The NFL Scouting Combine is upon us as the first of the weekend spectacle begins Saturday (Feb. 23) and runs through Tuesday (Feb. 26). While some contemplate the changes that could be made to the combine in the future (and here), for now the weekend in Indianapolis remains focused on the athletes present. Here’s your list of participants, as well as a link to NFL.com’s official “NFL Scouting Combine” page (please note: these links will open in a new window).
So what is the combine and what does it accomplish? Simply put, it is an event – one becoming increasingly spectacle in nature – that allows NFL teams to pick and prod at some of the top draft eligible talent. If you follow football, you already know this, but let’s also keep in mind that the combine, while important, doesn’t define any particular prospect. Sure, there are players who dominate these drills and tests and get selected much higher in the draft than they would have without that success, and of course there are others who do the exact opposite and scare teams off come combine week. However, the general rule is that everything here oftentimes is used for re-evaluation. For example, a player uses the combine to showcase an ability (like arm strength) that maybe scouts question from watching game tape. A good showing doesn’t instantly mean teams forget the game tape, but instead it makes those teams go back and reassess that tape, thus potentially altering the perception of that player. Long story short, this is merely one part of the many ingredients that go into pre-draft preparation.
This year’s draft class is an interesting one to assess and one that could make many teams go back to the game tape come late next week. This class is ridiculously talented on the lines. Offensive line, defensive line, pure pass rushers, road paving offensive lineman, this is the draft to get your “big uglies”. With no clear-cut number one pick, a solid showing by one of the top lineman, on either side of the line, could make a solid case for the first selection.
That gets to our next point… the quarterbacks.
This year’s class isn’t awful, but lack the clear cut favorite. The same can be said for a deep and talented running back, which simply lacks the top back prospect. Wide receivers seems to be in a similar situation and the tight ends this year won’t be reminding anyone of the 2010 Draft (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Gresham…etc). Cornerbacks seem to be similar to years past in terms of the quality of the field with Alabama CB Dee Milliner, a potential top-5 pick, leading the way, while this class seems to be deeper than past years at the safety position. Linebackers, outside of the numerous questions still surrounding Notre Dame prospect, Manti Te’o and the ability of the Georgia prospects (Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree), the group isn’t eye-popping.
Things to Watch:
I realize there are hundreds of things to watch come Saturday, but here are just a couple catching my eye at this point.
LB Alec Ogletree – I know I just mentioned the Georgia star above… well… he was arrested for a DUI earlier in the month… Now I can’t imagine those interviews with NFL teams. You are only weeks away from one of the biggest events that – despite what I said above – can make or break your draft spot and you find yourself arrested with a DUI? It will be interesting to see how he handles it.
LB Manti Te’o – I don’t really want to spend too much time on this. He has the big “Hoax Girlfriend” controversy going on right now and there are some questions about his physical ability (don’t blow that out of proportion – he will be a fine player, but he may not test as well as some would like). Oh and for the girlfriend story: here.
The Quarterbacks – The top guy, at this point, is West Virginia product, Geno Smith, but after that, there is a jumble of talented, yet unproven players. That would include Syracuse product Ryan Nassib, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, N.C. State’s Mike Glennon, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson (I don’t mention USC’s Matt Barkley as he as chosen not to throw at the combine).
The Lineman – Like I said, this is a deep class on both fronts and so I expect to see some very athletic and impressive performances from the defensive lineman and solid showings from the deep offensive line group.