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McFadden shows why he's No. 1


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McFadden shows why he's No. 1; RBs and WRs show speed

By Todd McShay

Scouts Inc.

( Arkansas RB Darren McFadden made a statement with his sensational combine workout on Sunday. McFadden officially ran his first 40-yard dash -- the faster of his two attempts -- in 4.33 seconds. In addition, he jumped 10 feet, 8 inches in the broad jump and 33 inches in the vertical leap. Comparatively speaking, McFadden's overall workout was stronger than Adrian Peterson's a year ago, which included 40 time of 4.41, a 10-7 broad jump and a 38.5-inch vertical.

McFadden and Peterson have very different running styles, though. Peterson is clearly the more powerful back and was better suited to carry a full NFL load coming out of Oklahoma a year ago. McFadden, on the other hand, is more versatile and explosive but lacks Peterson's physicality. The more apt comparison is their exceptional combination of size and athletic ability. McFadden's workout verifies his big-play ability and status as Scouts Inc.'s No. 1 overall prospect, adding to the list of reasons teams should not pass on him come April 26.

McFadden is not the fastest player the 2008 class has to offer, though. In fact, McFadden isn't even the fastest player at his position. That honor goes to East Carolina's Chris Johnson, whose official 40-yard dash time of 4.24 seconds is the fastest so far this year and better than Yamon Figures' 2007-best time of 4.30.

Appalachian State WR/RS Dexter Jackson was thought to have the best 40-time originally; scouts I spoke with timed Jackson in the high 4.2-second range and Johnson in the low 4.3-second range. The official results tell a different story, though. Jackson still ranks among the fastest at any position, but it was the other Jackson -- DeSean Jackson -- who ran the fastest official time at the wide receiver position.

As a whole, the 2008 draft class is displaying excellent speed. DeSean Jackson was one of five receivers to run a sub 4.4-second 40, while Johnson and McFadden were two of four running backs to achieve that feat. Here's a look at the 10 fastest 40-yard dash results through Sunday's workouts:

1. RB Chris Johnson, East Carolina -- 4.24

2. RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas -- 4.33

3. WR DeSean Jackson, California -- 4.35

4. RB Anthony Alridge, Houston -- 4.36

T5. WR Dexter Jackson, Appalachian. State -- 4.37

T5. WR Andre Caldwell, Florida -- 4.37

T5. WR Will Franklin, Missouri -- 4.37

8. RB Jamaal Charles, Texas -- 4.38

9. WR Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech -- 4.39

10. WR Devin Thomas, Michigan State -- 4.40


Two small-school quarterback prospects were among the best performers at quarterback and clearly helped themselves today. San Diego's Josh Johnson ran the fastest 40-time among quarterbacks (4.42), and although he looked erratic and lost the strike zone too much during passing drills, remember that he was throwing to a group of receivers he hasn't worked with previously. With that in mind, scouts won't put to much stock his struggles today if Johnson performs well at his pro day.

Delaware's Joe Flacco also had a strong showing. The 6-6, 230-pounder ran a couple of very good 40-yard dash times for a player his size and then wowed scouts with his arm strength and accuracy during passing drills. Flacco appears to in the thick of the competition for the No. 3 quarterback slot in 2008, but Michigan's Chad Henne isn't exactly backing down from the challenge, either. Although Henne didn't run all that well, he had arguably the best throwing performance.

The other quarterback competing for the No. 3 slot is Kentucky's Andre' Woodson, who seemed like a lock to be one of the top three quarterbacks off the board at the start of the season. Woodson didn't participate in workouts because of a right hamstring injury and missed a big opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing Senior Bowl week. Not working out won't hurt his stock that much, but Woodson needs display smarts and a good personality during interviews here and a great pro day to stop his stock from sliding any further than it already has.

The reason Flacco, Henne and Woodson are fighting for the No. 3 slot is that Louisville's Brian Brohm is the clear-cut No. 2 behind top QB Matt Ryan of Boston College. Brohm ran the 40 in the high 4.7s/low 4.8s, recorded the best broad jump and fourth-best vertical among quarterbacks. Most importantly, he showed great accuracy during passing drills. Ryan, meanwhile, ran a 4.88 and did not participate in throwing drills. Although Ryan remains the top prospect, Brohm made the most of his opportunity to gain some ground.

Finally, San Diego State's Kevin O'Connnel quietly put together one of the most complete combine workouts of any of the quarterbacks in this year's class. The 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pounder ran the second-fastest 40 (4.61) and the second best three-cone drill, and recorded the second-best broad jump and the third best vertical jump. O'Connell, who we've talked about as a project, performed so well that he could now move into the fourth-round range.

Top five 40-yard dash times (seconds)

1. Josh Johnson, San Diego -- 4.55

2. Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State -- 4.61

3. Bernard Morris, Marshall -- 4.68

4. Adam Tafralis, San Jose State -- 4.78

5. Matt Flynn, LSU -- 4.79

Top five vertical jump results (inches)

1. Josh Johnson, San Diego -- 33.5

2. Adam Tafralis, San Jose State -- 32

3. Kevin O'Connell, San Diego State -- 31

4. Brian Brohm, Louisville -- 30

5. Joe Flacco, Delaware -- 28.5

Top five broad jump results (feet/inches)

1. Brian Brohm, Louisville -- 9-7

2. Kevin O'Connell, San Diego -- 9-5

3. Alex Brink, Washington State -- 9-4

4. Paul Smith, Tulsa -- 9-3

T5. Josh Johnson, San Diego -- 9-2

T5. Joe Flacco, Delaware -- 9-2

Running backs

Although McFadden is the elite back in the draft, Oregon's Jonathan Stewart and Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall are not far behind. Stewart's 40-time of 4.48 and Mendenhall's 4.45 weren't the most eye-popping results of the day, but Stewart (235 pounds) and Mendenhall (225) were the only two backs who weighed in at more than 220 pounds and ran in the 4.4s. There are bigger backs here and there are faster backs, but none show the same blend of speed and power that make Stewart and Mendenhall so valuable. It's also worth pointing out that both showed good hands during drills, Stewart recorded more reps on the bench (28) than any other true running back and Mendenhall's 26 reps tied California's Justin Forsett for second.

Moving down the list, Tulane's Matt Forte and Texas' Jamaal Charles didn't disappoint, either. The biggest concern about Forte has been his speed but the 6-foot-1-inch, 217-pounder went a long way toward silencing his critics by running a 4.46. As far as Charles goes, most expected him to turn in a fast time and he did just that at 4.38. Charles also caught the ball well during position drills.

One running back who didn't fare well was Michigan's Mike Hart. The 5-foot-9, 206-pounder ran in the 4.6 range, posted a pedestrian 28-inch vertical jump and didn't stand out in any one area. Hart obviously would have liked to run faster times, but scouts weren't expecting much from him in terms of speed. Those who are interested in him like his production at the collegiate level and his passion for the game, not how fast he runs. In addition, Hart recorded 23 reps on the bench and showed scouts he has the potential to develop into a productive receiver during drills, which was important because he didn't catch the ball all that much at Michigan.

Both Ray Rice of Rutgers (5-8, 199) and Steve Slaton of West Virginia (5-9[!, 197)will have to prove to NFL front offices that their lack of size isn't an issue. Rice's only 40-time came in the high 4.4s, and he tweaked a hamstring that clearly hindered him during drills. While Slaton came in a little bigger, but he didn't show the same upper body strength (19 reps) and wasn't quite as fast in the 40 (low 4.5s).

Top five 40-yard dash times (seconds)

1. Chris Johnson, East Carolina -- 4.24

2. Darren McFadden, Arkansas -- 4.33

3. Anthony Alridge, Houston -- 4.36

4. Jamaal Charles, Texas -- 4.38

5. Chad Simpson, Morgan State -- 4.42

Top five vertical jump results (inches)

1. Carl Stewart, Auburn -- 39

2. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon -- 36.5

3. Thomas Brown, Georgia -- 36

4. Chris Johnson, East Carolina -- 35

5. Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech -- 34

Top five broad jump results (feet-inches)

T1. Carl Stewart, Auburn -- 11-2

T1. Anthony Alridge, Houston -- 11-2

3. Chris Johnson, East Carolina -- 10-1

T4. Thomas Brown, Georgia -- 10-8

T4. Darren McFadden, Arkansas -- 10-8

T4. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon -- 10-8

Wide receivers

DeSean Jackson and Texas' Limas Sweed solidified themselves as mid-to-late first-round picks with their performances at this combine. Jackson is admittedly undersized at 169 pounds, but he turned in the fastest 40-time (4.35) and is an explosive punt return man. Sweed had an even better day; the 6-4, 215-pounder ran in the 4.4s and had a 37-inch vertical leap. Those are great numbers for a player with his size, and he wasn't the only big man who turned some heads today. James Hardy, the 6-5, 217-pounder out of Indiana ran a surprisingly fast 40 (4.44.) and could move from the second round into the late first round.

There is no Calvin Johnson in this group, no receiver will move into the top five with an impressive performance the way Johnson did last year. In fact, there's a chance no wide receiver will be drafted in the first half of the first round. The good news, however, is that this class has more depth than any in recent years. So teams in need of complementary help at the position will find plenty of quality options to choose from in rounds 2 through 4. Virginia Tech's Eddie Royal is having a strong showing on the heels of an impressive week at the Senior Bowl, recording 24 reps on the bench press and running a 4.44. Meanwhile, Florida's Andre Caldwell ran a 4.32 and Missouri's Will Franklin ran a 4.33 40.

Michigan's Mario Manningham disappointed by running in the 4.5s and checked in at 5-foot-11½ and 181 pounds. It was also obvious to the trained eye that Manningham's running technique was sloppy, and that's putting it politely. Manningham stood up coming out of his stance and didn't control his upper body as well as other runners. His production was very good at Michigan, however. This only be a small bump in the road; scouts will clock Manningham again at Michigan's pro day.

Although he was a one-year wonder and a small a body of work can make front offices anxious, Michigan State's Devin Thomas is skyrocketing up NFL daft boards. He had a strong 2007 season, turned in the sixth-best 40-time (4.40) among all players, recorded the fifth-best vertical jump (10-6) and caught the ball very well. Much like Hardy, he could start creeping into that late-first round range and he would be a perfect fit for a West Coast team because of his ability to create after the catch.

Lastly, Richmond WR Arman Shields represented the Spiders well with the second-best three-cone drill (6.67), best 60-yard shuttle (10.87) and second-best broad jump (10-8). In addition, his 37.5-inch vertical jump tied for second, he benched 225 pounds 19 times and he ran a 4.44. Shields' production dipped during an injury-marred senior season, but he's slowly emerging as a great second-day sleeper.

Two receivers of note who didn't run Sunday are LSU's Early Doucet (own choice) and Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly (lingering quad injury).

Top five vertical jump results (inches)

1. DeSean Jackson, California -- 4.35

T2. Andre Caldwell, Florida -- 4.37

T2. Will Franklin, Missouri -- 4.37

T2. Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State -- 4.37

5. Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech -- 4.39

Top five vertical jump results (inches)

1. Keenan Burton, Kentucky -- 38.5

T2. Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina -- 37.5

T2. Arman Shields, Richmond -- 37.5

T4. Pierre Garcon, Mount Union -- 36.5

T4. Mark Bradford, Stanford -- 36.5

Top five broad jump results (feet-inches)

1. Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina -- 11-4

2. Arman Shields, Richmond -- 10-8

3. Darius Reynaud, West Virginia -- 10-7

T4. Marcus Henry, Kansas -- 10-6

T4. Devin Thomas, Michigan State -- 10-6

T4. Paul Hubbard, Wisconsin -- 10-6

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