With the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine fast approaching, draft preparation is in full swing. This goes for teams as well as fans.
At the combine, NFL teams will be watching players as they compete in a series of drills and go through individual team interviews. The always-important medical checkups will also be taking place.
Many like to say that the Combine is overrated, that it doesn't predict long-term success. Whether or not this is true doesn't matter. What does matter is that teams do value it, and it's a huge factor in the entire draft process.
Though every team will be looking at a variety of players, there is one guy in particular that each team will be focused on. This could be because of need, value, a specific player trait, or, more likely, a combination of the three.
The combine is almost here, and your team will be focusing on a certain player. But who will it be?
Cincinnati has several linebackers potentially leaving in free agency. The unit could use more talent either way, and it could be time for a shakeup.
Alec Ogletree is undoubtedly talented, but he has been in some trouble off the field. He’ll need to defend himself to teams wondering if they can trust him.
Ogletree’s workouts are sure to impress. He simply has to show teams that he won’t be an issue when he isn’t playing football.
With James Harrison’s career in Pittsburgh likely reaching its end, the Steelers need to add a new pass-rusher. Jarvis Jones fits Dick LeBeau’s profile for a short, high-leverage rusher.
Jones’ burst and overall ability are unquestioned. His medical checkup will certainly be crucial, though, as he has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
Jones offers the Steelers a perfect schematic fit at a position of need. If he’s available, he will certainly be under consideration.
As the Browns transition to a 3-4 defense, they will need to add pass-rushers. Preferably athletic pass-rushers who can play in space.
Dion Jordan fits the bill.
Jordan’s length and pass-rush ability are both excellent, and his ability to play in coverage is unparalleled among his peers. Only his size and injury history make him a risk, and his upside more than compensates for the downside.
In Indianapolis, Jordan can show that he can handle more weight. That and a positive medical checkup would be great news for the Browns.
Ray Lewis is done as a Raven. It is hard to say, but Baltimore needs to find his replacement. Arthur Brown could be him.
It’s impossible to say how early Brown will be drafted, but the Ravens would be foolish not to consider him. Though the 230-pounder may be undersized, he plays with violence along with his natural athleticism.
Depending on where his stock settles, Brown could be a steal. And Ozzie Newsome may be the NFL’s best at recognizing players who fell too far.
It seems odd, but New York’s once-dominant defensive end group is now in need of new blood. Outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants don’t really have a legitimate starter at the position.
Ezekiel Ansah is potentially another JPP.
At 6’5”, 274 pounds, Ansah possesses great size to go with incredible athleticism. His game definitely needs refinement, but his upside is undeniable.
Ansah is exactly what New York needs to bring back its once-dominant pass-rush. Expect the Giants to realize the possible fit.
With no first-round pick, the Redskins will have to be realistic in who they target. D.J. Swearinger is on the edge of realistic, but Washington should be watching him closely.
The Redskins need help in the secondary, and Swearinger is a great talent who can play in coverage or run support. He is capable of making big plays and isn’t liable to allowing big plays either.
If he’s still available, Swearinger will be a great option for Washington.
Dallas is switching to a 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin, and Anthony Spencer is probably gone in free agency. In other words, the Cowboys need a defensive end.
It’s possible that Ezekiel Ansah will be the team’s best option.
Ansah’s potential is through the roof due to his combination of size, strength and natural athleticism. He could be a beast opposite DeMarcus Ware.
Ansah’s combine performance will be big, as he needs to show he has the bend to work the outer edge. The Cowboys will surely be paying attention.
In all likelihood, Philadelphia’s best option at No. 4 will be Luke Joeckel. Joeckel is an option for the Chiefs with the No. 1 pick, and he would be a great pick for the Eagles.
Though Joeckel may not be available, Philadelphia would be foolish not to do its research. He’s the best option for the team, and it needs to know what it would be getting with the Texas A&M product.
Now that the Colts have released Dwight Freeney, they are in need of an additional pass-rusher to play opposite Robert Mathis.
If he hadn’t torn his ACL, Cornellius Carradine could be at top 10 pick. The 6’5”, 265-pounder is a good athlete with great power and pass-rush savvy. He is a potential star in Indianpolis’ 3-4 scheme.
If Carradine checks out medically, there is no reason he shouldn’t be an option for the Colts at No. 24. In fact, he could be a steal there. Indianapolis will have its doctors taking a close look at the Florida State product.
More than anything else, Houston needs another offensive weapon. If nothing else, Tavon Austin is certainly that.
There may not be a more explosive player in this draft than Austin. The West Virginia star can line up at wide receiver, slot receiver or running back.
Austin would give Houston a much-needed boost on offense. The Texans should be watching him closely.
The Jaguars are changing defensive schemes, and their pass rush looks to be an issue. In new head coach Gus Bradley’s scheme, Barkevious Mingo could be a perfect fit.
Mingo’s natural ability is obvious, but he has struggled to produce, and his skills aren’t always obvious on the field. At the combine, Mingo needs to show that he can hold weight and still excel athletically.
The LSU star is the perfect fit for Jacksonville’s scheme, so the team will be watching him closely in Indianapolis.
Tennessee’s interior offensive line remains a huge issue. The team did little to address it last year, and it’s time to spend some draft picks on the area.
There isn’t a more universally-loved player in this draft than Chance Warmack. The Alabama guard is among the best interior linemen to ever enter the draft, as he excels in all aspects of the game.
Even though Warmack seems like a sure thing, the Titans would be foolish to not research him to the max. He fits a need and will likely be available. They should read into him as much as possible.
San Francisco’s defense is still among the NFL’s best, but there are a few holes. One of those holes is at nose tackle.
Jesse Williams possesses incredible strength and is a master at finding and using leverage. The 320-pounder is a great fit at nose tackle in the middle of the 49ers’ 3-4 defense.
It’s difficult to say who will be available for the 49ers, but they should be taking a close look at Williams, a great talent at the end of the first round.
The Cardinals have several positions of need, but none is bigger than quarterback. The team is absent anyone resembling a legitimate starter at the position.
Few are projecting Tyler Wilson in the top 10, but he’s talented enough to go that high. The Arkansas product possesses a strong arm and a shot-taking mentality, giving him considerable upside.
Arizona can’t afford to wait any longer at quarterback, so it should be considering any and all options there.
The Rams’ offensive line has issues. Sam Bradford is constantly under pressure, and he has no chance of succeeding unless the team improves up front.
By the time St. Louis picks, Luke Joeckel and probably Eric Fisher will be long gone. That leaves Lane Johnson as the lone blindside protector on the board.
Johnson’s incredible athleticism makes him an appealing option to any team, especially one needing a left tackle. He is St. Louis’ best-case scenario, so the team should do its research.
Seattle is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, but it could stand to add some weapons to help out Russell Wilson. More specifically, the Seahawks need a wide receiver.
It’s impossible to say who the team will prefer at the position, but DeAndre Hopkins seems like a good fit. The Clemson wideout is fast, quick and refined with decent size. He can adjust to whatever the team asks him to do.
Hopkins just may be the best wideout left when Seattle picks, and the team should be prepared for that scenario.
Who still thinks Mark Sanchez is the guy in New York?
Clearly, the Jets need to find a new quarterback. Many will argue about whether Tyler Wilson is that guy, but the Jets would be foolish to not entertain the possibility.
New York should be keeping a close eye on every quarterback in this draft. Of those players, though, Wilson is the most likely to be a realistic solution.
If Wilson is available at No. 9, he would be a legitimate option, and a one the Jets should be thinking about.
Whether or not the Patriots need a slot receiver depends on the Wes Welker situation, but that is impossible to predict.
Either way, though, Tavon Austin would add an explosive element to the team’s offense.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ coaching staff could have plenty of fun with Austin’s talent and versatility. He can make plays from all over the field, and New England would take advantage of that ability.
It’s never easy to predict what the Patriots will do in the draft, but Austin is an exciting possibility.
Cameron Wake has one defensive end position locked down, but the other one is a gaping hole in the Miami defense. Damontre Moore is perhaps the ideal scenario for the Dolphins.
Moore may not even fall to Miami, but the team must do its due diligence either way. The Texas A&M star plays with power and uses refined technique, though he is lacking ideal burst.
This draft is loaded with pass-rushers, and Moore has a chance of falling to the Dolphins. That means they should be watching him closely at the Scouting Combine.
Buffalo is yet another team with a desperate need at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the worst starting quarterback in the NFL, but he isn’t all that close to average either.
Tyler Wilson’s athleticism and downfield throwing ability should make him an intriguing option for the Bills. Expect the team to be more interested in Wilson than Ryan Nassib, whom many have linked to the Bills and head coach Doug Marrone.
Regardless of whether or not Tony Gonzalez retires, the Falcons should look to add a young tight end. Travis Kelce is one of the team’s best options.
Kelce’s blocking ability and physical play will make him an appealing option to many teams. However, his athleticism is somewhat questionable, and teams will be watching how he performs there at the Combine.
Other tight ends like Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz are also options, but Kelce has more to prove in Indianapolis.
New Orleans is switching to a 3-4 defense, and it will need outside linebackers to make the transition. If he’s available, Dion Jordan is the perfect fit.
With his length, athleticism and pass-rushing ability, Jordan was made to play in a 3-4 scheme. His medical issues and weight make him a big of a wild card, so the Saints need to do their research.
Tampa Bay’s No. 32 pass defense was so awful largely because of the team’s dreadful secondary. Many are talking about Dee Milliner here, but Xavier Rhodes’ upside could actually make him the more intriguing option.
The 6’2”, 213-pounder will likely impress in the 40-yard dash, but the Buccaneers will be looking at how quickly he changes direction and how smooth his hips are.
While Milliner is a safer pick, Rhodes is risky. That is why the Buccaneers should give him a close look prior to the draft.
Considering their superb linebackers, the Panthers’ run defense was surprisingly average in 2012. This is, of course, because of the team’s dreadful defensive tackles.
It’s rare to find a defensive tackle as athletic as Sheldon Richardson. The 6’4”, 295-pounder is explosive with great quickness and speed. His ability to penetrate against the run and pass is already pushing him up draft boards.
When Carolina picks, Richardson will likely be the best defensive tackle available. Because of this, the Panthers should be giving Richardson more attention than any other player.
If Percy Harvin does in fact end up an ex-Viking, Minnesota will need to find a replacement. So why not replace Harvin with the exact same type of player?
Tavon Austin possesses Harvin’s ability to move all over the field in addition to their similar body types, burst, speed and quickness.
With such a huge need at wide receiver, the Vikings need to pay attention to the position. Austin is just one of many options, but he’s probably the most intriguing.
The Packers’ defense once again struggled in 2012, and its front seven is probably the biggest culprit. If available, Arthur Brown is a great option to help fix that issue.
An outstanding athlete, Brown can play in coverage, blitz and defend the run. Dom Capers would no doubt love his versatility, and Brown should be an immediate starter at inside linebacker.
Between Brown’s obvious talent and Green Bay’s need, this is a great fit. The Packers should be certain Brown has what they want, though, by researching him thoroughly.
With Detroit likely losing both of its starting defensive ends, the team needs to address the position early. Bjoern Werner seems like a logical fit.
Werner combines incredible burst with decent flexibility off the edge. He’s a potentially elite pass-rusher who could make a dramatic impact on the Lions’ defense as a rookie.
There are some questions about Werner, however, from his motor to his play against the run. The Lions will be looking at all of these before the draft.
Chicago’s offensive line is one of the best-known weaknesses in the NFL. Jay Cutler rarely has sufficient time to throw, and the unit desperately needs upgraded.
Though the Bears would probably prefer to draft an offensive tackle, Jonathan Cooper is a great option along the interior offensive line. Cooper is an incredible athlete at guard whose ability in space is unrivaled in this draft.
Before the draft, Chicago will need to decide if Cooper is special enough to warrant its first-round selection. This process will undoubtedly involve intensive analysis at the combine.
The Raiders have absolutely no reason to feel confident in Carson Palmer moving forward. If Geno Smith is available, he is the team’s likely selection with the No. 3 pick.
No one knows if Smith will be there or not, but Oakland should prepare for both scenarios. If the Raiders do in fact want Smith, though, they would be foolish not to focus on him.
Though Denver had a terrific run defense in 2012, the team’s defensive tackles are a weakness. Johnathan Hankins has the talent of a much higher draft pick, but he should be around for the Broncos’ first pick.
Hankins will have plenty of questions to answer in Indianapolis, mainly why his motor so often ran cold. This answer will surely be of great interest to the Broncos and other teams.
If he’s available, Hankins is a great high-upside option for Denver. The combine will help the team decide if the reward is worth the risk.
Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews are undoubtedly hoping the Chargers do the smart thing and pick an offensive lineman with the No. 11 pick. The team’s entire offensive line is a huge area of concern, so San Diego will be researching all of its options there.
Eric Fisher is chief among those options.
Fisher could easily be gone by the time San Diego picks, but he is the best-case scenario. And since he’s a fairly realistic option, the Chargers should look at him as closely as possible.
There is definite question over the No. 1 pick and what Kansas City will do with it. No one knows if the team will take a quarterback or one of the draft’s other top players.
But wouldn’t the Chiefs be foolish to not take a close look at the top quarterback, given the team’s dire situation there?
The worst position a team can fail to do its due diligence on is quarterback. That is why Kansas City will be watching Geno Smith quite closely at the combine.
Smith will be throwing in Indianapolis, and the always-important interview process is even more critical with quarterbacks.
Smith’s performance in front of the Chiefs could determine just how high he is drafted.