Many players have seen their draft stock become rather shaky in the events leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine will be one of their final opportunities to make a lasting impression with NFL scouts and to re-solidify themselves as worthy prospects.
It is not just a chance for players to show off their physical talents, but also allows them to clear up any character concerns in the interviews and meetings with coaches. Whether it was a rough senior season like QB Geno Smith or an off-the-field scandal, as was the case with LB Manti Te’o, questions have arisen as to if these guys are worth the risk.
The combine will be an excellent opportunity for these players to both re-establish themselves as elite prospects and regain many teams’ trust through the interview process.
Here are three of this year’s top prospects who need a near-perfect overall combine performance to address teams' most pressing concerns.
Alec Ogletree, LB
Alec Ogletree is one of the best defensive prospects in this year’s draft. The former UGA defender was recently arrested for a DUI and his draft stock has taken a hit because of it. While Ogletree is still a first-round talent, his off-field issues have become cause for concern.
He was arrested in early 2010 for the theft of a fellow UGA student’s motorcycle helmet and was suspended for the first game that year. He was once again suspended for four games last season for failing a drug test.
These are the type of issues that cause first-round talents like Ogletree to slip into the second or third round. Most recently, former Florida and North Alabama corner Janoris Jenkins was one of last year’s best athletes but fell into the second round because of his off-field issues.
In an abbreviated senior season, Ogletree still tallied 112 total tackles and two sacks, as well as an interception.
It is no secret that Ogletree is a great player, but he will need to prove that he has reformed in order to solidify his status as a first-round pick.
Geno Smith, QB
Geno Smith is a guy who really needs to “wow” people at the combine. It is imperative that he makes waves in the passing drills, but interviewing well and a fast 40-yard dash are also key to his draft position.
With the Chiefs' need at the quarterback position, Smith has as good a chance as anyone to be drafted number one overall, but could really embed himself in that position with a strong combine.
He is at the top of a very weak quarterback class this year and will need to prove that he isn’t just the best of the worst, but rather a smart choice for whichever team that drafts him.
Ever since Kansas City earned the first overall pick, Smith has been in the conversation as a potential draftee.
He will need to make a statement at the combine, so the Chiefs even remotely comfortable with taking him first overall.
Manti Te’o, LB
The Manti Te’o story is certainly a confusing one.
After a fantastic senior season which ended in a 42-14 thumping of the Irish by Alabama in the BCS National Championship, Te’o received the most national attention following the season, with the news of his girlfriend, or lack thereof.
The Te’o “Catfish” scandal has been well-documented and questions still stem as to his level of involvement. Some think he was in on the hoax the entire time, while others see him as a victim of an ongoing internet epidemic.
Many people don’t think this scandal should affect his draft stock, but its hard to imagine this doesn't throw up a flag for many scouts and organizations.
Aside from reassuring teams he is a clean prospect off the field, Te’o will have to prove that his disappointing performance in the National Championship game does not reflect the type of player he is.
Te’o is surely a first-round talent but, if a team doesn’t trust both his play and character, he could fall into the early second round.