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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. Combine Freaks Of The Week
The on-field performance of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine starts on Friday morning and I’ve polled some of my scouting sources around the league for some of the players they think will light it up athletically in Indianapolis over the next five days. I asked my sources for just the names of the players they are expecting to really impress with drills – not necessarily which ones would be ideal fits in Tampa Bay.
But what I have done is trim the list of names down to positions of need for the Bucs so the list becomes more relatable to you. I’m not suggesting Tampa Bay likes the following players (they do like some of them) nor am I endorsing them as potential Bucs draft picks, but as you watch the NFL Scouting Combine on TV or follow our coverage on Twitter @PewterReport with Trevor Sikkema reporting live from Indianapolis.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
Barkley will cement himself as a Top 5 pick when he runs a 4.4 or under during the 40-yard dash at 230 pounds. Not only is he a top producer as a runner and receiver on the field, he will dazzle in the short shuttle, vertical leap, broad jump and bench press (29 reps), too. Barkley also had a 600-pound squat at Penn State. If Barkley somehow makes it to No. 7, the Bucs will have to be interested coming out of Indianapolis.
LSU RB Derrius Guice
As one of only four SEC running backs with multiple 250-yard rushing games, joining Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson in that distinction, Guice is a powerhouse. He made waves on Twitter as video of his 650-pound squat went viral, but it was surprising that he only did 15 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press in Indy. Look for that number to climb at his pro day at LSU.
Arizona State RB Kallen Ballage
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound muscle-bound Ballage looks the part of an NFL running back and will undoubtedly test well with a sub-4.55 40-yard dash time, a 4.03 20-yard short shuttle time and other physical marvels in Indy. He’ll display great hands, which makes him worthy in today’s NFL, but Ballage was never good enough to do anything other than split carries at Arizona State and he’s not elusive enough to be drafted earlier than Day 3. But he’ll put on a show at the Scouting Combine.
North Carolina State RB Nyheim Hines
The 5-foot-8, 197-pound Hines is expected to be one of the fastest running backs at the Scouting Combine, likely with a 40-yard dash time in the 4.4 range due to his days as a Wolfpack All-American sprinter. Hines’ agility will also shine in Indy as he was used as a running back, slot receiver and kick returner at North Carolina State. Hines’ draft stock should receive a boost into the fourth or fifth round after this weekend.
Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson
Already regarded as the best offensive lineman in the 2018 NFL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 329-pound Nelson will pass the eyeball test because he has very little fat on his body as it is mostly muscle. Nelson should shine in the bench press drill and put up in excess of 30 reps, while running close to a five-second time in the 40-yard dash. Nelson will solidify his top 10 draft ranking in Indy.
Auburn G Braden Smith
Smith already looks like an NFL guard with a double-barrel chest and big arms. Auburn strength coach Ryan Russell told SI.com’s Bruce Feldman that Smith runs a 4.94 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-6, 303 pounds and bench presses close to 500 pounds. But it’s his broad jump, which is nearly 10 feet, that is expected to turn heads at the Scouting Combine. Smith is expected to be selected in the third or fourth round.
Washington DT Vita Vea
At 6-foot-4, 345 pounds Vea is supposed to run between 4.9-5.0 in the 40-yard dash, which would be freakish. Some scouts are suggesting that he will be as athletic or more athletic than Dontari Poe, a former first-round draft pick, whose draft stock skyrocketed from his performance in Indianapolis. Expect Vea’s to do the same as he could rise into the Top 10.
Washington DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Getty Images
Florida DT Taven Bryan
Bryan, who is expected to be a second-round pick, is 6-foot-3, 295 pounds of sheer athleticism. He squats over 600 pounds, has a 40-inch vertical leap and is expected to run a sub 4.8 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Bryan has it all – strength, speed and quickness – and he’s a heck of a penetrating defensive tackle, too.
Fort Hays State DT Nathan Shepherd
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Shepherd dominated two practices at the Senior Bowl before leaving due to a broken hand. It’s a shame he didn’t get to play in the game because he could have been a Day 2 pick with a dominant performance. Instead, he’ll have to rely on a great showing in Indy to make up some ground. Shepherd might not bench press due to his hand injury, but watch out for some good numbers in the broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard dash.
Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
Ward isn’t the biggest cornerback at 5-foot-10, 191 pounds, but he is expected to be one of the faster and more athletic ones in Indianapolis. Ward has the chance to become the second defensive back off the draft board following Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick with a great showing at the Scouting Combine.
UCF CB Mike Hughes
Hughes spent just one year at UCF after transferring from North Carolina, but had a pick-six, two kickoff returns for touchdown and a punt return touchdown that showcased his blazing speed. Don’t be surprised if Hughes blazes a sub-4.4 time in the 40-yard dash. A great showing at Lucas Oil Stadium could put him in contention for first round consideration despite the fact that he only started one year of college football.
Auburn CB Carlton Davis
Davis has great size at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and possesses very good athleticism Expect a good vertical leap number – perhaps 40 inches – for Davis and a sub-4.5 time in the 40-yard dash. Davis is projected to be a late-first-, early second-round pick.
Florida State S Derwin James – Photo by: Getty Images
Boston College CB Issac Yiadom
At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Yiadom isn’t getting a lot of pre-Combine hype, but he could pleasantly surprise scouts with a good 40-time and vertical jump. Yiadom is a mid-round prospect coming off a good showing at the Senior Bowl, which has boosted his draft stock. It could go higher with a better-than-expected showing in Indy.
Florida State S Derwin James
James can bench press 400 pounds and jump out of the gym. The question for scouts about the first-round pick is whether or not he can regain his pre-injury form. Perhaps the most important test for James in Indy will be the medical evaluation of the knee he injured in 2016. That could determine if he’s a top 15 pick or a late first-rounder.
Virginia Tech S Terrell Edmunds
Edmunds is the brother of star Hokies linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, a likely first-round pick who is supposed to light it up at the Combine. For Terrell Edmunds, he’ll need a good outing in Indy to go from a Day 3 prospect to a Day 2 safety. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Edmunds has better than ideal size and if he can run in the 4.5-range it will significantly boost his draft stock.
With a stable full of wide receivers, including last year’s third-round pick, Chris Godwin, it’s doubtful that Tampa Bay will spend another draft pick on receiver, but Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown are expected to put on an athletic show in Indy. The same holds true at linebacker where the Bucs are flush with three starters in Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and Kendell Beckwith, a third-round pick from a year ago. Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch, Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel and Texas’ Malik Jefferson are expected to dominate during drills at the Scouting Combine.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org