2014 NFL Scouting Combine: 5 Players Whose Stock Hinges on This Weekend

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IFebruary 17, 2014

2014 NFL Scouting Combine: 5 Players Whose Stock Hinges on This Weekend

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The NFL Scouting Combine has become an event in of itself, and people will talk themselves in circles before, during and after this upcoming weekend.

    But the reality is that even though it's entertaining, gets a lot of media coverage and helps quantify players' skills, it's just one very small tool in evaluating prospects.

    Instead of thinking of prospects as just blank slates heading into this weekend, try to focus on certain prospects who may have something specific that needs addressing.

    Each of these prospects is talented and could be a high pick, but they also all have some significant questions surrounding their games. The combine could go a long way for these players.

    Here are five players whose stock hinges on the combine this weekend.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

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    Sutton has been a really interesting case study over the past 12 months. After tearing up the Pac-12 in 2012 with 23.5 tackles for loss and winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award, expectations were high for 2013.

    But Sutton, who played at under 270 pounds as a junior, gained a significant amount of weight to bulk up for his senior season, and that's where the questions started.

    SB Nation's House of Sparky has a nice article detailing some of the ups and downs and gains and losses when it comes to Sutton's weight, and it makes for an interesting read.

    But Sutton still put up good stats and won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award again in 2013 even while looking noticeably slower, and draft projections are now all over the place for the defensive tackle.

    The combine will go a long way toward Sutton's NFL projection. It'll start with the weigh-in and then carry over to the agility drills. 

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

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    Everyone jumped on the Hyde bandwagon this season, but I'm still a bit hesitant. He's got some potential and dominated in 2013, but questions remain.

    Hyde will need to prove that he's fast and elusive enough to cut it as a feature back in the NFL. While it's already clear he's got the frame to be a power back in a rotation, that won't be Hyde's end goal.

    The bottom line is that running backs are getting quicker and quicker in today's NFL, and all of them contribute in the passing game as well. Gone are the days of a league with strong, durable backs carrying the team on their shoulders. 

    If he comes to the combine in great shape, looks light on his feet and catches the ball well, then he's going to be a second-round lock. But if he's heavy, slow and has hands of stone, then there are a number of faster guys who will jump on the opportunity to overtake him. 

Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State

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    Smith got lost in the shuffle a little bit on Florida State's immensely talented defense and could still be selected in one of the first three rounds and still be the fourth Seminole defensive player taken.

    The senior is a tackling machine who excelled on Florida State's aggressive, athletic defense. But whether or not he'll fit in an NFL scheme is still widely up for debate.

    The outside linebacker was undersized in college and weighed in at just 218 pounds, which is what plenty of safeties weigh at the NFL level.

    Teams may look to try and convert him to safety, and Smith has a lot riding on his combine performance. If he tests out well and looks quick and fluid, there will certainly be some position-change talk.

    If he puts on some weight and still looks athletic, then he'll stay as a linebacker. But if he is still at 218 and isn't explosive, his stock could take a major hit.

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

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    Amaro was a beast for Texas Tech this past season, catching an unbelievable 106 passes for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns.

    While many have penciled him in as a surefire first-round pick, there are a few things that Amaro will need to show at the combine for his projection to remain that high.

    There are three main things Amaro has to impress in. The first is the weigh-in. He's listed at 6'5", and he'll need to come in at that or taller. If he's actually closer to 6'4" and has only average-length arms, that diminishes his value somewhat.

    Then Amaro needs to run really well in the 40 and in agility tests. While he looks athletic on the field, there aren't a lot of times he shows that incredible burst that Jimmy Graham has. 

    Finally, Amaro needs to look and test out well in the strength department. Although he's mostly a receiver, he'll still have to be strong enough to block and also take punishment over the middle in the NFL. If he comes up short in these three tests, then his upside may be more limited than originally thought.

Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin

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    Borland is a hard-working, instinctive football player who amassed 423 tackles during his decorated career at Wisconsin.

    After a strong Senior Bowl showing, scouts and pundits may have started thinking that they could still consider Borland a top inside linebacker prospect despite his shortcomings.

    Borland measures in at 5'11", 243 pounds, which will give a lot of teams pause when evaluating him. That likely won't be big enough to play as a 4-3 inside linebacker, and plenty believe that he doesn't have the quickness in coverage to move outside.

    So what does Borland have to do? Show up in phenomenal shape and put up some solid numbers. Nobody's expecting him to dominate any tests, but if he completely flops, then all that talk about "having a knack for the ball" will go right on out the window.