INDIANAPOLIS — There were two trains of thought on Josey Jewell entering the NFL Scouting Combine.
One was that what Jewell accomplished as a three-year starter at middle linebacker for Iowa was so impressive that his 40-yard dash and other measurables here wouldn’t matter much.
The other was that a 40 time above 4.8 seconds would be a “disaster scenario” for Jewell.
Jewell still has the film that shows him accumulating 433 tackles as a Hawkeye while earning unanimous all-American honors as a senior.
But NFL scouts also saw Jewell run a 4.82 40 on Sunday, and that, too, will leave a lingering memory.
A fast time, say in the 4.6-second range, could have vaulted Jewell into the discussion as a third-round pick in next month’s NFL Draft. His 40 time, draft analysts said, has likely reduced him to a fifth-round choice.
“That verified some worries I had about his athleticism,” said Josh Liskiewitz, who analyzes Big Ten Conference prospects for Pro Football Focus.
A closer look at how Jewell is being viewed:
Speed is a concern
On Saturday, Jewell told reporters that he wanted to run a 40 in the 4.6s or 4.7s. One analyst told the Register he expected a 4.7 from Jewell.
But Jewell also admitted that testing isn’t his strength, that something changes for him once he steps onto the field.
“It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. It’s all football,” Jewell said. “It’s all trying to get everybody else out there better, communicating and trying to be a team leader.”
Jewell can still hang his hat on that. And it’s a trait that will get him drafted.
But on a day when many linebacker prospects were running in the 4.5 and 4.6 range, Jewell didn’t help sell himself as a three-down starter at the next level. He did, however, turn in a 6.8-second time in the three-cone drill, which is very good for a linebacker.
“As much as we want to look down at the Combine, it does matter. Athletic testing matters,” ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen said.
Jewell is going to find out how much it matters to NFL teams. He certainly cost himself some draft positioning Sunday, much like former Hawkeye cornerback Desmond King did a year ago. King fell to the fifth round but had a strong rookie year for the Los Angeles Rams.
All is not lost for Jewell, though; he just made his path a little more difficult. Which seems to be the way he likes it.
A strong body of work
“Here’s the thing about Josey: You just say, ‘You want my resume? Go turn on the tape,’” Bowen said. “He’s physical. He’s nasty. He finds the football.”
That remains Jewell’s strongest selling point: He’s a strong leader and an instinctive player.
“The biggest piece of the pie should always be your game film; athletic testing is going to create some variables, some movement in that draft board,” Bowen said.
“People will want to see what he jumps (a 33-inch vertical, which is not very good), what he runs. I understand that. When I see him play, I see a tough-ass football player. That’s what I would say, as a coach, 'I want him on my roster. Because he’s going to make us a better football team. He’s going to have a positive attitude.'
“Don’t be surprised if Josey Jewell — no matter where he’s drafted this year — plays seven, eight, nine years (in the NFL). He’ll be a guy that doesn’t bust on assignments. He’ll be a guy that finds the football, that tackles and is physical. You’ve got to have that on your defense.”
But can he shed blockers?
The other concern about Jewell is how well he can handle NFL-sized blockers. Lance Zierlein, at NFL.com, wrote: “Can get engulfed by size and stuck on blocks; will need to improve slipping blocks rather than taking them all on.”
Pro Football Focus also had Jewell with 18 missed tackles in his senior season. With a smallish frame (6-1, 234 pounds) and a slower-than-expected 40 time, those worries only heighten for NFL decision-makers.
“Combine that with his struggles on film to consistently take on and shed blockers, and I think he’s looking at the middle of day three” of the NFL Draft, Liskiewitz said.
That would be the fifth or even sixth round. That would be quite a fall for a player who showed such greatness at Iowa.
But it’s what one bad time can do for an athlete.
Jewell will get a chance to improve on his numbers at Iowa’s Pro Day on March 26.