Projecting 10 Players Who Will Shock Scouts at the 2014 NFL Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine, a widely covered and televised event where former college football stars just run drills, might seem like a silly practice, but the NFL Network broadcasts it for a reason.
Watching some of the greatest athletes in the world show off their abilities will be entertaining as always.
This year's class features a great crop of speedy playmakers like Brandin Cooks and De'Anthony Thomas who will have scouts looking at their stopwatches with wide eyes.
Additionally, the defensive class will boast remarkable physical prospects like Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, who will jump off the page just as they do in the film room.
Click to see 10 athletes to keep a close eye on in this weekend's (Feb. 22-25) NFL combine.
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Cooks had an unbelievable junior season for Oregon State.
The Lincoln High product won the Biletnikoff Award after tallying 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns and wisely bolted for the NFL.
His production and skill set is similar to that of former West Virginia star Tavon Austin, who stunned scouts with a lightning fast 40 time, even after a great collegiate career.
Cooks will post a time close to Austin's 4.28-second 40-yard dash. He might not vault as high in the draft as Austin did, but he'll have a very impressive resume.
DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Clowney said at SEC media days before the 2013 season that he ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash.
When scouts actually see him running a time near that, it'll be shock-inducing.
Also expect Clowney to run some incredibly impressive agility times at 6'6", 274 pounds.
Clowney already looks incredible on film, and he'll add the paper resume to back that up, solidifying his place as one of the best players available in the draft.
RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
For some reason, Thomas wears a watch while playing football. Perhaps he does so to reiterate just how fast he is.
At the combine, he'll have scouts checking their watches as he runs incredibly fast times.
Thomas has elite speed, and he could flirt with the combine record 4.24-second 40 set by Chris Johnson.
At Oregon, he anchored the Ducks' 4x100-meter relay team that qualified for the NCAA Championships. He also ran a 10.57-second 100-meter dash in high school.
DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
Few players have seen their draft stock rise as much in recent months as Princeton standout Caraun Reid.
Reid, named the FCS Defensive Player of the Year, earned a Senior Bowl invite and shined in that game—a perfect preamble to what could be a great combine.
At 6'2", 305 pounds, Reid has the size to succeed at the next level, and he'll approach the combine hoping to show that he has the athleticism too.
It takes a lot for small-school prospects to impress scouts, but Reid will make that happen.
WR Robert Herron, Wyoming
Wyoming's Robert Herron will add his name to a wide receiver class that is already pretty crowded at the combine.
In a tumultuous season for the Cowboys, Herron shined as he caught 72 passes for 937 yards and nine touchdowns.
Herron is looking to add a great 40 time to his resume, perhaps in the 4.3 range, according to NFL.com's Mike Huguenin.
If he does that, he'll solidify himself as having legitimate deep-threat potential.
DE Dee Ford, Auburn
Dee Ford was a part of Auburn's national title run in 2010 and stuck around for last year's surprising SEC title season as well.
At the end of a great college career, he's ready to stun scouts at the combine on his way to the pros, per Brandon Marcello, AL.com:
"I'm not nervous at all," Ford said Tuesday on the NFL Network. "I'm prepared, I already know I'm trying to go there and shock the world. That's something I've been preparing for, for a long time. I feel like if you're not prepared then you're nervous, but I'm prepared."
At 6'2", 240 pounds, Ford will be one of the most athletic defensive linemen at the combine.
While he's stacked up next to 300-pound tackles, Ford will stand out in Indianapolis.
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia
Former Houston running back Charles Sims elected to head to the Big 12 and spend his senior season at West Virginia.
The Mountaineers struggled on the field, but Sims was one of the bright spots leading the conference with 1,496 yards from scrimmage.
Studying Sims' game throughout the fall, I envision him having a Matt Forte-like impact in the pro game. He has the ability to churn out 100-yard rushing games, but crafty offensive coordinators will take advantage of his versatile skills to make him a dynamic backfield weapon capable of tallying 100-plus scrimmage yards (combination of rushing and receiving yards) on a weekly basis.
Expect Sims to turn in solid drill times, as well as impressive jump numbers, showcasing that he will be just as dangerous catching the football as taking handoffs in the NFL.
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Bradley Roby will be one of the most-watched prospects at the combine this year.
The Ohio State standout struggled through a tumultuous redshirt junior season and saw his draft stock slip after slip ups both on and off the field, as well as some injury trouble that kept him sidelined for the Orange Bowl.
He still has as high a ceiling as any corner in this draft, and he'll have the opportunity to show why in Indy. As detailed by Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch, he has the athleticism to do just that:
Roby said he is healthy now and intends to participate fully at the combine. He is considered a borderline first-round pick, but he could improve his stock with a strong workout. Roby has run the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at Ohio State and hopes to match or surpass that in Indianapolis.
With his speed, athleticism and willingness to sacrifice his lean frame in run support, Roby has all the tools to be a success in the NFL.
Roby might end up as the fastest corner in this year's class.
LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Most college and pro football fans know Mack by now.
He's the linebacker for the MAC's Buffalo Bulls who could've been starting for the NFL's Buffalo Bills.
Mack is fresh off an insane season, where he tallied 100 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, seven pass breakups, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft, Mack will likely go in the top 10, if not the top five in May. Some are even suggesting he could end up as the No. 1 overall pick, hinted by Rob Rang of CBS Sports.
If he does make that jump, it'll be because he has a great combine. At 6'3", 248 pounds, he has the ideal size. If he shows that he has the speed to go along at the combine, he could be too good to pass up on draft day.
DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Fans in Minneapolis could've been witnessing the next great physical freak along the defensive line last season.
Ra'Shede Hageman was named first-team All-Big Ten for Minnesota last year and at 6'6", 318 pounds, he certainly looks the part of a professional defensive lineman.
At the NFL scouting combine, Hageman might put on a show.
“He’s a very aggressive human being,” Gophers defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said. “He’s really a freak of nature. He’s every bit 6-6, 300-plus pounds and really can run like a deer. He does some things that are unbelievable and I think he’ll really wow some people at the combine.”
Phelps adds that Hageman has a 36-inch vertical jump and can effectively pull off a 360-dunk on the basketball court.
A 6'6", 318-pound man throwing down a 360 jam is a scary thought.