February 25, 2008 // Notre Dame Football

Sullivan, Carlson Perform at Combine; Laws, Zibby Up Next

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Indianapolis, IN (UHND) – Over the weekend former Notre Dame tight end John Carlson and center John Sullivan participated in the individual drills at the annual NFL Combine. Both players performed a little worse than they had probably hoped, and could see their draft stocks fall as a result. Tommy Zbikowksi and Trevor Laws meanwhile will run their individual drills on Tuesday and Monday respectively.

Coming into the Combine, Sullivan’s draft status was somewhat up in the air. There wasn’t a general consensus on where he would land in the draft and there were some concerns over his shot gun snapping abilities after the 2007 season. A strong showing at the Combine would have alleviated some of those concerns, but instead he might not have done a whole lot to help his cause.

The 40 yard dash is the big event at the combine, but when it comes to offensive linemen, it doesn’t mean a whole lot so Sullivan’s 5.4 second 40 probably doesn’t mean much. What could affect him, though, was his 21 repetitions of 225 lbs in the bench press drill which was second worst among all offensive linemen and worst among centers.

Sullivan did help his cause with a 30” vertical jump which was good enough for second among the offensive linemen. His 4.55 second 20 yard shuttle time was also above average for the o-line.

Early reports are that despite his low bench press totals, he has surprised some scouts with his footwork and quickness throughout the drills. He is still probably a mid second day pick, but SI.com did list him as one of their “Risers” at offensive line.

Heading into this weekend, Carlson’s draft status was a bit more clear than Sullivan’s. The former Irish tight end was projected as a possible late first round pick in some drafts and no worse than a second rounder in most other mocks. On Saturday, Carlson ran the 40 in 4.89 and 4.96 seconds in two tries, however, and could see his stock fall because of some impressive performances by some other tight ends.
Purdue’s Dustin Keller ran a 4.53 and posted an impressive 38 inch vertical – the 3rd highest of any prospect so far (OL, TE, WR, and RB have participated so far) – and has suddenly become the hottest name among the tight end class this year.

Brad Cottam from Tennessee is another name rocketing up the tight end charts after an impressive showing in Indy this weekend. After weighing in at 270 lbs, Cottam went out and ran a 4.68 40 while putting up 24 reps of 225. That combination of size and speed is sure to move him up a lot of scouts lists.

In Carlson’s defense, he had to skip the Senior Bowl last month due to an illness which caused him to drop about 20 pounds in about a week and half, and he might not have been entirely recovered. Still, his 40 time surprised a lot of people and could raise some flags for any GM thinking of investing a late first or early second round pick on him.

Prospects 40 yard dash times tend to be over analyzed and overvalued by scouts and GMs, but it still ends up being used as a reason not to draft someone. For instance, Anquan Boldin ran in the 4.7 range a couple years back and fell out of the first round. Chad Johnson ran in the 4.6 range a few years before him and also fell out of the first round.

While the 40 is not as important at the tight end position as it is for the wide receiver position, it’s still more than likely to affect Carlson’s draft stock. He did help himself by showing great hands while catching everything thrown at him. Some of the other elite tight end prospects such as USC’s Fred Davis struggled with some of the pass catching drills.

A season ago, only three tight ends were taken on the first day in the draft so falling down even a position or two on a GM’s list could drastically affect a tight ends draft position. Some draft experts are saying they still feel Carlson is the best all around tight end in the draft, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out after guys like Cottam and Keller get hyped up over the next two months.
Carlson will have a chance to gain back some momentum at Notre Dame’s pro day where he will get a chance to run for the scouts again. Having more time to gain back all of his strength and explosiveness after his illness should help him improve upon the numbers he produced this weekend.

Trevor Laws participated in the bench press drill on Sunday along with all other defensive linemen and posted 35 reps – tied for second among the defensive line. The defensive linemen will participate in the individual drills on Monday and with a good showing, Laws can continue to build on the momentum his senior year and Senior Bowl performance generated. As of now, Laws is being projected as a potential late first round pick.

Tom Zbikowski will run through the drills with all of the other defensive backs on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see what kind of 40 he runs considering most Notre Dame players have run slower than expected over the last couple of seasons.

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