Top Prospects Snubbed by the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine
With 323 invited prospects, the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine will display a vast majority of the players who will be selected in the 2015 NFL draft, which only has 256 picks.
Even so, there are some surprising omissions from this year’s invite list, including Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, Cincinnati linebacker Jeff Luc and more than a dozen others.
While being omitted from the combine is a sign that a player is unlikely to be an early-round pick, it’s also not a death sentence for a player’s draft hopes. According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, there were 32 combine snubs selected in last year’s draft, including Liberty cornerback Walt Aikens, who was selected in Round 4 by the Miami Dolphins.
For teams looking to land the next hidden gem who won’t be at this year’s event in Indianapolis, the following players should be on their radars.
Taylor Heinicke, QB, Old Dominion
Chris Bonner, QB, Colorado State-Pueblo
Neither Heinicke nor Bonner grades out significantly better than being an undrafted free agent, and that might be where both end up. But in a quarterback class that has a serious lack of depth, both were worthy of a chance to perform at this year’s combine.
Heinicke had a highly productive career at Old Dominion and is a smart and accurate pocket passer, but he lacks the physical tools to project as anything more than a backup. On the contrary, Bonner has terrific size and arm strength but needs to significantly improve his accuracy and decision-making.
Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
One of 14 draft entrants with remaining collegiate eligibility to not receive a combine invite, Deion Barnes was viewed as a potential future early-round pick after his redshirt freshman season, but he never built upon his early success to become a star at Penn State.
Barnes, who could have returned for another year of college football but graduated as a redshirt junior, is a decent edge-rusher but failed to flash at this year’s Senior Bowl. He appears to be a fringe draft choice at this point.
James Castleman, DT, Oklahoma State
Castleman made a name for himself in his final collegiate game, the Cactus Bowl, when he scored a rushing touchdown and had a 48-yard catch-and-run in Oklahoma State’s win over Washington.
Also a productive defensive tackle for the Cowboys, Castleman has a solid combination of athleticism and strength, but he was a disappointing performer at this year’s Shrine Game. He has enough talent to warrant a late-round draft choice, but he was not the most deserving defensive tackle left out this year.
15. Darius Kilgo, DT, Maryland
A 6’4”, 320-pound defensive tackle who moves well for his size and had three productive seasons at Maryland, Darius Kilgo has rotational potential for an NFL defensive lineman and is one of the more surprising players left off of this year’s invite list.
Kilgo’s play at Maryland was rarely flashy, but he did his job well. He regularly held up at the point of attack, showed movement skills along the line of scrimmage and recorded 20 total tackles for loss.
Having also performed well at this year’s East-West Shrine Game, Kilgo has a track record of steady play.
Kilgo doesn’t have the explosiveness or hand skills to be regularly disruptive, and he probably will not be selected above the late rounds as a result. But if he can provide depth at multiple interior defensive line positions, which he should be able to do, he could be a valuable Day 3 draft choice.
14. Greg Henderson, CB, Colorado
Another of many players on this list who participated in this year’s Shrine Game, Greg Henderson is an under-the-radar cornerback prospect who turned heads in St. Petersburg but continues to be overlooked, as he is not among the 54 defensive backs going to the combine.
A fluid athlete with great feet for his position, Henderson is coming off of a strong career at Colorado in which he recorded 36 passes defensed, including five interceptions.
Small for a cornerback at only 5’11” and 181 pounds, it’s not surprising that Henderson has been paid little attention while playing on bad Colorado teams. Yet he has held his own against Pac-12 competition and deserves consideration as a potential late-round pick.
Henderson's size limitations might keep him from playing on the outside on an NFL defense, but his change-of-direction quickness and ball skills make him a good fit for a slot cornerback role.
13. Cam Thomas, CB, Western Kentucky
Inconsistent play this past season likely led to Cam Thomas’ omission from the NFL Scouting Combine invite list, but his physical traits could make him an intriguing developmental prospect and late-round draft choice.
At 6’0” and 195 pounds with 32 1/4” arms, Thomas is a long cornerback who moves with fluidity. A three-year starter, Thomas regularly showed playmaking ability over the course of his career, including 11 interceptions and 24 additional passes defensed.
The problem with Thomas is that he has also been prone to giving up some big plays.
While he has the natural tools and ball skills to be an outside cornerback in the NFL, he needs to become a more technically sound player. He shows good physicality in press coverage but has lapses in his play and lets receivers get ahead of him too easily.
All of that said, it would make sense for someone to take a chance on Thomas in the sixth or seventh round. He had plenty of promising moments in his collegiate career and also performed well at the Shrine Game.
12. Terrance Plummer, ILB, Central Florida
A leader of the Central Florida defense, Terrance Plummer showed his ability to be a highly productive middle linebacker over the past three seasons, a span over which he recorded 317 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 14 passes defensed.
Plummer lacks the measurables of an early-round pick, as he measured at just 5’11” and 235 pounds at the Senior Bowl (to which he was a late addition), and he is not an explosive athlete.
As a late-round draft choice or undrafted free-agent signing, Plummer could be a steal. He has good instincts, moves well laterally and is a strong tackler.
Plummer might never be a starting-caliber NFL linebacker, but he projects as a solid backup who could also be a special teams stalwart. He played well enough to deserve a combine invitation and should draw attention to UCF’s pro day.
11. Erick Dargan, S, Oregon
A little-known backup prior to his senior season, Erick Dargan emerged as a key playmaker on the Oregon defense as the Ducks made a run to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That surprisingly was not enough to earn him a spot in the combine, but it could be enough for him to be a late-round draft choice.
In 2014, Dargan put his ability to make plays on the ball on full display. He led the Ducks with 95 tackles and seven interceptions, while he also recorded six additional passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
Dargan proved in his senior year that he could handle the deep coverage responsibilities of the free safety position, and he was a difference-maker in run support.
At 5’11” and 217 pounds with good athletic range, Dargan has the tools to at least be a backup safety in the NFL, and he is also an experienced special teams playmaker.
If taken in the sixth or seventh round, Dargan could potentially provide very good value to the team that drafts him.
10. Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
One of seven early-entrant wide receivers to not receive a combine invite, Houston’s Deontay Greenberry has big upside but might have reason to regret declaring for the draft after a disappointing junior year.
Viewed as a potential early-round pick going into the 2014 season, Greenberry has the natural gifts to be a great playmaker. Listed at 6’3” and 200 pounds, he is both explosive in a straight line and fluid moving laterally.
He was one of the better receivers in the Football Bowl Subdivision as a sophomore in 2013, when he caught 82 passes for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns. Plagued by drops and lazy routes this past season, Greenberry’s numbers dropped to 72 receptions, 841 yards and six touchdowns.
Greenberry’s big-play ability has been evident, never more so than in his final collegiate game, when he caught two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion to lead Houston to a wild comeback victory over Pittsburgh in the Armed Forces Bowl.
His effort has been questionable, and his fundamentals need development. Still, it would be a surprise if no team takes a late-round flier on him, even with his absence from the combine. If he works hard to polish his game, he could emerge as a dynamic offensive weapon.
9. Austin Hill, WR, Arizona
Austin Hill started to generate significant buzz as a future NFL prospect in 2012, when Arizona’s then-sophomore wide receiver caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. A big target with solid athleticism for his size, Hill had a chance to emerge as an early-round prospect for the 2014 or 2015 NFL draft.
Hill’s rise was derailed in April 2013 when he suffered a torn ACL. After missing the entire 2013 season, he was far less productive this past year, as he caught just 48 passes for 630 yards and four touchdowns.
Not a burner to begin with, Hill looked slower as a senior than he had earlier in his career. He could have helped his stock as much as anyone had he performed well in athletic testing at the combine.
Despite his disappointing season, Hill should garner serious consideration as a Day 3 draft pick, especially if he performs well at Arizona’s pro day. He had a good week at the Shrine Game, where he looked fluid in his movements, ran strong routes and measured in at 6’2” and 210 pounds.
Hill might not project as anything more than a fourth receiver at the next level, especially if he does not regain his full speed, but he is a solid possession target who could be a weapon in a team’s short and intermediate passing offenses.
8. Jordan Taylor, WR, Rice
A big wide receiver who has made many spectacular catches thanks to great body control, Rice’s Jordan Taylor has the size and athleticism to create mismatches and be a dangerous jump-ball target.
Remarkably consistent over the past three years, Taylor caught 54 to 57 passes for between 826 to 848 yards in each season. His 842 receiving yards and seven touchdowns came in just 10 games this past season, however, as he missed Rice’s first three contests with a foot injury.
Playing on an offense on which he did not have the benefit of high-caliber quarterback play, Taylor showed off an impressive catch radius and the ability to adjust to inaccurate passes in the air.
Taylor continued to make impressive grabs at the Shrine Game, where he measured in at 6’4 1/2” and 204 pounds.
Although Taylor does not have tremendous speed or route-running ability, it is a surprise that he failed to make the cut for the combine. A player who does not necessarily need separation to make a play downfield, Taylor would be a strong late-round addition for a team looking to add size on the perimeter.
7. Shaq Mason, G/C, Georgia Tech
Perhaps the most surprising snub of any player on this list, Shaq Mason could garner middle-round consideration after a senior season in which the right guard was named as a first-team All-American by USA Today.
Mason’s omission likely stemmed from his lack of height, as he is short for an NFL offensive lineman at only 6’2”. Additionally, he is tough to evaluate as a pass-blocker, as he is coming out of Georgia Tech’s run-heavy triple-option offense.
His tape as a run-blocker is very impressive. At 310 pounds, Mason has terrific foot skills to explode to the second level and to turn the corner for pull blocks. Once he reaches a defender in space, Mason packs a powerful punch that can knock defenders off their feet or drive them backward.
Transitioning to a pro-style offense could take time, and a team might also look for him to shift inside to center because of his small frame. Even so, Mason’s ability to move and make impact blocks downfield should have been enough to earn him a spot in Indianapolis, considering there were 53 other offensive linemen who received invitations.
Because of his athleticism, Mason likely would have been one of the most impressive players in his position group at the combine. Nonetheless, a team would be smart to draft Mason in the fifth or sixth round as a developmental interior offensive lineman.
6. Ray Drew, DE, Georgia
A 5-star recruit out of high school, Ray Drew’s play at Georgia never quite lived up to the hype. Nonetheless, his physical potential and flashes of brilliance could be very intriguing to NFL scouts.
Drew likely would have benefited greatly from combine participation, probably more than anyone else on this list.
Listed at 6’5” and 284 pounds, Drew is an impressive athlete who has long arms and great movement skills for his size. Ideally suited to continue playing as a 3-4 defensive end like he did in college, he exhibits the ability to win from both inside and outside.
Drew never cemented himself as an every-down player at Georgia, and his production was limited as a result. He has a strong burst, quick hands and can translate speed to power, but he lacks defined pass-rushing moves and gets moved backward off the line of scrimmage too easily.
It’s uncertain whether Drew will ever play up to his potential, but he has the tools to possibly develop into a better pro player than he was a college player. As such, he could garner consideration as a fourth- or fifth-round pick despite being left off the combine invitation list.
5. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
It’s very understandable why Kasen Williams did not receive a combine invite. Having caught just 20 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in 2014, his senior-year production did not meet the typical standards of players invited to the event. Even so, he is arguably the most talented prospect that won’t be in Indianapolis.
Two years into his career at Washington, Williams looked like a future early-round pick. A big, athletic wideout with big-play and contested-catch ability, he exhibited the qualities of a future NFL starter when he caught 77 passes for 878 yards and six touchdowns in 2012.
After breaking his left fibula and suffering a Lisfranc foot fracture in 2013, Williams never hit his stride this past season. Similar to Austin Hill, Williams did not display the same speed he had earlier in his career and failed to re-emerge as a key player on his offense.
Also like Hill, Williams had a bounce-back week at the Shrine Game. He moved as fluidly as any receiver during the week’s practices, and while he did not secure every catchable ball, he ran good routes and started to look more like his old self once again.
The combine would have been a great opportunity for Williams to attempt to show that he is fully recovered from his injury and ready to be an impact player once again. His workout at Washington’s pro day now looms as a very important step in his effort to be drafted.
No matter how well he performs there, any team that drafts Williams will be taking a risk, hoping that he can get back on track. Given his potential if he can return to form, that’s a chance a team would be smart to take in the late rounds of the draft.
4. Jeff Luc, ILB, Cincinnati
Like the aforementioned Ray Drew, Jeff Luc was a highly touted recruit whose play never matched his potential—until this past season, when the Florida State transfer became Cincinnati’s starting middle linebacker and led the team with 134 total tackles and six forced fumbles.
Luc, who measured in at 6’0” and 263 pounds at the Senior Bowl, is what one would call a “thumper” of a linebacker. Massive for the position, he is a hard hitter who has a good short-area burst and can explode through a ball-carrier.
Against the run and between the hashes is where Luc does his best work. While he has enough speed to chase down a runner when he has a clear angle, he lacks lateral agility and could be a liability in coverage at the next level.
Luc is more likely to be a role player than an every-down starter in the NFL, but his play in his senior season and a promising week at the Senior Bowl should have been enough to earn him an invite to the combine.
It likely will be enough for someone to chance taking Luc late in the draft, hoping his vast improvement in 2014 from previous years is a sign of things to come.
3. Zach Vigil, ILB, Utah State
One would think that recording 154 total tackles and being named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year would have been enough for Utah State’s Zach Vigil to earn a combine invite. However, he was not one of the 34 linebackers selected for a trip to Indianapolis.
Vigil’s physical tools would not have stood out in a combine workout. He measured in at just 6’2” and 238 pounds at the Shrine Game, and he does not flash much explosive athleticism.
That said, he was seemingly always around the ball this past season, as evidenced by his numbers.
An instinctive linebacker with good play awareness, Vigil changes directions fluidly and sheds blocks well. He makes plays all over the field—including the backfield, as evidenced by his 19.5 tackles for loss this past season—and is a sound form tackler.
At the least, Vigil should be able to prove solid depth on a linebacker depth chart while also contributing on special teams. Despite not being invited to the combine, his resume makes him a good bet to be a Day 3 draft pick.
2. Marcus Rush, DE, Michigan State
It’s no real surprise that Marcus Rush did not receive a combine invite, but only because his play has been generally underappreciated throughout his career at Michigan State.
Although Rush never became a star of the Spartans defense, he was a consistently productive player for the unit. Over the course of his career, he accumulated 163 total tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Participating in the combine might not have done anything to boost Rush’s draft stock. He measured in at only 6’2” and 243 pounds at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and he has no spectacular physical traits.
On the other hand, he is a technically sound, high-motor player who has great hand skills, is quick enough to get after the quarterback and is a solid tackler. He is typically disciplined in his assignments, yet was just as disruptive as any other player on Michigan State’s defense in 2014.
He might be too small to play regularly against the run as an NFL defensive end, but he has the tools to be a quality rotational edge defender and is likely to outperform his draft position. As a late-round pick or undrafted free-agent signing, Rush could prove to be a valuable addition to an NFL roster.
1. Xavier Williams, DT, Northern Iowa
If any player snubbed from this year’s combine is going to defy the odds and be a top-100 pick nonetheless, the best bet to do so is Northern Iowa defensive tackle Xavier Williams.
Williams is coming off of a highly productive senior season in which he recorded 93 total tackles—a whopping number for an interior defensive lineman—including 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks, along with three pass deflections and two blocked kicks.
Validating his dominance from the FCS level, Williams went on to be one of the stars of the Shrine Game. He regularly showcased his burst and power off the line of scrimmage in beating just about every offensive lineman he faced off against in practices.
Williams, who measured in at 6’2” and 325 pounds at the Shrine Game, is a terrific athlete for his size. He has quick hands, good point-of-attack strength and the versatility to play multiple spots along a defensive line.
To make the jump to the next level successfully, Williams needs to become better at disengaging from blocks and rely less upon timing his jumps off the snap, which has led to an unacceptably high rate of incurring offsides penalties.
All of Williams’ flaws are correctable, however, and his potential to be a disruptive interior player is high. His omission from the combine is truly an oversight, and he could easily turn out to be a steal for a team with a Day 3 draft pick.
All Shrine Game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl weigh-in measurables were acquired by Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko. Senior Bowl weigh-in numbers were acquired firsthand.