College coaches and fans like to toss around the mind-blowing speed of Player A or B. The reality is that they often are blowing smoke up your backside. That's what makes the NFL combine unique. You actually know how fast a player is in the 40-yard dash, or how many reps of 225 pounds he can do in the bench press.
Clemson won nine games last season, and one has to think the Tigers will be pressed to get to that number in 2010 after the loss of speedy running back C.J. Spiller, left, and receiver Jacoby Ford.
Spiller ran a 4.37-second 40 and Ford clocked 4.28, the fastest time at the combine. Ford's time tied for the second-fastest in combine history with Jerome Mathis in 2005. Only Chris Johnson's 4.24 in 2008 is better.
Speed doesn't guarantee anything, of course, but it did help Darrius Heyward-Bey move up the charts last year. The Maryland receiver smoked the field with a 4.3 clocking and was drafted a surprising seventh in the first round by the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders then found out that Heyward-Bey didn't have world-class hands to go with the speed, and he caught only nine passes as a rookie.
The strongest man at this year's combine was Mitch Petrus of Arkansas, who benched the 225 pounds 45 times, one better than Jeff Owens of Georgia.
A.J. Jefferson of Fresno State recorded a 45-inch vertical jump, besting Dorin Dickerson of Pittsburgh (43.5) and Eric Berry of Tennessee (43).
According to data compiled at Draft Express.com, over the last eight years, the best vertical jump at the NBA's predraft camp was 43.5 by Nate Robinson. The 5-foot-9 Robinson, a member of the Boston Celtics, is a three-time NBA dunk contest.
The winner of the broad jump was Chris Cook of Virginia, who went 11 feet.
The all-important three-cone drill went to Scott Long of Louisville in 6.45 seconds. Tim Tebow, never shy about his Christian faith, did 6.66, which is the number of the beast.
Blair White of Michigan State won the 20-yard shuttle in 4.03 seconds and tied for second with Vern Verner of UCLA in the 60 shuttle at 11.06. That competition was won by Fresno State's Jefferson in 11.04.
Here is a link to the top performers in each drill, by position. The NFL draft is April 22-24 in New York. The St. Louis Rams are on the clock. ...