We are nearing the most talked about event leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, and that is the NFL combine. There are many players who have much to gain from a good performance at the combine.
This is the place where off-the-radar players make the NFL coaches and scouts go back and watch more tape. It is a place where players with certain stigmas about their speed, agility, strength or stamina go to throw those evaluations out of the window.
Here are a few players who look to show teams on February 22 that they are ready for the next level.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
This young man is one of the nation’s best cornerbacks if you watch the film, but his size and speed have often been considered not ideal.
Jason Verrett feels confident heading into the combine. He told Sporting News,
I’ve been preparing for a month-and-a-half now for the Combine…. I’m gonna shock them. They feel like I’m gonna run a slow time. All my life I’ve been challenged as a smaller, shorter guy. But I’m lion-hearted. They said I was too small to corner; that I wasn’t big enough or fast enough. He’s not 6-foot. I can’t change my height, but I can showcase my speed.
It is clear that Verrett’s mind is in the right place—it will all fall on if his body is in the right place as well.
Projected pick before combine: Second round.
Projection with a good combine: Mid-first round.
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Speed, quickness and more speed. That is the way you describe De’Anthony Thomas. His big playmaking ability is very well documented, but teams will doubt his durability in the pros due to his lack of size.
Thomas is 5’9”, 175 pounds and this is a bit different than Verrett’s situation. A cornerback can get away with being small as long as he can stick to his man and react on a ball in the air. A running back does not have the luxury of avoiding serious impact all of the time.
Mike Mayock of NFL.com said, in his annual pre-combine conference call, "Because of his speed and playmaking ability, in today's NFL he's more valuable than he would have been six, eight, 10 years ago. He probably goes in the fourth-round area.”
That statement is about right, but it will take a tremendous 40-yard dash time to remind teams one last time what they may be passing up.
Projected pick before combine: Fourth-fifth round.
Projected pick with a good combine: Third round.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Yes, I know. Clowney is a sure-fire top-ten pick. That does not mean there is not a lot at stake here for the young star.
If you asked anyone one year ago today who the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is going to be, they would have told you, no questions asked, Jadeveon Clowney. Some people said that he should not have even played football this year to avoid injuring anything.
But Clowney did play, and his numbers declined dramatically. He forced an unprecedented amount of double teams and forced many rushed plays. But those don’t show up when you look him up, so people have grown to question the hype.
People questioned his motor and if he really cared about football. Well, from the looks of it, he cares, and very much so. He has already said on The Dan Patrick Show that he plans to participate in every event in the combine. This could, and should, throw away any doubts in team’s minds.
Bill Polian describes Jadeveon Clowney as once in generation pass rusher and invokes Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Julius Peppers.— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) February 20, 2014
In an article from Dan Greenspan on NFL.com, Clowney is quoted having said, "The numbers I am going to put up are going to be amazing." I hope so Clowney. The number one pick in the draft may depend on it.
Projected pick before combine: Early first round.
Projected pick with a good combine: First pick in the first round.