INDIANAPOLIS – Friday was the day for quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends to meet the media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The interviews came fast and furious, and here are five things learned from the flurry of activity.
1. Cal has another receiver who might be as fast as Green Bay’s Trevor Davis.
Chad Hansen has been clocked in the low 4.4s in the 40-yard dash in the past. Whether he can match or beat Davis’ official combine time of 4.42 from a year ago remains to be seen, but when the two were on the field together for the Bears in 2015, it was Davis’ speed that got all the attention.
“He’s obviously a burner,” Hansen said. “It was fun playing alongside him. The defense is going to have to respect speed like his. Just having someone like Trevor on your team takes the pressure off everybody else.”
Hansen stayed in touch last year with his former teammate after the Packers drafted Davis in the fifth round, and he’s used Davis as a resource to learn what to expect this week in Indy.
A late bloomer, Hansen was a 5-3, 140-pounder as a freshman in high school and began his college career at Idaho State before taking a risk to walk on at Cal. It was the toughest but best decision he ever made, catching 92 passes for 1,249 yards and 11 TDs last season after Davis had moved on.
“Trevor is a great friend of mine,” Hansen said. “Just being behind him and being able to learn as much as I did from him really benefited me, both on and off the field. He’s a great person off the field also. Him being an older guy, I felt like I looked up to him.”
But who’s faster?
“My speed would be overlooked by most, but that’s a good thing if an opponent underestimates me,” he said.
2. LSU has a draft prospect who has scored a touchdown at Lambeau Field.
The Tigers’ Travin Dural caught a 10-yard TD pass in the third quarter of the season-opening LSU-Wisconsin game at Lambeau back in early September.
“I wanted to do the Lambeau Leap, but it wasn’t the right time in the game for it,” Dural said. “It was a great experience.”
Wisconsin upset LSU, 16-14, in front of a mixed crowd – part purple, part red. Dural caught five passes for 50 yards in all. His teammate, Malachi Dupre, is a higher ranking draft prospect from a school that has produced Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry in recent years. Dupre had three catches for 24 yards that day.
“A lot of our guys looked forward to that all summer long in workouts,” Dupre said. “We knew that’s where we’d be playing our first game. We knew the rich tradition and history of Lambeau Field. It was a surreal feeling, a dream come true.”
The players got a tour of the Packers Hall of Fame while in town, and that made as much of an impression as anything.
“All the trophies and Super Bowl rings and jerseys, that was a cool experience,” Dupre said. “That’s all the history that makes Lambeau Field what it is.”
3. Mitch Trubisky is determined to convince all the doubters he can be a franchise quarterback.
The rise of the North Carolina QB has been stunning. Two years ago with the Tar Heels, he sat behind Marquise Williams, who went undrafted last spring before spending training camp with the Packers and getting released at the end of the preseason.
Now, after just 13 college starts (all in 2016), Trubisky is being talked about as the possible top QB in this draft going as high as No. 1 overall to Cleveland.
“I wasn’t given the (starting) spot even though I felt I was the better quarterback, deep down,” Trubisky said of the 2015 season. “I knew I could do the same things, if not better, and help our team win, but it wasn’t my call. It was out of my control.
“I’m confident I can be a franchise quarterback at the next level.”
There’s so much attention on Trubisky, even his height measurement on Thursday generated news. He is now officially listed at 6-2 1/8 after being labeled by some as too short at, supposedly, 6-1.
“I know how tall I am,” he said. “I knew I was going to measure that tall. I could have come out earlier and told everyone I was going to measure that, but I’d rather it come out on measurement day. It is what it is. It’s not going to affect me as a football player anyway.”
4. Top receiver Mike Williams isn’t worried about his 40 time, except it sounds like he is.
The Clemson wideout, considered by most the top receiver in this draft, isn’t running a 40 in Indy and will do so at his campus pro day instead, saying he wanted more time to prepare after the Tigers’ long, national championship season.
An acrobatic pass-catcher known for his highlight-reel grabs, Williams isn’t concerned a 40 time that might not measure up to the speed burners will affect his status. Yet he’s going to make scouts wait on timing him.
“Antonio Brown didn’t run a fast time, and he’s the highest paid receiver in the league right now,” Williams said of the Pittsburgh Steelers star. “It’s all about just playing football.”
Williams also says he isn’t focused on being the first receiver taken in the draft, except it sounds like he is.
“I want to go where someone wants me,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best receiver here, though. I believe every ball in the air is mine.”
Some mock drafts have linked Williams to the Buffalo Bills, who have the 10th overall pick. Buffalo selected another Clemson receiver, Sammy Watkins, fourth overall back in 2014.
“Me and Sammy, we have the same agent, so we communicate through him,” Williams said. “It would be great to team up with Sammy again and play on the same team.
“I just looked up to him and continued to do what he did when he left, to keep the ‘Wide Receiver U’ thing going.”
5. The top tight ends don’t regret bypassing the draft last year.
Both Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Michigan’s Jake Butt are glad they stayed in school another season when they could have entered the NFL a year early, despite the outcomes.
Howard’s statistical production (45 catches, 595 yards, three TDs) stayed basically the same from 2015 (38-602-2), and his Crimson Tide weren’t able to repeat as national champs. But he feels he improved on his blocking and offensive knowledge to round out his game.
“(It’s about) being a three-down tight end,” he said. “Defenses cannot key on you just because you come in on third down and they know you’re going out for a pass. I want to be a guy that stays on the field all the time. Red-zone, goal-line packages, all of the above.”
Butt would have far more reason to regret his decision, after tearing an ACL in Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss to Florida State in late December. He had surgery on Jan. 10, and the only physical testing he’ll be able to do before the draft is possibly the bench press at Michigan’s pro day.
A team leader amongst the combine-high 14 Michigan players in Indy this week, Butt remains a highly touted prospect (97 catches, 1,200 yards, seven TDs the last two years combined) and believes playing another year in Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverine offense was a plus.
“Interviewing with coaches, they understand we’re running a pro style system,” Butt said. “We’re two backs, two tight ends. I flexed out, played so many different positions, that’s going to help me at the next level.”