For those who do not know, the NFL’s scouting combine begins on February 20th and concludes on the 26th. Every coach, general manager, and pro scout will be conducting interrogations (interviews), intently watching drills, and evaluating talent. Top prospects will be re-graded and everyone will be searching for the next diamond in the rough. Rest assured, someone will go into this process being a 3rd round pick and come out being a solid first rounder; someone will go in carrying a first round grade and come out bearing a 3rd round grade; a player you have barely heard of will assure himself of being drafted, and one who is a household name will have his dreams of gridiron greatness hit a serious detour.
How are Combine Invitee’s chosen?
National and BLESTO scouting services (which combined are employed by 25 of the 32 NFL teams) along with an anonymous group of NFL player personnel executives meet in January. Any player receiving a plurality of votes receives a combine invite. This results in the first set of combine invites that go out in early January. Additionally, because there are more WRs than there are QBs to run drills for them, a few "throwing" QBs are added to the list. Also it is not uncommon for highly thought of prospects to completely skip the combine (though this is becoming less common) so replacement picks are made. A second set of invites is then sent out in very early February and the official list announced shortly thereafter. This year 332 men will descend on Indianapolis nursing the same dream they have had since they were a little boy to play professional football. With only 250 or so picks in the draft (the number changes slightly every season for compensatory selections) not all of them will make it. Beyond that typically 20-30 players not invited to the combine will be drafted by some team that uncovers them between now and April. So while all 332 participants dream of being drafted, 100 of them will simply not make the grade.
So who can answer some questions…and who can pose a few of their own?
1. Who will post the fastest 40 time?
It is a safe bet for it to be a WR/RB/CB. It doesn’t necessarily translate into even being drafted though, football is not a track meet. To prove the point: Chris Johnson and Rondel Menendez are tied for the fastest official 40 time at the combine at 4.24. Johnson’s vaulted him from a 2nd round pick to an easy 1st round stud, Menendez got drafted in the 7th round by the Eagles and never caught an NFL pass. Some contenders in my projected "40 time" order of finish:
Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas. Goodwin is an Olympic long jumper and lightning fast.
Denard Robinson, WR/RB, Michigan. His legs carried him through 4 seasons at Michigan. Can they carry him to a selection on draft day?
B.W. Webb, CB, William&Mary. Light as a feather but fast as a Ferrari.
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon St. He can flat out fly and is auditioning both as a WR and return man.
Ontario McCalebb, RB, Auburn. Not sure how healthy he is but he has some eye popping in line speed.
Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego St. May not quite have the top end burst as the others do, but he's the most consistent speedster outside of Goodwin on the list
2. Who needs the biggest week?
Any of the small school guys -- and by small school I mean the players coming from FCS, DIV II, and DIV III who need to show they have the athletic ability to compete with the big boys. 33 of the 332 players invited are from outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision. If you are a RB like Miguel Maysonet of Stoney Brook, a defensive back like Demetrius McCray of Appalachian State, or OT Terron Armstead from tiny Arkansas Pinebluff your time to shine is now.
3. Which 5 players need the best interview?
The interview process is actually the biggest part of the draft prep for teams at the combine weekend. They have plenty of game tape on how players perform but this is a job interview, and prospects need to convince a team to draft them and invest millions of dollars. Some need the interview more than others.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU – No player needs a better interview than Tyrann, undersized at 5’8-9 ish and having struggled at times against larger receivers, Mathieu still brings 3rd round talent as a return man, slot corner, and special teams ace. He also has had three drug related incidents (that we know of) in his short stint at LSU. To make matters worse, he got arrested a few months ago for possession of marijuana just a few days after leaving a rehab facility.
Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia – Top 10-15 talent and gets a DUI earlier this month. Less than a month before the biggest interview of your life you get stopped for a DUI? That does not show good judgment. To make matters worse per ESPN his suspension that cost him the first 4 games of this season for Georgia was for a failed drug test. That does not bode well at all, teams will want to know how serious he is about football. Can he be counted on to maintain his eligibility to play and show up every game day? Whatever happens because the arrest is in such close proximity to the NFL combine he will begin his career enrolled in the NFL substance abuse program, meaning his first failure in the NFL will result in a suspension.
Geno Smith, QB, W. Virginia – Geno does not have the character issues as above, but he comes from a spread single read offense at West Virginia. Bottom line: he needs to show the mental makeup to make reads from under center: he needs to speak well to coaches and in football terms that will make some offensive guru fall in love.
Baccari Rambo S Georgia – Twice suspended for violating team rules, Rambo failed to maximize his talent and never materialized as one of the top 3 safeties in this draft. The Taylor Mays comparisons may not be too far behind as a player who is simply too immature to take his craft seriously and may fall like he has been all season.
Sheldon Richardson DT Missouri – Suspended earlier this season for a violation of team rules and has had problems staying eligible academically. More than that, he made that "Old man football" comment about Georgia. Some coaches will call that good attitude (think Rex Ryan) but some who run a tight ship (Joe Philbin) will be less amused.
4. Which Players need a great workout?
Workouts are used particularly by players from outside the FBS to show they have the natural talent to be as dominant as they were at a lower level of competition. It also helps to generate "buzz" about their name and make sure every team at least takes a good look at them.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame – Perhaps no player in this process is in need of some positive noise as much as Te’o. He played the worst game of his 50-game college career against Alabama in the National Title Game, which is troubling to some scouts. Then there's the hoax story which is troubling to fans (though most NFL GM’s are ignoring it). Being the victim of the hoax Manti desperately needs to generate some solid positive news and show he belongs in the top 15.
Johnathan Cyprien, S, FIU – Cyprien picked up HUGE momentum following an exceptional Senior Bowl. Now he needs to show his athletic ability that led him to record 93 tackles(3.5TFL), 4 interceptions, and 8 pass deflections as a senior for Florida International. He’s risen from being a day 3 only guy to someone who is solidly in the day 2 mix. He needs to finish what he started two months ago put on a show and finish the draft process strong.
Tavon Austin, WR, W.Virginia – I hope Tavon is taking this seriously, as he’s only 5’9" but has shown first round production and shiftiness. He needs to make sure that no one gets the mindset that he’s a system guy or a returner only option. If you are 5’9" you need to be able to burn.
Rex Burkhead RB/H-back/FB Nebraska – Burkhead has been highly productive and very versatile at Nebraska. Right now he has the label as a good, high character college player who may not be athletic enough to play in the NFL. He needs to show some raw talent to make NFL scouts believe he can be as versatile at the next level.
Jonthan Banks, CB, Mississippi St. – He’s getting pushed and in some circles replaced by Xavier Rhodes as the #2 CB in this draft. He needs to show out in order to stem the bleeding.
5. Big Boo’s to the NFL Official Website
It’s obviously written by someone who has never watched a football game. They list all RBs and FBs together, All Downlineman under DL, rather than DT or DE, all CBss and safeties merely as DB. In general they make it really hard to follow who was invited. So for you dear reader here is who is going to be at the combine, by their conventional position, combine jersey number, name , and school.
|QB||QB01||Barkley, Matt||Southern California|
|QB||QB03||Cameron, Colby||Louisiana Tech|
|QB||QB05||Glennon, Mike||North Carolina St|
|QB||QB08||Klein, Collin||Kansas St|
|QB||QB09||Manuel, E J||Florida St|
|QB||QB13||Smith, Geno||West Virginia|
|QB||QB14||Sorensen, Brad||Southern Utah|
|RB||RB01||Anderson, C J||California|
|RB||RB04||Bell, LeVeon||Michigan St|
|RB||RB05||Bernard, Giovani||North Carolina|
|RB||RB11||Ford, Michael||Louisiana St|
|RB||RB15||Harper, D J||Boise St|
|RB||RB21||Lattimore, Marcus||South Carolina|
|RB||RB23||Maysonet, Miguel||Stony Brook|
|RB||RB25||Michael, Christine||Texas A&M|
|RB||RB27||Randle, Joseph||Oklahoma St|
|RB||RB28||Riddick, Theo||Notre Dame|
|RB||RB29||Rouse, Robbie||Fresno St|
|RB||RB32||Thompson, Christopher||Florida St|
|RB||RB33||Tucker, Matthew||Texas Christian|
|RB||RB34||Ware, Spencer||Louisiana St|
|RB||RB35||Williams, Kerwynn||Utah St|
|RB||RB38||Wood, Cierre||Notre Dame|
|FB||RB06||Bohanon, Tommy||Wake Forest|
|FB||RB07||Boren, Zach||Ohio St|
|FB||RB26||Pryor, Lonnie||Florida St|
|FB||RB36||Wilson, Braden||Kansas St|
|WR||WO02||Austin, Tavon||West Virginia|
|WR||WO03||Bailey, Stedman||West Virginia|
|WR||WO04||Bonner, Alan||Jacksonville St-Al|
|WR||WO05||Boyce, Josh||Texas Christian|
|WR||WO07||Davis, Marcus||Virginia Tech|
|WR||WO09||Fuller, Corey||Virginia Tech|
|WR||WO10||Goard, Tyrone||Eastern Kentucky|
|WR||WO13||Harper, Chris||Kansas St|
|WR||WO18||Kaufman, Brandon||Eastern Washington|
|WR||WO22||Moe, T J||Missouri|
|WR||WO25||Patton, Quinton||Louisiana Tech|
|WR||WO27||Rogers, DaRick||Tennessee Tech|
|WR||WO29||Sanders, Ace||South Carolina|
|WR||WO30||Smith, Rodney||Florida St|
|WR||WO33||Swope, Ryan||Texas A&M|
|WR||WO36||Wheaton, Markus||Oregon St|
|WR||WO38||Wilson, Marquess||Washington St|
|WR||WO39||Woods, Robert||Southern California|
|TE||TE01||Cunningham, Justice||South Carolina|
|TE||TE02||Eifert, Tyler||Notre Dame|
|TE||TE04||Escobar, Gavin||San Diego St|
|TE||TE08||Jefferson, D C||Rutgers|
|TE||TE13||Otten, Ryan||San Jose St|
|TE||TE14||Pantale, Chris||Boston Col|
|TE||TE17||Sims, Dion||Michigan St|
|TE||TE18||Stoneburner, Jake||Ohio St|
|C||OL11||Cave, Braxston||Notre Dame|
|C||OL25||Holmes, Khaled||Southern California|
|C||OL28||Johnson, T J||South Carolina|
|C||OL34||Lonergan, P J||Louisiana St|
|C||OL36||Madsen, Joe||West Virginia|
|C||OL46||Stankiewitch, Matt||Penn St|
|OG||OL02||Allen, Zach||North Carolina St|
|OG||OL09||Bond, Travis||North Carolina|
|OG||OL13||Cooper, Jonathan||North Carolina|
|OG||OL22||Gilkey, Garrett||Chadron St|
|OG||OL31||Johnson-Webb, Jamaal||Alabama A&M|
|OG||OL33||Kugbila, Edmund||Valdosta St|
|OG||OL53||Watford, Earl||James Madison|
|OG||OL58||Winters, Brian||Kent St|
|OT||OL08||Becton, Nick||Virginia Tech|
|OT||OL10||Brown, Braden||Brigham Young|
|OT||OL12||Cleary, Emmett||Boston Col|
|OT||OL15||Faulk, Chris||Louisiana St|
|OT||OL16||Fisher, Eric||Central Michigan|
|OT||OL17||Fluker, D J||Alabama|
|OT||OL18||Foketi, Manase||West Texas A&M|
|OT||OL19||Fragel, Reid||Ohio St|
|OT||OL21||Gaines, Rogers||Tennessee St|
|OT||OL26||Jackson, Mark||Glenville St|
|OT||OL27||Joeckel, Luke||Texas A&M|
|OT||OL30||Johnson, Oscar||Louisiana Tech|
|OT||OL38||Marquardt, Luke||Azusa Pacific|
|OT||OL40||Mills, Jordan||Louisiana Tech|
|OT||OL42||Painter, Vince||Virginia Tech|
|OT||OL44||Quessenberry, David||San Jose St|
|OT||OL49||Tretter, J C||Cornell-Ny|
|OT||OL54||Watson, Menelik||Florida St|
|OT||OL55||Weaver, Jason||Southern Mississippi|
|OT||OL56||Wetzel, John||Boston Col|
|OT||OL57||Williams, Brennan||North Carolina|
|NT||DL02||Barnes, T J||Georgia Tech|
|DT||DL04||Boyd, Josh||Mississippi St|
|DT||DL08||Dawkins, Everett||Florida St|
|DT||DL15||Grissom, Cory||South Florida|
|DT||DL16||Hankins, Johnathan||Ohio St|
|DT||DL17||Hill, Jordan||Penn St|
|DT||DL23||Jones, Chris||Bowling Green|
|DT||DL28||Lewis-Moore, Kapron||Notre Dame|
|DT||DL29||Logan, Bennie||Louisiana St|
|DT||DL41||Smith, Jared||New Hampshire|
|DT||DL48||Williams, Brandon||Missouri Southern St|
|DT||DL52||Williams, Sylvester||North Carolina|
|DE||DL01||Ansah, Ziggy||Brigham Young|
|DE||DL03||Bass, David||Missouri Western St|
|DE||DL05||Bryant, Armonty||East Central|
|DE||DL07||Carradine, Tank||Florida St|
|DE||DL10||Edwards, Lavar||Louisiana St|
|DE||DL13||Gholston, William||Michigan St|
|DE||DL20||Jenkins, Brandon||Florida St|
|DE||DL31||Maponga, Stansly||Texas Christian|
|DE||DL33||Mingo, Barkevious||Louisiana St|
|DE||DL34||Montgomery, Sam||Louisiana St|
|DE||DL35||Moore, Damontre||Texas A&M|
|DE||DL42||Smith, Quanterus||Western Kentucky|
|DE||DL46||Taylor, Devin||South Carolina|
|DE||DL47||Werner, Bjoern||Florida St|
|DE||DL53||Williams, Tourek||Florida Int|
|OLB||LB02||Barrington, Sam||South Florida|
|OLB||LB06||Collins, Jamie||Southern Mississippi|
|OLB||LB10||Hodges, Gerald||Penn St|
|OLB||LB11||Holloman, Devonte||South Carolina|
|OLB||LB16||Knott, Jake||Iowa St|
|OLB||LB18||Magee, Brandon||Arizona St|
|OLB||LB22||Moody, Nick||Florida St|
|OLB||LB25||Porter, Sean||Texas A&M|
|OLB||LB28||Sabino, Etienne||Ohio St|
|OLB||DL40||Simon, John||Ohio St|
|OLB||DL50||Williams, Nate||Ohio St|
|ILB||LB05||Brown, Arthur||Kansas St|
|ILB||LB09||Hepburn, Brandon||Florida A&M|
|ILB||LB15||Klein, A J||Iowa St|
|ILB||LB19||Mauti, Michael||Penn St|
|ILB||LB21||Minter, Kevin||Louisiana St|
|ILB||LB27||Reddick, Kevin||North Carolina|
|ILB||LB29||Stewart, Jonathan||Texas A&M|
|ILB||LB30||Taylor, Bruce||Virginia Tech|
|ILB||LB32||Te'O, Manti||Notre Dame|
|CB||DB01||Adams, Johnny||Michigan St|
|CB||DB02||Alford, Robert||Southeastern Louisiana|
|CB||DB03||Amerson, David||North Carolina St|
|CB||DB05||Banks, Johnthan||Mississippi St|
|CB||DB10||Davis, Will||Utah St|
|CB||DB16||Hayden, D J||Houston|
|CB||DB20||Johnson, Jay Jay||Purdue|
|CB||DB23||Mathieu, Tyrann||Louisiana St|
|CB||DB24||Mccray, Demetrius||Appalachian St|
|CB||DB27||Mcfadden, Leon||San Diego St|
|CB||DB32||Poyer, Jordan||Oregon St|
|CB||DB35||Reid, Greg||Florida St|
|CB||DB36||Rhodes, Xavier||Florida St|
|CB||DB37||Robey, Nickell||Southern California|
|CB||DB39||Simon, Tharold||Louisiana St|
|CB||DB41||Slay, Darius||Mississippi St|
|CB||DB44||Swanson, Daxton||Sam Houston St|
|CB||DB46||Sweeting, Rod||Georgia Tech|
|CB||DB47||Taylor, Jamar||Boise St|
|CB||DB52||Webb, B W||William & Mary|
|CB||DB53||Webster, Kayvon||South Florida|
|FS||DB09||Cyprien, Johnathan||Florida Int|
|SS||DB21||Johnson, Keelan||Arizona St|
|FS||DB25||Mcdonald, T J||Southern California|
|S||DB29||Miles, Rontez||Cal U-Penn|
|S||DB31||Motta, Zeke||Notre Dame|
|FS||DB34||Reid, Eric||Louisiana St|
|SS||DB40||Slaughter, Jamoris||Notre Dame|
|SS||DB43||Starling, Jawanza||Southern California|
|SS||DB45||Swearinger, D J||South Carolina|
|FS||DB48||Thomas, Phillip||Fresno St|
|SS||DB54||Wilcox, J J||Georgia Southern|
|FS||DB58||Wolff, Earl||North Carolina St|
|PK||PK03||Cantele, Anthony||Kansas St|
|PK||PK06||Hopkins, Dustin||Florida St|
|P||PK01||Allen, Ryan||Louisiana Tech|
|P||PK07||Hubner, Josh||Arizona St|
|P||PK08||Kovanda, Scott||Ball St|
|P||PK11||Sharp, Quinn||Oklahoma St|
|P||PK13||Wing, Brad||Louisiana St|