With the combine having come and gone, it was exciting to see three Colorado Buffaloes take part in the event. It has been a while since a few Buffs got this much discussion as being premier NFL players. OT Nate Solder certainly has received the most publicity but cornerbacks Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith certainly held their own from a performance standpoint.
Earlier last week, I mentioned how Nate Solder and Jimmy Smith were made for the combine, that their physical size and skills would impress the onlookers in Indianapolis.
Solder got off to a little bit of a rough start last Friday bench pressing 225 pounds 21 times. Solder standing 6-foot-8 1/4 with a 35 inch arm length wasn't expected to put up big numbers on the bench press but 21 could be seen as a small disappointment. Solder is known for his strength in the hang clean which is a much better indicator of strength for an offensive lineman.
But it was pretty much all uphill from there.
Solder impressed during the interview stage. His strong G.P.A in college (3.52) in a extremely difficult major (biology) did not go unnoticed.
His athleticism and performance in drills did not hurt his stock this past weekend, either. The first look we got of Nate was him destroying the broad jump at 9'2", tying him for third among all offensive linemen. Last year's average for offensive linemen was just over 8 feet. He then followed up that performance with a 5.05 forty, good for fourth among offensive linemen and first overall among tackles.
Solder also finished third in the vertical jump going for 32 inches, fifth in the 3 cone drill (7.44 seconds) and second in the 20 yard shuttle (4.34 seconds)
One of the more important times was his 10 yard split while running his forty. He clocked in at 1.63 seconds, the best of all offensive linemen. Many scouts look at that as a true indicator of speed and power of an offensive lineman.
Solder clearly had the best performance of all the high profiled offensive lineman in the group.
The timed drills are certainly important but Solder also showed well in the position drills. He moved well laterally, did great in the mirror drill and showed his power drive blocking. Most importantly, he showed good knee bend for a 6'8" man. The largest criticism of Solder is his ability to bend and play low to keep up with the quick ends of the NFL.
Mike Mayock and the rest of the NFL crew definitely had on hand some of the bad tape that Nate accumulated over the year but one of the big things to remember is Solder has given up just five sacks in his three years as a full time starter at offensive tackle. The analysts brought up the Cal game earlier this season and the sack Solder gave up to Sam Acho in the Senior Bowl as evidence that Solder gets in trouble when he doesn't bend his knees and plays high. I like the way Todd McShay approaches it:
"The biggest thing with him is his ability to move laterally and bend," McShay said. "He plays high too much of the time and you see him get in trouble when he does. But he's close. If he gets with a good coach, he could be a good starting left tackle for a long time in this league."
Solder is a smart guy and has all the physical tools to be successful at the next level, things you cannot teach in the NFL. What can be taught is technique and mechanics. I think when NFL scouts get down to it, they will also see his ceiling is very high and with a small amount of work in the offseason, he will be ready to play.
Results and thoughts on Jimmy Smith after the jump...
Jimmy Smith's time at the combine has been a case study on the impact of buzz and the media scrutiny that these players are subject to prior to the NFL Draft. A few weeks ago, Smith was just a slightly unknown (outside of Colorado and the Big 12) 6'2, 211 lb cornerback with great speed who was rocketing up the draft boards. However, in the week leading up to the start of the combine, word started leaking out that his stock could be dropping because of the dreaded "character issues" label, something that came as a shock to many Buffs fans.
Let's take a look at examples of how these types of stories spread so quickly.
Flunked drug tests. Arrests for possession of alcohol as a minor. Skipping the Senior Bowl. And a borderline cocky attitude to boot.
Yes, that's a checkmark for all of the above for enigmatic, ultra-talented Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith.
There are the sensational accusation's, now let's take a look at how the story addresses the facts behind them.
As a true freshman, Smith got caught with alcohol during training camp.
"I walked outside with a red cup that had nothing in it and you can't have a red cup in Boulder," Smith said. "So, I got caught for that. It was a lack of judgment.''
No, you aren't missing part of that quote. That's the only detail this story gives. No links, no dates, nothing. The failed drug test? Happened in 2007, as a freshman in college. The two mentions of of minor in possession of alcohol? They provide a quote that makes one look completely harmless (which they both are) if you have ever been to a party in Boulder. Skipping the Senior Bowl? Since when is that a character concern for a guy who is a workout warrior and is projected to go in the top 20 of the draft? Isn't choosing not to participate in the Senior Bowl if you're that type of player kind of expected?
I'm not claiming that any of these incidents didn't happen, but when you read the story as it's written it paints a picture that doesn't get close to meshing with the truth.
Quite the headline from the NFL Draft site Mocking The Draft (a member of the SB Nation community and a fantastic website) there isn't it? Let's take a look at the quote where Jimmy claimed that he is better than Nnamdi.
People may compare Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith to elite cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but the incoming rookie already thinks more highly of himself.
"I like the comparison, he's a shutdown corner in the NFL," Smith said Sunday the NFL Combine. "I think I have better ball skills than he does, though."
Uh, where in there did Jimmy claim that he was better than the NFL Pro Bowler? Even if he was being dead serious about thinking he has better hands than Nnamdi, is that really such a negative? Wide receivers and cornerbacks are the two cockiest, most verbal players in the league for the most part, and I would expect many other young pros to respond in a similar manner. The fact of the matter was the rest of the story was rather complimentary of Jimmy, but that headline and opening can give a reader a very different take.
The point of those two examples wasn't to place any fault or blame at the hands of the media, but rather to illustrate that the information, rumors and tidbits that turn into full blown stories from a still somewhat closed event like the NFL combine are often construed and twisted into an angle that can be used for an update or blog post (be it "new" or "major" media) to draw on the search demand it will bring in. We, as Buff fans who have been closer to a player on and off the field (don't construe that as meaning that we "know" a player), have a pretty good of what an NFL team should expect, at least more than the journalists that are forced to feign familiarity with every prospective draft pick from around the country. The NFL owner's, general manager's, scout's, and coaches will form their own opinions on these guys (there's too much money on the table not to) and couldn't care less what those of us who write about it for a living decide to put out there.
On the field, Jimmy put on a show today. He managed to run a 4.38 unofficial 40 yard dash, good enough for the seventh best time amongst defensive backs, at a size that is much more ideal than most of the others at cornerback. While his 36" vertical was only fourteenth best in the group, Jimmy is 6'2, taller than all but 3 of the 56 DB's participating and his 24 reps on the bench were fewer than only two other players at the position.
Teams may be inclined to second guess the athletic talent that Jimmy showed today because of his supposed "character issues", but I'd be willing to bet those that do will regret it.