10 Players Philadelphia Eagles Should Watch Closely at 2012 NFL Scouting Combine
The thing you have to realize about the NFL Combine is that all the NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel already know which players they like and who they believe will fit their schemes. The combine gives fans and coaches alike a better idea of how athletic these prospects perform, as well as getting a better idea of what round each prospect will be projected in.
The combine is not an end-all for any player. There are always a few standouts who put up more reps in the bench press, jump higher and ran the fastest 40 time. Some of these players like Chris Johnson or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are able to translate these numbers at the combine into a much higher draft pick.
The Eagles will get a chance to take a closer look at several prospects they are interested in. Here are 10 prospects the Eagles need to spend some extra time on and pay close attention to what they do in the various drills at the NFL Combine.
1. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State
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Justin Blackmon doesn't need a great or even a decent combine to be a lock for the first round. He already is a lock to be a top 20 pick, however a slow 40 time could lower his value and make him a target for the Eagles to trade up for around the 10th pick.
The Eagles need a more physical receiver, regardless of what happens with DeSean Jackson. If they do decide to either let Jackson walk or franchise him and then trade him, they will need a receiver to line up on the outside opposite of Jeremy Maclin.
Blackmon is one of those players that you can measure, time and run him through drill after drill, but you will never get a better sense of just how great of a prospect he is until you get him on a football field. A poor 40 time or vertical jump could drop him down a few picks and make him more attainable for the Eagles to trade up for. The difference between trading up five spots as compared to 10 spots is night and day.
2. Mohamed Sanu WR Rutgers
Mohamed Sanu has been projected mostly as a early second-round draft pick, but the more I watch him on film, the more impressed I have become. His hands and pass catching skills are absolutely off the charts. He also is very dangerous in the open field and is a very solid route-runner.
Like Blackmon, Sanu is one of those players that won't wow you on the stopwatch, but he will wow you once you get him on the football field. Think Anquan Boldin of 2012 even if he isn't exactly the same type of player.
If Sanu has a better 40 time than expected, his value could go up and the Eagles could see him as an ideal pick with their 15th overall pick if they lose DeSean Jackson this offseason.
3. Michael Egnew TE Missouri
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Michael Egnew's stock has risen a bit mainly because of the success of the New England Patriots two tight end sets. We have seen how difficult it is to defend these big, but athletic pass-catching tight ends all over the field.
Egnew isn't your typical pro style tight end. He comes from the spread offense at Missouri where he was rarely asked to block. In his defense, if a team is wondering about his blocking skills, it probably shouldn't be drafting him in the first place.
He can develop blocking skills over time, but he is the type of tight end you can line up all over the field and will pose matchup problems against any type of defender. A team like the Eagles that struggles at converting key third downs and red zone opportunities could use a dynamic receiving tight end like Egnew to stretch the defense.
It will be interesting to see exactly how fast he runs and how high he can jump. If he posts good numbers at the combine, he could jump right into the third round come draft day.
4. Nate Potter OT Boise State
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Nate Potter is an ideal fit for Howard Mudd's blocking scheme in Philadelphia. He is long, lean and very athletic for his position. Potter has the ability to block downfield on in the screen game. Overall, Potter is one of the better athletic offensive linemen in the draft, he just needs work on his technique.
It will be interesting to see how many reps he can put up in the bench press as his upper body strength has come into question a little bit. If he can prove to scouts and coaches at the combine that he is plenty strong for the next level, he should be player the Eagles think about drafting in the third round of the draft this April.
5. Markus Zusevics OT Iowa
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Markus Zusevics is another prospect that would fit in perfectly with Howad Mudd's blocking scheme. He plays the game with a great deal of intensity on every snap, and he posesses very good lateral quickness. He comes from the same football program at Iowa that produced Robert Gallery, Eric Steinbach and Bryan Bulaga, so you know he is well coached.
It will be interesting to see exactly how athletic he can be at the combine and how strong he is through the bench press. No matter what he does, he should be taken somewhere in the fourth or fifth round and would be a good fit for the Eagles line as a backup and a developmental project at right tackle.
6. Shea McClellin DE/OLB Boise State
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Shea McClellin is being listed as a outside linebacker on most draft boards, but I see him as an excellent fit as a defensive end in Jim Washburn's wide-9 scheme. Not the type of player that wows you with his strength or explosion off the line, but he is still very quick and athletic. He also posses a very high football IQ which makes up for his lack of strength and explosion.
He is the type of player that Washburn would be able to develop into an outstanding pass-rusher like he did with Jason Babin. He gives maximum effort on every play. The Eagles will need a player that they can develop into a solid rotation guy at the defensive end spot in a year or two behind Brandon Graham when Babin is let go in order to clear cap space.
The nice thing about McClellin is if he doesn't work out as a pass-rushing defensive end, you can try him out as a strong side linebacker which is where most teams see him at right now. He also has the ability to be a standout on special teams right away as well.
A good 40 time and few more bench press reps then expected would go a long way in raising his value as a 4-3 defensive end.
7. Zach Brown OLB North Carolina
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Zach Brown is one of those highly regarded prospects that has yet to impress me. During Senior Bowl week, he struggled with his tackling and his coverage skills were average at best.
He does have some room to improve during the combine. A good showing in the 40 time, cone drill and the vertical jump could greatly raise his value. If he proves he is athletic and proves he can change directions at a high speed, he could sneak into the late portion of the first round.
An outside linebacker that can cover even the most athletic tight ends down the field will be valuable to any 4-3 defense.
8. Luke Kuechly MLB Boston College
Luke Kuechly has been by far the most popular player picked for the Eagles in the mock drafts this winter. The Eagles clearly need an answer at middle linebacker, whether it's improved play by Jamar Chaney, a free agent acquisition or Kuechly, they need someone who can make an impact against the run.
Kuechly has already proven that he is a reliable tackler as he racked up over 500 career tackles while at Boston College. Scouts are going to want to see exactly how athletic he is and how strong he is. He was listed at 237 pounds, which is a bit smaller then most coaches would like their starting middle linebacker to be in a 4-3 defense. Scouts will also want to see if he can run well enough to cover backs and tight ends.
The problem with Kuechly putting up good numbers at the combine could mean he moves up on everyone's board and could be picked a few spots before the Eagles 15th overall pick.
9. Trumaine Johnson CB Montana
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Trumaine Johnson is a player that the Eagles should take some serious interest in. His size, strength and press cover skills might remind some of current Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. He also has experience as a kick returner, which is a major need for the Eagles.
The times Johnson puts up in the shuttle and the cone drill will give teams a better idea of how fast he can change direction which will be key for a corner that some scouts believe will be burned by double moves at the next level.
His 40 time and reps on the bench press will be key as well. He needs to be strong at the next level to be able to jam bigger receivers at the line, and he needs to prove he has enough recovery speed when he is unsuccessful jamming receivers at the line.
10. T.J. Graham WR/KR North Carolina State
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No player may be more reliant on the NFL Combine then T.J. Graham. Graham isn't trying to vault himself into the first round of the NFL Draft like Chris Johnson did in 2008. Graham is a speedy wide receiver with return ability who is still very raw.
His 40 time will be crucial to which round he gets taken in. His hands and route-running skills will keep him from being a future outside receiver, but he still has ability to be a slot receiver. The better 40 time he gets, the higher he will be drafted.
Graham is a player whose best talent is his speed and a bad 40 time will spell doom for him on draft day. His return ability make him ideal for the fifth- or sixth-round pick for the Eagles come draft day.