NFL Scouting Combine will kick off this week in Indianapolis. The Combine will
feature some of the nation’s best draft prospects, who will be mentally and
physically evaluated by NFL front office executives and scouting staffs. In
this article, PewterReport.com beat writer Eric Dellaratta will highlight which
prospects could stand out and which could disappoint.
POTENTIAL WORKOUT WARRIORS
There are always players that help their draft stocks at the Combine by having great workouts. Here are a few prospects that could potentially raise their draft stocks in Indianapolis.
North Carolina outside linebacker Zach Brown should be a player that helps his draft stock at the combine. Brown is incredibly athletic. He has impressive agility and top-end speed which will bode well for him this week at the combine. It also helps that Brown has a track background. The North Carolina senior set the UNC school record in the indoor 60-meter dash with a time of 6.72. Brown reportedly ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash in 2009, which is incredible for a 6-foot-2, 230 pound linebacker.
Brown had some big games as a senior in 2011, but there are a few flaws in his game. There were times where Brown was dominated and struggled to get off blocks in run defense. The North Carolina linebacker lacked aggressiveness and sometimes even shied away from contact at times. While he isn’t the greatest run defender, Brown is a marvelous blitzer and excels in pass defense because of his rare speed.
Brown has all the tools to be a good linebacker, it’s just a matter of if he puts them to use. Heading into the combine, Brown looks to be an early second round selection. If he runs a great 40-yard dash he could push his stock up into the late first round.
Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams should look great in shorts. He stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 320 pounds, but he moves very well for a tackle of his stature. Adams is similar to former Colorado tackle Nate Solder, who was drafted in the first round last year by the New England Patriots. He’s a little raw and will need some time to develop, but Adams has an NFL-ready frame that will intrigue teams. Right now, he’s projected to be a late first round pick. He should be a standout performer in the offensive line group.
Miami will be sending two potential “workout warriors” to the combine. Running back Lamar Miller is a very fast back that displays some nice shiftiness between the tackles. He should test very well in the drills in Indianapolis.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon could also have a big combine performance. Vernon is could be a candidate to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme because of his impressive athleticism for a guy that is 6-foot-4, 265 pounds.
FIRST ROUND RECEIVERS
South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will be the center of attention at the combine. Jeffery is a big target that can make plays down the field. The South Carolina receiver was a play-maker for the Gamecocks as a sophomore. He totaled 88 catches for 1517 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010. Jeffery had a down season in 2011. He caught 49 balls for 762 yards and eight touchdowns, and was ejected from the Capitol One Bowl after fighting with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Currently, the junior is projected to be a late first round draft selection. Jeffery needs to show up to the Combine at a good weight and needs to run a decent 40-yard dash if he wants to be a first round selection.
Another receiver to watch at the Combine is Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon. Blackmon (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) could be an option for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round. The junior receiver had a monster year for the Cowboys in 2011. Blackmon totaled 121 catches for 1522 yards and 17 touchdowns. He finished his college career in style in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford, where he caught eight passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
The Oklahoma State receiver is regarded as the top receiver in the 2012 class, but some question his straight-line speed. According to a report, Blackmon predicted he will run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-4.5 range, however some reports on Thursday suggested Blackmon will not run in Indy.
The Combine will also feature Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright. The former Baylor standout, who missed the Senior Bowl due to an injury, should be one of the fastest players at the Combine. Wright could make a move into top-20 with an excellent performance in Indianapolis.
FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
While the majority of the focus at the NFL Scouting Combine may be on the elite, first-round talent, there are always a handful of players that boost their draft stock by turning in good performances. Here are a few underrated prospects that could shine in Indianapolis.
Arkansas State outside linebacker Demario Davis is a very athletic linebacker that could impress at the combine. Davis was a key component to the Wolfpack defense as a player and as a leader in 2011.
The Wolfpack stud (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) moves well laterally and uses his agility to his advantage on game days. He also does a good job of taking on blockers and is a big-hitter. Davis is a force near the goal-line but can also fly in the open field. The Arkansas State defense that featured Davis stuffed likes of Virginia Tech running back David Wilson and Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey, holding each back under 100 yards rushing last season.
Davis played middle linebacker for the North Squad at the Senior Bowl, but he’s probably better off as an outside linebacker. He covers running backs and tight ends well and is an effective blitzer. The Arkansas State senior is versatile linebacker that could fit into just about any defense.
Heading into the combine, Davis is projected to be a fifth or sixth-round pick, but that could change after a good showing at the combine. The Arkansas State linebacker could be a third-day gem for a team that needs a linebacker.
The 2012 draft class is teeming with talented wide receivers. Many, such as Justin Blackmon, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, and Kendall Wright, have seen the spotlight thus far in the pre-draft process, but there are still a few receivers that are being overlooked.
Western Michigan’s Jordan White is an underrated receiver that could move up draft boards if he can turn in a good combine performance. White is a good route-runner that catches the ball in traffic extremely well. In addition to being a valuable asset in the short and intermediate passing game, White can also make big plays on deep passing plays.
White had a spectacular senior season for the Broncos, and was one of the most productive players in all of college football. He totaled a staggering 1911 receiving yards on 140 catches as a senior. The Broncos receiver led the NCAA in receiving yards and catches. He also ranked third in the nation in receiving touchdowns with 17.
White will need to turn in a great combine performance if he wants to improve his draft stock. His biggest question mark is speed, so a good 40-yard dash will be pivotal for White. Heading into the combine, White is projected to be a fourth-round selection.
Another receiver that could rise up draft boards with a good combine performance is Miami’s Tommy Streeter. Streeter, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 215 pounds, is a tall, lanky receiver that can make plays all over the field.
Streeter got his first crack at a starting job as a junior and he did not disappoint. He hauled in 46 passes for 811 yards and seven touchdowns during his junior campaign.
His breakout season was highlighted by many game-changing plays in the red zone and down the field. The junior is a raw receiver that could have benefited by returning to Miami for his senior season. Streeter uses his size well and was a great red zone threat for Miami’s offense in 2011.
Streeter is projected to run well at the combine for a receiver of his stature, but he isn’t very explosive off the line and takes awhile to get to full speed. His 10-yard split time will be something to watch for this week.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson will not participate in the drills in Indianapolis. According to reports, Richardson had a "minor" arthroscopic surgery on his knee. The Alabama running back plans to participate in Alabama's pro day. Richardson could be an option for the Buccaneers in the first round.
According to reports, Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner will miss the Combine with pneumonia. Wagner is projected to be a second or third round pick.
Stanford tight end Coby Fleener will not participate in the Combine drills due to an ankle injury he sustained during the Fiesta Bowl, according to a report. Fleener is projected to be a second round pick.
Florida International wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will not participate in the Combine drills due to a leg injury, according to reports. Hilton is speedy receiver that could be selected on day two of the NFL Draft.
According to reports, Ryan Tannehill will not throw in Indianapolis. Tannehill missed the Senior Bowl in January and is still recovering from a foot injury. Tannehill is expected to be a first round selection.
COMBINE DRILLS SCHEDULE
Saturday – Offensive Lineman, Tight Ends, Kickers
Sunday – Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers
Monday – Defensive Lineman, Linebackers
Tuesday – Defensive Backs