NFL Draft 2013: First-Round Talents with Most to Prove at NFL Scouting Combine

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

BRADENTON, FL - JANUARY 23:  Linebacker Manti Te'o of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish works out at IMG Academy on January 23, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

Every year, we see a handful of players become the toast of the town and shoot up draft boards after a strong showing at the NFL scouting combine. 

But rather than focus on those lesser-known athletes with the most to gain at this year's combine, let's instead look at those players who have to prove they deserve to remain in consideration for a first-round selection.

From two linebackers with off-field issues to a pair of quarterbacks who must prove they stand above the rest of a weak class of players at the position, these athletes must use the combine to ensure they don't drop out of the first round.


Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame and Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

I clump these two together because they both need to do the same thing at the combine—impress teams during the interview process. 

Both have proven they are first-round talents on the field. Both will likely test well, though Ogletree's athleticism will shine through whereas Te'o will likely be middle of the pack in that regard.

And both need to nail the interview process. You know teams will be terribly curious to learn more about the Te'o story, while Ogletree was arrested for a DUI this month. Actions may speak louder than words, but both Te'o and Ogletree better hope they choose their words wisely at the combine.


Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

Technically, Ansah probably falls somewhere in the ranks of lesser-known athletes whose stock could absolutely soar after the combine. But then again, after his dominant performance at the Senior Bowl, most people have him graded as a risky, first-round talent.

His potential is immense. He has prototypical size for a 4-3 defensive end at 6'5" and 275 pounds. Even before he tests at the combine, it's obvious he's an amazing athlete. At the combine, he has the potential to absolutely blow scouts away with his strength and speed.

And he'll have to do so, because he comes with risks. He's never consistently played as a defensive end, for one thing. He's only been playing football since 2010. Scouts will wonder if he loves the game and if he will embrace the physicality of the NFL.

But if he interviews well and crushes the testing portion, an NFL team will take a chance on him, possibly within the first 10 picks. After all, teams don't want to miss out on the next Jason Pierre-Paul.


Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

Smith has made the decision to throw at the combine and compete in the normal drills, likely because he realizes that, in a down year for quarterbacks, there is a lot of money to be made if he proves he is worth a top 10 pick.

And you can bet that, by the time the draft rolls around, he'll likely be a top-10 picks. Teams always reach to select quarterbacks, and that won't suddenly change in a down year for signal-callers. 

I actually think teams will be interested to see Smith's speed and athleticism. If he runs well and impresses in the throwing drills, you could see a team like the Philadelphia Eagles and Chip Kelly—if Nick Foles is traded before the draft, that is—take a chance on him.

And you never know if Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs will look to solve the quarterback position with the top overall pick. Reid started his tenure in Philadelphia by selecting Donovan McNabb, so it wouldn't surprise me if he nabbed Smith to start his tenure in Kansas City.

One way or another, it's not hard to imagine him being selected in the top 10, with the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets holding picks six through nine and all in need of an upgrade at the position.


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