10 Players to Watch at the Combine
Here are ten players whose stock could be affected drastically by their Combine performances:
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: Te'o obviously has all the on-field intangibles - leadership, passion, intensity, and effort. However, scouts are nervous about how his athleticism will translate to the next level. Te'o's draft stock could rise or fall quite a bit based on his forty-yard dash and three cone drill times. Those times will have the largest impact on how scouts view him. There is also the Lennay Kekua situation, which teams will likely ask about during the interview process. Teams will want to be convinced that Te'o has thick skin and won't be affected by the hoax down the road.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU: A native of Ghana, Ansah was recruited by a Mormon missionary who thought that Ansah's size (6'6'', 250) would be a great fit on the football field. Ansah joined the BYU football team in 2010, and though he is extremely raw in his football ability, his freakish athleticism made him effective on the field. Teams are looking at him as a sort of project player, who will need tons of coaching but has a ridiculously high ceiling. He's a lock to be one of the top performers at the Combine, but if he completely dominates, he could be in the top-ten discussion when the draft comes around.
Menelik Watson, OT, FSU: Watson is similar to Ansah in several ways. He grew up in England before heading to Marist College, where he played basketball from 2009-2011. He played football for the first time at Saddleback College - a junior college - before moving to Florida State and playing there for one year. He's another relatively raw prospect who has exceptional athleticism, and if he can drop some jaws at the Combine, he could be a first-round pick.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU: We all know Mathieu from his days as the "Honey Badger" and his recurring problems with marijuana. If you can recall his playing days at LSU, the kid was an absolute monster, making big hits, stripping ball carriers, and taking punts back to the house. The interview process will be particularly important to Mathieu, as teams will want to know that he has put his days of drug use behind him. In addition, teams are concerned over his speed and size. Mathieu reportedly ran a hand-timed 4.47 forty-yard dash recently, and if he could duplicate that at the Combine it could go a long way. Teams will also be looking to see if he has the size and length to defend some of the big receivers in the NFL.
Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech: We might as well stick with players who were kicked off of their football teams. Rogers was suspended from Tennessee indefinitely for violating team rules, and transferred to Tennessee Tech, where he caught 61 passes for 893 yards during his one season there. He has some impressive on-field ability, but teams will want to know that he has the right attitude going forward. They will hope to find out if that is the case during the interview process.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, MSU: Bell was a beast at Michigan State, rushing for 1793 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. He's a proven workhorse, as he carried the ball a ridiculous 382 times in 13 games last season. Bell is a bowling ball of a runner with the ability to bounce off tacklers and run over defenders, but teams are very unsure of his speed and lateral movement. He'll look to run the forty-yard dash, three cone drill, and shuttle run well to prove that he is a potential every-down back in the NFL. He also hopes to weigh in at 228 pounds, down from his 2012 playing weight of 244.
Miguel Maysonet, RB, Stony Brook: Here's a player you've probably never heard of. Maysonet was the runner-up for the FCS player of the year, running for 1964 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012. The thought is that he has the size and speed to be an effective NFL runner, but scouts will likely want to see him prove it at the Combine. A hamstring injury will keep Maysonet from running the forty-yard dash at the Combine, but he will run it at Stony Brook's pro day on March 21st. Never having missed a game in four years at school, the injury is not any cause for concern.
Denard Robinson, ?, Michigan: Robinson is a player that we all know, but may have forgotten about since the pre-draft process has gotten underway. Robinson has unquestionable playmaking ability, but he struggled with route running and pass catching when he attempted to play receiver during Senior Bowl week. His place in the NFL could be at receiver, or it could be as a wildcat specialist/kick returner, like Brad Smith was for the Jets and Bills. No one will question Robinson's athleticism, but he will want to prove that he can run fluidly in his routes and display sure hands.
EJ Manuel, QB, FSU: Manuel has Cam Newton-esque size at 6'5'' 240, and he has displayed exceptional athleticism in the pocket as well, making him a very intriguing prospect. He put up very good numbers the past two years at Florida State, completing more than 65% of his passes and posting better than a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio in both seasons. What Manuel needs to prove is that he has an NFL-caliber arm. Scouts will be watching closely when he takes the field to throw.
Matt Scott, QB, Arizona: Scott is another one of those raw, physically gifted players who will look to use the Combine in an effort prove he's worth a shot as a project player. He can run well, use his athleticism to extend plays, and has drawn praise for the zip on his passes. Teams will be looking mostly at Scott's ability to throw this weekend, but an exceptional display in the other workouts could start getting heads to turn. One scout referred to Scott as "the guy lying in the weeds that I could see jumping up and surprising people with how high he goes."
A few other intriguing prospects at the Combine: DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo (LSU), WR Marquise Goodwin (Texas), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee), DE/OLB Dion Jordan (Oregon), WR Terrance Williams (Baylor), DE Sam Montgomery (LSU), and all of the top quarterbacks.