2016 NFL Draft: Who Were This Year's Biggest Combine Snubs?
As the 2016 NFL draft draws nearer, prospects are hitting the grind hard in preparation for the gauntlet that is the predraft process.
From the all-star game circuit to private workouts, these few months are a complicated, drawn-out job interview for hundreds of NFL hopefuls.
The annual NFL Scouting Combine is arguably the most visible stop on the draft-prep roller coaster, as players are poked, prodded and run through a gamut of drills to test their abilities. It's a useful tool for showing certain traits and abilities to NFL decision-makers, but what about the players who don't end up getting the call to head to Indy for the underwear Olympics?
Here are some of the most worthy candidates who should have received an invite to this year's event but will be watching—and working—from home, instead.
Aaron Green, RB, TCU Horned Frogs
After averaging over seven yards per carry in 2014, TCU Horned Frogs running back Aaron Green saw his workload double in his senior season, and he delivered with 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
After measuring in at just under 5'11" and 203 pounds at the Senior Bowl, Green had an impressive week of practice in Mobile, Alabama, establishing himself as one of the best backs on either all-star squad. Despite that solid senior-season resume, Green didn't receive a combine invite.
Some might write off Green as nothing more than an undersized change-of-pace back at the next level, but his combination of patience, vision and quickness allow him to be a much more effective runner between the tackles than his frame might suggest. He could be a huge steal on Day 3 and an instant contributor at the next level.
Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Four-year starter, freshman All-American, school-record 19 interceptions, impressive showing against eventual national champs, solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl. What else does a guy have to do?
That's what Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders safety Kevin Byard has to be asking after not getting his combine invite, despite turning plenty of heads with his play in Mobile last month. One of the most productive defensive backs in the entire country over his four years in Murfreesboro, Byard has a knack for making the big play and proved he can hang with top competition on multiple occasions.
With a solid NFL frame—5'11", 216 pounds—fantastic instincts and great football IQ, Byard will end up being a steal anytime on Day 3. Not getting a combine invite will only enlarge the chip that rests on his shoulder.
Mike Thomas, WR, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
A former junior college transfer, wide receiver Mike Thomas exploded for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in his senior season, catching 71 passes for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015. He averaged a ridiculous 19.6 yards per reception, the highest mark for any FBS receiver with at least 65 catches.
Listed at 6'1", 200 pounds, Thomas has the size to survive in the NFL, and his combination of technique and ball skills allows him to play even bigger. He has the tools to succeed at the pro level—as Matt Waldman, author of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, points out—and though the consensus seems to have him as a late-round prospect, he looks like a player who could easily outplay that projection once he gets his chance in the pros.
Trevon Coley, DT, Florida Atlantic Owls
Undersized but explosive defensive linemen seemed to be the theme at this year's Shrine Game, and Florida Atlantic defensive tackle Trevon Coley was easily among the best in that category.
At 6'1", 307 pounds, Coley's frame works to his advantage quite often, giving him a lower center of gravity with which to create leverage against opposing blockers. Over his four seasons with the Owls, Coley tallied 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, along with four fumble recoveries and even an interception.
This year's crop of interior defensive linemen is arguably the deepest of any position group in the draft, which made it a tall task for under-the-radar guys like Coley to make the combine cut. But he's a disruptive defender who should make his presence felt at the next level and would have been a worthy invite to Indy.
Jay Lee, WR, Baylor Bears
One of the most pleasant surprises of the receivers at this year's Senior Bowl, Baylor's Jay Lee emerged from teammate Corey Coleman's shadow to produce a noteworthy week of practice among some of the nation's top talent.
Lee caught just 38 passes for the Bears in 2015, but he made each of them count, averaging nearly 20 yards per reception and scoring on eight of them.
At just under 6'2" and 214 pounds, Lee's combination of size, physicality and ball skills makes him one of the more intriguing sleeper candidates at receiver in this year's draft. Despite not being invited to the combine, don't be surprised if he gets plenty of attention from NFL teams on Day 3 of this year's draft.
Jatavis Brown, LB, Akron Zips
Listed at 5'11", 222 pounds, Brown's size will be his biggest obstacle to NFL success. But he's an instinctive, explosive playmaker who dominated the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, flying all over the field and making plays against both the run and pass. He should get a late-round look from a 4-3 team looking for a weak-side linebacker.
Cre'von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic Owls
The second Owl to find a spot on this list, LeBlanc's lack of ideal size—he measured 5'10", 192 pounds at the Shrine Game—will certainly scare off some teams. But he's extremely competitive, shows solid technique and footwork in man coverage and plays bigger than he's listed.
Paul McRoberts, WR, Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
He may have been a relative unknown just a few weeks ago, but a solid performance at the Senior Bowl put McRoberts squarely on the NFL prospect map. At just under 6'2" and over 200 pounds, he has an NFL frame and an intriguing skill set that would have been fun to watch in Indy.
Morgan Burns, CB/RS, Kansas State Wildcats
He's not likely to make it in the NFL as a corner, but Burns was one of the most productive return specialists in the country. His 40-yard dash would have been entertaining on its own, and the positional drills would have given him an opportunity to prove to NFL scouts he is fluid enough to take a chance on as a defender.
Henry Krieger Coble, TE, Iowa Hawkeyes
Dynamic downfield threats at tight end get most of the attention in today's NFL, but there's still a place in the league for quality blockers at the position. The former Hawkeye is as effective a blocker as you'll find in this year's tight end class, and he's a better receiver than he's given credit for.