Draft analyst says a faster 40-time the key at combine for Nuk Hopkins

Clemson running back Andre Ellington runs after a receiver catch and pitch play during the fourth quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgie Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson running back Andre Ellington runs after a receiver catch and pitch play during the fourth quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl at the Georgie Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

After three to four years of showing out on the field in Death Valley, drills Sunday at the NFL combine, for DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, and Monday, for Malliciah Goodman, can hold the key to where they start their pro careers.

The NFL Network’s draft analyst Mike Mayock said, on a conference call with the media this week, he has Hopkins as a “mid-to-late second-round player,” Ellington in the second round as his third-ranked running back and Goodman in the “fourth or fifth” round.

“The guy that really caught my eye and I didn't expect to like him as much as I do is Andre Ellington,” Mayock said. “One of the reasons I like him is because at 195 pounds, he might be the best effort pass protection running back in the draft which really surprised me.

“He squares people up, gets after them, and typically you don't see that from those 195 pounds, change of pace kind of back.”

Mayock would like to see Hopkins post a faster 40-time this weekend before moving him up the draft board.

“With corners and wide receivers, when you're talking combine, the obvious answer is speed,” said Mayock. “I think he's a little quicker than fast, and if he went out there and ran a 4.40, it would open my eyes. And I think the rest of the league would feel the same way.”

The latest NFL.com mock, by Josh Norris, has Hopkins landing at No. 27 in the first round to the Houston Texans though.

“Hopkins projects very similarly to Roddy White,” Norris said. “He consistently high-points passes and maneuvers his body in front of defenders.

“With strong hands and underrated athleticism, Hopkins has the talent to provide an impact early on for the Texans.”

CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler has the Daniel product landing even higher, at No. 23, to the Minnesota Vikings. His partner on the site, Rob Rang, doesn't have Hopkins going in the first round.

Outside out of the mock drafts, NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, a former player personnel director with the Dallas Cowboys, has him as the 26th-best prospect and third-ranked receiver, and Ellington as the sixth-best running back and 62nd-ranked prospect.

For the odd man out of the combine mix, former Clemson center Dalton Freeman, Mayock labeled him as "late draftable," but will "make a team next year."

Key Combine Drills (outside of 40-time)

WRs: The Gauntlet – Starting in place on the sidelines, a series of passes are thrown alternately to the left and right of a receiver while running in a straight line across the field.

RBs: Off-tackle reaction – Tailback starts in a typical stance, runs through cones and accelerates up field over small hurdles – then a coach holds a tackling bag and leans one way or the other, which the running back has to read and go the opposite way and up the field again.

DL: Dip-and-rip – Lineman starts in stance, a snap is simulated and the player either does the “rip” or “swim” technique against two tackling bags (a couple yards apart) and accelerates through to the cones. It represents how fast, with good technique, you can get to the quarterback.

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