Combine Notebook: Production matters and stress is good

A few morning notes from the NFL Combine. Will update after player interviews. Ole Miss linemen Fahn Cooper and Laremy Tunsil are expected to speak today.

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By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Nkemdiche and Chris Jones drew a lot of attention in their college careers for their physical attributes.

Nkemdiche, of Ole Miss, and Jones, the Houston native who played at Mississippi State, had their share of notoriety from their field exploits as well, but neither were among the nation’s most elite defensive linemen in terms of production.

Jones had 18 tackles for loss and 8 1-2 sacks over three years, Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2013, 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks over the same window of time.

Last year alone ten defensive linemen had more than 18 tackles for loss.

Nkemdiche’s on-field numbers haven’t affected his status as a projected first-round draft pick, but different teams will answer the production question in different ways, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said.

“Everybody looks at it differently throughout the league. The one common denominator we all … it’s easier for all of us when the talent is obvious, and the production is there, when all the character issues are answered. That makes for a clean pick, more of a consensus selection. If you don’t have some of those things there are questions that need to be answered, and each team will go through and decide.”

As juniors, Jones had 7 1-2 tackles for loss and 2 1-2 sacks while Nkemdiche had seven tackles for loss and three sacks.


Comeback wins key for QBs

In trying to determine a quarterback’s draft order production takes on greater importance when the stress level increases.

“You watch them in tough situations. You evaluate the throws they make on third down. You watch the throws they make when the pocket’s breaking down, and things are going on around their feet that aren’t real pleasant,” Pittsburg Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said.

NFL execs will want to see the footwork and other athletic indicators of MSU quarterback Dak Prescott.

With all of those things considered, one of the biggest ways to evaluate quarterbacks is the end of the game.

“You look at the end of a half, the end of a game. One stat we keep track of is how many comeback wins does a team have,” Colbert said. “If a guy’s one a great team he may not have a lot of opportunities, because they’re blowing people out, but if a guy has a lot of comeback wins on his resume that helps.”


So long to the 40?

The 40-yard dash has a long history of helping NFL teams measure speed, but it could be going away … at least for some position groups.

“Is it really necessary for an offensive lineman? Probably not. Does an offensive lineman have to run 20 yards?” Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert asked. “He may have to get to a safety at 15 yards, so if he can run 20 he can run 15. Is a 10-yard dash important for him? Yeah, because he has to reach a linebacker that may be five to seven yards. Is he ever really going to run 40 yards?”

Right now the NFL calls the 40-yard dash it’s “marquee” event at the combine.

Players are not required to take part in all tests, and it was announced earlier this week that Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell will not run the 40 here. He will have another chance to run before scouts at the Ole Miss pro day on March 11.

Ole Miss offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper are expected to run the 40 here.

The league may make adjustments to its skill tests at the combine and campus pro days if a consensus on what changes to make is reached.

Twitter: @parrishalford

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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