The first major event of draft season is in the books, as the NFL closes up shop on its 2016 Scouting Combine, and Indianapolis returns to having nothing going on other than its world-famous pork sandwiches and Andrew Luck's wildly unkempt beard.
As the dust begins to settle and the scouts begin to rearrange their big boards, we can take a look at the performances of the South Carolina Gamecocks who were invited to strut their stuff.
If you didn't get a chance to read my Combine preview piece, check it out to get the "before" picture of what the players had to look forward to, and what they needed to address.
Pharoh Cooper, Wide Receiver
Alright, let's get the bad news out of the way first. Reporting into Indianapolis with a quadriceps injury, Cooper opted not to run in the 40-yard dash, which undoubtedly would've resulted in a stellar time, had he been healthy. Cooper still performed the bench press, the vertical jump, and the broad jump, but none of the results were particularly favorable.
He knocked out 15 reps on the bench press, which tied him for 11th-best, but his jump performances were ghastly. He made it to 9'7" for the broad jump, with the best of the day going to Auburn's Ricardo Lewis and his 11-foot leap. Even worse, his 31-inch vertical was a full ten inches short of the two top performers, TCU's Josh Doctson and Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard.
The broad jump performance is somewhat negligible, given how little it plays into actual football mechanics, but Cooper's always been touted for his athleticism, so to see the injury hamper him like this is unfortunate. If his broad jump score was "unfortunate", however, then his vertical leap was damning. Cooper's height has been an underlying issue, and while Carolina hasn't been the biggest "deep ball" team in the world as of late, the big plays, corner throws, and Hail Marys are a major factor for pass-heavy NFL teams. The ideal wide receiver in the league is still the long and strong stallion that jets up sidelines, can juke a defender out of his drawers, then make the leaping catch above the pile of safeties and cornerbacks, while getting two tippy-toes on the right side of the out-of-bounds line. Cooper is terrific at making magic out of dump passes and short routes, with tremendous burst and complete body control earning him yards that the bigger guys wouldn't be able to even see before they're swarmed by raptor-like secondaries.
After all was said and done, reports indicate that Cooper's stock is still holding steady, placing him as a late-second round, early-third round pick. Lord knows the scouts have plenty of footage to work from.
Jerell Adams, Tight End
Lord have mercy, just as I predicted, Jerell Adams' combine performance was all good news. He was the top performer amongst tight ends in the 40-yard dash, and was in the top five of performers in the 20-yard shuttle and the 60-yard shuttle. His 4.64 40-time beat out the second-best player by seven whole seconds! The only combine drill where he didn't rank in the top seven was the bench press, which may have surprised some people given his blocking ability and strength off the line.
So where does this leave Adams now? I'd have to imagine he's among the top three tight end prospects this season, given his numbers at the combine and his showing at the Senior Bowl and the practices leading up. Prior to the Combine, some scouts had him pegged as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, and for a fairly-untouted talent like Adams to make any significant jump would be a bit of a surprise. South Carolina's scheduled pro day of March 30 is fairly late in the decision-making process for most teams, but Adams is on the right track to making a major impact, and his pro day performance could be his coup de grâce. You can check out video of Adams' 40-yard dash courtesy of NFL.com.
Brandon Shell, Offensive Tackle
I discussed in my combine preview piece Shell's wavering draft stock, and his perceived weakness stemming from his body control and technique. I also remarked that his physical attributes and athletic ability should make him worthy of an investment to improve his actual line play, and the combine further proved that point. Shell had the third-best broad jump and a top-20 40-yard dash time, though his bench press was on the lower end. Shell's family legacy has given scouts enough cause to take a look or two at him, but as with all offensive linemen, it's hard to find the time to give them a spotlight to showcase their core abilities. The pro day will hopefully answer any remaining questions about Shell's future as a starting NFL lineman.
Brandon Wilds, Running Back
Wilds had perhaps the lowest expectations of any South Carolina prospect at the combine, but he certainly turned more than a few heads with some surprising performances. Amongst all running backs, he had the eighth-best 40-yard dash time, did the seventh-most bench reps, had the sixth-highest vertical jump, the seventh-fastest three-cone drill, and had the ninth-best 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle times. That means he was, literally, a top-10 performer across the board in his position, which is remarkable. For someone who was pegged as lucky to compete for a spot on a roster, Wilds has already proved the doubters wrong, and I include myself in that.
For as up-and-down as Wilds' career thus far has been, often through no fault of his own, this was an incredibly consistent showing in Indianapolis. He's out to prove that the past is the past, and that he has the goods to hang with the pros, and I am inclined to agree. His pro day could start a real conversation about him getting picked up on day two of the draft instead of day three.