Surprises, Intrigue, Points To Prove: 10 To Watch At The NFL Combine.

 
on February 20 2013 8:45 PM
It's that time of year again. 333 College Hopefuls head to Indianapolis in an attempt to boost their Draft Prospects to one day realise their dream of playing in the National Football League. The tests at the combine are crucial and could be the difference in getting drafted or not for some. For others, it gives them a chance to move up the rounds in the Draft and earn themselves a larger pay-day. In this column we look at some of the more interesting players to keep an eye on the Combine. Some have questions to answer, others have the potential to surprise. 1. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame. There is no more intriguing prospect at the Combine than Manti Te'o and it has almost nothing to do with his on-the-field ability. With the controversy and speculation surrounding Te'o since the revelations regarding the 'Catfish' incident, Te'o's physical skills have almost been forgotten. This is why the Combine could not come at a better time for the inspirational leader of the fighting Irish. That's not to say the 'Catfish' story will go away whilst he is in Indianapolis, far from it. There is no doubt that Manti Te'o's press conference will be the highlight of the Combine for the journalists present. How he comes through the grilling he will evidently receive will go a long way to determining how the Public will perceive him after this incident. As the naïve man who was duped by an online impersonator. Or the man who knew way before the rest of us did about this situation and joined in with the deception to save his own skin. What Te'o should be more concerned about is how he interviews with the General Managers, Scouts and Coaches of the NFL teams. Before this incident, Te'o was seen as a high character individual. A role model and leader who drove Notre Dame to within one game of the BCS National Championship. He must convince the interviewers that he is still that guy, that this was just an unfortunate event that he should have looked into more closely. Most Draft experts concede that Te'o will fall in the draft after initially being touted as a possible top-5 pick. These interviews will go a long way in determining just how far he falls. He is still a solid First-Round pick and someone could be getting a steal if he's drafted in the 20's. One thing is for sure, Manti Te'o's presence at the Combine is sure to steal all the Headlines. 2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. I recently mocked Geno Smith as the Number 1 pick in the 2013 Draft, providing the Chiefs take a Quarterback. From recent rumours circulating around the NFL, it appears they are leaning towards a trade for the Eagles QB Nick Foles. If this is indeed the case, this Combine becomes huge for Geno Smith. He must demonstrate his tremendous skill set to make Scouts sit up and take notice. Smith hurt himself by not participating in the Senior Bowl. We have seen many players draft stock fly up with a good showing at the Senior Bowl. Smith had enough question marks surrounding him going into this crucial evaluation period that it would have benefitted him greatly. He chose not to take part, making the Combine drills even more critical. He has stated that he will throw at the Combine, which has been seen by some QB's over the years as a risk. Smith cannot afford to let another opportunity slip through his fingers. Smith should test well at the Combine and his skill set warrants a first round pick. Smith's goal in this Combine is to convince the necessary people that he's worth a high pick, even if they have to trade up for him. I still believe that someone will fall in-love with Smith as his skills are hard to ignore when he turns it on and is worthy of a pick in the 5-10 range if the Chiefs do go another direction. 3. Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia. I don't think there's much doubt in anybody's mind Jarvis Jones is going to blow up the Combine. He is supremely fast for his size, has incredible burst and tremendous agility. His Combine scores should be off the Charts. However, that won't be the main concern of the Scouts in Indianapolis. The physical is going to be the vital part of Jones' visit. There have been concerns regarding a spinal condition that Jones has that could limit the amount of time he plays in the NFL. This has caused teams to go cold on the Georgia prospect, citing this condition as too much of a risk. This happens to at least one player every year, teams panic over the severity on a specific condition and remove them completely from their draft boards. Jones' physical will no doubt scare off more than a few teams. He is still pencilled in to be taken midway through the first round and somebody will be getting a steal I can assure you of that. 4. Tyrann Mathieu, CB/KR, LSU. Ahh, the 'Honey Badger', one of the true enigmas of College Football over the last couple of seasons. Unquestionably gifted but often troubled, Mathieu's final year at LSU was a disaster. Suspended from the team for a series of off-the-field incidents, including possession of Marijuana and a failed drugs test. He lost the entire season and cost himself millions of dollars in the process. Whether he is a reformed character or not, time will tell. Teams will be extremely thorough in their background checks and he will have to show in interviews that he has what it takes to contribute to whichever team takes a gamble on him. He will no doubt score well in tests and has been clocked running a 4.47 40 which will impress some teams. He is exceptional in run support for a corner, and whilst his man coverage is still a little raw, if he is willing to work hard he can contribute at the next level. Mathieu is always an accident waiting to happen. He appears easily led, mixes with the wrong people and has trouble staying focused. The noises have been good, he has been working out with former LSU team-mate and Arizona Cardinal Patrick Peterson. Peterson has stated Mathieu is fully focused and knows this is his last chance to be involved in Football. I can't see him going any higher than the fourth round and if his character concerns come to the fore then he may drop off draft boards altogether. 5. William Gholston, DE, Michigan State. William Gholston has a very tough job at the Combine. Convincing the people that matter that he isn't going to go down the same career path as his cousin. Vernon Gholston was one of the hottest properties coming out of College, a premier pass-rusher from Ohio State tipped to be a Superstar at the next level. He was taken 6 overall by the New York Jets and signed a lucrative multi-million dollar deal. The rest, as they say, is history. Gholston turned out to be one of the biggest Draft busts in recent memory. He is currently out of the NFL and he's unlikely to be seen again. Like it or not, that will have an effect on William's draft stock. He is an impressive physical specimen. He is still a bit raw, without question. He also has some character concerns, having altercations with team-mates in the past and has some off the field issues that he will need to explain. That being said, he should score extremely highly at the Combine and whilst he isn't a First Round pick, he could find himself somewhere in the Second or early in the Third. There wouldn't be the risk there was with his cousin financially and the reward could be much greater. 6.Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina. I think it's safe to say Marcus Lattimore may have made a mistake in declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft. He was a lock to go in the first round as one of the premier Running Backs in College. Then, after a strong start to the season, disaster struck. He suffered a season-ending knee injury which would raise serious questions about where he would end up in the 2013 Draft. Some even pronouncing that he should return to College, let his knee heal and enter the 2014 Draft. He has stuck to his original plan which has led to widespread criticism within parts of the media. Lattimore has been working hard to get in shape and that will impress during his evaluations. His physical will determine if there is any lasting damage to his knee, which may scare some teams off. He has stated that he will 'Shock' Doctors with his recovery and just how good his knee actually is. How much, if any, of the drills he'll be able to do at the Combine remains to be seen. I doubt he'll want to risk any further damage if it isn't at 100%. He still has his Pro Day at SC and he always has the interviews to impress Scouts at the Combine. Depending on his medical results Lattimore could go anywhere from the end of the 1st to the 4th round. I'd project him to go somewhere in-between (3rd) for now. Could be a big draft day steal for one team who give him a chance. 7. Ezekiel Ansah, OLB/DE, BYU. Ezekiel Ansah has been flying up Draft boards all year long. No more so than at the Senior Bowl, where he was the standout defensive player by some margin. If he continues this streak by impressing at the Combine, he will be a certainty for the Top 10 and could go as high as 3 overall. He is an imposing figure and will score very well at the Combine. In particular at the agility test and the bench press. I don't envisage there being many better than him at either. He has Scouts salivating at the prospect of drafting him. He is not without his critics, having only played three years of Football some Scouts have questioned whether he has fully adapted to the game and have questioned whether he is worthy of a high pick. He can put these criticisms to rest by impressing during play knowledge or in interviews. He will, without hesitancy be one of the most impressive characters at the Combine. I see him having a similar impact that Jason Pierre-Paul had a couple of years ago. A performance like that would see him as a top 5 pick as the hype surrounding Ansah would be out of control. 8. Robert Woods, WR, USC. Like most players at USC this year, Robert Woods showed flashes of brilliance but ultimately underachieved. Much was expected of USC this season but they flattered to deceive. With Quarterback Matt Barkley struggling Woods went the same way. The Combine could be a chance for Woods to redeem himself. He has every chance to be the star at the combine. He will run a 4.4 40, his vertical leap will astonish and his catching drills will have Scouts falling over themselves for him. He is an extremely gifted route runner and can go either across the middle or down the sideline with the fantastic speed he possesses. He does have some flaws, however. He is your stereotypical 'Diva' wide receiver, often having tantrums and when he declared for the draft he launched a scathing attack on the USC coaching staff. All the great Wide Receivers throughout the years have had a 'Diva' complex (Terrell Owens, Chad Ocho Cinco) and Woods is no different. He will have to interview well but his skills are enough to make him an almost can't miss prospect. He should be able to creep into the first round after his showing at the combine and has the potential to go even higher than that. 9. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama. Simply put, Chance Warmack is the best Guard prospect to come out of College in a Generation. He has the potential to go as high as number 6 and is a sure-fire top 15 pick right now. Astonishing for a Guard, which is not considered as a valued position at the top of the Draft. Warmack will cement this status at the Combine. He is the total package. He has great size and power, his footwork is incredible and he has a nasty streak that makes good offensive lineman great. He is one of the few prospects in this draft class that have no visible question marks regarding his ability or character. He will impress scouts even further at the Combine, particularly with the strength exercises. He has been NFL ready for 2 years now and will be a guaranteed first day starter for whoever drafts him. The fortunate team can also count on him for 10 plus years on solid production as he is durable, intelligent and a model professional. A can't miss prospect who will shine in Indianapolis. 10. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida. Floyd, much like Ezekiel Ansah, has been flying up Draft boards in recent weeks. Scouts have been mesmerised by his high ceiling and strong work ethic. He is set to continue his rise at the combine, where his impressive physical attributes will be evident for all to see. Floyd has everything you need for a successful 3 technique defensive lineman. Explosive, strong and tenacious. Unlike some defensive tackle prospects in this draft, Floyd gets after it on every play. For a man his size he has incredible cardiovascular conditioning. The best thing about Floyd is that he is only going to get better. A solid combine and a successful pro-day could elevate Floyd into the top 10 and possibly higher. Dean Jones: Follow me on Twitter @DeanJones_
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