Who will be the first group of rookies to wear the Buccaneers brand new helmets, logos, and uniforms? That question will have to wait until the NFL Draft, which is slated to take place in May. But the next step in the process leading up to the draft is the NFL Scouting Combine, which kicks off this weekend in Indianapolis. Tampa Bay, along with all 32 other NFL franchises will be gathering all kinds of information on all of the players in attendance in hopes of finding the next superstar. Here are some players that should be on your watch list heading into the weekend of events.
SOUTH CAROLINA DE JADAVEON CLOWNEY – JUNIORFrom a physical standpoint, South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney has everything you want in a defensive end, including size, speed, quickness, and strength. Clowney is expected to run somewhere between 4.40 and 4.55 in the 40-yard dash drill, which is truly incredible for a defensive end that stands 6-foot-6, 270 pounds. Another drill to watch Clowney perform is the three-cone drill, which is an ideal quickness drill for pass rushers. A great performance at the Combine should lock his draft stock, which is holding as one of the first few players to come off of the board in May. it is highly unlikely, without some sort of earth-shattering move, the Buccaneers could be in a position to draft Clowney. But if he performs anywhere near expectations, you can bet some team will be very tempted to sacrifice their future for a shot at one of the best prospects in the last decade.
CLEMSON WR SAMMY WATKINS – JUNIOR Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is an electric receiver that can take one to the house every time the ball is in his hands because of his special athletic qualities and football smarts. Utilized heavily in the short and screen passing game, Watkins had plenty of opportunities to show off his blazing speed and quickness as a junior in 2013 before he declared for the draft. Now Watkins will aim to be one of the fastest players in the draft class, as he is expected to run in the 4.3’s in the 40-yard dash. PewterReport.com had the Buccaneers selecting Sammy Watkins in the first round of the draft in the most recent of their seven-round mock draft, but a great combine performance from the Clemson standout could prompt another team into taking him before he makes it to the seventh pick.
KENT STATE RB DRI ARCHER – SENIOROne of the most exciting players in college football two years ago was Kent State’s Dri Archer, who boasts tremendous speed and agility. Archer put up mind-blowing numbers as a junior in 2012, where he racked up 159 carries for 1,429 rushing yards (9.0 ypc), and 16 touchdowns. He also added 561 receiving yards and four catches for scores. An injury plagued senior season really hurt his draft stock, but the speedy running back can make up some of what he lost in Indianapolis with an excellent showing.
BAYLOR RB LACHE SEASATRUNK – JUNIOR Fighting for the title of the top running back in this year’s draft class is Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, who declared for the draft after another excellent season for the Bears. The former Baylor tailback averaged 7.7 yards per carry as a junior, after averaging 7.4 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2012. Seastrunk was a former high school track athlete that set records in the 100-meter dash and the long jump. The junior is expected to run a blazing 40-yard dash time, which would give his draft stock a big boost. A 5-foot-10, 210 pound running back that can run somewhere in the 4.3’s would be regarded very highly by NFL teams.
WYOMING WR ROBERT HERRON – SENIOR Following a tremendous Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Alabama, Wyoming’s Robert Herron looks like he will be a contender for the fastest 40-yard dash time at the Combine this weekend. Herron showed great quickness and agility at the Senior Bowl and also stretched the field on deep routes, gaining consistent separation down the field. This leads PewterReport.com to believe that he should run an impressive 40-yard dash time when the receivers take to the track. A great combine showing would do wonders for Herron’s draft stock, which has been rising since January.
OKLAHOMA STATE CORNERBACK JUSTIN GILBERTOklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is the type of long, athletic cornerback that NFL talent evaluators are trying to find. Gilbert (6-0, 200) has tremendous ball skills and athleticism, but needs to work on his consistency as a cover corner. Covering receivers will not be part of the drills at the Combine, making this an excellent time for Gilbert to shine in front of NFL teams as a track star. Gilbert is expected to contend for the fast man in Indianapolis in the 40-yard dash, and a great performance could bump his draft stock from a first round pick to a top-15 selection.
EX-OREGON TE COLT LYERLA – JUNIOR One of the biggest stories in the draft community came when junior tight end Colt Lyerla quit the Oregon football program because of personal reasons, and later pled guilty to possession of cocaine. Physically, Lyerla could be one of the most impressive tight ends in the 2014 draft class. He showed great quickness and speed on tape in 2012, and there are videos of him doing incredible things like this incredible 62-inch box jump. He could be a standout in the physical testing portion of the combine, but his most important time will be in the interviewing rooms with all of the teams.
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