The NFL’s top prospects will be under a microscope at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine this weekend. Taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, college players will showcase their skills in workouts and will be interviewed by scouts for fans to watch.
The New York Jets, St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans are in particular need of talent. Here are the prospects these three teams should keep a close eye on.
New York Jets, No. 18 overall pick
The Jets finished with a surprising (given the team’s expectations) 8-8 record last season. Moving forward, they are in critical need of a tight end and receiver, but since the team does not have a high pick, they should shift their focus away from the potential superstars at the combine.
Rick Stavig of Rant Sports argued that tight end Eric Ebron of the University of North Carolina suits the Jets. He is a versatile player with a keen perception for gaps in coverage. Ebron is athletic and has shown an ability to rely more on his hands to catch the football rather than his chest, increasing his range.
He could also profile as a wide receiver if necessary. There will still be receiver talent lower in the draft, which makes tight end more of a priority for the Jets. The team should also scout for offensive and defensive linemen and a cornerback at the combine.
St. Louis Rams, No. 2 overall pick
The Rams desperately need a wide receiver, as well as an offensive lineman. One option they have is to trade for two mid-level picks and address both needs. The smarter choice would be wide receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson University.
Adam Schein of NFL.com said, “Watkins has 'star, impact receiver' written all over him. He's going to run at Lucas Oil Stadium and show off his blazing speed.” Schein believes that Watkins is going to be a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Since the Texans will most likely choose a quarterback, the Rams should watch Watkins for his agility and running skills, as well as see if he dazzles during interviews at the combine. He has quick hands, explosive potential and toughness.
If he demonstrates that he wants to be the best, the Rams would be wise to consider him for their No. 2 overall pick. But the team, which finished with a meager 7-9 record last season, has needs in virtually every other area, such as the offensive line, defensive end and running back.
Houston Texans, No. 1 overall pick
With the top pick in the draft, the Texans will target a quarterback, and Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M is the most appealing. He has the charisma and star power to lift the Texans from irrelevance.
Aside from his maturity and poise, Manziel is a Heisman Trophy winner who can improvise plays and execute zone-read concepts. Manziel can be a franchise player, but the Texans will be scrutinizing his toughness and leadership ability. Some of the throws he makes in college could easily get intercepted in the NFL. Also, at just over 200 pounds, he could bulk up more.
Manziel needs to prove to the Texans that he can make the necessary adjustments to start in the NFL. He has large hands, but he needs to hold the ball securely to avoid getting stripped.
Rebuilding the team would start with drafting Manziel, but the Texans, who finished 2-14 last season, also need other additions. They also need an offensive tackle, cornerback, running back and all the help they can get.