NFL Combine 2014: Players with Most to Lose in Front of Critics

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerack Darqueze Dennard (31) reacts during the 100th Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Each year, the NFL Scouting Combine helps to sort the prospects at each position into tiers through rigorous workouts and extensive personal interviews.

While many prospects get the headlines each year for doing well in some fashion at the combine and subsequently raising their stock, just as many, if not more, hurt themselves. Whether it is a poor interview or a disappointment in the face of expected numbers, not all prospects can leave happy.

A few in particular enter as big names who figure to go high, but a bad day in late February at Lucas Oil Stadium can do irreversible damage to their stock.


When: Feb. 22 - 25

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis

Watch: NFL Network, 9 a.m. ET

Live Stream: NFL Network Online

Participant List via

Positional Groups: 

Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams 

Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers 

Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers 

Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs


Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

At 6'5" and 234 pounds, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin has jaw-dropping size and speed that may remind some of Calvin Johnson.

Except for the whole dropped passes thing. Sigmund Bloom of FootballGuys put it best:

It all depends on the source. For some, said drops are a correctable issue on an overall complete package that is easily a No. 1 wideout at the pro level. For others, it is a horrible trait that breaks the deal, especially for a prospect like Benjamin, who will enter the league already at the age of 23.

CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman illustrates this boom-or-bust point well:

The other WR who'll bring the Freak tag is FSU's Kelvin Benjamin, who is even taller than Evans. Benjamin will make personnel folks' chins hit the floor when they first see him. Thing is, he's even more raw than Evans and it took him a while to get a sense of FSU's routes/offense and he seems like more of a project. To me, he more boom-or-bust than any WR in the draft. For that, I'd be more leery.

Benjamin needs to bring it in interviews. The NFL already knows he will measure well, so off-field traits are important, as is his ability to reel in everything thrown his way while not in a live-game setting.


Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

As it stands now, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is the top cornerback in the nation as the combine approaches.

There is no debate about Dennard's coverage skills, which saw him routinely shut down the top receivers in the nation. At 5'11" and 197 pounds, Dennard used every bit of his size to be one of the nation's most physical corners.

But in the end, his ability to be the first corner off the board will come down to speed.'s Mike Huguenin has the scoop:

Will he be the first corner off the board? His 40 time might tell the tale. Most scouts love his physical, aggressive nature, but his detractors wonder about his speed -- or lack thereof. He certainly isn't as fast as Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert or Ohio State's Bradley Roby.

Speed is far from the only trait that makes a corner elite, but with the league trending toward shifty slot receivers, it is actually becoming more important than ever. In a very deep corner class, Dennard could very well lose millions if he does not post a strong time in the 40-yard-dash.


Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

As deep as the cornerback position is, wide receiver has it beat by a long shot. In fact, the 2014 class is the deepest in recent memory.

Which is why Mike Evans has so much on the line at the combine. There is some debate as to whether or not Evans made Johnny Manziel look better, or vice versa. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler believes Evans bailed out his quarterback consistently:

In reality, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Regardless, without Manziel to work with and only his physical traits to rely on, Evans has to shine.

Evans comes in at 6'5" and 225 pounds, so he blurs the line between tight end and wideout. He will need to measure in officially in the same neighborhood and post impressive numbers to keep himself ahead of the pack in the class.


Follow Chris_Roling on Twitter