Indianapolis Colts Combine Preview: Top Targets, Sleepers and Prospects to Watch
The NFL Scouting Combine starts on Saturday, Feb. 22, and includes some of the biggest names in college football coming together to show off their physical talents. The event, one of the most high-profile predraft events, will be held in Indianapolis, its annual location.
Every season there are overreactions and board shufflings during the event, as players look to confirm scouts' film notes with fast times and large bench press numbers. But even more importantly for a players' individual draft stock is how the players act during interviews. If a team is going to spend millions of dollars on a 22-year-old, they need to know that that player is motivated and has his head screwed on right.
The plethora of important players, drills and the like make next weekend a premiere event for the Indianapolis Colts, who will have their eyes on plenty of players throughout the events. Who are a few that fans can keep an eye out for from home?
WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
Out of all of the receivers projected to go in the first or second round, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin is easily the one who most needs to rely on his physical talent to be successful. The sophomore receiver is one of the best overall physical packages at the wide receiver position in a long time.
Benjamin (6'5", 234 pounds) has the size to be an elite red-zone target to go along with fantastic speed and small-area quickness that allowed him to create separation from defenders in numerous different scenarios. Those skills helped him catch 54 passes for over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014.
But playing wide receiver is so much more than that. Benjamin is a very raw route-runner with inconsistent hands. His 2014 draft stock is tied directly to the potential stored in his freakishly talented body. If he comes up short at the combine, he could easily slip down into the second round, making him a viable prospect for Indianapolis.
LB Yawin Smallwood, UConn
The Colts could go several different ways with the linebacker position in this year's offseason. They could look at a run-stopper to pair with Jerrell Freeman, a big, strong linebacker who can fill lanes and shed blocks. The other direction would be to grab a linebacker who can also drop back in coverage, giving Indianapolis another three-down linebacker.
Smallwood fits into the latter group, but has gone without much hype throughout much of the draft season. The linebacker from Connecticut can drop back in coverage, rush the passer and has a knack for big plays, something Indianapolis could use a boost in.
The versatility in Smallwood makes him someone that Ryan Grigson could be coveting in the second or third round of the draft.
If Smallwood puts together an impressive combine, he could gain some attention that would result in him moving up the board into the middle of the second round. But what seems more likely is for Smallwood to finish with good numbers in all of the events, with no eye-popping performances that draw noticeable attention.
DE Josh Mauro, Stanford
A versatile defensive end who played just about every spot on the line this past season, Josh Mauro is a sleeper that could jump up into the third round with a strong combine performance.
Mauro is the kind of player that the Colts could use to stabilize an inconsistent defensive line, with a quick burst and strong arms that help him control blockers. While Mauro wouldn't be a pass-rushing specialist, by any means, he has enough to be able to get occasional pressure in the NFL while fitting in as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.
The Colts need dynamic pass-rushing talent on the defensive line, but Ryan Grigson loves versatility, which Mauro is up to his ears in.
WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
Another big-bodied receiver, Davante Adams is another receiver that the Colts could have their eye on in the second round. At 6'2", 216 pounds, Adams could be the red-zone target the Colts have been looking for at wide receiver.
With strong hands and very good body control, Adams looks like a strong candidate to be a possession receiver at the next level and could be a long-term replacement for Reggie Wayne. Adams is tough over the middle and has enough quickness to be a good, although maybe not great, post-catch receiver as well.
The downside to Adams is his lack of elite speed, which thus far has him down in the lower half of the second round. A good 40-yard dash isn't going to change everything for teams, but it definitely would gain him more attention and could result in him going earlier in the second round.
CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia
Virginia cornerback Kyle Fuller is an interesting potential match for Indianapolis, but they'd need some things to fall their way in order to have a chance at him in 2014 without trading up.
Fuller is a very good off-man corner and could fit in the Colts' scheme across from Vontae Davis very well. Fuller has the great individual characteristics of a fantastic cornerback: very fluid hips, quick feet and length. While Fuller isn't the biggest corner, his length and explosion in small spaces gives him the ability to close passing windows very quickly.
One of the questions with Fuller is his speed. While he's faster than most college corners, there's a question about how he'd handle consistent speed from NFL wide receivers. How he performs at the combine could either quench those fears or make them all the more legitimate, aiding Fuller's drop toward the Colts' second-round pick.
LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
When it comes to passion and energy on the football field, few can match that of Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. Borland is incredibly active all over the field and fits the mold of a run-stopping linebacker that would fit next to Jerrell Freeman.
Borland won the Big Ten Player of the Year award with 102 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble. With 14 career forced fumbles, Borland tied the Big Ten record.
Borland is disciplined, relentless and shows great instincts in recognizing plays quickly. He attacks the football and makes plays at the line of scrimmage consistently.
Unfortunately, Borland is small (5'11", 245 pounds) and lacks great speed to work sideline-to-sideline. He may be limited to a two-down linebacker. Of course, Borland may be able to boost his draft stock with a strong combine. Even if he doesn't have a great combine, an above-average three-cone drill would be a nice sign from him.
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
If the Colts are looking for depth in the third round and later at cornerback, Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska will be on their radar. A solid press-man corner, Jean-Baptiste is strong enough to effectively jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, but has also shown strong abilities in off-man.
At 6'3", 215 pounds, Jean-Baptiste boasts excellent size and length, but does sacrifice some straight-line speed, which could be a concern. He does have fluid hips, however, and his length and very good ball skills allows him to deflect passes that others let slip through. His tackling is a bit worrisome, however, as he has poor form that can result in big plays for the offense.
Scouts will be watching Jean-Baptiste's speed and quickness at the combine, although he won't be able to negate any fears about his tackling.
RB Marion Grice, Arizona State
Unless the Colts look to add a running back like Charles Sims early, they may try to add a third back to their rotation via one of their late-round picks. If so, Marion Grice out of Arizona State is a very viable option.
Grice is one of the more versatile backs in the draft, catching 91 passes for 863 yards and 14 touchdowns
during the last two years. With very good hands and toughness to catch balls in traffic, Grice is a receiving weapon that would be a big boost to a team likely losing Donald Brown in free agency.
While he's nowhere near the best runner in the class, Grice was productive enough between the tackles in college to think that he could do the same in a power scheme in the NFL. Grice's biggest drawback may be his lack of elite speed, so watch him at the combine to see if he can put peoples' minds at ease. If he doesn't, he may end up having a better chance of being drafted by the Colts.
After all, Ryan Grigson does love his combine slips.
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