The National Invitation Combine (NIC), better known as the NFL Combine, starts this Wednesday (2/23) and runs through the following Tuesday (3/1). 330 NFL prospects eligible to be drafted (276 seniors and 54 underclassmen) will be interviewed, measured, poked, prodded and workout in Indianapolis. North Carolina will be the represented the most, with 12 players receiving invites. The full official list of invitees can be found here. Media are not allowed in the actual workout sessions, so you can see exactly the same coverage they will be writing about on the NFL Network. The complete schedule of the network’s coverage can be found here.
Workouts to Watch
Here are some of the players whose overall workouts, or at least a specific event, will be must-see TV for draftniks.
Dontay Moch, OLB/DE, Nevada – perhaps no event at the Combine, for purely entertainment purposes, is more highly anticipated than Moch’s 40-yard dash. The BLESTO and National report from last spring (for an explanation of those two scouting services, draftdaddy.com has an excellent summary in this article) had the undersized DE (built more like a big RB at just under 6’2” and 230 pounds) with a 4.25 time. The lore already building is that he initially ran a 4.18 and was asked to run again, because no one believed it could be accurate when he posted the “verified” time. However, Nevada is considered a “fast track”, so there is some belief he and their other players are unlikely to live up to some of the high expectations for speed.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon – a torn right lateral meniscus at the Senior Bowl should prevent us from seeing his full range of amazing athletic ability, but if he can still bench, that will be another sideshow people are looking forward to. With a personal best of 44 reps of 225 pounds, he is regarded as the best threat to the Combine record of 51.
Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia – after a disappointing season, the outlook isn’t good for the smallest and lightest player in the draft, but he is one of the favorites to turn in the top overall 40-yard dash time.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU – one of the top overall athletes in the draft has a father who is a professional speed coach; think he’ll be prepared?
Allen Bailey, DL, Miami – his chiseled body impressed at the Senior Bowl weigh-in, but he continued to fail to standout on the field. He reportedly power cleans 400 pounds, squats 570 pounds and bench presses 405 with a 39-inch vertical and a 4.65 40-yard dash. When UM strength coach Andreu Swasey calls someone the most freakish athlete he’s seen in his decade on a team that has produced more than a few of them, that is quite a statement.
Nate Solder, OT, Colorado – standing over a verified 6’8”, the converted TE is a man-mountain who is expected to be this year’s Bruce Campbell when he workouts. While still a project, he is rated significantly higher than Campbell (who ended up a fourth-round pick) heading in to the Combine.
Virgil Green, TE, Nevada – Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insiders and Sports Illustrated reports here that Green could come close to turning in the same kind of amazing performance by a TE that Vernon Davis did in 2006.
Tyron Smith, OT, USC – the biggest mistake on most mock drafts I see is no offensive tackle being projected in the first half of the draft. The position is too important. There is a good collection of solid prospects that look like late first through second round picks, and while I agree it is hard to differentiate them now, one or two will inevitably emerge out of the Combine. As an underclassman who hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet for more exposure in the senior all-star games, Smith could be one of the risers. He reportedly is up over 300 pounds (he played at around 285, which was a concern) and supposedly hasn’t lost any athleticism. If true, he’ll gain some separation from the pack coming out of the Combine.
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland – lost among some of the big names in the draft, the underclassmen is expected to impress with his speed, like former teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey. Unlike DHB, Smith can catch and is looking to sneak in to the late first round for a team looking for a deep threat.
The Quarterbacks – despite the race being wide open to be the first QB selected, it sounds like, as usual, most of the top prospects won’t be throwing (although Jake Locker reportedly will). That’s a bit disappointing, but the good news there is an unusually high number of great all-around athletes in this QB class. Locker, Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor, Christian Ponder, and Josh Portis could all log some explosion, speed, and agility numbers in tests that look more like they belong to running backs than quarterbacks. Portis is a guy I’m especially interested in. A cousin of Clinton Portis, he was Urban Meyer’s first recruit at Florida, then transferred to Maryland, but was ineligible and ended up at DII California (PA). He didn’t show much in the NFLPA All-Star Game, but he has the size and is supposedly is an excellent runner with a live arm.
Small School Guys – there are always a few small school guys who breakthrough with impressive workouts at the Combine and end up mid-round picks. Nobody follows them like Josh Buchanan, so I’ll just direct you to the article on his website about who to watch out for at the Combine.