The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off on Saturday, and 335 invitees will look to bolster their draftability. Some prospects are already cemented with a first-round grade; however, others have not received much attention from scouts and will look to change that here.
Every NFL team surely has a big board of favorite prospects and their expected positions in the draft. Draft stock is a fluid term, as many factors can change a team's feeling about a certain prospect—for better or worse.
The participants working out at the combine will attempt to put on a solid showing in an effort to climb up that board rather than down.
Let's take a closer look at a few NFL hopefuls who are sure to improve their draft stock once the dust settles at the end of the scouting combine.
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
The scouting combine is a perfect venue for players with skill sets such as Mason's. He will have the chance to show off his one-cut ability during the running back off-tackle drill. Mason has good vision and is a shifty ball-carrier. He should garner plenty of praise from scouts here.
Despite his impressive attributes, some questions linger about his ability to be a three-down back at the NFL level.
Mason, the 5'10", 205-pound running back, did rush for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in Auburn's run-friendly offense in 2013. However, he was not utilized much as a receiver, as he recorded just 12 receptions over the course of the season.
In the NFL, the need for speed and versatility is ever growing. Mason's draft stock will greatly improve if he shows scouts that he can be this kind of dual-threat player.
During the combine, running backs will run their position-specific routes. Mason will get a chance to show that he can be a viable receiver out of the backfield while he runs flat, flair, circle and corner routes for scouts.
Mason will flourish here due to his time as a returner. He consistently showed good hands in that regard and will use his familiarity there to translate that success into the receiving drills.
Right now, no running backs have true first-round grades. Mason could go in the second round, but a good showing here could ensure that he is the first running back taken in the 2014 NFL draft.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
The quarterback class in this year's draft is a deep one. Prospects such as Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles already seem to be cemented as top-10 selections. However, the next tier of signal-callers are still fighting one another for position, and the combine is a perfect place to separate the pack.
Garoppolo has been garnering plenty of attention of late, as his impressive 2013 performance of 5,050 passing yards, 53 touchdowns and just nine interceptions began to bolster the stock of this FCS standout.
At 6'3" and 222 pounds, Garoppolo has the size of an NFL quarterback. During the scouting combine, he will get a chance to show that he has the technique and intelligence to keep up with the best in the draft class.
According to CBSSports.com, Garoppolo's weaknesses are as follows: "Lack of elite velocity will show on some NFL throws. Needs to get his feet under control on a consistent basis and regularly step into his throws. Must continue and develop his pocket awareness and internal clock to feel pressure. Holds the ball too long at times and will take unnecessary hits."
At the combine, Garoppolo will be asked to take a series of dropbacks—three, five and seven-step drops—to show scouts his footwork and delivery. Scouts will also be paying attention to the flight and velocity of the ball on his deeper throws.
Being that he worked out of mainly a spread, shotgun attack in college, Garoppolo will work with position coaches to shore up this area heading into the combine and his pro day. Once he proves to NFL scouts that he can work from under center, he could see his draft stock increase to a possible late first-round grade.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Robinson showed that he can be an elite possession receiver during his 2013 campaign with Penn State. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, he has the size and frame necessary to flourish in this role at the NFL level.
In 2013, Robinson showcased his strong hands and ability to catch highly contested passes, as he recorded 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns.
However, if he is to be a possession receiver in the NFL, timing is everything. One of Robinson's weaknesses is his average route running. He is more of an upright route-runner, and that has a tendency to throw off his timing.
At the combine, certain drills, such as the gauntlet, will showcase Robinson's skills. His ability to adjust to the ball, find it in the air and complete the reception without letting the ball get into his chest are some of his strong suits.
The telling drills for Robinson will be those that ask him to toe-tap on the sidelines and adjust for an over-the-shoulder throw. Both of those drills require precise route running. If Robinson can show that he can accelerate off the line, stay on the correct path and get to the ball on time, he will be able to clear up his biggest weakness in scouts' eyes.
At the moment, Robinson is seen by many as an early second-round prospect. However, with a solid showing at the scouting combine, he could overtake some of the other wide receiver prospects in this year's draft and find his way into the late first round.
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