Four Spartan football players, Bennie Fowler, Max Bullough, Isaiah Lewis and Darqueze Dennard, were invited to Indianapolis, Ind. to participate in the NFL Combine.
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Bennie Fowler, despite leading Michigan State in both receiving yards and touchdowns this past season, came into the combine fairly unknown. After his workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Spartan receiver should be receiving a few more looks come Michigan State’s pro day.
Combine Stats:(Top-15 finish among position)40-yard dash: 4.52 secondsVertical Jump: 36.0 inchesBroad Jump: 126 inches (5th)3 Three-Cone Drill: 7.06 seconds20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18 seconds (15th)60-Yard Shuttle: 11.52 seconds (12th)
Fowler, who has good size for an NFL receiver (6-foot-1, 217 lbs), showed off some decent speed in the 40-yard dash.
He also showed off his untapped athletic potential by having the fifth best broad jump of all the receivers at the combine. His other results were nothing spectacular, but definitely better than expected from most scouts present.
Fowler is thought as a player with untapped potential, showing off his size and playmaking ability at the combine. However, scouts are worried about his slight tendency to drop passes and questionable passion for the game. After the combine, Fowler was given a rating of 5.03, which means he has a chance to make an NFL roster.
Fowler received a rating of 5.03 after the combine, which means he has a “better-than-average” chance at making an NFL roster.
Fowler definitely helped his stock as a potential “work in progress” player for teams to take. I believe he will go undrafted, but quickly get picked up as a free agent by an NFL team, where he will have to prove himself as a special teams player before making an impact as a receiver.
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Like Fowler, the first-team All-Big Ten safety entered the combine relatively unknown. After his performances in the combine workouts, I believe his stock is relatively the same as it was before. It will be up to his pro day workout if he wants to move his way up the draft board.
Combine Stats:(Top-15 finish among position)40-Yard Dash: 4.60 seconds (11th)Bench Press: 15 reps (7th)Vertical Jump: 36.5 inches (3rd)Broad Jump: 122 inches (4th)Three-Cone Drill: 7.05 seconds (7th)20-Yard Shuttle: 4.47 seconds (11th)
Whereas passion and intensity may be a question mark for Fowler, it’s an exclamation mark for Lewis.
Three years as a starter has provided scouts with plenty of film tape to see how hard he can hit and how relentlessly he pursues opponents in both the rushing and passing game.
He also has large hands (9 5/8”). So when the ball touches his hands, it rarely hits the turf.
However, size is a concern for this hard-hitting safety. Five-foot-10 and 211 pounds is considered small for today’s NFL safety.
Scouts were also looking for a faster 40-yard dash time from someone like Lewis who is undersized, but a time of 4.60 isn’t going to make anybody forget about his lack of size.
Lewis received a rating of 5.18 after the combine, which means he has a “better than average” chance at making an NFL roster.
I believe his intensity and experience will be too much to pass up on for NFL scouts, and he will go somewhere in the fifth or sixth round.
Like Fowler, he will have to prove his worth on special teams before receiving a solidified spot on an NFL roster.
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Linebacker Max Bullough definitely didn’t enter the combine with as much anonymity as teammates Lewis and Fowler.
The first-team All-Big Ten selection was known throughout his career for being a smart and disciplined player, that was until he was suspended before the Rose Bowl for unspecified disciplinary reasons.
The uncharacteristic suspension along with an unimpressive Senior Bowl appearance had scouts worried about Bullough’s next-level potential heading into the combine.
Combine Stats:(Top-15 finish among position)40-Yard Dash: 4.78 secondsBench Press: 30 reps (1st)Vertical Jump: 31 inchesBroad Jump: 112 inchesThree-Cone Drill: 7.22 seconds (15th)20-Yard Shuttle: 4.30 seconds (13th)
Bullough helped put scouts’ fears to rest by showing up to the combine in much better shape than the Senior Bowl. He checked in lighter (249 pounds) and faster (4.78 40-yard dash).
He also showed off one of his best assets, his strength, by posting 30 reps on the bench press, the most out of any linebacker invited to the combine.
The combine statistics do not do his talent justice, however, as his most important tools are football knowledge and dedication to the game. These two attributes cannot be measured.
On the same page, the negative sides of his game were on display in Indianapolis.
Many scouts worry about his limited athletic ability and struggles dropping in coverage. His strength and football IQ helped him overcome those struggles in college, but the quickened pace in the NFL may prove too much for Bullough to succeed.
Bullough received a rating of 5.25 after his combine workouts, which means he is projected as an “NFL backup or special teams potential.”
Before his suspension, I think his limited athleticism was something NFL scouts could look past due to his knowledge and hard work. When you combine the two together, it may scare some teams away from drafting him. He still has an opportunity to improve on his speed and agility during his pro day, but I believe Bullough will go anywhere from the fifth round to potentially being an undrafted free agent.
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Unlike the other three Spartans on this list, Darqueze Dennard is considered a highly sought-after pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and almost certainly a first round lock.
Dennard capped off his senior season by winning the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top cornerback each year. He was competing with Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert heading into the combine for who would be the top corner in the 2014 Draft.
NFL scouts knew all about his ability playing man-coverage and his competitiveness on the field, but they were worried about his speed transferring to the next level.
Combine Stats:(Top-15 finish among position)40-Yard Dash: 4.51 seconds (13th)Bench Press: 15 reps (13th)
Dennard, being a more highly regarded draft pick heading into the combine, had the luxury of sitting out some drills, but the drills he participated in were impressive.
He showed that he had good, not great speed, for a corner by posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds.
His 15 reps on the bench press was nothing eye-popping, but his strength in coverage is already well noted and not something scouts were particularly looking for with Dennard. As with the other Spartans, Dennard will have a chance to improve on his speed before his pro day to show NFL scouts that he has all the tools to step in early as an NFL starter.
Dennard received a rating of 5.9 after his combine workouts, which means he is projected as having a strong “chance to become NFL starter.”
Dennard’s body of work along with a solid combine showing probably helped his draft stock. However, he was shown up by his main competition, Justin Gilbert throughout the day. Gilbert put up a blazing time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the best of any corner at the combine.
He also had 20 reps on the bench press, five more than Dennard and also the best of any corner. With those stats, Gilbert likely solidified himself as a top-10 pick.
Dan Tyler is the host of Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports