The NFL Combine is in full swing and future NFL players are coming through Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium all day to spend time with the media. In addition to their time in front of doctors and team officials, they must meet with reporters from around the country and share their thoughts on everything from their favorite color to the kind of player they think they'll become.
Indianapolis —Friday saw the offensive playmakers populate the Lucas Oil Stadium media room at the NFL Combine. Wide receivers and running backs made their way through and the topic of conversation most often was speed, but a player's ability to do different things on the field has become more of a focus.
After a few years of seeing the impact players like Dexter McCluster, Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson can have on games, the buzz word at the Combine is "versatility".
Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Kentucky's Randall Cobb and South Carolina's Tori Gurley are potential matchup problems in the NFL and talent evaluators dream about plugging in players like that to do multiple things on offense.
Rodgers faced comments on his size, but believes he can enter the NFL as a complimentary back and move on to being the feature back that he was at Oregon State, a back that not only piled up rushing yards in each of his three seasons, but also gained 1,000 receiving yards in his career. Additionally the five-foot-six runner fumbled only once in college with over 600 touches.
"People have always questioned my size. They say because you're five-seven you're not a prototypical running back, but my heart and my passion for the game, I can show them that." * "I think what I've shown on the field (is enough to be considered a running back). My yards—being able to go over 1,000 y ards for three years."
Cobb began his Kentucky career as a wide receiver but switched to quarterback four games in. As a sophomore he became an all-purpose performer, filling needs all over the field as a return man, quarterback, wide receiver and running back. One unique trait the five-foot-11 player can add is his ability to serve as a holder on the kicking team.
"I want to shatter any expectations anyone has of me." * "Anywhere I can get on the field is where I'm trying to play." * "I've had a few teams bring up the holding. If they didn't bring it up, I would. I want to show them I'm willing to do whatever to help a team out." * "The slot is where I feel most comfortable. I'm willing to play anywhere, outside or inside. Whatever it is to help out a team. "
Scouts describe Gurley as a wide receiver in a tight end's body. Even though Gurley's redshirt sophomore season wasn't filled with the prolific numbers he'd anticipated, he decided to enter the draft early. He dropped 15 pounds in the process leading up to the draft to help showcase his athleticism.
"I felt the time was now (to enter the draft). I went a season without dropping a pass in the toughest football conference." * "I like Sidney Rice, I think he's a finesse player. I also like Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson because of their physical play and they can go over the middle." * "I wanted to come in as lean as possible and show the scouts I'm not just an H-back, I'm a wide receiver."
The speed guys are always enticing because the media attempts to draw out predictions on how fast they think they'll run the forty-yard dash. Two of the fastest players in Indianapolis chose to take different approaches to discussing their sprinting ability.
Fort Valley State Ricardo Lockette's speed is tantalizing. A 100-meter national champion, he offers teams a coachable receiver prospect with speed that can't be taught. He didn't hesitate to share what his intentions are when he steps on the field this weekend.
"I'm definitely looking forward to breaking Chris Johnson's record this year." * "I think if I break the record, I won't get lost (among all the players in the draft)."
Torrey Smith of Maryland is a player who hopes to cement himself in the first-round wide receiver discussion with a strong performance at the Combine. His speed (believed to be in the 4.3 range) separates him from much of the field, but Smith hopes to show league general managers he's a complete receiver. The six-foot-one, 204-pound receiver also has the maturity and character desired--his story of helping his working mother raise his siblings is inspiring.
"I think my forty time impacts me a lot, but at the same time you can watch on film and see that I can run fast. I can run a 5.2 but if you watch me on film you'll see I can run past the fastest corners out there. I feel like my 40 time is important, but at the end of the day it's really not everything." * "I just want to go out and have fun and have a good showing. I just want to show my athletic ability and my receiving." * "Whoever gets me is going to get a player that's going to be dedicated to the organization. A player that can contribute on offense and special teams as well, whether as a returner or a gunner. …Someone that's going to be able to help out in the community as well. I take a lot of pride in that."
Other wide receivers hope to run faster than they were perceived in college, but want to continue to make a name for themselves as big, physical targets, a few with first-round talent.
Miami's Leonard Hankerson began to emerge as a viable top-five wide receiver after his standout performance at the Senior Bowl. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of other playmaking wide receivers from the University of Miami.
"I'm a big receiver. I run good routes. I can go up and catch the ball and finish." * "As a senior you have to be the captain of the team. You need to be vocal. You have to lead by example. It's going to give you a lot of confidence going into the next level, knowing what you have to do, being more focused and mature." * "I'm not going to make predictions. I just want to run as fast as I can."
One of the biggest targets in the draft, Pittsburgh wide receiver Jon Baldwin believes he has deceptive speed, but is not ashamed to say his physical play is the best part of his game.
"I've got personal goals, but I'm not going to share them." * "I'd like to play anywhere, it's a blessing to be in this situation. Any team that wants to draft me, it's good for me." * "I like Larry Fitzgerald and how he attacked the football with great catching ability. I have those traits and jumping ability. …I have all those things."