It might seem like a long march to the NFL draft, but time is already running out for some prospects.
The NFL draft process leaves little room for error when it comes to a prospect's stock. One bad workout or interview can sometimes spell the end of what looked like a promising process.
Luckily for prospects, the same logic goes in the other direction. Players can come out of nowhere in the span of hours to capture the attention of the league and its fans and never fall back down.
The early process is incredibly important for most prospects. As one could imagine, it's especially critical for quarterbacks, the league's most important position. With that in mind, here's a look at a few players who have to blow folks away in the process.
Players Who Must Solidify Stock
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
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Carson Wentz continues to charge ahead as the most hyped prospect as of late, with some suggesting he might eventually take on California's Jared Goff as the top quarterback in the class.
All Wentz has to do is pour cement on his stock.
The North Dakota State product has already begun doing so thanks to an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl. In one of the most critical factors scouts wanted to see, Wentz passed with flying colors, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread:
But the one test Wentz has least control over, his physical measurements, he passed on Tuesday morning. Wentz measured 6-foot-5 1/4, 233 pounds, within close range of his college listing of 6-6, 235. He also measured with the second-largest hands among quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl at 10 inches (Stanford's Kevin Hogan measured 10 1/8 inches). That's a thumbs-up measurement for NFL scouts, particularly those from cold-weather NFL cities who believe bigger hands are important for gripping the ball in freezing temperatures.
The praise didn't stop there. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller weighed in with analysis pertaining to the game itself:
The hype around Wentz has quietly grown for some time. He didn't play at a big school, nor did he have flashy numbers after tossing just 17 touchdowns to four interceptions before an injury derailed his season.
But folks who flicked on the film saw a guy who looked the part of an NFL player and at times hit on all the necessary throws to make it at the next level.
Now Wentz continues to make those who threw his name around early in the process look good. It's just a matter of shoring up the stock by keeping the course.
Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State
Formerly a top-tier prospect the NFL couldn't wait to get its hands on, Ohio State's Adolphus Washington fell off a cliff near the end of the season thanks to an arrest that led to his suspension from the team's bowl game.
Now the rebuilding process begins.
Washington pleaded guilty to his charges, and according to Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm, has been up front about the issue in interviews as he attempts to prove to the league he's not a character risk.
"[Pittsburgh Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin asked me that: How do I go about answering the questions? He told me he thought I should attack it," Washington said. "I did it, so I have to deal with the consequences. I have to explain to them my situation, what occurred."
There has never been much of a question about Washington on the field. At 6'4" and 290 pounds, he's always been a strong interior rusher who can double as an anchor against the run.
As Jeff Cavanaugh of 105.3 The Fan pointed out, Washington has already turned heads on the field at the Senior Bowl:
It seems every year there is a top-tier talent who has to rehab his character behind closed doors in interviews while also using his elite talent on the field to remind the league why he's worth the attention in the first place.
That's where Washington finds himself right now. He might have few equals from a talent standpoint at his position in this class, but it won't matter if he cannot bring his stock up to where it should be by cleansing the off-field image.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Paxton Lynch out of Memphis continues to find himself falling to third behind Goff and Wentz at quarterback.
This doesn't mean Lynch isn't a first-round prospect by any means. It does mean, though, if he doesn't stay afloat and live up to expectations, he could more easily fall from the round.
Lynch finds his stock built on upside. CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler and Rob Rang combined to put it best: "With continued development, Lynch could be this year's version of Blake Bortles—a prospect from the non-Power Five conferences who checks a lot of boxes for NFL evaluators in an average quarterback class."
Credit where it's due—Lynch has already embraced the notion, as captured by CollegeFootball 24/7:
At 6'7" and 245 pounds, Lynch certainly looks the part. He tossed 28 touchdowns to four picks last year at Memphis, but it's clear there might be a spotty transition to the pros based on scheme and the way he struggles to push the ball down the field with accuracy at times.
Lynch peaked quickly after a scheme change. He's going to have to learn again at the pro level. He's already shown a willingness to sit and learn, but showing the league he's far from his ceiling and able to digest a system and execute it is the next big task in front of the Memphis product.
If Lynch wants to stick in the first round, he's going to need to show the league the expansive upside talk deserves to continue.