INDIANAPOLIS — For at least one NFL scout -- and probably more -- the question isn't whether Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson can be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
It's, how can Johnson not be?
The junior receiver wasn't planning to run Sunday at the scouting combine. He changed his mind, however, after spotting several familiar faces among the NFL coaches and executives watching. It was a wise move. His scorching 4.35-second 40 proved to be the third-fastest receiver time of the day.
So determined was he to wait for his March 15 pro day, Johnson didn't even bring his running shoes to the combine. He had to borrow a pair from a friend, East Carolina quarterback James Pinkney.
A day earlier, Johnson hinted he might not be able to resist the temptation to compete in front of a gathering of potential employers.
"I've been contemplating it now," he said Saturday. "I want to run. I know I'm going to put up good numbers, if I just ran and got it over with. At the same time, it just depends how I feel."
The 6-foot-5, 239-pound Johnson had already impressed scouts with his ability and size -- he's built like Terrell Owens but presumably has a better attitude -- and his workout feats are the stuff of legend. For instance, in a session at school last summer, he recorded a 45-inch vertical leap.
Or at least that was as high as the device could measure -- although some people say he jumped an inch or two higher than that.
Asked if he agrees with others who call him the best athlete in the draft, Johnson didn't hesitate.
"I definitely feel that way," he said.
"I'm standing right in front of you," he said. "I mean, not many people have my size, speed and strength."
A lofty leap
No matter what he does at the combine, John Wendling's most impressive feat is still the one making the rounds on the Internet. In a workout at school last summer, the Wyoming safety cleared a 5-6 hurdle with a three-step approach. It was captured on video and available on the Internet. And it looks freakish -- even to Wendling.
"It's pretty impressive," he conceded, adding the barrier looks even more eye-popping "when you see somebody standing next to it."
As for Wendling's chances? He's a smart kid who could find his niche as a special-teamer.
Or maybe a Frisbee catcher at halftime.
For the first time in league history, the NFL allowed 12 reporters -- including one from The Times -- to sit in on a combine workout session Sunday. The group watched for an hour from an end-zone suite as quarterbacks and receivers participated in various passing drills. The directive from the league: Sit in the corner and don't make a peep.
Sunday's sneak peek would have been especially exclusive, except that the NFL Network already airs wire-to-wire coverage from inside the RCA Dome.
Texas El Paso quarterback Jordan Palmer was a dead ringer for his older brother, Carson, from the way he looked, to the way he ran, to his polished throwing motion -- right down to his No. 9 combine sweatshirt. Unlike No. 1 pick Carson, however, Jordan is probably a second-day selection. His throws were increasingly precise, and he was one of the few quarterbacks to hit consecutive receivers in stride with effortless throws in a deep, go-route drill. He also stood out because at 6-6, he's the tallest quarterback at the combine.
A born draft pick
Even though he's from an Ivy League school, Brown linebacker and long snapper Zak DeOssie certainly has the pedigree to be selected.
DeOssie is following in the footsteps of his father, Steve, who played the same two positions for the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and New England Patriots. Need more? The younger DeOssie attended prep school at Phillips Andover -- New England Coach Bill Belichick's alma mater -- where he was a quarterback. His best friend is Belichick's daughter, Amanda.
What's more, DeOssie was a ball boy for the Patriots and once stood in at quarterback at practice in place of third-stringer Rohan Davey.
"I went in there for seven reps," DeOssie said. "Threw a couple of seeds [very hard passes]. No completions. The defense was licking its chops. It certainly was funny and amusing."
An able player who sounds like Abel
David and Kenny Irons are brothers who play at Auburn and are participating in the combine. David, who's older, is a cornerback; Kenny is a running back. In talking to reporters Sunday, David gave his brother a good-natured ribbing.
He said the two are very competitive, even when it comes to their looks.
"I told him I look better than him, he told me he looks better than me," David said. "We always have someone say who looks better.
He was the ugliest out of the bunch. Some days my mom says she wishes she never had him."
Then he caught himself: "No, I'm joking."
He must really like competition
Louisiana State receiver Dwayne Bowe was asked to assess the rest of the top receivers in the draft.
"Great receiving class," he said. "Everybody's physical -- can catch and block. It's a good year to come out."
A good year to come out?
Now that's being charitable.