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10 Takeaways: 2016 NFL Combine, Day 4

Posted Feb 27, 2016

Redskins.com’s Andrew Walker and Stephen Czarda bring you 10 takeaways from the fourth day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Redskins.com’s Andrew Walker and Stephen Czarda bring you 10 takeaways from the fourth day of the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday in Indianapolis.

1. Don’t even think about beating Eli Apple at the line.

The Ohio State cornerback said on Saturday that the biggest strength of his game without a doubt is his ability in press coverage.

“That's something in the NFL that's really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path,” Apple said. “And that's something I do better than anybody, in my opinion. My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That's the main thing I do. I'm a physical guy and I get up on receivers and impact that.”

Apple was selected to the All-Big Ten Second-Team during the 2015 season, as he totaled 33 tackles (four for loss) along with eight passes defensed and an interception.

In the Buckeyes’ 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame on New Year’s Day, Apple was named the game's Defensive Most Valuable Player after he recorded five tackles and a pass defensed.

While he doesn’t know when he’ll hear his name called in April’s NFL Draft (some mock drafts don’t have him going in the first round while others have him as a mid-first rounder), Apple gains confidence from the way he prepares for the game.

“I know how good I am, I know from watching film of myself and just going out there and competing at a high level against guys you see on this platform,” Apple said. “I do well against the top receivers and that's where my confidence comes from.”

2. We now know exactly how much the franchise tag would cost the Redskins if they choose to utilize it on quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The NFL Scouting Combine is not just an event where NFL front offices come to evaluate talent for the upcoming draft. It’s also a perfect opportunity for teams to meet with current players’ representatives right before the start of free agency.

The Redskins have used this year’s combine to meet with quarterback Kirk Cousins’ reps to see if the two sides could possibly work out a multi-year deal before the start of free agency, which begins at 4 p.m. ET March 9.

The team also has until Tuesday to decide whether or not to utilize its franchise tag on Cousins, which is typically seen as a riskier move but one the Redskins might feel compelled to make so that they don’t risk losing their on-the-rise starting quarterback.

On Saturday, ProFootballTalk.com released its own calculations for both the (non-exclusive) franchise tag and the transition tag for each position, and has a quarterback earning a fully-guaranteed $19.953 million in given the franchise tag in 2016, and $17.696 million if given the transition tag (read more and learn the difference here).

That would obviously be nice cheddar for Cousins for just one year of play, but the common theme for both sides is they would rather try to agree to terms to a multi-year deal. We’ll see soon if that comes to fruition.

3. Sean Davis grew up idolizing Sean Taylor.

It didn’t matter where in the country you grew up -- most were well aware that Taylor was on pace to become one of the best safeties, if not the best, in the history of football.

But for someone who grew up in Washington, D.C., the former Redskins superstar was everything.

Davis watched during his teenage years as Taylor laid down punishing hit after punishing hit.

While at Maryland, he tried to do the same and hopes to continue that style of play in the NFL.

“I just loved how he imposed his will on people,” Davis said. “They were scared to come across the field. Then when he was with the Redskins – I’m from Maryland so I’m a Redskins fan – and he wore No. 21 and his name was Sean, and I was like ‘This dude is perfect. I just want to idolize myself after him. I just loved everything about him. I’m a quiet dude and he was real quiet to himself, just like me. I definitely love Sean Taylor.”

4. It was Goff vs. Wentz at Saturday’s player workouts.

You can add Memphis’ Paxton Lynch to the mix, too, but Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Caron Wentz are widely regarded as the top two quarterback prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft class.

Here’s the numbers of their workouts:

  • Goff: 4.82 40-yard dash; 27-inch vertical; 110-inch broad jump.
  • Wentz: 4.77 40-yard dash; 30.5-inch vertical; 118-inch broad jump.

OK, so in pure workout numbers, Wentz clearly has the advantage. He’s regarded as one of the better all-around athletic quarterbacks to enter the draft in recent years, so kudos to him.

But in position drills, it appeared Goff gained some ground Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

His throws were crisp and on-target, and he seemed to display a terrific flow and quiet swagger about himself – perhaps harder things just come easier to Goff.

So, depending on which quarterback better fits your needs, it seems like two teams could end up very happy with either Goff or Wentz.

5. Vernon Hargreaves III and Jalen Ramsey engage in a friendly rivalry.

Only one of them can be the first cornerback taken and both believe like they have the credentials to earn the distinction.

For Hargreaves III, who entered the draft early out of the University of Florida, he’s confident that once teams see the whole package he can bring, they’ll want to pull the trigger on him first.

“How much natural ability I have to play corner,” Hargreaves III said of what makes him stand out. “I started playing football when I was in high school and it’s all been natural. I don’t think a lot of guys can naturally just go up and press somebody. Most guys have to learn but for me everything comes natural to me.”

In three seasons at Florida, the 2015 consensus All-American totaled 121 tackles with 27 passes defensed and 10 interceptions.

During his junior year, he grabbed four interceptions for 152 yards.

But Ramsey remains right in the discussion, too.

The Florida State cornerback had equally impressive numbers with 181 tackles, 22 passes defensed and three interceptions.

"It’s kind of like a sideline rivalry with us,” Hargreaves III said. “He wants to be first, I want to be first. I’m going to say I’m the best, he’s going to say he’s the best. That’s what football is about and we’re going to go to work on Monday.”

6. The wide receivers were … meh … on Saturday.

The entire collective offensive talent in this year’s draft class has been criticized in recent weeks, and the wide receivers really didn’t do anything on Saturday to help their cause.

In fact, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said on Saturday that 2016 is “the slowest (wide receiver) class that I can remember.”

Mayock’s covered a lot of draft classes.

Two receivers, Kolby Listenbee (4.32) out of TCU and Will Fuller out of Notre Dame (4.35), did run some speedy 40-yard dashses. But no other receiver really came close to breaking the 4.4-second mark.

The top receivers in this class appear to be Baylor’s Corey Coleman, Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell, Ohio State’s Michael Thomas, Fuller and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. While all of these players could certainly become extremely productive offensive threats in the NFL, none of them are really considered among the likes of previous draft classes, like the 2014 class that featured guys like Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watikins, Mike Evans, John Brown, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief, Cody Latimer, Davante Adams and Allen Hurns.

The Redskins certainly could go after a wideout in this year’s draft – a tall, fast target would be nice – so we’ll see if general manager Scot McCloughan can, or wants to, find a diamond in the rough.

7. The Senior Bowl helped Maurice Canady get a head start on making tweaks to his game.

Despite listing his toughness and strength as some of his best qualities, Canady didn’t play any sort of press coverage during his career at the University of Virginia.

But at the Senior Bowl, he got to work more at the line and believes it ultimately showed scouts that he’s capable of playing in any sort of defensive scheme. 

“I definitely think I improved my stock,” Canady said. “I showed that I can do a lot of different things. We had a whole lot of techniques that were different to me and it came very fluid.”

During his career at Virginia, Canady appeared in 44 games, totaling 148 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles, two sacks and a fumble recovery.

“I’ll play any defensive back position a team wants me to play,” Canady said. “I have no problem going back in a Cover-Two scheme and being the deep guy. I have no problem being the short guy in a Cover-Two scheme. I have no issues with that.”

8. Did Cardale Jones’ draft stock go down with apparent hamstring injury?

Jones was running the 40-yard dash on Saturday when he suffered what appeared to be a hamstring injury, ending his day.

The Ohio State product was trying to showcase all of his skills to possibly move him up the list of draft-eligible quarterbacks after being benched with the Buckeyes last season.

He looked like a sure-fire high-quality prospect in 2014, when he was inserted as Ohio State’s quarterback for the final three games of the season and led his team to the National Championship. He has tremendous size (6-foot-5; 253 pounds) and arm strength, but is still very much developing in terms of poise and leadership.

The Combine presents a Catch-22 for prospects like Jones, who has his own pro day in two weeks. You certainly want to try to impress teams in the spotlight that the Combine presents, but if you get hurt – or if you underperform – then your stock can drop significantly.

Hopefully Jones can recover in time to shred his pro day and move on from Saturday’s disappointment.

9. Mackensie Alexander doesn’t talk trash, he speaks facts.

Alexander stole the show during Saturday’s media sessions, displaying a calm-yet-confident demeanor while at the podium.

The Clemson product said he’s the best cornerback in this year’s draft and has the talent and stats to back it up.

"I'm 22, but I'm ready to compete with anybody,” Alexander said. “There's nobody more dedicated than me, who's put more time in or is more of a competitor than me. ... I'm here prepared. I'm telling you I'm the best corner in this draft class."

One of the aspects of Alexander’s background that some are concerned with, though, is the fact that he did not record an interception during his three years at Clemson.

Alexander admitted that he should have snagged at least a few interceptions, some slipping through his clutches, but teams learned quickly to avoid throwing anywhere in his direction.

"I had some opportunities to come up with some picks in my career. I didn't come up with them at the end of the day. I'm taking it like a man. In a lot of my situations, I wasn't challenged very much," Alexander said. "A lot of quarterbacks on teams stayed away from me, and that was their game plan, really. That's it, really. That's how I answer that."

10. Tight end David Morgan continued to establish himself as a bona fide NFL prospect at tight end.

Take away Morgan’s college – Texas-San Antonino – and, just by his sheer numbers and measurements, he would likely be considered one of the better tight ends in this 2016 Draft class.

But because UTSA has only had a football program for five seasons now – and just two seasons under its belt competing in the FBS – perhaps Morgan hasn’t quite yet gotten the pub that other tight ends at larger schools have been garnering.

He certainly looks the part: 6-foot-4, 262 pounds. A second-team All-American selection in 2015, Morgan caught 45 passes for 566 yards with five touchdowns, but perhaps what sets him apart is how solid of a blocker he is.

On Saturday, he certainly stood out, especially with the bench press, where he put up 29 reps. He also had a 30-inch vertical and jumped 115 inches in the broad jump.

While Morgan might not develop into a Rob Gronkowski or a Jordan Reed at the NFL level, he seems to be a solid all-around tight end who isn’t afraid to be physical and be a key piece in the running game. Perhaps he’s more like a Logan Paulsen type, who has made a name as a blocker and special teams contributor, but has answered the call on offense when needed, too.

Maybe Morgan can be a steal for a team on the third day of the draft.

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