eric Steinbach showed a vertical leap of 36-inches, and again displayed the skill to be a blind side protector.

Hawaii guard Vince Manuwai redeemed himself after a subpar showing in Mobile and had a good session on Friday. He was fleet across the surface of the RCA Dome, but, most importantly, weighed in with only 18.6 percent body fat, which was a concern for teams.

Equally as impressive was Stanford's Kwame Harris, the most athletic blocker on the field. The recent history of right tackles from college moving to the weak side in the NFL has not been good, but Harris seemingly displayed the skills needed to be successful in that transition should he be asked to make it.

Obviously the headline of the afternoon’s session was USC running back Justin Fargas. Known mostly as a power back during his tenure in college, Fargas scorched the field with a pair of forties around 4.3. Each time he sped across the turf scouts put down their watches and said, "WOW!" Factor in Fargas' pass catching skills and he jumped into top 45.

The defensive linemen had the spotlight on Saturday. Junior Johnathan Sullivan of Georgia and Oklahoma State’s Kevin Williams both displayed top-notch athletic skills and moved their 300-pound frames easily about the field, giving scouts the impression both would be effective in a two-gap (three-four alignment) scheme as well as holding their own as stand-alone tackles. Williams especially further enhanced his final grade.

Many of the smaller defensive ends were put through a battery of linebacker drills at days end and some results were sterling. Clemson’s Bryant McNeal and Cincinnati’s Antwan Peek, a pair of players that lined up in a three-point stance in college, looked natural playing off the line off scrimmage and making plays in space. Even with that none compared to Shurron Pierson.

The little known junior prospect from the University of South Florida sped across the field with a pair of forty times in the low 4.6 area. He then blew away the competition with a broad jump more than 6 inches longer than the nearest linemen. When placed at linebacker Pierson displayed the same quickness and explosion as he had earlier in the day. While the NFL rarely looks to the USF Bulls for pro-prospects, Pierson has turned their heads and may now be headed towards the first day of the draft.

On the flip side, several of the invitees did not fare as well and performed poorly over the last two days. Texas lineman Derrick Dockery looked slow and sluggish, or more to the point as one scout said, woefully out of shape. Washington State’s Rien Long also looked heavy footed even though he did not run. There are still serious questions about where the Outland Trophy winner will be drafted.

Passes will be flying in the air tomorrow as the quarterbacks take flight working out along with the receivers and tight end.

TFY Draft Preview

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