Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Predicted Winner: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
The most important "drill" at the combine. Hands down. No questions, ifs, ands or buts.
The interviews with teams are where players endear themselves to decision-makers as people. If a hiring authority feels like a candidate is qualified enough to be spending their time interviewing him, knocking the interview out of the park is always, well, a home run.
The NFL is a business, and those in leadership positions did not get there by being conservative and completely bland in their decision-making. Executives act on instincts about products, people, investments and anything else under the sun that may lead to money in their pockets.
It's a human connection that can't be quantified or trivialized.
Datone Jones will win this process the same way Russell Wilson did last year. The two players are very different in their personal style and present themselves as much different "types" of personalities, but the two have the same thing in common—they both really love football, and it's obvious.
NFL executives don't like talking about Manti Te'o and fake girlfriends and Twitter and video games. They like talking about football. They are football people, and trust me, nothing makes football people happier than talking about football.
Datone Jones will not stop talking to someone about football until that someone walks away. He talks about Michael Strahan and Geno Atkins and J.J. Watt, about moves they used in certain games, why they did certain things.
Jones has an eagerness to please and competitiveness that NFL executives and coaches will love. I interviewed Jones three times at the Senior Bowl, and after each one, he asked me how he did and what he could do to improve.
Seriously, think about that for a second.
When Jones gets drafted higher than many expect in April, don't be surprised, as he is sure to be one of the few big winners behind the scenes.