The NFL combine is a great opportunity for draft prospects to build some positive momentum heading into the draft.
Scouts from every team in the NFL will be on hand in hopes of learning more about prospects to help finalize their evaluations. While this can lead to overdrafting a mid-round talent who tests through the roof or undervaluing an otherwise promising player, it's still a great tool to see some of the positives and negatives of each prospect.
Someone like Georgia's Jarvis Jones could get a major boost from a strong performance. He's fighting with several others to be the first pass-rusher selected in this year's crop.
50. Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford
Ertz is a major threat in the passing game but isn't a real asset as a blocker.
49. Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
Woods runs great routes and has deceptive speed. He'll be a solid addition, albeit not flashy.
48. Logan Ryan, Cornerback, Rutgers
Ryan has good length and plays with good instincts.
47. Alec Ogletree, Linebacker, Georgia
Ogletree's stock is based on his potential, which comes from his excellent athleticism.
46. Sio Moore, Linebacker, Connecticut
Moore is underrated and brings a ton of versatility to the table.
45. Jonathan Cyprien, Safety, Florida International
Cyprien is a small-school safety who packs a punch. He has a chance to continue to rise up draft boards.
44. John Jenkins, Nose Tackle, Georgia
Jenkins is a space eater who's a perfect fit as a nose tackle in a 3-4 system.
43. D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Fluker is a massive offensive tackle who has some issues handling speed rushers.
42. Menelik Watson, Offensive Tackle, Florida State
Watson is an excellent athlete but needs a lot of time to fully develop into a consistent player.
41. Jordan Reed, Tight End, Florida
Reed is a well-rounded tight end who excels as both a blocker and pass-catcher.
40. Quinton Patton, Wide Receiver, Louisiana Tech
Patton has a ton of speed and runs clean routes. He just has a knack for getting open.
39. Stedman Bailey, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Bailey is a terrific route-runner who has the speed to vertically attack a defense.
38. Mike Glennon, Quarterback, NC State
Glennon's good size and strong arm give him a ton of potential.
37. Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC
Barkley lacks top-end arm strength but makes up for it with savvy and experience.
36. Ryan Nassib, Quarterback, Syracuse
Nassib boasts solid arm strength and the ability to make quick decisions.
35. Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Elam is a hard hitter who also features the speed needed to hold up in coverage.
34. Kevin Minter, Linebacker, LSU
Minter plays with excellent instincts and tenacity.
33. Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Floyd possesses a ton of natural ability but isn't a consistent performer.
32. Tony Jefferson, Safety, Oklahoma
Jefferson is a good athlete who plays with a lot of urgency and boasts good versatility.
31. Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Hankins is another big-bodied nose tackle for either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
30. Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
Okafor's quickness and hand usage combine to make him a threat rushing the quarterback.
29. Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
Lacy boasts a combination of speed and power. He could easily work his way in the the first round.
28. Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Johnson is a fluid athlete who's capable of protecting the quarterback.
27. Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Eifert's biggest strength is his ability to make plays in the passing game. He can attack the seam or out-leap defenders for the ball.
26. DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Hopkins is a deceptively quick receiver who routinely plucks the ball at its highest point. He's an underrated prospect.
25. Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Austin will need a creative offensive mind to make a difference, but his potential makes him a real intriguing prospect. He might be one of the more explosive players in this draft.
24. Arthur Brown, Linebacker, Kansas State
Brown is undersized for the position but makes up for it with his tenacity and explosiveness.
23. Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
Te'o is a consistent performer who does a good job making plays sideline to sideline.
22. Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Lineman, Missouri
Richardson excels at penetrating the pocket and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
21. Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Rhodes is a good athlete who plays a very physical brand of football.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 32
Alabama's Jesse Williams might not jump out as a blue-chip player in this year's draft. However, his value lies in his versatility and consistency. Williams excels at controlling the line of scrimmage and occupying blockers. This is why his best fit is as a nose tackle in either the 4-3 or 3-4 alignment.
He uses his raw strength, good size and natural anchor to hold the point of attack. Williams has shown the ability to take on double-teams and eat up space. This helps the linebackers behind him smoothly flow to the football.
Look for Williams to be among the top performers in the bench-press portion of the combine.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 25
Most of the top wide receivers in the NFL this past year featured excellent size. The top five in receiving yards are all over 6’3". California’s Keenan Allen possesses the same type of size and physical style of play. He fits the mold of the most current receiver trend in the NFL.
Allen loves using his big body to box out defenders. This allows him to make plays on the ball even when faced with tight coverage. He is also a tough player who isn’t afraid to go across the middle and take a hit.
The one concern surrounding Allen is his lack of top-end speed. He hasn’t shown the ability to consistently outpace quicker defenders, which means he likely must compensate by developing as a route-runner.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 21
At this point, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro has a slight lead in a very talented safety class. His versatility and tenacity give him the edge in this year's crop at the position. Vaccaro can support the run, cover the back end of the defense and play man coverage in the slot.
His instincts and feel for the developing routes make it tough for pass-catchers to gain a ton of separation.
The one issue facing Vaccaro is that he can become too aggressive at times. He has shown a tendency to over-pursue against the run and take some big risks in the passing game, both facets an NFL coach could help him improve upon.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 25
Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene is an explosive linebacker capable of making plays sideline-to-sideline. His tenacity and competitiveness help him tally a high number of tackles. Greene should have an excellent showing at the combine.
Greene isn’t just an athlete, as he also boasts a good feel for the game. He shows the ability to read his keys and flow to the football. Once he gets to the ball-carrier, Greene looks to create a turnover or deliver a powerful hit.
This is a three-down linebacker who also does a good job holding up in coverage.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 25
The combine won’t be a place where Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks gets a huge stock boost. He’s more of a football player than an athlete. His best attributes can be better seen between whistles with a team than on a stopwatch before scouts.
Banks is a physical defender who loves to use his long arms to disrupt the timing of the offense. His ability to play bump-and-run coverage will be very useful to an NFL team. However, he also shows the balance and instincts to excel in zone coverage.
Mississippi State also counted on Banks to come up and support the run. He used his ability to read his keys and sound technique to make plays in the running game.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 15
The NFL draft is as much about upside as production. This is why highly talented players like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah have a tendency to rise during the draft process. The difference with Ansah is that he’s more of a finished product than people realize.
He does a good job using his hands to gain position, and he shows the knack for quickly locating the football. His quickness off the edge and closing burst are what make him a solid pass-rusher. That hand usage also plays a major role.
Ansah needs to work on becoming a more consistent player, as there are times where he doesn’t keep his pads low or use proper technique. These are both things that will improve with experience and better coaching.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 20
North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams is a big-bodied and quick defensive tackle. He is capable of both occupying blockers and penetrating the pocket. This versatility makes a good fit for a number of defensive systems.
However, it’s his ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage that makes him so valuable. Williams has good pre-snap awareness, a quick initial burst and solid closing speed to disrupt the timing of the offense.
Look for Williams to have a solid showing at the combine. He’s the type of athlete who could significantly help his draft stock at this event.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 25
It’s amazing to think that two guard prospects could potentially come off the board before the 16th pick. North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper is a well-rounded prospect who excels as both a run-blocker and pass protector. He’s a plug-and-play player in that he should be able to immediately win a starting job.
The limited value of the guard position is the only negativity surrounding Cooper’s draft stock, as is the case with Chance Warmack.
However, somebody will add a long-term, dominant starter in Cooper.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 15
The ability to take the top off a defense and score from anywhere on the field is a valued commodity in the NFL.
Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson boasts the explosiveness and speed to fill that role on any offense. He showed this past year that he must have a high dose of plays focused on him to thrive, contributing through several different aspects of the game.
Tennessee quickly recognized his versatility and used him as a kick returner, wide receiver, running back and basically any way to make sure he gets more touches.
Patterson’s lack of experience against top-level competition is a reason for concern. He isn’t a finished product and needs time to round out his game. However, his explosiveness is enough to help him make an impact as a rookie.
Don’t be surprised if Patterson leaves the combine with the top 40-yard dash time.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Nine
There’s a lot of talk about how there isn’t a surefire quarterback prospect in this draft. However, West Virginia’s Geno Smith possesses the potential to develop into an elite quarterback. Smith has a powerful arm, good size and the work ethic needed to succeed.
He might not be the finished product Andrew Luck was last year or have the upside of Robert Griffin III. However, he's every bit as talented as other early-round quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden.
It’s still too early to rule Smith out of the running for the top overall pick. The Kansas City Chiefs are desperate to upgrade the quarterback spot, and under Andy Reid’s tutelage Smith could quickly develop into a difference-maker.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 10
Based on pure athleticism, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo is arguably the most gifted player in this draft. He boasts an explosive burst that helps him attack the edge. His first step is lethal, which makes it difficult for offensive linemen to counter.
He combines that explosiveness with excellent change-of-direction ability. This allows Mingo to use an inside rush if the lineman cuts off the edge.
While at LSU, Mingo mainly rushed the passer from the defensive end position. However, he’s athletic enough to make the transition to outside linebacker. This versatility helps his draft stock.
The concern with Mingo is that he’s far from a finished product. He needs to spend time tightening up his technique, learning more sophisticated pass-rush moves and gaining a better overall feel for the game. His struggles against the run are also a concern. However, he shows the raw anchor ability to make major improvements in this area.
Mingo will come off the board early because of his potential, but he comes with plenty of risks.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 10
Florida State’s Bjoern Werner does a great job getting after the quarterback because of his good hand usage and ability to flatten out around the edge. Werner’s balance and low pad level help him reach the edge and dip his shoulder. This keeps him clean as he works his way towards the quarterback.
Werner also features an quick first step and solid closing burst. He has the potential to consistently top the double-digit sack mark.
The one concern Werner faces surrounds his inconsistent effort. Franchises don’t like using a top-10 pick on a player who doesn’t reach his full potential. Despite these concerns, there will be several coaches who strongly feel they can get him to play with 100 percent effort.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 15
An argument can be made that Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the most dominant player in this draft. The issue is that the guard position isn’t as valued as others on the field. This is why it’s possible Warmack doesn’t come off the board until the middle part of the first round.
However, he’s the rare guard prospect who would bring value as a top-10 pick. Warmack is an elite run-blocker because of his explosiveness off the line. He routinely generates a push off the ball and drives defenders back. Warmack is also strong enough to velcro to the defender and turn him from the play.
His natural bend, balance and fluid shuffle help him mirror the pass rush. Defenders struggle using either a power or speed move against Warmack. Where he comes off the board will be one of the more intriguing storylines of this draft.
Projected Draft Spot: Top 10
Alabama’s Dee Milliner won’t blow anyone away with eye-popping workout numbers at the combine. His value is best recognized by putting on some game footage. Milliner is a tough competitor who likes to play a physical brand of football.
His good size, toughness and solid athleticism allow Milliner to match up with a wide range of offensive playmakers. He has shown that he can lock up big-bodied tight ends, smaller wide receivers with excellent speed and physical wide receivers.
This is a defensive back who a team can just plug in on one side of the defense and not worry about. He can also fit any system, which only increases his value to a franchise.
The combine will only negatively impact Milliner if he bombs the 40-yard dash. He just needs to put up a solid time to maintain his draft stock.
Eric Fisher (No. 79)
Projected Draft Spot: Top Seven
Eric Fisher, an offensive tackle out of Central Michigan, shouldn’t be overlooked because he comes from a less touted program. Fisher is equally as talented, experienced and hungry as the prospect coming out of the SEC. His talent is recognized, which is why he’s likely to come off the board somewhere in the top 10.
Fisher boasts the long arms, balance and quick feet needed to protect the quarterback. He does a good job avoiding wasted motion and using angles to put himself in proper position. These skills were picked up over time because of the playing opportunity he received at Central Michigan.
He might not be the same fluid athlete as Luke Joeckel, but he’s a nastier player who does a better job opening running lanes. It’s completely possible there are some teams that prefer Fisher to Joeckel.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Six
Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore will bring the ability to rush the passer to whatever team calls his name on draft day. Moore uses his long arms, quick burst and snap awareness to get after the quarterback.
Moore spent time at Texas A&M at both the defensive end and outside linebacker spots. He showed the ability to generate pressure from either position, which helps his draft stock by keeping all types of defenses in play.
Moore isn’t the same type of athlete as Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo, but he makes up for it with his savvy. He knows how to set up a blocker and employ a wide range of pass-rush moves. This area of his game will only improve as he receives better coaching at the next level.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Eight
Oregon’s Dion Jordan might be the most versatile defender in this draft class. He uses his athleticism and high football IQ to play multiple roles on the defense. Oregon used him at defensive end, outside linebacker, in coverage and rushing the passer.
It’s his ability to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield that makes him such an intriguing prospect. Jordan’s greatest attribute is his length, which he uses to keep blockers off his body and put himself into position.
He couples that length with his explosive first step and suddenness. Jordan is lightning-quick, which helps him beat the blockers out of their stance and to the edge. If he happens to fail in the race to the edge, he uses his suddenness to change direction.
Jordan’s tenacity and nonstop motor also give him an advantage over his opponent.
The best fit for Jordan would be as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. This would allow him to rush the passer and also drop into coverage from time to time. It won’t be a surprise if the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly take a hard look at Jordan with the No. 4 pick.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Four
The left tackle position is nearly as important as the quarterback, as a quarterback will struggle to succeed if faced with a ton of pressure. This is why each year we see a high number of offensive tackles come off the draft board.
Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel is the top-rated tackle in this draft. He’s a smooth athlete who’s ready to step in and immediately make an impact. Joeckel uses his athleticism, size and fluid movements to protect the quarterback.
He quickly goes from his stance to kick-slide and works with a balanced shuffle. This allows him to protect the edge against speed rushers and anchor after power moves.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Five
Generating pressure on the quarterback is one of the most sought-after traits in the NFL. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones is the most balanced pass-rusher in this draft. He uses a combination of speed, power and leverage to work his way into the backfield.
Jones does most of his damage from the outside linebacker position in a 3-4 system. However, his improved coverage skills and run-stuffing ability mean he could also fit as a 4-3 linebacker. This versatility should help Jones come off the board early on draft day.
The one concern surrounding Jones is his medical history. He had a significant neck injury while at USC, which resulted in USC’s doctors being unwilling to clear him to play. Recently, Jones was cleared in a basic medical test. However, this is still something interested teams will monitor.
Projected Draft Spot: Top Two
Despite the NFL’s continued move toward being a pass-heavy league, there’s still a need to control the line of scrimmage. Utah’s Star Lotulelei boasts the size, strength and quickness needed to be a force up front. His explosive first step helps him engage the offensive line and generate a great initial jolt.
That jolt is even more effective because Lotulelei gains inside hand placement and uses his strength to create space from the blocker. By not allowing the blocker into his body, Lotulelei controls all the action.
This power move comes in handy against both the run and pass. However, he counters his strength with a quick first step and closing burst. For his size, Lotulelei quickly gets out of his stance with the ability to penetrate the pocket.
His disruptive play makes it difficult for opposing offenses to find a rhythm. During the combine, pay attention to his 10-yard splits, which may prove an indicator of the degree of explosiveness Lotulelei possesses.