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2010 NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Who and What To Watch

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2010 NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Who and What To Watch
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Tim Tebow announced he will be waiting until his pro day to unveil his new passing motion which means the NFL Network and the national media will actually have to focus on the other 328 players invited to the combine.

During the course of the next week, be prepared for the doom and gloom of players skipping the combine (Dan LeFevour gets criticized) while others get a free pass (Tim Tebow gets an ESPN headline ) and the stars who will be born thanks to a great 40 time (who will be this year's Darius Heyward-Bey?). In the end, it is important to remember what the combine is and what it is not.  

The combine is a part of the process in which you can evaluate a player's athleticism.  It is also a time in which team's can interview players to gauge intangibles and football intelligence. There is the also the Wonderlic. (hint: it is good to score at least double digits). Most importantly, the combine is not a singular barometer of future NFL success.  Read too much into the athletic skill and ignore too much film, and you will find yourselves the proud owner of the next JaMarcus Russell, Vernon Gholston, or dare I say Mike Mamula.

The NFL Network will focus on the 40 times (do not miss Rich Eisen's annual dash especially if they superimpose Terrence Cody's 40 alongside it), but be sure to watch the drills. Do the corners and safeties look comfortable in their backpedal and transition? Can the linemen display good footwork and balance? Can the running backs catch? You get the point.

Six stories to watch during the 2010 Scouting Combine:

1. How well do the players from small schools perform?  

For all the attention the big names get, the players who likely benefit the most from the combine are the small school guys who only get a handful of scouts out at their pro days. A couple of names with day two potential are Indiana-PA's CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (nice blend of size and speed) and offensive tackles Jared Veldheer (Hillsdale) and Tony Washington (Abilene Christian).  A couple of other small school guys of note are QB Armanti Edwards (Appalachian State), RB Joique Bell (Wayne State), WR Andre Roberts (The Citadel) and TE Clay Harbour (Missouri State). 

2. Indianapolis' Gravitational Pull

One of the most remarkable aspects of the combine is the mysterious effect Indianapolis' slow turf has on players' heights and weights. This year features two crucial measurements in QBs Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy .

If either measures under 6'2", they could see their stock drop as much as a round. Both are listed at 6'3", but watching Clausen stand next to backup QB Dayne Crist (a legitimate 6'4") has long made me think Clausen could struggle to be 6'1" and there are whispers McCoy is barely 6'. As much as you don't want to overrate such a measurement, the list of successful quarterbacks that are 6'1" and under is not a long one.

The weigh ins are also interesting, especially for the running backs, defensive ends, and linebackers who desperately want to look the part but whose true sizes are brought to light. There is also the annual Andre Smith award for the player who shows up the most out of shape. The heavy favorite this year is Smith's former teammate Terrence Cody.

3. The Battle Royale at Cornerback

Joe Haden is the surefire No. 1 corner on the board, but the No. 2 slot remains wide open at this point. As a matter of fact, no positions board is likely to change more in the coming weeks than cornerback and the combine is a chance for some players to step up and step back. 

Key guys to watch are Donovan Warren , Dominique Franks , Kareem Jackson , and Myron Lewis . Each has good size, but have questions about their speed. A couple of players with the ability to vastly improve their stock with strong workouts include Devin McCourty , Joshua Moore , and AJ Jefferson . The 40 times will get the attention but seeing how well they backpedal and transition is likely more important.

4. Ndamukong Suh and the tremendous defensive tackle class.  

Early word is Ndamukong Suh is going to workout in an effort to maintain his overall momentum, but the biggest thing that may hinder Suh and Gerald McCoy on draft day is the overall depth at the position which will be on display in Indy. 

Two players whose stock could rise after the combine are the exceptionally athletic Brian Price (already a first rounder) and the rare combination of size and athleticism of NT prospect Linval Joseph . I am also interested to see how lesser known but talented Arthur Jones and Vince Oghobaase perform. Both players flew under the radar playing on bad teams and are coming off of disappointing senior seasons marred by injuries. If either can prove they are healthy, round two is a possibility.

5.  Will the offensive tackles live up to the hype?  

If there is a position in which teams will look to trade up for in the first round, it will be at offensive tackle. At least 11 teams have offensive tackle listed as a first round possibility, including late draftees Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Dallas, and Indianapolis. The draft has six first round candidates and all but Russell Okung have a lot to prove. 

Top ranked Russell Okung is likely to sit out but Anthony Davis needs to show up in shape and display quick feet. Trent Williams needs to show he's athletic enough to play the left side (not likely) and Bryan Bulaga needs to show he has the strength. Then there are Bruce Campbell and Charles Brown who each possess the athleticism to put on a show at the combine and make teams forget their flaws (Campbell-raw; Brown-size and too much finesse). With a strong workout, Campbell could become the odd's on favorite to be Al Davis' first round pick. 

6. How will the conversion guys (3-4 Rush Linebackers) perform

One of the hardest positions for teams to project are rush linebackers, as very few collegians play in the 3-4 scheme. But this year, there is not a shortage of candidates.  In a deep and closely rated group, the conversion drills will have added importance this year. 

Ricky Sapp , Sergio Kindle , and Jason Pierre-Paul have good size and measureables but will they look comfortable dropping back in coverage? Two other players to pay special attention to are Brandon Graham and Jerry Hughes .  Both are elite pass rushers with quick first steps, but neither has ideal measureables for defensive end (too light) or rush linebacker (too short). There is also a strong middle class of rush linebackers including Willie Young , Antonio Coleman , Koa Misi , and George Selvie who could earn day two selections based on their ability to perform in linebacker drills.

Players I am most excited to see (not necessarily because they are the best at their position):

  • QB: Jevan Snead -Has great measureables but coming off a poor junior season; he is looking to remind scouts why he was once considered a first round pick. 
  • RB: Ryan Matthews - Looks to back up the first round talk.
  • WR: Antonio Brown - Has the speed to be a playmaker and needs to get scouts to take a second look at the tape.
  • TE: Clay Harbour-Great athlete looking to build on a strong showing at the Texas vs. The Nation game.
  • OT: Jason Fox -Is he healthy?
  • OG: Can somebody other than Mike Iupati step up?
  • C: Last year's deepest position is one of this year's thinnest
  • DT: Earl Mitchell -Is he strong enough and a good enough athlete to be a top sleeper?
  • DE: Kevin Basped -Best pass rusher no one is talking about and could be a conversion guy
  • LB: Rennie Curran -Needs a huge workout to get teams to overlook his safety size.
  • CB: All of them-The most competitive position on the defensive side of the ball.
  • S: Chad Jones , Morgan Burnett , and Reshad Jones -Each possesses a good combination of size and athleticism and look to build some momentum in a tightly contested safety position

Be sure to join NFLDraft101.com for a live chat during of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, Feb. 27-March 2, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. each day.

Chris Maier is Senior Editor for nfldraft101.com. He can be contacted at cmaier@nfldraft101.com .  Follow me on twitter: nfldraft101

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