NFL Combine 2013: 5 Players Who Need Strong Performances
The NFL Scouting Combine is one of the last and most important chances players get to showcase their talents for NFL scouts. Over the years, we have seen many players’ draft stocks rise dramatically because of their combine performances.
Most recently was Stephen Hill, current wide receiver for the New York Jets. Before the combine, Hill was a decent prospect expected to go in the third or fourth round. However, after running the fastest 40-yard dash out of any receiver at the 2012 combine, Hill was selected in the second round.
Leading up to the 2013 draft, this will be the last chance for many players to prove their worth as NFL hopefuls.
For a guy like Matt Barkley, this will be huge. A year ago, Barkley probably would’ve been a first-round pick, but instead he stayed in school and had a stock-crumbling senior season.
With this year’s shaky quarterback class and many passer-needy teams, he could redeem himself as a first-round talent. Barkley, amongst others, will have to open some eyes if they hope to reach the NFL.
Here are five players who definitely need a strong showing at the combine.
5. William Gholston, DE, Michigan St.
William Gholston celebrates after a big win by Michigan St.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The former Michigan St. Spartan was previously considered a first-round talent after an impressive sophomore year. After a less impressive junior season, however, William Gholston is looking to thrust himself back into the conversation of this year’s best defenders.
While he didn’t have an eye-popping senior year, Gholston flashed tremendous ability and potential in 2011. If he can prove himself at the combine, then he could elevate himself from a likely mid-round draftee to a second- or third-rounder.
Gholston’s physicality and burst off the line will do him much good at the next level. His size and skill set make him a great 4-3 defensive end or even a five-technique defender in a 3-4 set.
Fun fact: Vernon Gholston is his cousin. Let’s hope the bloodline doesn’t run deep.
4. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
Stedman Bailey extends over the pylon for a touchdown
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
His breakout season in 2012 planted himself firmly in the middle of many teams' radars, despite not being considered a first-rounder. This past season, Bailey totaled 114 catches for 1,622 yards and a whopping 25 touchdowns.
Arguably the most sure-handed receiver in the draft, Bailey can push himself into the second or first round with an impressive combine performance.
Bailey’s measurables aren’t spectacular at 5’10”, 195 pounds, but he makes up for it with his speed and athleticism.
One thing that may work in his favor is that he improved dramatically each year in college. Bailey caught at least 42 more passes than the season before each of his years at WVU.
If he can prove he is a top pass-catcher at the combine, he may vault himself into the second or even the first round. Bailey could be the steal of the draft.
3. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Matt Barkley eyes his receiver downfield
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Matt Barkley was largely considered to be a first-round pick in the 2012 draft before deciding to return for his senior season as a Trojan.
Barkley followed an impressive junior season with a disappointing senior season. He threw for almost 3,000 yards less in 2012 than in 2011, and his completion percentage fell by six percent.
With many teams desperate for a franchise passer this year, Barkley will (reluctantly) be picked in the first or second round by one of these teams. While the jury is out on how Barkley’s physical skills will translate to the NFL, he can certainly put teams at ease with a good showing at the combine.
Barkley has been all over draft boards from the top 15 to the middle of the second round. While he does have incredible intelligence and good vision, he lacks some of the tools you would like to see in a franchise passer. He has trouble standing in the pocket with confidence and is not great when he has to run.
While Barkley does have excellent intangibles and looks like the stereotypical “golden boy,” he does not possess an elite arm.
If Barkley can show that he can make all the throws with decent accuracy, then he will likely solidify himself as a first-rounder.
2. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
E.J. Manuel celebrates after a big play for the Seminoles
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Ever since his MVP performance at the Senior Bowl last month, EJ Manuel has found himself in the center of much buzz around the league. Manuel has shown that he may be the best prospect out of any of his fellow passers in this year’s class.
He possesses great speed for a quarterback and has also shown he has a good arm. The Virginia native is yet another mobile quarterback who will likely be given the task of running the read-option in the NFL.
Despite a less-than-flashy college career in comparison to Geno Smith and Matt Barkley, Manuel is a one of the more solid quarterback prospects this year. While he does have natural athleticism, he has trouble with his decision making at times and also rushes through his progressions on occasion.
Manuel needs to show that he can maintain his athletic prowess while still making the right read and putting the ball where it needs to be. He will likely impress in the 40-yard dash; however, it is the passing drills that will make or break his draft stock.
While he may not be able to sneak into the first round, Manuel would be a solid pickup in the second. With the right coaching, he could be the best player to come out of this year’s draft five years from now.
1. Tyrann Mathieu, DB/KR
Tyrann Mathieu speaks to the media before the 2012 BCS championship game
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Tyrann Mathieu desperately needs a dominant combine performance after missing an entire year of football in 2012.
The off-the-field struggles of the former LSU Tiger have been well-documented over the past year or so after being kicked out of LSU's football program. He was removed from the team after several off-field issues after proving himself as a dominant player for the Tigers.
Mathieu was not only a star corner, but also posed a big threat as a kick returner. If he can display the same athleticism he had at LSU at this year’s combine, Mathieu will likely move up the boards from a fifth- or sixth-round pick to as high as a third-round pick.
While Mathieu likely will not be picked in the first two rounds because of his extra-curricular activities, he is certainly a first-round talent. If Mathieu has reformed, he could be an extremely effective player for one lucky team next year.
The field drills will be where he will make his biggest impression with scouts, but an impressive 40-yard dash surely wouldn’t hurt. The “Honey Badger” needs this combine as bad as anyone.