The last week in February annually represents more than men cringing realizing how much they just spent on Valentines Day. It also indicates the unofficial start to the upcoming football season, as the NFL bigwigs flock to Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium in what is the nation’s biggest job interview. The NFL Combine is a four day event that brings more than 300 eager college football players together to compete for 252 spots on an NFL roster. Saturday kicks off the festivities, and it sure ain’t bringing sexy back, as the big uglies and overlooked special teamers hit the turf for their fifteen minutes of fame. I want to preview the players to keep an eye out for, as well as some sleepers who those of you out there in the blogosphere may not know about. Beginning with the offensive linemen:
Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M
The top offensive lineman available at this point in the process and potential number one overall pick, Joeckel measured in at 6’6″ 306 lbs. Joeckel may go number one overall to the Chiefs, which is fitting since he resembles Andy Reid at 14 years old.
Joeckel has been the consensus top lineman prospect all season long and is truly a bookend left tackle prospect for a few months now, as he is very strong in both the run and pass game. I believe he is athletic enough that he will impress the scouts in Indy and not lose any ground as the top lineman available.
Chance Warmack, G Alabama
The top guard at this point in the draft process, Warmack weighed in at 6’2″ 317 lbs, down from the 330 he played at during the season. Warmack has great strength that will be on display at the combine, and while I think that if teams watch his film they will fall in love with him, his on the field workouts will leave much to be desired as his athleticism will not show up in drills. His film speaks for itself, as he has blocked for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Eddie Lacy, and his skill set will translate to being a top Guard in the NFL.
Other Top Names:
- Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
- Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma
Under the Radar:
- Menelik Watson, OT Florida State
- Terron Armstead, OT Arkansas-Pine Bluff
*UPDATE* Turns out Armstead is a workout warrior! The tackle from the little-known Arkansas-Pine Bluff just blazed up faster than Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion) with a 4.65 40 time! That’s faster than most linebackers from last year’s draft, and Armstead is carrying around a frame of 6’5″ 306 lbs. His knock is that he played for a small school in the SWAC (SWAC, SWAC, SWAC, on you) but this kid is legit. Look for a fast rise up the draft boards after a performance like this!
The spot for top tight end available is up for grabs as there are two tight ends equally at the top of the draft that could separate themselves during the combine process.
Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame
The other star at Notre Dame (who probably did have a real girlfriend), Eifert came into the combine measuring at an impressive 6’5″ 250 lbs and led ND with 50 catches, 685 yards and 4 TDs. He should perform well in the gauntlet challenge which separates the natural pass catchers from the body catchers going over the middle of the field, and has the natural athletic ability to impress the scouts and be the first Tight End off the board in April. Anyone think “Getting Eifed” has a ring to it?
Zach Ertz, TE Stanford
Almost identical in size to Eifert at 6’5″ 249 lbs, Ertz has recently been surrounded by top NFL talent (see Luck, DeCastro, Fleener) and has the history of being the top tight end recruit in the nation coming out of high school. Ertz put up huge numbers this past season with 69 catches, 898 yards and 6 TDs, so by the numbers game Ertz wins out, but Stanford ran an offense that went through him as the top offensive target. Ertz will run well, but many of the drills will set him behind Eifert as he won’t run strong routes, wont catch the ball with his hands away from his body, and isn’t the strongest of the two. At the end of the day, Tyler Eifert will be the top tight end available.
Other Top Names:
- Jordan Reed, TE Florida
- Gavin Escobar, TE San Diego St.
Under the Radar:
- Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE Auburn
- Vance McDonald, TE Rice
For those of you out there who forget about the importance of special teams, look no further, as here at The Orange Wedge, we preview the top special teamers available in the NFL draft and who to look out for at the NFL scouting combine! (Yeah, we’re THAT good) There are a few names to take notice of, as only a few special teams players are drafted each year. Starting with the kickers:
Dustin Hopkins, K Florida St
Came into the combine measuring…WHO CARES!? The kid can kick, it don’t matter what his size is! He could be 4 foot nothing for all I care, as long as he can boot the ball the way he has since high school! He has only missed one extra point EVER in college (that’s four years, kickers don’t forego their senior years for greener pastures in the NFL) and holds the NCAA FBS Division 1 record for most all-time points by a kicker. He can flat out kick like Bruce Lee.
Ryan Allen, P Louisiana Tech
Ever hear that lefty’s do it better? Well look no further than this left-footed booter from deep in the bayou, as Ryan Allen will be a starting NFL punter when next season rolls around (that No. 9 pick is lookin’ mighty tempting Jets fans) as he can absolutely boot the ball. Two-time Ray Guy award winner as the nation’s top punter (first time thats ever happened folks) who will impress in not only distance punting, but placement as well. He led the nation with an average of over 48 yards per punt and looks to continue his impressive run in Indy.
Other names to remember:
- Quinn Sharp, K Oklahoma State
- Brad Wing, P LSU