On field workouts, drills, and tests start on Saturday. Let’s talk about some of the players to watch. These are players with serious questions to answer or maybe players that are under the radar a bit and I’m genuinely curious to see them work out.
* OFFENSE *
Darron Thomas, Oregon – Junior who surprised a lot of people when he came out. It will be interesting to see how Thomas looks throwing the ball in a calm setting as opposed to Oregon’s explosive attack.
Austin Davis, Southern Miss – Very productive player with solid measurables. Might be a bit under the radar. Will be interesting to see how he compares to the big names in Indy.
Patrick Witt, Yale – We don’t get Ivy League QBs at the Combine all that often. Will be fun to see how he does.
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State – Huge QB who can really throw the ball. No matter what he does, I’m going to have questions about him as a prospect. Lack of experience is a serious issue. That said, he might put on a show and get the hype train really going this weekend.
LaMichael James, Oregon – Just how fast is he? James lacks ideal size so he needs to show that he can run. Jacquizz Rodgers fell last year due to size/speed concerns.
Chris Rainey, Florida – Just how fast is he? We know Rainey has speed. In his case…is he the fastest player in Indy?
Bernard Pierce, Temple – Extremely productive player. I’ve heard that he’s a good athlete, but haven’t really seen it that much on film. More of a workhorse runner than a special runner. Interested to see how he works out as well as how he looks in the drills.
* It will be fun to watch Lamar Miller and David Wilson have an unofficial competition for the #2 RB spot. Who is faster? Stronger? More explosive? I’d love it if Doug Martin out-did them and stole the show.
Orson Charles, Georgia – Junior from UGA lacks ideal TE size. He needs to have a really strong workout so that people will feel comfortable with him as a WR/TE/H-back type of offensive weapon. Charles could end up being the first TE off the board.
James Hanna, Oklahoma – Only caught 52 passes in his career, but has good ability. Could be one of those guys who will open some eyes with how well he catches the ball. Curious to see how he runs, moves.
LaDarius Green, La-Lafayette – Was up and down at the Senior Bowl, but there is no denying that Green has big time potential. A strong workout could boost his value. He might look great in the Combine setting.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State – Either the #1 or #2 WR in the draft. Now says he won’t run in Indy. Disappointing. Speed is one of the only questions with Blackmon. Would have been great to see him run on same track, in same situation as others.
Devon Wylie, Fresno State – You’ll hear a lot of Wes Welker comparisons. And rightfully so. Wylie had a good showing at the Shrine Game and with a good workout could be a solid mid-round pick.
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame – The best big WR in the draft. Floyd has some off-field questions that teams will grill him about when they meet with him. The big thing to see on the field is how well he runs and does in the agility drills.
Tommy Streeter, Miami – Junior came out of nowhere to have a good season for the Canes. Very talented, but very raw. Could light it up with a strong workout. Then teams have to figure out his value. 52 career catches, with 46 coming in 2011. Needs coaching and time, but has lots of talent.
Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers – Sanu is one of my favorite receivers in the draft. He was moved around a lot at Rutgers and didn’t get consistently good QB play so it will be interesting to see just how physically gifted he is. 40 time will affect his draft value, but Sanu’s ability as a physical player won’t be seen in Indy. Must go to the game tape for that.
Brian Quick, Appalachian State – Up and down at the Senior Bowl. Showed that he has the size and raw physical ability to play WR in the NFL. Now we need to find out how fast Quick is (hmmm) and also see how he does in the drills. Needs to show good hands.
Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech – Big WR with enormous potential, but playing in the triple option offense really limited his production. Caught just 28 passes in 2011. Ryan Broyles had that many in 2 weeks. Hill is gifted, but must show good hands. He had some huge drops at Tech, but when only targeted a few times a game that can affect a player. He’ll get plenty of reps in Indy.
Alshon Jeffrey, South Carolina – The rumors of his demise proved to be greatly exaggerated. Jeffrey measured in at the Combine at 6’3, 217, far less than the 240 pounds he was rumored to be at. It is a great sign for him to be in good shape. We still need to see how he performs in the 40 and agility drills. Speed isn’t there on the game tape.
Nate Potter, Boise State – A 4-year starter at LT who has NFL potential. Not a huge guy so he needs to test well and then look good in the footwork drills. Could really help himself with a good showing. Potter seems like a mid-round guy right now.
Brandon Mosley, Auburn – Mosley missed the Senior Bowl so teams are looking forward to getting a chance to study him up close. Good combination of size and athletic ability. One of the OTs who could really help his cause with a good workout. There is a void after the top OTs. Mosley could be one of the guys to fill it.
Bobby Massie, Ole Miss – Junior OT is under the radar a bit. Ole Miss didn’t get much attention in 2011, but Massie can play. It will be good to see how he stacks up to the other second tier OL.
Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State – The top small school OL in the draft. Silatolu projects to G in the NFL. I haven’t had a chance to see him play yet so it will be good to check him out. Mike Mayock has said that he could be 2nd round material.
Paul Cornick, North Dakota State – Small school OT. Need to see how athletic he is.
Tom Compton, South Dakota – Ditto.
Dustin Waldron, Portland State – Ditto.
* DEFENSE *
Tyrone Crawford, Boise State – Crawford very quietly is one of the best athletes among DL, if not all prospects. He could put on a big show. Solid player, but never saw his play match his athletic ability. Should run a really good 40.
Akiem Hicks, Regina – Huge DT from Canada had a solid showing at the Shrine Game. Has the body of a good NFL DT. Now we get to see just how athletic he is. Ideal frame for 4-3 or 3-4.
Olivier Vernon, Miami – Another good athlete, Vernon could open some eyes with his workout. Missed much of the year with suspension due to NCAA situation. Vernon needs a good showing. Talented, athletic player, but finished his career with just 9 sacks.
Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State – Junior DL could be one of the stars of the Combine. Lists at 6’4, 295 so it will be interesting to see if that’s accurate. Could run very well and should be terrific in the agility drills. Mike Mayock will say “five-technique” about a million times when discussing Cox. A really good workout could mean Cox is all but a certain Top 20 pick.
Jared Crick, Nebraska – Crick had a really good career at Nebraska, but missed much of his Senior year with a torn pectoral muscle. Still finished with 20 sacks. First order of business for Crick is getting a good report from the doctors. Then he can help himself with a strong workout, assuming he’s able to fully go at this point.
Dontari Poe, Memphis – Just how big is Poe? Lists at 350, but sure doesn’t look it. If he’s 330 or heavier, that’s just fine. Has rare movement skills for such a big guy. Won’t necessarily light up the 40, but should have a very good 10-yard split. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t stand out in the agility drills (for a big DT). Game tape is a mixed bag so Poe needs a strong workout. He’s all about potential.
Devon Still, Penn State – I’m still bugged that Still skipped the Senior Bowl. Needs to do a full workout in Indy. If he doesn’t, to me that raises serious concerns about his competitive spirit. I want guys that want to perform in pressure situations. Still is a talented football player. He’s not a great athlete, but I do think it is important that he competes. Show what you can do in Indy and then use your Pro Day to show improvement in any deficient areas.
Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati – Really good athlete who played DE and DT at the Senior Bowl. 6’5, 286. Can play any spot for a 4-3 team or DE for a 3-4 team. I think he’s worth a 3rd round pick, but get the sense that many others have him rated lower. Maybe a strong workout changes that.
Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma – Played a lot of DE for the Sooners, but Lewis looked more like a LB to me. Started just 14 games in 3 years. A bit raw since he never fully developed at one spot (played both DE and LB). Looks like a pretty good athlete. Will really help himself if he shows he can move around in space and has coverage ability.
Shea McClellin, Boise State – Another tweener type, but I like him as a LB, where he played at the Senior Bowl. Played DE, OLB, and ILB at BSU. Looks like a good athlete on game tape and it will be interesting to see just how well he tests. A strong performance could seal him as a 2nd round pick. Key is whether teams think he can cover well.
Bruce Irvin, West Virginia – Played DE at WVa, but seems more like a 3-4 OLB based on 6’3, 245 listing. Very athletic player. Good pass rusher. Should look quick and fast in Indy. Should do well flying around the bags as a pass rusher. Question will be how he looks moving around in space.
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State – Once thought to be a Top 20 prospect, Burfict now is in a free-fall. Had a down year. Benched by coaches.
Audie Cole, NC State – Veteran LB has experience inside and outside, but isn’t a top athlete. Might be exposed in a Combine setting. Good football player, but isn’t likely to post good numbers in the athletic tests.
Dont’a Hightower, Alabama – One of the most interesting players in the draft. Hightower right now is a target for 3-4 teams at ILB. A good showing could make 4-3 teams think about him at MLB, but I don’t anticipate him posting great numbers. Might do okay in the 40. The agility drills will be of real interest.
Mychal Kendricks, Cal – The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t able to play down in Mobile as he recovered from an injury. Will be good to see him move around and get a feel for just how athletic he is.
Luke Kuechly, Boston College – Is he worth a Top 20 pick? Luke can make that a slam dunk with a solid 40. He doesn’t need to be fast. He just can’t be slow. Needs to run in the 4.7 range to secure a spot in the 1st round.
Shawn Loiseau, Merrimack College – The best D2 LB in the draft. Loiseau played well at the Shrine Game. Will be good to see how he stacks up athletically vs other ILBs.
Caleb McSurdy, Montana – The I-AA Luke Kuechly as I like to call him. Coming off a great Senior season. Plays hard and covers a lot of ground, but we need to find out exactly how athletic he is to truly compare him to the other ILBs.
Zach Brown, UNC – Great athlete. Will just be fun to see if he has an elite workout or is merely very, very good.
Danny Trevathan, Kentucky – Great college player who filled up the stats sheets about every week. Lacks ideal size and athleticism. Will be great to find out just how big and how fast he is. Can Danny be a starting LB down the road or does he project to role player/STer? Based on his game tape, he’s got a fighting chance if his numbers are even close to what they need to be.
Travis Lewis, Oklahoma – Incredibly productive player, but had a so-so Senior season due to playing on a broken toe. Skipped the Senior Bowl so he could get back to 100 percent. It will be interesting to see how Lewis does. The Combine lists him as an ILB. Has the build of an OLB.
Janzen Jackson, McNeese State – Banished from Tennessee to McNeese State for a year, Jackson is now headed to the NFL. Should stand out this weekend. Speedy, athletic player. Shows very good ball skills. Inconsistent tackler with character questions so he needs to shine in the workouts.
George Iloka, Boise State – The FS version of Megatron, with his size and frighteningly long arms. I’m not his biggest fan, but it will be interesting to see how well he tests. Only had 3 INTs in the last 3 years. I’m curious to see what kind of ball skills he has.
Johnny Thomas, Oklahoma State – Missed his Senior season due to injury. Need to see how far back he is from injury.
Jerron McMillian, Maine – Good I-AA player. This is a weak Safety class, but McMillian is a guy who has caught my eye. Runs pretty well on tape. Curious to see what kind of a workout he has.
Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma – Good football player, but what kind of an athlete is he? OU has had some DBs that didn’t test so well. Fair or not, Fleming needs to show that he can run.
Mike Harris, Florida State – Rarely can an FSU CB be under the radar, but Harris is. Nothing flashy. Just a good, solid CB. Late round type, but a good showing in Indy will generate some buzz.
Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech – The Hokies have a history of putting out good DBs. Only real question with Hosley is value. Need to see how big and fast he is. Played in the 175 range. That’s a bit small. If he shows up in the 180-185 range and runs well, teams will be very happy.
Trumaine Johnson, Montana – The best big CB in the draft. Will be good to find out just how big and just how athletic he is. Listed by the Grizzlies at 6’3, 210. Probably isn’t that big. He is big and if he runs well, some teams will be drooling.
Ryan Steed, Citadel – Very good I-AA CB. Looked very good at the Senior Bowl. Only question for him is how high he goes. Workouts will play a big part in determining that value.
Dwight Bentley, La-Lafayette – Only weighed 176 pounds at the Senior Bowl. I hope he’s added 7 to 10 pounds to that. Game tape shows him as being plenty fast. Will be good to find out just how fast he is. Had a great week in Mobile. If he can back that up with a good workout, he’ll have helped his draft value tremendously in the offseason.