For NFL draft hopefuls, an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine can be a major step toward realizing their dream of playing football at its highest level. Though most of these prospects have spent multiple seasons perfecting their craft in the collegiate ranks, the combine provides them with a chance to perform in front of NFL executives in a controlled environment.
For prospects who are coming out of smaller college programs, an invitation to the combine can be even more integral to achieving their goal. For these players, the combine might be one of the only chances they have to shine under the spotlight.
Major-program products such as Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Clemson safety Jayron Kearse received plenty of exposure during their runs to the College Football Playoff. The same can't be said for guys like Illinois State running back Marshaun Coprich or Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew.
A strong performance at the combine, however, can at least help level the playing field. There's nothing like an eye-popping performance in Indianapolis to get scouts digging through a player's game film for further analysis.
We're going to take a look at some of the top small-school draft prospects who will be worth watching at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. These are the players from lesser-known programs who appear to already have the physical tools and on-field track records to get drafted, and who can see their stock rise significantly with strong combine performances.