NFL Scouting Combine: Who has the most to gain or lose
Now that the Scouting Combine is upon us, dozens of pseudo experts will be attempting to reduce 329 football players into purely scientific measurements for success.
Several of these players will put up poor numbers that cost them in the draft, but ultimately prove to be great football players thanks to heart, instinct, and other immeasurable's.
Other players will see their stock rise tremendously, as gaudy 40 times and strong bench presses will artificially inflate their value, only for the high draft picks to flounder in NFL mediocrity.
Here is a look at the players of each position whose stock has the biggest potential to rise or fall based on what they do in the upcoming combine.
A former tight end, Brown shows great athleticism and played his best football in his senior year. At six-five and 296 pounds present listing, Brown will be watched closely at the combine to make sure he has the size and strength to be an elite left tackle. If he doesn’t tip 300 he may drop to the second round as he could be considered either a zone scheme blocker or right tackle only.
Honorable Mention: Selvish Capers (West Virginia) Like Brown, Capers is going to be watched closely at his weigh-in. There isn’t a large market for sub-300 pound left tackles and Brown figures to the first team willing to go for a ‘smaller’ guy. As a somewhat raw prospect, Capers stands to have the combine’s physical measurables to yield an even greater impact.
Already considered the best zone-blocking guard, Johnson falls into a similar situation as the tackles before him. At six-five and 305 pounds, teams may wish to see some extra size and strength out of Johnson if they are to take him in the second round.
Honorable Mention: Jon Asamoah (Illinois)— While the running trend among defensive lineman tends to be concerns with too much weight, the opposite seems to be holding true on the offensive side. Jon Asamoah weighed in at six-four 300 pounds at the senior bowl, while already having the shortest arms (31 inches) among all offensive linemen. Ten pounds of muscle would go a long way to bumping him to possible third round status.
Matt Tennant-- Boston College
As the lightest and fastest Center prospect, Tennant could turn an eye with one of the only sub-5.00 40 times from the position. Something that may catch the eye of a team that likes pulling its center or getting him out in front on runs.
Honorable Mention: John Estes (Hawaii) One of the better players in the WAC, he set an NCAA record for most career starts at 54. This will be Estes times to showcase himself alongside centers from more prominent teams and conferences.
With Clausen and Bradford both injured for the combine, the second and third round quarterbacks will be receiving a lot of attention. As the biggest quarterback prospect, Pike wants to prove a sub-par senior bowl is not reflective of his true abilities.
He is already a smart and accurate quarterback. If Pike can show improvement on his average arm strength then the mobile big man could improve his stock to second round status.
Honorable Mention: Tim Tebow (Florida) The obvious one, Tebow will need to put the mechanics he is currently reworking on display and prove he has the ability in addition to the intangibles.
Ryan Mathews—Fresno State
The upper ranks of the running back field tend to fall along two lines. The first would be “the next Chris Johnson” molds of smaller backs with great speed and quickness, such as Jahvid Best and C.J. Spiller. The other would be the 230+ pound large backs such as Jonathan Dwyer, Anthony Dixon, LeGarrete Blount, and Toby Gerhart.
Mathews projects as the highest ranked player that doesn’t fit within either constraint. At 5-11 and 220 pounds, Mathews can boost his standings by showing off his great speed for his size, as well as a tremendous ability to make sharp cuts and turn on a dime.
Beyond showcasing his already known speed, Mathews will need to show an improvement in his upper body strength in order to jump into late first or second round status.
Honorable Mention: Joe McKnight (USC) McKnight did a good job of putting on a few pounds of muscle, but coming from the same team, with the same size and attributes, teams may see Reggie Bush's inability to become a lead back as reason to let McKnight drop a round. He needs to either keep up with Best or Spiller in the 40 or show added size and strength.
Jackson is presently considered a great lead blocking fullback that doesn’t really do much else. The past few years have signaled a change in offensive style and Lorenzo Neal types are getting much rarer. Jackson could help his stock by showing a capacity to do something if the football is put in his hands.
Honorable Mention: Willie Rose (Florida Atlantic) An effective blocker that can catch the football, Rose saw his reception total dip from 38 to 23 last season. He will need to show that ability to catch and run, as few teams would take a 225 pound fullback purely for his blocking abilities.
Dez Bryant—Oklahoma State
Bryant is the consensus top ranked wideout, but where he falls with relation to other top twenty prospects remains to be seen. The tail end of his final year was cut short by the NCAA’s illogical methodology, so this will be his first chance in quite awhile to give scouts fresh tape.
His physical attributes will speak for themselves, but Bryant does need to show greater focus. He showed a few more dropped balls and penalties than teams may want out of a upper-tier pick (garnering Braylon-Edwardsish concerns).
Honorable Mention: Arrelious Benn (Illinois) A late first round talent that will probably go in the second or third. Benn was hurt by both drops and a poorly conceived Illinois offense. He will need to show the sometimes lack of focus and effort stemmed from his situation and isn’t reflective of him as a player.
Physically he is the number one tight end prospect, however he is battling for that title with Florida's Aaron Hernandez because he had been out of football since September of 09 with torn cartilage in his right knee. It would be a surprise if more than one of the two were drafted in the first round, so a sizeable difference in contract could weigh in at the Combine.
Honorable Mention: Rob Gronski (Arizona) Another top tight end prospect who has to prove himself at the combine after missing time due to surgery to his back. He will be the third tight end taken if the combine shows him at or near 100 precent, if he hasn’t yet recovered he could drop from a second two a third or fourth round prospect.
No other player has as much riding on his weigh in. Looking dangerously close to 400 pounds at the Senior Bowl, Cody has to show he put forth a significant commitment to weight loss and conditioning. Best case scenario could put him back into the first round, but if he shows up in the same or worse shape than the senior bowl, even with the dearth of nosetackle prospects he could be looking at a late second or early third round choice.
Honorable Mention: Brian Price (UCLA) After a tremendous Junior campaign, Brian Price elected to strike while his prospects were high and declared for the draft. At six-two and 300 pounds flat, he will need to impress, as he projects to 4-3 defensive teams only while many teams are jumping over to 3-4 schemes requiring 320+ pound nosetackles.
He stands a strong chance of converting to a 3-4 linebacker. Graham will look to be turning heads with his speed, and has the potential to put up a 4.6 40, which could up his draft stock considerably, and take the late first round talent up several slots.
Honorable Mention: Carlos Dunlap (Florida) The athleticism is there, he will need to show well with effort and in interviews to disprove concerns over laziness and lethargy paired with character concerns after a DUI charge earlier this year.
Navorro Bowman—Penn State
He will need to excel in the Combine to prove himself, as his small size (six-one 228 pounds) makes him strictly a 4-3 linebacker where demand is not that strong at the moment. Paired with this are character concerns surrounding past legal issues will make his interviews and aptitude testing important.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Spikes (Florida) A first round lock had he declared early, Spikes will have to make up some ground in the combine after his senior season exposed a few of his flaws. The idea that he is somewhat slow for his position will give his 40 time greater impact.
Kyle Wilson—Boise State
He excelled as both a defender and a return-man, but will take in some concerns by nature of playing in the relatively soft WAC. This will be Wilson’s chance to emerge as the second or third best corner by showcasing himself alongside the stars of other more reputable conferences.
Honorable Mention: Kareem Jackson (Alabama) He showed tremendous ability as a defender, breaking up 13 passes for Alabama as a senior, his stock could hinge on his somewhat slow 40 time, which he will be hoping he can get below 4.5.
Before his senior year began Mays was one of the more highly regarded defenders of any position in the NCAA. He still showed his ability as a powerful and dynamic hitter, but his difficulties in coverage this season could peg him as the next Roy Williams rather than Troy Polamalu.
Honorable Mention: Nate Allen (South Florida) One of the more underrated prospects in this draft, Allen will be looking to show scouts that his 85 tackles, four interceptions, and four deflected passes were no fluke.