The NFL Scouting Combine begins February 19 as players begin to arrive in Indianapolis for their weekend tryout and interview.
I do not believe a combine performance should be the sole purpose a player should get drafted. I do believe the combine is a big opportunity for players to display their talent and force NFL front offices to go back and examine their film a little bit closer.
Naysayers of the combine, or people that just don’t want to put in the effort to understand it, typically use the name of Mike Mamula as a reason the combine is a waste. Those same people fail to mention players like JJ Watt and Dontari Poe who put themselves on the map at the combine. Both of those players were pro bowlers in 2013. The smart front offices will balance the talent with the film. If a team drafts a player high based solely on his combine performance and without the film to match that display, then that falls on the general manager of that team when that player does not pan out.
While most NFL scouts and personnel men expect players like South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and Clemson WR Sammy Watkins to light up the combine with their speed and athleticism, there are many more players who will put themselves on that map with great performances.
Here are a few players other than Clowney and Watkins that could impress at the combine:
1. Blake Bortles – QB – UCF – Many of you probably know of Blake Bortles, but might not know who he is as a player. Bortles had initially planned on taking part in all drills at the combine, including the throwing portion, but that might still be a “game-time decision” says Bortles’ father. Nonetheless, Bortles will be able to display his big frame (6’4” 230 lbs) and his athleticism. Bortles has also been on a media blitz from the Super Bowl to now, and I believe he could be very impressive when meeting with teams at the combine.
2. Aaron Lynch – DE – USF – Lynch’s natural talent has never really come into question. He has a great frame (6’6” 245 lbs), but also possesses the athleticism and speed to go with that frame. Former Raiders and current USF defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan told me that Lynch will prove to be worth a 2nd or 3rd round pick to some team because of his natural gifts. Lynch must mature mentally to have success and reach his full potential in the NFL. During drills and on the field, I expect Lynch to put on a nice show for scouts, GMs, and coaches in attendance.
3. Ra’Shede Hageman – DT – Minnesota – There has been some speculation that Hageman could put on a “JJ Watt-like” performance at the combine. Hageman is a massive individual that possesses the nimbleness and quickness players his size normally do not have. Hageman is a great example of a player who could perform extremely well at the combine, but GMs will look to see if his talent comes across on film. Initially, and there’s still a lot more I’d like to watch on Hageman, but I see some of Marcus Stroud in his game.
4. Donte Moncrief – WR – Ole Miss – In an extremely deep receiver class this year, every part of the draft process will be important to separating from the rest of the pack. Ole Miss coaches have raved about Moncrief’s athleticism according to Mike Huguenin of NFL.com. Moncrief has NFL size (6’3” 225 lbs), so if he can display some speed and athleticism, that will force GMs and coaches to look a lot deeper into Moncrief’s film to figure out why he had such an average junior season in 2013. Receivers can be difficult to evaluate sometimes if they come from programs without great quarterback play or an offense that does not use the entire field in the pass game.
5. Trevor Reilly – DE/OLB – Utah – Reilly is coming off of arthroscopic knee surgery back in January that forced him to miss the senior bowl, so it is uncertain how much he will be able to do at the combine. When I went to watch some video of the 6’5” 255 lb DE/OLB, I did not know what to expect. On the first play, Reilly faked like he was going to rush the passer before going into a smooth backpedal and into coverage. Reilly displays very good athleticism in space, but also shows the ability to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer. He has been training since his surgery for the combine, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to fully display all of the talent he possesses.