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Ken Sugiura

Draft expert: Attaochu needs to run 4.6

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Former Georgia Tech stars Jeremiah Attaochu and Jemea Thomas both have something to prove in the 40-yard dash at this weekend’s NFL draft combine, draft expert Tony Pauline said.

A good time for Attaochu, Pauline said, would be 4.6 seconds. Over 4.8 would be damaging to his draft stock.

Thomas will need to run a 4.4 to show he has the speed necessary to stay with the receivers he’ll be trying to cover in the NFL.

“Anything in the 4.5’s is going to hurt him because of his size,” Pauline said.

Thomas measured in at 5-foot-9 ½ at the Senior Bowl and 190 pounds. By comparison, the first five safeties drafted last year were 6-0, 6-1, 5-10, 6-0 and 6-1, and the 5-10 player weighed 210 pounds. As such, Pauline projects him at cornerback. Last year, 16 cornerbacks ran 4.8 or lower, including former Tech corner Rod Sweeting, among the 35 who put down times at the combine. (Unrelated, but Thomas’ wingspan was measured at 74 1/4 inches. There were players at the Senior Bowl 2 and 3 inches taller with similar wingspans.)

Further, Pauline said, “he’s got to do well in the drills to prove that he’s got the ability to be used as more of a nickel or dime corner than safety, because he doesn’t have safety size.”

Among outside linebackers – Attaochu’s projected position – nine players ran 4.65 or faster among the 23 who ran. As with Thomas, Pauline said, it will be imperative for Attaochu to do well in position drills to protect or raise his draft standing. Pauline said that Attaochu played well at the Senior Bowl, but needs to show again he can play well in space.

The other speed and quickness drills are of less importance, Pauline said, because both players have demonstrated their agility. The straight-line speed is the bigger question.

Pauline projects Attaochu as a third- or fourth-round selection, while Thomas looks to him like a seventh-rounder.

For what it’s worth, former Tech B-back David Sims, who has been training with Thomas in Kissimmee, Fla., with speed coach Tom Shaw, said Thomas can run a 4.4.

“I do think he has it in him,” Sims said. “Whether he runs it or not, I’m not sure, but I think he’ll be pretty close to it if he doesn’t.”

Sims himself gave a positive report on his own training, saying he had lost about seven pounds to 228. He felt like he was learning better running technique to prepare him for the drills he’ll perform at Tech’s pro day March 28.

“I don’t know specific times or whatever, but I’ve been moving a lot faster than I had been, so I hope that’s a dramatic improvement in timing,” he said.

Note: I wrote Monday that I would have the defensive depth chart Tuesday. My apologies for the delay. I will post it Thursday.

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