Who Has the Most to Prove at the NFL Scouting Combine?
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The NFL Scouting Combine starts February 20 and runs through the 26th. Throughout the combine, players have to prove their worth and answer questions about their draftable attributes.
Prospects could face a wide range of issues to solve, from an invisible girlfriend to arrest questions to work ethic questions.
They can also include physical concerns. From speed to size to agility, there are athletes that have to prove one or two little things to cement themselves as a high-round pick.
Whether it's a wide receiver who runs a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash instead of a 4.55 or a linebacker who weighs in at 235 pounds rather than a suspected 220, these small physical differences mean the difference between a first-round grade or a third-round grade.
Follow along as we explore the players with the most to prove at the NFL Scouting Combine.
QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
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Geno Smith is arguably the best quarterback in the draft.
He has a couple questions that need to be answered, though, starting with his exact size.
If he can measure in above 6'2", he will be cementing his spot at the top of some teams' boards at quarterback.
Then, if he interviews well and shows teams that he is one of the harder working prospects, he could very well solidify the top spot in the draft.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
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Most of the Cordarrelle Patterson projections are based on him having a ridiculous combine performance.
With the amount of speed he's shown on the field, it wouldn't be shocking to see him break 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.
It will help even more if he can prove that he can pick up schemes quickly in the white board rooms with teams.
If he can show that he's a quick study when it comes to the football plays, he will propel himself from the mid-first round to a possible top-eight pick.
TE Levine Toilolo, Stanford
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Levine Toilolo has the size and strength needed to play tight end in the NFL.
However, his size will need to be verified and his speed is a true question.
Toilolo is a solid blocker and a good red-zone threat.
Unfortunately, he needs to run at least a 4.75 in the 40-yard dash to alleviate concerns about speed.
If he comes in slower than 5.00, it would be shocking to see him selected in the first five rounds.
OL Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
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A player from a small school like Terron Armstead will have to prove his mettle in the positional drills.
Most smaller-school players tend to have great size, strength and speed, but are lacking in technique.
Armstead's film study shows that he's solid technically, but if he shows that he is quick in his kick-step in pass protection drills, it could vault him.
He has the ability to go in the second day of the draft with a good showing at the combine.
OT Menelik Watson, Florida State
Menelik Watson is a completely raw prospect from England through Florida State.
A former boxer and basketball player, his footwork and agility has looked great.
However, questions about his football IQ will pop up with his short amount of time in the sport.
With some great white board sessions for the right team, Watson could be taken in the first round by a squad needing an athletic blind side tackle.
DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo, Louisiana State
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Barkevious "Keke" Mingo is a complete athlete.
Great technical showings at outside linebacker or defensive end will be able to solidify him in the top 20.
If he can also show up at above 245 pounds without losing any of his tremendous athleticism, Mingo could end up going as high as No. 2 overall to the Jaguars.
His football IQ could be questioned as well.
If he checks out, his only real issues will be technical and pass rushing strategy—two things that are correctable with work ethic and a solid football IQ.
LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
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Getting arrested for DUI is probably the worst possible thing to happen to a player right before the NFL Scouting Combine.
Alec Ogletree will be grilled by teams about his past suspensions, arrests and the recent DUI.
They will have to feel comfortable with him off the field before they select him.
If Ogletree can't figure out how to dispel teams' low opinion of his transgressions, he could be completely taken off some boards all together.
LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
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Unlike Alec Ogletree, Manti Te'o isn't a law-breaking player, nor has he ever been suspended.
He does have a character concern related to an off-the-field catfishing incident about a dead girlfriend that he had never met before her "passing."
If he can make teams feel that there was no malice involved in the story and that he was just being a dumb kid, teams will be very comfortable with him off the field.
However, on the field, there are still some questions about his athleticism. He's not the fastest, strongest or most agile player, but good times could solidify him in a mid-first round range spot.
LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
In one of the more ludicrous thoughts, Arthur Brown has to prove a couple things at the combine that would push him into the mid-first round.
He's one of the best players on the field, but he needs to weigh in at over 235 pounds or he will be considered a 4-3 outside linebacker only.
Overall, he has to show that he can hold the weight on his frame and maintain his speed and agility. If he can do that, teams will be lining up for the fiery, athletic, instinctual linebacker in the first round.
CB Tyrann Mathieu, Louisiana State
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The biggest name with the most problems that need to be solved by the combine is Tyrann Mathieu.
His character has gone through the ringer with rehab, a drug arrest and being thrown off of the LSU football team.
He will have to show to the NFL teams that he is on the path to a clean, lawful life that won't get him kicked off the field or out of the league.
In addition to that, he hasn't played a down in over a year.
So, he will have to prove that he can still move, cut and play the position the best that he can in shorts and a shirt.
If he can run well at the combine and look good in the position drills, he could solidify that his talent is in the second to third-round range despite character issues.
If he can answer the questions that need to be answered about his character correctly, a fourth-round selection when all is said and done isn't out of the question.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.