For those of you who live and breathe the NFL Scouting Combine, the day you have been waiting for is here! Today is the day that the game changers, the exciting prospects hit the turf to vie for the top spots in the NFL draft, and the Orange Wedge is back to break down all that you need to know about the skill position players on the offensive side of the ball. These are the prom kings in high school, the ones that got the front page spreads in the newspapers, and the ones that you, the fans, will be most excited about come draft time. Breaking down the top players available up to this point, as well as some sleeper picks:
Geno Smith, QB West Virginia
In this years overall weak quarterback class, Geno Smith sits atop the mountain of mediocrity as he has separated himself from the pack of quarterback prospects, and currently represents not only the top QB, but most likely number 1 overall pick to the Chiefs (Donovan McNabb 2.0?) Smith measured in at 6’2″ 218 lbs., who has a strong arm and good speed. For most of his career at WVU, he played out of the shotgun and made good timing reads in his routes, but did not take snaps under center and make reads while dropping back, including the use of proper footwork. He had a great 2012 season statistically, throwing for 4,205 yds. 42 TDs and 6 INTS. I believe he will run and work out well, and scouts will be salivating over his workout numbers, including the 40, shuttle, and even bench press, but I think that scouts should instead be focusing on his field workouts. Unlike most top quarterbacks at the combine, he actually is throwing and while he is throwing to unfamiliar targets, it should still be noted how his reads and accuracy are. Overall, I don’t think that anything should happen here that drops him down from the spot he is currently at. Even if he should struggle, I believe he will make it up at his pro day and be the top quarterback off the board come April.
Matt Barkley, QB Southern California
Rewind to a year ago, and we are discussing Matt Barkley going first overall to the Indianapolis Colts. Instead he returned to school for one final year, and did nothing to impress scouts, so much so that it would appear he has thrown himself out of the first round of the draft altogether. Barkley will be working out at the combine, but will not be participating in throwing drills, instead waiting for his pro day to throw and try to impress the scouts. He measured in at 6’2″ 227 lbs. and it should be noted that his hand size measured at 10 1/8″, big hands and something that scouts will take notice of for gripping the ball in wet conditions. His 2012 season included 3,273 yds. 36 TD and 15 INTS, not a great ratio for a big-time QB coming out of a big-time college program. He most likely won’t run well, not impressing scouts with his speed and workouts, and unfortunately that is all the scouts and fans will have to go on after this weekend until the USC pro day comes around. I believe that Barkley not throwing today will hurt him and drop his draft spot.
Tyler Wilson, QB Arkansas
A quarterback who may be a bit more under the radar than the other two top prospects, Wilson up until this point looks to be vying for the spot of second QB taken in the draft. The thrower who grew up in Razorback nation had a very successful season leading Arkansas to success this season. That doesn’t mean, though, that he will stick around as the next best option off the board. He measured into Indy at 6’2″ 215 lbs. but will take a huge knock with his hand size, a measly 8 3/4″, much like this familiar figure:
His 2012 season was successful, throwing for 3,387 yds. 21 TDs and 13 INTs, not great numbers for a top QB. His workouts will say a lot about his today, as he will not show great speed, but will display great quickness, a trait that represents his good pocket presence. I believe that his choosing to throw can only help him as he will show decent accuracy, but strong arm strength, something that can’t be taught. Overall though, I believe he will fall behind other QB’s after today.
Other Top Names:
- Mike Glennon, QB NC State
- Ryan Nassib, QB Syracuse
Under the Radar:
- Zac Dysert, QB Miami (OH)
- E.J. Manuel, QB Florida State
- Tyler Bray, QB Tennessee
This years running back class, while not top heavy with the can’t-miss players, it does happen to be a deep class, with most of the running backs slated in the end of the first round and on. That can change drastically depending on how some of these players run and work out in Indy today, with one good 40 time possibly being the difference between a second round selection and a selection in the top of the first round (see: Chris Johnson 2008). Many of these running backs are very high quality with a lot of NFL upside, but may be missing one or two qualities according to scouts who followed them all season long. Highlighting the running backs are:
Giovani Bernard, RB North Carolina
This running back from the ACC displays a ton of upside and could be the running back that everyone is talking about following this year’s scouting combine. Built a lot like Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Bernard measured in at the comine at 5’8″ 202 lbs. but is built like a racehorse. He had a good 2012 season rushing for 1,228 yards and 12 TDs in a pass-heavy North Carolina offense, and I am predicting that Bernard will run the fastest 40 time for the running backs this year. The knock against him (as I said there is a knock against most of these prospects) is the torn ACL he suffered in 2010 combined with his short, quick running style including multiple cuts and quick change of direction. When teams ask him about this, all he needs to say is: “Exhibit A: Adrian Peterson.” I believe Bernard will answer all the questions about him and more in Indy, running well, showing good quickness and burst, and even catching the ball well enough to warrant a top 20 pick in the first round of the draft. He will be the talk of the backs this year.
Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama
It seems like Alabama running backs are a dime a dozen, with the National Champs churning them out like butter in the old country. A huge work-horse type back, Lacy measured in at 5’11” 231 lbs., 10 lbs. up from his playing weight during the season. This is a red flag to scouts, and teams will keep a close eye on how Lacy added this weight, whether he looks more muscular and stronger, or whether he still has yet to stop celebrating after the victory parade. Either way, Lacy had a strong season for the Crimson Tide, running for 1,322 yards and 17 TDs. The strengths of his game unfortunately will not show up at the combine, unless he runs a fast 40 time, as his style revolves around his ability to put his head and shoulders down and run you over. Decent in the passing game, better blocker than receiver, I don’t see him taking the necessary step forward to sneak into first-round conversations.
Other Top Names:
- Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State
- Andre Ellington, RB Clemson
Under the Radar:
- Montee Ball, RB Wisconsin
- Jawan Jamison, RB Rutgers
- Miguel Maysonet, RB Stony Brook
I think that the talk of the draft this year will be the entire wide receiver class, as the pass-catchers will blow the combine away, and we will see a lot of names sneak into the first round or first round discussions after this weekend. It is always debated whether it is worth taking a wide receiver early in the draft as their impact on a game solely depends on other pieces working around them, but I truly believe that this year’s class will be one of the top overall WR classes in recent memory. Starting off:
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
The undisputed top wide out throughout this season, I guarantee you nothing will change after this weekend, and Patterson will solidify his place as the top pass-catcher this year, more than likely going in the top 10, potentially top 5. Patterson measured in at Indy at 6’2″ 216 lbs. with 9″ hands and put on 10 pounds of muscle since the season ended, a perfect body type for a number 1 wide receiver. He has great straight-line speed and separation ability and catches the ball with his hands, something that will be on display in the gauntlet which separates the men from the boys. As a wide receiver alone he did not have a record setting year statistically, hauling inn 46 receptions for 775 yds. an 5 TDs. He has done a lot of damage in the return game, though, as he was used in multiple facets in the game at Tennessee, being used at RB, PR, and KR. He set the school record for all-purpose yards in a season with 1,858, and I believe will continue this damage at the next level.
Keenan Allen, WR California
Keenan Allen is a player that has been turning many heads throughout the season, as he displays great in-game speed and has given defenses in the Pac-12 headaches all season long. He came into Indy measuring in at 6’2″ 206 lbs, and measured up with 10″ hands! Scouts will absolutely take notice of that and will make sure that he can pluck the ball away from his body, which shouldn’t be much of a problem with those hulk hands. Allen will display good speed, running in the 4.5-4.6 range, but will be on display in the 3-cone drills demonstrating quickness and change of direction. I believe, though, that this receiver class is very strong and Allen has a chance to slide, not because of his own abilities, but because of the workouts of other players in Indy. Like I said, this class is crazy strong.
Other Top Names:
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson
- Quinton Patton, WR Louisiana Tech
- Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
*UPDATE* Not surprising, but Austin just blazed the field running a crazy fast time of 4.25! The undersized receiver who caught passes this year from Geno Smith measured in petite at 5’8″ 174 lbs. but teams will quickly forget about that when they begin designing plays around this PF Flyer. I knew Austin would have a strong combine so this time does not surprise me, but with him being a fringe first/second rounder coming into this weekend, I believe that this catapulted him into the end of the first round, and potentially the second receiver off the board.
Under the Radar:
- Terrence Williams, WR Baylor
- Da’Rick Rodgers, WR Tennessee Tech
- Marquice Goodwin, WR Texas
*UPDATE* Showdown city as Goodwin decided to say to Tavon Austin so what with his time, as Goodwin scooted another 4.25 40 time. Al Davis just contacted Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen from beyond the grave and said “Take this kid in the first round!”