Commentary

Curry leads impressive day on Monday

Several big-name defensive players took the field Monday at the NFL combine, and many boosted their draft stock with stellar workouts.

Originally Published: February 24, 2009
By Todd McShay | Scouts Inc.

INDIANAPOLIS -- With Alabama OT Andre Smith's stock free falling, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree finding out he has a stress fracture in his left foot and Georgia QB Matthew Stafford not throwing, we hadn't seen much from the elite prospects at the combine. That changed Monday, though, when Wake Forest OLB Aaron Curry looked every bit a top-five pick.

Curry finished with the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.56 seconds) and longest broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) and tied with two other players for the best vertical jump (37 inches) among the linebackers. He also impressed with his work during drills, particularly one that's designed to simulate a linebacker shifting through traffic between the tackles.

In that drill, each prospect steps over a set of pads while sliding laterally in one direction, quickly reverses direction, slaps the pads with his hands as he shuffles back and then explodes through the cones to finish. It's important to be fluid and quick,and just as important to keep your eyes up because teams want to know whether you can locate the ball as you scrape down the line of scrimmage. Most prospects were seen peeking down at the pads, but Curry did an excellent job of keeping his eyes up. It's a small difference but an important one. And weighing in at 254 pounds and measuring 6-foot-1 made Curry's performance that much more impressive.

One of the reasons Curry hadn't been getting much predraft hype was the overshadowing presence of the trio of USC linebackers in this class. After all, MLB Rey Maualuga, OLB Brian Cushing and OLB Clay Matthews all could hear their names called in Round 1. Furthermore, fellow Trojans OLB Kaluka Maiava projects as a middle-round pick. We expected this group to continue dominating the headlines here at the combine, but their performance Monday was met with mixed reviews.

Maualuga's day ended almost as soon as it started when he pulled up with hamstring injury after completing his first 40-yard dash (4.77). Maualuga said the injury was an issue before he came to the combine but that he didn't want to use it as an excuse not to work out. The good news is he has time to heal before USC's pro day April 1, so his stock won't take much of a hit if he works out well in Los Angeles.

Cushing didn't run as well as expected (4.74), and he had to follow the more athletic Curry during drills, which never helps. Cushing also turned the wrong way on one of the cover drills, which didn't look good at the time but certainly needs to be kept in perspective. He still finished with the seventh-best 40-time, recorded the top time in the three-cone drill (6.84 seconds) and, compared to the rest of the group, had a strong showing in the position-specific drills.

Matthews had a better day than Cushing, running a 4.67 40, recording a 10-1 broad jump and notching a vertical jump of 35.5. We were impressed with the way Matthews sank his hips and planted his outside foot when asked to switch directions. He also showed adequate burst coming out of his backpedal and looked more fluid than Cushing when asked to open his hips while backpedaling.


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