The NFL Scouting Combine is upon us, and so is the corresponding deluge of info and analysis on prospects we may or may never hear from again.
We know the big success stories and we know the busts, but did you know that 32.9 percent of the combine participants in 2013 didn't get drafted, according to Dane Brugler of CBS? Maybe even more interesting, Brugler pointed out that 12.6 percent of all players drafted were "snubbed" by the combine process.
It's numbers like that which fuel the idea that the combine is an overrated part of the process. In some ways, that's probably true. Forty-yard dash times don't have the importance we often assign to them—sorry, Rich Eisen. We should be putting cameras in rooms where scouts watch film and debate the merits of prospects if we really want a fair assessment of the process.
Yet, the combine draws so many eyeballs and brings the entire personnel departments of most NFL franchises to Indianapolis for a reason. This thing makes sense. It makes sense to put players from so many different backgrounds on a level playing field. It makes sense to poke, prod and pester players to find out everything about them.
Click ahead for everything you need to know about the combine and bookmark the following columns for even more pre-combine information.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB Louisville)
Shake-Up at the Top
Myriad opinions are out there as to the top quarterback in the draft.
Most of us can agree that Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Blake Bortles (Central Florida) and Derek Carr (Fresno State) are the top QBs, but there is no definitive order. Teams will probably still differ following the combine, but expect a consensus to start forming among the media.
QB Statuses at the Combine
Two more quarterbacks, Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Aaron Murray (Georgia), are not healthy enough to throw. Meanwhile, Bortles' father said his son will make a "game-time decision," according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.
AJ McCarron (Alabama), who decided not to participate in the Senior Bowl to prepare for the combine, may not throw as well, which he said on The Dan Patrick Show (h/t Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm):
I mean ... I have talked to a lot of people about that. There's a lot of mixed emotions about that. It's hard to get timing with [receivers] you've never repped with, especially for one day of throwing.
Prospects usually don't throw at the combine because it isn't the controlled environment of a pro day, and there's little to gain for a top quarterback. However, someone like Bridgewater could draw rave reviews if other top arms sit out.
Don't Get Caught Up on Drill Times/Numbers
Scouts rarely move quarterbacks up and down the board based on workout numbers. Rather, they'll simply slot them into categories like "athletic," "move the pocket" or "immobile." In the end, no one's drafting QB A over QB B because the first guy had a better broad jump.
Remember the Context
One of the worst throwing performances I've seen was during a gauntlet drill. As a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, I was allowed into Lucas Oil Stadium to watch the drill live, and it was former Tennessee Titans QB John Skelton who was unable to deliver catchable balls to any of the receivers throughout the drill.
Now, my assessment of Skelton was later proven true, but many scouts I trust reminded me that the receivers were new to Skelton and running in a manner that never happens on a football field. So, knocking Skelton for that performance wasn't really fair.
Brett Smith (Wyoming) isn't on the list as either a participant or as just a throwing QB. A media darling, Smith has great athleticism and a nice arm that could be put on display in Indianapolis. Instead, he'll look to reassert himself at his pro day.
- Blake Bortles, Central Florida
- Tajh Boyd, Clemson
- Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
- Derek Carr, Fresno State
- David Fales, San Jose State
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
- Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
- AJ McCarron, Alabama
- Zach Mettenberger, LSU
- Stephen Morris, Miami (Fla.)
- Aaron Murray, Georgia
- Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
- Connor Shaw, South Carolina
- Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
- Keith Wenning, Ball State
- Jeff Mathews, Cornell
- Bryn Renner, North Carolina
- Dustin Vaughan, West Texas A&M
Carlos Hyde (RB Ohio State)
Without an Adrian Peterson-type in the class, there isn't a lot of consensus about the top back, other than the fact that the top back likely won't go until the second round (or later!).
That could change during the combine if a prospect shines head and shoulders above the class. Look potentially for Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) or Carlos Hyde (Ohio State) to be that prospect.
Small-School Backs Can Help Themselves the Most
Let's be honest where we are in the process: While scouts have been working since the fall on many of these prospects, most teams will only have a few lines of notes from an area scout on some small-school prospects.
Those notes begin to expand during the Shrine Game or Senior Bowl, but this week will put small-school prospects right on par with their bigger-school peers. A great performance from a small-school back can send teams running to find out more.
Look for a Trait to Lean Back On
One of the best ways to look at a prospect is: When everything breaks down, what can this player do better than anything else? For someone like Dri Archer (Kent State), De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon) or Kapri Bibbs (Colorado State), it's speed or "burst." For Charles Sims (West Virginia), it might be receiving ability.
Whatever it is, NFL teams will be searching for something to hang their hats on as they look to insert a running back into the lineup.
The days of the do-it-all running back in the NFL are over for the most part, as teams are looking more for cogs in a machine rather than an every-down back.
So, while it's definitely correct to knock a guy who can't catch or who doesn't look comfortable blocking, realize that there's a good chance the team that drafts him will value what he can do rather than care about what he can't.
- Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
- Dri Archer, Kent State
- George Atkinson, Notre Dame
- Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
- Alfred Blue, LSU
- Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
- J.C. Copeland (FB), LSU
- Tim Cornett, UNLV
- Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
- Timothy Flanders, Sam Houston State
- David Fluellen, Toledo
- Devonta Freeman, Florida State
- Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
- Marion Grice, Arizona State
- Ryan Hewitt (FB), Stanford
- Jeremy Hill, LSU
- Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
- Storm Johnson, Central Florida
- Henry Josey, Missouri
- Tre Mason, Auburn
- Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
- Trey Millard (FB), Oklahoma
- Adam Muema, San Diego State
- LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
- Silas Redd, USC
- Bishop Sankey, Washington
- Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
- Charles Sims, West Virginia
- Jerome Smith, Syracuse
- Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina
- De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
- Terrance West, Towson
- James White, Wisconsin
- James Wilder, Florida State
- Andre Williams, Boston College
- Damien Williams, Oklahoma
During the draft process, teams often consider many players at different positions based on preferences and scheme. Those considered fullbacks by NFL.com are listed as such above.
Sammy Watkins (WR Clemson)
Prune Back the Field
This is one of the best receiver groups in my time covering the NFL draft, so teams will be looking to clear out the crowded field far more than fall in love with new prospects to push up the board.
Prospects like Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), Allen Robinson (Penn State) and Marqise Lee (USC) could find themselves shuttled down to the second round or later very quickly.
NFL teams aren't as worried about polish, especially in terms of blocking or route running, as some in the media are. In truth, most college receivers are so far away from what an NFL receiver should be that many scouts concern themselves with what a receiver could be rather than what he is.
Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) and Josh Huff (Oregon) are two examples of guys with work to do who will be drafted above more polished peers.
Identify Different Kinds of Separation
When I say separation, most fans think vertical separation down the field. However, "vertical separation" can also happen by outjumping the defender and having excellent body control.
The classic example of this is former Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin, who lived with a defender on his hip but still came down with the ball. The best current example is Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery.
In short, don't assume that every team is crossing guys off its board just because they lack elite down-the-field speed.
When in Doubt, Speed Kills
Then again, there is something to be said about not being able to teach speed. Every year, it seems at least one prospect lights up the 40-yard dash or three-cone drill and starts to appeal to teams that absolutely hated his tape.
This goes back to potential and the first kind of separation. When a team sees speed it didn't see before, it'll assume that prospect can be a diamond in the rough.
- Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
- Davante Adams, Fresno State
- Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
- Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
- Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
- Corey Brown, Ohio State
- John Brown, Pittsburg State
- Martavis Bryant, Clemson
- Isaiah Burse, Fresno State
- Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
- Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
- Kain Colter, Northwestern
- Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
- Damian Copeland, Louisville
- Mike Davis, Texas
- Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
- Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska
- Mike Evans, Texas A&M
- Shaq Evans, UCLA
- Bennie Fowler, Michigan State
- Austin Franklin, New Mexico State
- Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
- Ryan Grant, Tulane
- Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina
- Robert Herron, Wyoming
- Cody Hoffman, BYU
- Josh Huff, Oregon
- Allen Hurns, Miami (Fla.)
- Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State
- TJ Jones, Notre Dame
- Jarvis Landry, LSU
- Cody Latimer, Indiana
- Marqise Lee, USC
- Marcus Lucas, Missouri
- Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
- Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
- Kevin Norwood, Alabama
- Walt Powell, Murray State
- Tevin Reese, Baylor
- Paul Richardson, Colorado
- Allen Robinson, Penn State
- Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
- Willie Snead, Ball State
- Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
- Devin Street, Pittsburgh
- L'Damian Washington, Missouri
- Sammy Watkins, Clemson
- Albert Wilson, Georgia State
Jace Amaro (TE Texas Tech)
What's in a Name?
One of my pet peeves of this draft season is when mocking Eric Ebron (North Carolina) or Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) to a team and the comments basically amount to: "Another tight end? We don't need another tight end!"
Today, there is plenty of variety within the tight end position, and a number of teams draft weapons because they want them, not because they need them.
Big = Red-Zone Target = Value
We're living in a world where red-zone defenses are starting to become packed with defensive backs over six feet tall.
Because of that, teams are able to go into subpackages and make red-zone scoring through the air a bit more difficult. A 6'7" tight end with big catcher's mitts for hands can flip those odds in a hurry.
Don't Live in the Past
Realize that the game is changing. The kind of do-it-all tight ends who were in vogue as every-down players 10 years ago aren't so today. Maybe some teams still utilize them, yes, but they're not what teams are craving in the draft.
In an NFL where teams want to go four or five receivers at the drop of a hat and plan on passing 60 percent of the time or more, a tight end doesn't need to have a well-rounded skill set to be one of the best. Because of that, C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) and Troy Niklas (Notre Dame) are among the prospects who could wait to hear their names called in May.
- Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
- Rob Blanchflower, Massachusetts
- Trey Burton, Florida
- Anthony Denham, Utah
- Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
- Eric Ebron, North Carolina
- C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
- Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
- Xavier Grimble, USC
- Nic Jacobs, McNeese State
- Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
- Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western State
- A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
- Colt Lyerla, Oregon
- Arthur Lynch, Georgia
- Jake Murphy, Utah
- Jordan Najvar, Baylor
- Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
- Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
- Richard Rodgers, California
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
- D.J. Tialavea, Utah State
Greg Robinson (OT Auburn)
Look for Lateral Fluidity
What sets the elite pass-protectors apart from the rest of the linemen? In the end, there are lots of different terms for it, but when it comes to combine drills, it's difficult to look for athleticism when everybody has been practicing these drills for months.
Instead, watch for fluidity. Does a lineman look comfortable in space? If not, or if he has little cheats with footwork (like pumping arms to build velocity), that lineman may not be able to hang with the big boys.
A couple of linemen I'm torn on whom I'll be watching closely are Jack Mewhort (Ohio State), Jon Halapio (Florida), Cyril Richardson (Baylor) and Dakota Dozier (Furman).
"Right Tackle Only" Is Code for Offensive Guard
In today's NFL, every lineman needs to pass block, and both tackles need to have the lateral agility to get out and cut off speed-rushers who are coming from every which way but loose in hybrid defenses.
The second a guy starts getting knocked as a "right tackle only," realize that the now-antiquated term probably means he's going to end up inside at guard where his lack of lateral athleticism and fluidity can be masked.
Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) and Morgan Moses (Virginia) both need to avoid that tag in Indianapolis.
"Waist-Bender" Isn't As Much of a Knock Anymore
Look around the league. More than ever before, teams are passing with their linemen, especially tackles, out of a two-point stance. Part of it is the emphasis on the passing game. Part of it is the advent of the spread and quicker passes.
Guys like Zack Martin (Notre Dame) and Taylor Lewan (Michigan) won't be knocked down boards like they might have been a decade ago.
Go Back to the Tape on Interior Linemen
Do what teams do when it comes to interior linemen. Instead of making huge, sweeping pronouncements off the drills, take a player you like and go back to the film on him.
Strength on the bench or explosiveness in the broad jump doesn't mean a whole lot if the prospect lacks field awareness or toughness. This is most true at the center position, where Weston Richburg (Colorado State) and Travis Swanson (Arkansas) are fighting for the top spot.
- Matt Armstrong (C), Grand Valley State
- Joel Bitonio (OT), Nevada
- Russell Bodine (C), North Carolina
- Conor Boffeli (G), Iowa
- Justin Britt (OT), Missouri
- Dakota Dozier (OT), Furman
- Kadeem Edwards (G), Tennessee State
- Matt Feiler (OT), Bloomsburg
- Cameron Fleming (OT), Stanford
- Zach Fulton (G), Tennessee
- Ryan Groy (G), Wisconsin
- Jon Halapio (G), Florida
- Jonotthan Harrison (C), Florida
- Seantrel Henderson (OT), Miami (Fla.)
- James Hurst (OT), North Carolina
- Gabe Ikard (C), Oklahoma
- Gabe Jackson (G), Mississippi State
- Ja'Wuan James (OT), Tennessee
- Wesley Johnson (OT), Vanderbilt
- Cyrus Kouandjio (OT), Alabama
- Tyler Larsen (C), Utah State
- Charles Leno (OT), Boise State
- Taylor Lewan (OT), Michigan
- Brandon Linder (G), Miami (Fla.)
- Corey Linsley (C), Ohio State
- Spencer Long (G), Nebraska
- Luke Lucas (OT), Kansas State
- Marcus Martin (C), USC
- Zack Martin (OT), Notre Dame
- Jake Matthews (OT), Texas A&M
- Jack Mewhort (OT), Ohio State
- Morgan Moses (OT), Virginia
- Matt Paradis (C), Boise State
- Matt Patchan (OT), Boston College
- Antonio Richardson (OT), Tennessee
- Cyril Richardson (G), Baylor
- Weston Richburg (C), Colorado State
- Greg Robinson (OT), Auburn
- Michael Schofield (OT), Michigan
- Anthony Steen (G), Alabama
- James Stone (C), Tennessee
- Bryan Stork (C), Florida State
- Xavier Su'a-Filo (G), UCLA
- Travis Swanson (C), Arkansas
- Brandon Thomas (OT), Clemson
- Trai Turner (G), LSU
- Billy Turner (OT), North Dakota State
- John Urschel (G), Penn State
- Chris Watt (G), Notre Dame
- David Yankey (G), Stanford
During the draft process, teams often consider many players at different positions based on preferences and scheme. Those considered tackles/guards/centers by NFL.com are listed as such above.
Kony Ealy (DE Missouri)
Positional Disclaimer: National Scouting and the NFL, who run the combine, list these players as defensive linemen. However, based on scheme, some can be considered linebackers as well.
Pass-Rushers Rule the Roost
Look, it's a passing league, and the best cure for that is a great pass rush. If you don't believe that, just rewatch the Super Bowl. If a prospect can rush the passer, teams will find room for him, regardless of size concerns or how great he is against the run.
So, it'll be important for Michael Sam (Missouri), Will Sutton (Arizona State), Scott Crichton (Oregon State), Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh) and others to make the case that they can continue to harass passers at the next level.
Keep an Open Mind on Movable Pieces
For years, the word "tweener" was a very negative term. Now, it's an opportunity for defensive coordinators to find ways to use talent in a variety of ways. Rather than trying to force square pegs into round holes and ditching players when it didn't work, defensive coordinators are learning to be craftsmen and carve new holes.
While they may not have strictly defined positions in every scheme, look for players like Will Clarke (West Virginia), Josh Mauro (Stanford), Timmy Jernigan (Florida State) and Dee Ford (Auburn) to appeal to lots of teams regardless of whether or not they're perfect fits in the scheme.
Don't Say "Can't" When You Mean "Didn't"
This applies to other positions, certainly, but it seems to creep up most prominently in defensive linemen who, as mentioned, tend to get pigeonholed. College coaches want to win football games. They're not in the business of showcasing prospects.
Players like Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Caraun Reid (Princeton), Kerry Wynn (Richmond) and Ra'Shede Hageman (Minnesota) were asked to do a lot for their teams in college, but in the pros, their athleticism and talent will likely be used in a myriad ways.
- Jay Bromley (DT), Syracuse
- Ryan Carrethers (DT), Arkansas State
- Will Clarke (DE), West Virginia
- Jadeveon Clowney (DE), South Carolina
- Deandre Coleman (DT), California
- Scott Crichton (DE), Oregon State
- Aaron Donald (DT), Pittsburgh
- Kony Ealy (DE), Missouri
- Dominique Easley (DT), Florida
- Kasim Edebali (DE), Boston College
- Justin Ellis (DT), Louisiana Tech
- IK Enemkpali (DE), Louisiana Tech
- Ego Ferguson (DT), LSU
- Dee Ford (DE), Auburn
- James Gayle (DE), Virginia Tech
- Ra'Shede Hageman (DT), Minnesota
- Taylor Hart (DE), Oregon
- Kerry Hyder (DT), Texas Tech
- Jackson Jeffcoat (DE), Texas
- Timmy Jernigan (DT), Florida State
- Anthony Johnson (DT), LSU
- DaQuan Jones (DT), Penn State
- Howard Jones (DE), Shepherd
- Zach Kerr (DT), Delaware
- Demarcus Lawrence (DE), Boise State
- Aaron Lynch (DE), South Florida
- Eathyn Manumaleuna (DE), BYU
- Cassius Marsh (DE), UCLA
- Kareem Martin (DE), North Carolina
- Josh Mauro (DE), Stanford
- Daniel McCullers (DT), Tennessee
- Tevin Mims (DE), South Florida
- Zach Moore (DE), Concordia (Minn.)
- Jonathan Newsome (DE), Ball State
- Louis Nix III (DT), Notre Dame
- Jeoffrey Pagan (DE), Alabama
- Tenny Palepoi (DT), Utah
- Mike Pennel (DT), Colorado State-Pueblo
- Kelcy Quarles (DT), South Carolina
- Kaleb Ramsey (DE), Boston College
- Caraun Reid (DT), Princeton
- Michael Sam (DE), Missouri
- Chris Smith (DE), Arkansas
- Marcus Smith (DE), Louisville
- Shamar Stephen (DT), Connecticut
- Ed Stinson (DE), Alabama
- Will Sutton (DT), Arizona State
- Robert Thomas (DT), Arkansas
- Khyri Thornton (DT), Southern Mississippi
- Stephon Tuitt (DE), Notre Dame
- George Uko (DE), USC
- Brent Urban (DT), Virginia
- Larry Webster (DE), Bloomsburg
- Ethan Westbrooks (DE), West Texas A&M
- Chris Whaley (DT), Texas
- Kerry Wynn (DT), Richmond
During the draft process, teams often consider many players at different positions based on preferences and scheme. Those considered tackles/ends by NFL.com are listed as such above.
Shayne Skov (LB Stanford)
Positional Disclaimer: National Scouting and the NFL, who run the combine, list these players as linebackers. However, based on scheme, some can be considered defensive linemen as well.
Football Is a Sideline-to-Sideline Sport
Why can't the Green Bay Packers stop San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick? It's easy: They're set up to attack a QB in a pocket that Kaepernick is never in when these teams meet. It's the antiquated notion of setting up a defense that can work against the Peyton Mannings of the world but not the Kaepernicks, Russell Wilsons or Cam Newtons.
The days of linear athletes who simply want to get from point A to point B with one-dimensional pass-rushing moves is past. That was prologue to this: If you want to play linebacker in the NFL, you better be able to get to a quarterback in the pocket and outside the hashes.
Don't Let Times and Numbers Supersede Tape
It doesn't matter how players like Chris Borland (Wisconsin), Chris Kirksey (Iowa), Max Bullough (Michigan State) or Shayne Skov (Stanford) run at the combine. I mean, it matters, but these are players who have enough great tape that teams will bring them in anyway.
The league is full of linebackers who didn't run well in the predraft process, but linebacker—perhaps more than any position other than quarterback—is about instincts and effort (at times) as much as it's about athleticism. If a prospect has a rough day at the combine, don't expect him to automatically fall because of it.
Remember Your Subpackages
A lot of this column has been about roles, and that's for a very good reason. Teams know there's very few every-down complete players available, so they think of the game less like 11-on-11 and more in terms of packages and putting players in places to succeed.
Anthony Barr (UCLA), Adrian Hubbard (Alabama) and Trent Murphy (Stanford) don't have clearly defined every-down roles in all systems, but they were fantastic collegiate players who have received plenty of interest from NFL teams. It bears repeating: Teams will find spots for them to contribute in the NFL.
- Jerry Attaochu (OLB), Georgia Tech
- Anthony Barr (OLB), UCLA
- Lamin Barrow (OLB), LSU
- Chris Borland (ILB), Wisconsin
- Carl Bradford (OLB), Arizona State
- Jonathan Brown (ILB), Illinois
- Preston Brown (ILB), Louisville
- Max Bullough (ILB), Michigan State
- Khairi Fortt (ILB), California
- Jeremiah George (ILB), Iowa State
- Anthony Hitchens (OLB), Iowa
- Adrian Hubbard (OLB), Alabama
- Andrew Jackson (ILB), Western Kentucky
- Christian Jones (ILB), Florida State
- Devon Kennard (OLB), USC
- Chris Kirksey (OLB), Iowa
- Boseko Lokombo (OLB), Oregon
- Khalil Mack (OLB), Buffalo
- James Morris (ILB), Iowa
- C.J. Mosley (ILB), Alabama
- Trent Murphy (OLB), Stanford
- Kevin Pierre-Louis (OLB), Boston College
- Ronald Powell (OLB), Florida
- Trevor Reilly (OLB), Utah
- Ryan Shazier (OLB), Ohio State
- Prince Shembo (OLB), Notre Dame
- Shayne Skov (ILB), Stanford
- Yawin Smallwood (OLB), Connecticut
- Telvin Smith (ILB), Florida State
- Tyler Starr (OLB), South Dakota
- Jordan Tripp (OLB), Montana
- Uani Unga (ILB), BYU
- Kyle Van Noy (OLB), BYU
- Avery Williamson (ILB), Kentucky
- Jordan Zumwalt (ILB), UCLA
During the draft process, teams often consider many players at different positions based on preferences and scheme. Those considered inside/outside linebackers by NFL.com are listed as such above.
Kyle Fuller (CB Virginia Tech)
Size, Yes, but Who Plays Big?
Thanks to the Seattle Seahawks (among others), the NFL is trending toward bigger defensive backs. That's led a lot to artificially inflate the stock of just about every cornerback over six feet tall. Yet, there's room for smaller corners in the NFL, not only those who fit in the slot, but also those who are able to play physical.
Put in another way: Corners like Nevin Lawson (Utah State), Jason Verrett (TCU) and especially Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) play bigger than their smaller frames might indicate, while others like Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska) may be big but not play as physical.
Strong Safeties Are No More
Sorry all of you aspiring strong safeties out there, start working on your pass coverage if you want to get to the NFL. Again, it's a passing league, and there isn't a ton of demand for an in-the-box run defender if that player is going to get burned deep.
Just look at the relative stock of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville). Though both are free safeties, Pryor is soaring up draft boards because he's the player with more range. It isn't as if Clinton-Dix can't play free safety in the NFL, nor does he lack range, it's just that Pryor is the new paradigm, and Clinton-Dix will need to prove he has equal athleticism.
Quantity over Quality
While we focus on the No. 1 corner or the top two, NFL teams know they need three, four or five corners to properly match up with some of the pass-heavy teams in their divisions. Moreover, a team might need a smaller, laterally athletic corner if it has trouble defending slot receivers, or a bigger corner-safety hybrid if it is worried about tight ends.
In short, don't be surprised if your favorite team drafts a corner when you absolutely don't think it needed one. Or, more to point, don't be surprised if it eschews drafting a corner in the earlier rounds (maybe for a pass-rusher) to grab multiple corners later.
- Mo Alexander (SS), Utah State
- Ricardo Allen (CB), Purdue
- Dion Bailey (SS), USC
- Deion Belue (CB), Alabama
- Bene Benwikere (CB), San Jose State
- Nat Berhe (SS), San Diego State
- Tre Boston (SS), North Carolina
- Bashaud Breeland (CB), Clemson
- Terrence Brooks (FS), Florida State
- Deone Bucannon (SS), Washington State
- Travis Carrie (CB), Ohio
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (FS), Alabama
- Ross Cockrell (CB), Duke
- Aaron Colvin (CB), Oklahoma
- Chris Davis (CB), Auburn
- Darqueze Dennard (CB), Michigan State
- Pierre Desir (CB), Lindenwood
- Ahmad Dixon (SS), Baylor
- Brandon Dixon (CB), Northwest Missouri State
- Jonathan Dowling (SS), Western Kentucky
- Antone Exum (CB), Virginia Tech
- Kyle Fuller (CB), Virginia Tech
- E.J. Gaines (CB), Missouri
- Phillip Gaines (CB), Rice
- Justin Gilbert (CB), Oklahoma State
- Demetri Goodson (CB), Baylor
- Dre Hal (CB), Vanderbilt
- Victor Hampton (CB), South Carolina
- Marqueston Huff (FS), Wyoming
- Bennett Jackson (CB), Notre Dame
- Kendall James (CB), Maine
- Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB), Nebraska
- Dontae Johnson (CB), North Carolina State
- LaMarcus Joyner (CB), Florida State
- Kenny Ladler (FS), Vanderbilt
- Nevin Lawson (CB), Utah State
- Isaiah Lewis (SS), Michigan State
- Craig Loston (SS), LSU
- Dexter McDougle (CB), Maryland
- Keith McGill (CB), Utah
- Terrance Mitchell (CB), Oregon
- Jabari Price (CB), North Carolina
- Calvin Pryor (FS), Louisville
- Loucheiz Purifoy (CB), Florida
- Keith Reaser (CB), Florida Atlantic
- Ed Reynolds (FS), Stanford
- Rashaad Reynolds (CB), Oregon State
- Marcus Roberson (CB), Florida
- Bradley Roby (CB), Ohio State
- Daniel Sorensen (FS), BYU
- Dez Southward (FS), Wisconsin
- Vinnie Sunseri (SS), Alabama
- Jemea Thomas (CB), Georgia Tech
- Brock Vereen (FS), Minnesota
- Jason Verrett (CB), TCU
- Jimmie Ward (SS), Northern Illinois
- Todd Washington (CB), Southeastern Louisiana
- Jaylen Watkins (CB), Florida
- Lavelle Westbrooks (CB), Georgia Southern
During the draft process, teams often consider many players at different positions based on preferences and scheme. Those considered cornerbacks/free safeties/strong safeties by NFL.com are listed as such above.
Zach Hocker (K Arkanas)
Specialists Are a Crapshoot, and Everyone Knows It
Teams that are desperate for kicking talent may be disappointed this year.
Other than Zach Hocker (Arkansas), I haven't seen one draftable prospect at either kicker or punter. Even then, many teams may opt for bringing in a bunch of undrafted free agents and veterans to compete for the job following the draft rather than use a pick for a position that can be so unpredictable.
So what are teams doing at the combine to identify specialists? Most importantly, they're making sure these young men are healthy, and then they're talking with them to try to see if they can hold up under pressure.
Check Marks, Not Grades for Athleticism
Like quarterbacks, no one is drafting one kicker or punter over another because of a 40 time. However, don't think it isn't something teams look at. These are supposed to be athletes, too, and lack of training is lack of training—even for specialists. A prospect who isn't ready could signify a lack of work ethic.
- Chris Boswell (K), Rice
- Steven Clark (P), Auburn
- Anthony Fera (K), Texas
- Zach Hocker (K), Arkansas
- Tom Hornsey (P), Memphis
- Richie Leone (P), Houston
- Cody Mandell (P), Alabama
- Pat O'Donnell (P), Miami (Fla.)
- Cairo Santos (K), Tulane
- Marcus Heit (LS), Kansas State