As a centralized scouting hub in preparation for the NFL draft, the scouting combine gives small-school prospects the chance to perform in front of hundreds of NFL personnel rather than pray the scouts come to them.
This unique opportunity afforded to pro hopefuls usually sees a few lesser-known players seize the moment, improve stock and ultimately be taken in the draft higher than most could have ever imagined going into the combine.
This trend will hold true in 2014. A few names in particular have plenty of quality tape, but the hype is hard to believe until they can perform well against top players from around the nation. These guys are locks to have big days in that regard.
When: Feb. 22-25
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis
Watch: NFL Network, 9 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Network Online
Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams
Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers
Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs
Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
Lanky and tall cornerbacks in the Richard Sherman mold are all the rage in the NFL right now, so it should come as no surprise to hear a certain amount of cautious hype for Lindenwood product Pierre Desir.
Desir stands at 6'2" and 206 pounds. In college, hardly any teams ever threw his way, which sounds like an exaggeration until one flicks on the film. One NFC director of scouting told Fox Sports, via Ross Jones, that Desir has the makeup of an eventual starter:
Desir isn’t nearly a finished product yet, but has the physical tools and mental make-up to develop into an eventual starter. His transition to the next level won’t be an easy one, as he needs ample time to improve his footwork (especially on comebacks and double moves) and recognize route combinations.
His immediate NFL impact may be as an outside press corner in nickel/dime situations. But his developmental impact could lead him to be among the best press cornerbacks in the NFL with ideal coaching.
Measurements are a major part of the combine and an area where Desir will check out just fine. Even if he does struggle in some drills, it is a part of his game the NFL can forgive thanks to his rare overall package of traits that fits well with the current league landscape.
Tyler Starr, OLB, South Dakota
The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year already has the attention of the NFL, even if the media has been slow to catch up.
Tyler Starr was a standout at the East-West Shrine Game, which scored him an invite to the combine. There, Starr will be able to put on a show in front of scouts, many of which already love what he brings to the table. One scout told Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports that Starr has plenty of value:
I like him a lot. He's tall, long and extremely athletic and plays with a high motor. I'd heard some chatter about him this fall and went to see him, and he's way more athletic than I thought he'd be. You still wonder if he has enough power and strength at the point of attack right now to be an every-down guy, but he really has a knack for rushing the passer and he has some real third-down value.
The combine is all about measurements and drills. While they will not alone cement a prospect's stock, a guy like Carr can use the opportunity to garner more attention. More attention equals more film examination and placement on a board.
From there, anything is possible—especially for a versatile pass-rusher who may turn out to be a gem in the later rounds of the draft.
Kapri Bibbs, RB, Colorado State
Far from a household name and hit with a seventh-round grade over at CBS Sports, Kapri Bibbs out of Colorado State has a lot of work to do in order to improve his stock.
Interestingly enough, Bibbs would likely have more hype had he played for a bigger school. Bibbs himself understands this, as he told Ross Jones of Fox Sports:
I think if I was at an SEC school, I’d be first round hands down. I think I really didn’t have any control over who I played or where I played. Those guys I played against were on scholarship, too. And they were playing to the best of their ability just like any other school would.
Bibbs is an explosive back who will have a chance to back up his words at the combine, so do not be shocked when he is one of the biggest buzzing names after all is said and done. The NFL has placed less importance on the position over the years, but Bibbs will carve out a fruitful pro career in a committee.