John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
When five Kansas State players were invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last month, there was significant buzz surrounding the linchpins of one of the school’s most successful teams in the history of the program. The excitement ended up a bit overblown. First there was Collin Klein, who was publicly invited to work out with the tight ends on Saturday in addition to quarterbacks on Sunday. Pundits are giddy about seeing what Klein could do in a position many believe provides the best opportunity for him to play in the NFL. He declined. Chris Harper, known for his hands and toughness but never his speed, reinforced that perception by running a mediocre 4.55 second 40. And Arthur Brown didn’t even participate, nursing the same injured shoulder that kept him out of the Senior Bowl. The performances (or lack thereof) hurt Harper and Brown in February. They made up for it yesterday.
Harper demonstrated speed not on display at the combine. While varied reports have left the official time unknown, it’s widely acknowledged Harper shaved approximately one tenth of a second off of his time (down to 4.45), and possibly more as Walter Football cited a 4.38 time for Harper – although that report may have been exaggerated If the 6’1″, 229 lbs Harper did pull off a 4.38, his draft stock should skyrocket. And while Harper’s straight-line speed appeared greater, it was not at the sacrifice of muscle. Just as he did at the combine, Harper was able to bench press 225 pounds 20 times. He also completed 20 reps at the combine, placing him third among all receivers. Harper also jumped 1/2 inch higher than at the combine, increasing his vertical from 35 to 35.5 inches. His value as a possession receiver has grown steadily over the past year, and Harper is being projected to go as high as the second round – although projections still range widely at this point.
Of greater relief was Arthur Brown’s performance. Few knew what to expect from the linebacker unable to perform for the past two months, but Brown came out to to provide 21 reps while running a 4.58 40 yard dash. He stated that linebacker coaches for linebacker coaches for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd and 33rd overall picks) Detroit Lions (5th and 36th), and Pittsburgh Steelers (17th and 48th) were on hand to watch his performance at Pro Day. Their presence reinforces expectations that Brown could be a middle first to early second round selection in the draft.
Also participating were QB Collin Klein, K Anthony Cantele, CB Nigel Malone, and FB Braden Wilson. Among the players with the most to gain, Cantele has been waiting for the opportunity to showcase his distance. He did not attempt a kick longer than 42 yards this season, and was 4/6 on field goals of 40+ yards. Cantele hit 83 percent of his attempts on the year, but needs a reason for a team to give him a shot with such a small sample size of long kick attempts. He was 1/1 in 2011 from greater than 50 yards, connecting on a 54-yarder against Oklahoma. He was a second team All-Big 12 special teams player this year.