Thursday, February 25, 2016

NFL Scouting Combine: It All Begins Here #NFLCombine

By Alex Hale, @DaSportsGenius7

As we always anticipate in late February, yes it is time for teams to head to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for everyone's "favorite" event, the NFL Scouting Combine.  Fans will be tuning in to see who runs the fastest 40 time, while scouts will take that information in with other drills players will run.  At the end of all of this, teams will have a fair physical outlook of every prospect in this draft.  Now some players may choose to not participate and rely on their Pro Days, some may participate anyways.  Plus, we all are anticipating the annual winner of the now infamous, "Idiot Test".  The 40 yard dash now has a, "bounty" for the person who can best Chris Johnson's record time of 4.24, which will take up most of the TV time and will ignore other intriguing drills like "The Gauntlet" which is run by WRs.  The combine is one big circus, but out of all of this, I've managed to scrape up 5 names you know already to watch, and 5 sleepers to watch out for at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Top Prospects to Watch:

Jared Goff QB California- We all know about Jared Goff, the technically sound QB with a lightening quick release and ball placement that is undeniably the best in this class.  One of the things people question about Goff is how athletic is Goff?  Goff is deceptively quick and shows on film he can escape sacks and make plays on the run.  But can Goff run plays designed for a QB to run the football?  While most people will tell you to ignore the 40 time, what I will suggest is to not just look at Goff's 40 time, but his Agility Drills too.  Understanding how Goff ranks in both areas will show you not just how fast Goff can run, but more importantly how quick he is on his feet, which can turn Goff from POSSIBLY the #1 QB to the sure fire #1 QB in this draft.  All Goff needs to do is continue to show his passing ability and show he can run a little bit and he'll solidify his spot as the #1 QB.  One note to add: Watch Goff's hand size, one of the most underrated QB traits is hand size and if Goff has a smaller hand size that might translate into struggling in bad weather conditions.

Braxton Miller WR Ohio State- After an extremely strong Senior Bowl week, Braxton has found himself potentially as a 1st Round WR and rightfully so.  He showed the ability to get by defenders and make the plays downfield in the practices.  Now Miller has a golden opportunity to quite possibly do the unthinkable...become the 1st WR taken in the draft.  With recent reports saying LaQuon Treadwell has decided to not run at the Combine, this leaves the door open to another WR to take the spotlight from him.  Miller has enough size to go with his pure athletic ability to actually make the jump towards the middle of the 1st Round.  I fully expect Braxton to blow scouts away with his speed and ability in the drills.  I'll be looking at his High Jump to see how high Braxton can go up to get the ball.  That could really help him jump up in the draft.

Jack Conklin (Michigan State)/Taylor Decker (Ohio State)- I had to classify the two of them together because they're both in the same boat. Both men were standout LTs for their respective colleges, but both men are viewed by scouts as better RT prospects than LT prospects because they don't have the athletic ability to play over on the blind side.  On top of that, it's arguable these players are the #3 and #4 ranked OT in this draft.  With Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley clearly atop of the OT rankings, there's a major gap after those two.
 Someone needs to take advantage of the opportunity and I expect one of these two to fully do that.  The combine is a great opportunity for Offensive Linemen to show they have enough athleticism to potentially play on the blind side, and the ability to play the blind side can mean the difference from 1st Round pick to a 3rd Round pick.  This should be entertaining to watch between these two.

Noah Spence EDGE Eastern Kentucky- Spence, like his former OSU teammate Braxton Miller, dominated the Senior Bowl week and was by far the best player there.  Although Spence comes with his baggage, this is a great test for Spence to see where he's at.  Normally during the Combine there's always one top prospect who fails the so-called, "Idiot" Test.  Last year it was Shane Ray and it would be a damn shame for Spence to do it as well.  But if Spence has his act together, Spence has a chance to jump into the Top 10.  Seeing the talents of Von Miller and what he and the Denver pass rush brought, the NFL is in an era where a talent like Spence is extremely valuable.  While I expect him to show off his speed, I'm curious to see how he benches.  At only 6'2'' 254, he's going to have to show to go with his explosiveness the pure strength that he needs that will help him  handle bigger blockers he will face.  If he does out Oakman and Bosa, you got company.

The Land of The Unknowns:

Rashard Robinson CB LSU- The man already calling his shot saying he'll run the fastest 40 time, it really could benefit him being a big CB to begin with.  According to Dane Brugler, Robinson stands at 6'3'' 185, while has him at 6'1'' 163.  I'm very curious to see what his height and weight are.  If Robinson is what Brugler has him at AND he runs the fastest 40 time, regardless of his skills and off field baggage, Robinson will make a major jump on draft boards by pure athletic skill.  Look at Justin Gilbert folks.  For Cornerbacks right now, people want to find the next Richard Sherman, the big athletic CB that teams can hopefully mold into a total shutdown cornerback.

Devontae Booker RB Utah- Ok we talk about Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott, but we forget Booker was considered to be with Elliott the top RB in this class.  He showed the ability to run the ball effectively and also has the ability to receive out of the backfield.  I would look more towards his agility drills to see how he stacks up against the other RBs in this class.  At 5'11'' 219 lbs, he has the size to play the position, while I would like to see him add more muscle to his frame to potentially be a 3 down back prospect.  I have a 3rd Round grade on Booker and if the Browns look at add another RB in this class, Booker might be on their radar.

Kenny Lawler WR California- A lot of people like to talk about Jared Goff and how successful he was, but most people forget Kenny Lawler was Goff's red-zone target.  Over the past 2 seasons he caught 22 TDs.  While he never caught for over 1000 yards, Lawler has shown the ability to score when he needs to and that is a trait you need to find in big physical receivers.  At 6'3'' 195, Lawler has the size to play big at the position.  One thing to consider, California has produced some good receivers in recent years in Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones.  That always is a good sign knowing the school has a solid recent track record with WRs.

Jeff Driskel QB Louisiana Tech- Yeah, remember this guy at Florida?  The QB who took one of the best offenses in the country and destroyed it.  The question I think that remains after his outstanding turnaround at Louisiana Tech, was it the coaching or was it level of competition?  Driskel without a doubt has the size, arm strength, and athleticism to succeed in the NFL.  But those things have been said before, so it comes down to the interviews and workouts for Driskel.  Driskel needs to impress in team interviews and solidify his skills at the combine and I can see him moving up into the 4-5th Rounds.

William Henry DT/DE Michigan- Michigan fans can cheer all they want about getting Rashan Gary, this Michigan fan asks what could've been had Henry stayed in Ann Arbor.  Henry showed this past year he can play any of the D-Line positions and can cause havoc in the backfield.  Quite possibly Henry was the key to the whole Michigan defense last year (outside of the secondary).  Henry needs to impress at the agility drills because right now at his size (6'4'' 311 lbs), he's viewed as a potential 3-4 NT, but a good showing at the combine might have teams evaluate him more as a 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT.  That right there might send his draft stock soaring.

While the Combine is hyped up to be this big time event that tells us everything we need to know on scouts, here's a friendly game film and see their Pro Days.  As helpful as the NFL Scouting Combine is, it's merely a tool for scouts.  The Combine doesn't define everything so if anyone stands out, take it with a grain of salt until you get all the information.  

But hey folks, it's NFL Draft season... LET THE MADNESS BEGIN!

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