Cougars Hit and Miss at the NFL Combine
It was hit and miss for the BYU football players invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this past week in Indianapolis, with a couple of former stars turning in poorer-than-expected results.
The entourage from Provo included linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uani Unga, wide receiver Cody Hoffman, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna and strong safety Daniel Sorensen.
Unga was unable to participate in the physical drills because of a knee injury he sustained in BYU’s Fight Hunger Bowl loss to Washington last December, but he did have the chance to meet and visit with some of his prospective employers while in Indy.
The other four players did participate in the physical tests and on-field drills. However, most of them probably failed to improved their draft stock.
The lone exception was strong safety Daniel Sorensen, who turned in the top times among safeties in the three cone drill (6.47 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (3.95 seconds) and the 60-yard shuttle (10.80 seconds).
In fact, his performance in the three cone was tops among all players at the combine, while his 60-yard shuttle time was second best and his 20-yard shuttle time was fifth best.
Though his 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash was one of the slower times for safeties, the cone and shuttle drills are typically better predictors of a strong safety’s ability on the field. He also demonstrated that he had the best hands among the safeties at the combine, effortlessly make catches in passing drills.
While Daniel had perhaps a better than expected day, former BYU stars Kyle Van Noy and Cody Hoffman turned in performances that can only be described as disappointing.
Hoffman, in particular, had a bad day and may have seen his draft stock take a significant hit. He finished dead last among wide receivers in both the vertical jump (27.5 inches) and broad jump (108 inches), while his forty time of 4.65 seconds was the fourth slowest.
The knock on Hoffman is that he lacks an elite level of speed and athleticism, and all of the above numbers would tend to vindicate those criticisms. His vertical jump number is particularly concerning given the fact that teams looking to draft him would count on him being able to go up high against NFL defensive backs with his big body and make catches.
BYU’s all-time leading receiver has been considered a middle-round prospect, but he could slide into the later rounds with his poor performance at the combine. He’ll have a chance to redeem himself on March 14th at BYU’s Pro Day.
Van Noy also had a rough day on the field.
He ran a disappointing 4.71 time in the 40-yard dash and finished near the bottom for linebackers in both the vertical jump (32.5) and broad jump (112 inches). He also struggled a bit in on-field drills and generally looked stiffer than one would expect from a player who was such a disruptive force throughout his college career.
His 21 reps on the bench press were average, but he did finish with the eighth-best time for linebackers in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.20 seconds. In all, it was a surprisingly pedestrian performance and it will interesting to see if he can improve come Pro Day.
Going into the combine, there was talk that Kyle might be able to sneak into the first round of May’s draft, but after his performance on Monday, he might be in the position of just trying to avoid falling out of the second round.
Meanwhile, Manumaleuna seemed to hold serve in his attempt to become a late round selection.
He showed good strength by doing 29 reps on the bench press, which turned out to be a top 10 performance among defensive linemen. His forty time was respectable 5.16 for a nose tackle, even though the 40-yard dash is pretty irreverent for a guy who plays in a five-yard box.
His vertical (28.0 inches) and broad jump (101.0 inches) numbers were not spectacular, but they were still better than Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix, who is considered to be a first-round talent.
Regardless of what happens in the draft, Eathyn has a good chance to make an NFL roster at the end of the day because of his versatility. His ability to play the nose or defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, or defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, will be valued even though he isn’t an off-the-charts type of athlete. He’s a guy that can come in as a rookie and be a back up at a number of positions on the defensive line.
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