Each and every February the entire NFL world converges on Indianapolis to find out everything there is to know about impending NFL Draft prospects. For prospects in attendance, the importance cannot be understated, as the combine can serve as a trampoline or conversely a trap door for their draft stocks. Let’s see which prospects have the most to gain/lose at this year’s NFL Combine.
Jarvis Jones- OLB Georgia. As a player, there is nothing Jarvis Jones has left to prove. Jones dominated the SEC to the tune of 28 sacks, and 44 Tackles for Loss the past two years. Hanging over Jones’ head though are some medical red flags. Jones has Spinal Stenosis, a neck/spine condition which forced him to transfer from USC when they would not clear him. He hasn’t had any issues since then, but for teams in the top 10 deciding whether or not to invest in this guy, he will need a clean bill of health. We saw how important this was two years ago when Da’Quan Bowers fell from being a top 5 projected pick to the 2nd round because his knee got red-flagged at the combine.
Tyrann Mathieu- CB LSU. Mathieu has stayed relatively quiet since he was kicked off the LSU football team last fall, but he’s hoping to make some noise in a good way this week at the Combine. As he tries to shake the “Honey Badger” image, Mathieu is out to prove he is a changed man with a solid head on his shoulders. Not only will Mathieu have a lot of questions to answer in team interviews, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen this guy on a football field, therefore he will also need to prove he has remained in top physical shape.
All Quarterbacks. Right now at the quarterback position, it's Geno Smith and then a lot of confusion, and even Geno Smith's stock isn't rock solid. Assuming Smith is the No. 1 guy for now, the door is wide open for the next 5-10 prospects or so. Matt Barkley could come out of this shining as he seems likely to throw at this point, and he has a chance to charm NFL execs and scouts with his mental makeup and intangibles. It's also a big chance for guys like Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, and Ryan Nassib to make their mark. One guy to keep any eye out for is Tyler Bray, he could really wow with his arm strength and athletic ability, and with teams desperately searching for reasons to draft a quarterback, he has some nice selling points.
Barkevious Mingo- DE LSU. This year’s draft class is loaded with talented pass rushers, but right now there’s a quagmire of about eight players fighting for position at the top of the draft. The Combine is going to be a huge opportunity for these guys to separate themselves from the pack. Barkevious Mingo is arguably the fastest, most athletic of the pass rushers, and we all know the Combine is all about athleticism. If Mingo could run close to 4.5 flat in the 40 as some say he might, and show off his explosion in the other drills, he could rise to the top.
Dion Jordan- DE Oregon. Just like Mingo, Dion Jordan is in that log-jam of pass rushers trying to establish themselves as a cut above. Jordan is one of the more polarizing players in this draft class, as some people think he should go top 5, while others think he’s too much of a project and shouldn’t go until late in the 1st. Jordan has that freakish athleticism at 6’7” with tremendous explosion, but he’s only about 240 lbs. There’s no doubt he will need to add weight at the next level, so if he can weigh in about 10-15 lbs heavier than we last saw him, do well in the bench press, while still showing off his athleticism, he could sky-rocket.
Cordarrelle Patterson and entire WR class. Unlike the past two years where we had Justin Blackmon and A.J Green, the 2013 Draft doesn’t have a receiver who clearly stands above the rest. Despite the fact he played just one year of Division One football, most believe Cordarrelle Patterson to be the draft’s best receiver, and he will look to prove it at the combine. Keenan Allen, Deandre Hopkins, Justin Hunter, and Terrance Williams amongst a host of others will try to challenge Patterson, or at least solidfy their positions behind him. The combine has added importance this year for the receivers with the field wide open, these 40 times just might make the difference.
Sharrif Floyd- DT Florida. Last year we saw defensive tackles Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox blow up at the combine, and they ended up being the first two defensive tackles off the board on draft day. This year Sharrif Floyd could be that guy. At 300+ pounds, Floyd has an incredible first step and overall quickness. He’s not going to knock off Star Lotulelei as the draft’s No. 1 defensive tackle, but if he explodes like we expect him to, Floyd could easily be a top 10 pick.
Gio Bernard and the running backs. Overall, it isn’t an especially strong draft for offensive skill position players, and the running back class isn’t much different. A redshirt sophomore out of North Carolina, Gio Bernard has a valued attribute that not many other running backs have this year; explosiveness. He could solidify himself as the best running back in the draft if he runs in the low 4.4’s. In that 2nd tier of running backs, there are at least a dozen backs who will fight for position to sneak into the 2nd day and make themselves some money