Sometimes too much emphasis can be put on the NFL Combine and what it really means for a prospect’s future. For most prospects, the combine will not have a major impact on their draft status. Some players who may have gone unnoticed on film can stick out by running impressive times; thereby forcing scouts to go back and take another look at them. For others, the combine is about easing concerns about size, speed, ability, or injury. Here are ten prospects with something to prove at the NFL combine.
The combine is not just about the testing. Josh Allen is at the top of many draft boards because of this arm talent and physical traits, but his low completion percentage is a major concern. Scouts will be very interested to see Allen throw in person. How will his ball placement be? Can he put enough touch on passes? An impressive performance in Indianapolis could make Josh Allen a legitimate candidate to be the number one pick, but a poor performance could make him drop to the middle of the first round.
The eyes of the NFL will be on Harold Landry’s ankle. Landry was an absolute beast in 2016 setting Boston College’s record for sacks in a single season with 16.5. Unfortunately he was not the same player this season as he battled an ankle injury. Landry will need to pass medical evaluations. Teams will be watching that ankle very closely throughout his agilities and drill work. Based on his 2016 film, Landry is a top ten talent in this draft. If a team assesses his health as being 100% or close to it he could go in the top half of the first round, if not he could slip to the end of the first round; maybe even later.
Similar to Landry, Arden Key had an incredible 2016 notching 11 sacks for the Bayou Bengals, but was hampered by injury in 2017. At 6’6” 265 Key has incredible athletic ability and a Chandler Jones like skill-set that could make him a stud in the NFL. Unfortunately Key’s draft stock has plummeted due to an injury-ridden 2017 and an unexplained hiatus from the team last spring. Key had shoulder surgery over the off-season and injured both his knee and finger during the year. All in all, he was sidelined for five games in this disappointing season. Teams will be interested in Key’s medicals and his interviews will be important as well. No one really knows what personal reasons he had to step away from the team during the off-season. The fact that he did so has caused some to question his commitment to football, but that is not really fair without knowing the whole story. NFL teams will want to have answers before investing in him. The combine could have an impact on whether Key is a first round pick or if he slips.
Lamar Jackson is an incredible athlete with all the tools to be a phenomenal quarterback in the NFL, but similar to Allen, he has a low completion percentage which has caused many to question his accuracy. Everyone expects Jackson to blow away the competition in the agilities, but Jackson will need to be on the money throwing the ball in order to make his draft stock rise. Current projections have Jackson going late in the first round or early in the second round, but the way things go in the NFL his draft stock could certainly rise substantially with an impressive day throwing the pill in Indianapolis.
A few months ago Connor Williams was seen as potentially the top offensive tackle in the draft. Unfortunately he missed the middle section of the 2017 season due to a knee injury and struggled when he returned to the lineup. Teams will be very interested in the status of Williams’ knee both in medical exams and watching how he moves in drills and testing. There are also concerns about his overall strength. A good showing in drills as well as the bench and vertical jump could help to rectify this. Williams has been projected as a top ten pick by some and a second round pick by others. Largely due to medical concerns the combine could have a big impact on where he ultimately falls.
Sony Michel’s stock seems to be on the rise already, but the NFL Combine could be a great opportunity for him to show the full extent of what he is capable of. Michel projects as an excellent multi-purpose back. Last year rookie running backs made a big splash in the league, and those who have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield had the most impact. Michel has limited experience in the pass game, but seems to have the ability to do so. Watching him run routes and catch balls live will help NFL executives project him to this type of role. If he standouts in this area, it may solidify him as a late first round pick. If not he may slip into the second round.
Because Sam Hubbard came to Ohio State as a safety there is a false narrative out there that he has all the athletic ability, but limited skill at the position. This is the opposite of the truth. Hubbard has been well coached and has superb skill as an edge rusher. It is his top end athletic ability that should be questioned. Hubbard will be a solid pick for someone and can be a starter in this league for years. His floor is very high and testing will demonstrate how high his ceiling could be. Hubbard will likely be a late first round or early second round pick. Putting up some good testing numbers could help to establish him as a first round pick.
Dallas Goedert is an athletic pass-catching tight end who was a standout performer at the FCS level. Over his last two seasons with the Jackrabbits, Goedert caught 164 passes for 2,404 yards, and 18 touchdowns. An injury during Senior Bowl week prevented him from having the opportunity to prove himself at that venue, so for him the NFL Combine is about proving he can stand out amongst the big boys. Goedert has potential to be a first round pick and the top tight end drafted. Will his athletic ability catch the eyes of NFL scouts, executives, and coaches when he is surrounded by power five talent?
With Denzel Ward it is pretty simple; it comes down to getting an official height on him. Based solely on his ability as a football player Ward is arguably the best corner in the draft, but concerns about his height may push him into the late portion of the first round. It is impossible to know how much importance each team puts on the height of their corners and what other factors could cancel it out. How much of an impact will it have on Ward’s draft stock if he comes in measuring 5’9 7/8” instead of 5’10”?
Marcus Davenport is an interesting edge prospect who has skyrocketed up the draft boards of many NFL Draft analysts. At 6’6” 255 Davenport has the desired size for the position. He plays the run well and has had some success rushing the passer but seems limited in this area. The combine will give him an opportunity to prove that he has the athleticism and flexibility to develop as a pass rusher. Having a chance to watch him move in person could cause him to move up or down many draft boards. He is currently seen as a first round pick, but he could certainly fall with weak showing in Indianapolis.