Draft Buzz: Armstead surprises

INDIANAPOLIS -- The thing that stood out was the athleticism of the offensive lineman. It's better than anything I've ever seen here at the combine. I think it has to do with college teams spreading their offenses out, whether in the passing game or the running game. You just see so few bad bodies compared to what you used to see five, 10 years ago.

What stood out were the 40 times. Six guys ran sub-5.0 40-yard dashes. Two guys broke the all-time offensive line record for 40-yard dash times at the combine. Terron Armstead, an OT from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, ran a 4.71 and OT Lane Johnson from Oklahoma ran a 4.72.

Armstead has been able to improve his draft stock as much as any player in the predraft process. It was great to see him run the way he did today, but the 40-yard-dash time isn't the thing that's going to get him drafted earlier. He played at the Shrine Game, and he had a good showing at the Senior Bowl against top-flight competition.

Then, he comes to Indy, and he's just shy of 6-feet-5 at 6-4¾, 306 pounds with 34-inch arms and an 81⅝-inch wingspan. He's in phenomenal shape, and he just ran the fastest 40-yard dash in the history of the combine at his position. Even with those long arms and that wingspan, he was able to put up 31 reps on the bench press, which was six reps more than the five-year average of 25 for OTs. He has the size, speed, athleticism and upper-body power, and it correlates to what you see on the field. He's a perfect example of a small-school player taking advantage of the process.

You can watch all the tape you want, you can dominate small-school competition, but evaluators will still wonder, "What can he do against good competition?"

All of what he did Saturday at the combine validates what an evaluator sees on tape. When you pair that with what he did in the all-star practices and games, he's answered a lot of questions. We've had him ranked as the seventh offensive tackle. Now, you go back to the tape and the combine confirms what you have seen. His combine performance verifies what we've seen on tape.

Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson ran the 40 in .01 of a second slower than Armstead. It doesn't matter much. There's no difference in 40 times. Some people think there's a correlation, but there isn't. Johnson is a great athlete with explosive speed and plenty of potential.

We knew coming in Johnson would be one of the better performers along the offensive line, and he backed it up. You need to remember this guy is 6-foot-6, 303 pounds and has 35¼ inch and 83⅝-inch wingspan. He had 28 bench press reps, which is three shy of Armstead's total, but you have to remember that this guy was playing QB at Kilgore College just a couple of years ago and was a tight end after that. His long arms make that bench press difficult, and to me, he did well for a guy who is his size and still developing.

Plus, you love to see hip explosion in an offensive lineman. It's important against bull-rushers to generate power in a short area as a run-blocker. His vertical jump of 37 inches shows that he has a lot of ability in that area.

He's kind of come out of nowhere. Kids who come out of junior college sometimes have issues or problems, but Johnson wasn't recruited, and by going to junior college, he made a business decision. Johnson is smart. He was an academic All-Big 12 in 2011 and 2012. He's made five position switches -- from QB to TE to DE to RT to LT -- in the past five years. He's a versatile athlete and has the ability to be a great football player. Johnson's performance doesn't change his position -- we have him as the No. 3 tackle -- but it confirms what we've thought about him. It makes it easier to take a risk on a player like Johnson, who doesn't have much experience.

Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel is a candidate to go No. 1. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher could go in the top five as well, and Johnson is third. It won't surprise us a bit if you see these guys go in the first 15 picks. To go along with the supply of good offensive tackles, you have the demand.

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