2015 NFL COMBINE: Ten eye-catching prospects | Top-32 Scouting Combine/Draft ranking | Making sense of the drills and tests

2015 NFL COMBINE - Ten prospects to keep an eye on - The Boys Are Back blog

INDIANAPOLIS – As the NFL scouting combine is now underway, here are 10 players worth keeping an eye on this week in Indy. 

T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh – 14|OT4: Depending what happens at offensive tackle with Doug Free and Jeremy Parnell there is a good chance the Dallas Cowboys will be in the market for a replacement. Of the ones that are potentially available, Clemmings is my favorite one. He played right tackle for the Panthers but has left tackle feet. Can get movement off the ball in the running game but also has the ability to win one-on-one battles in his pass sets.

La’el Collins, OT, LSU – 13|OT3: Played as a left tackle for the Tigers but has also lined up as a guard. Powerful man that works to finish his blocks. Has a nasty side to his game. Is one of those players that will climb his blocks and physically beat his opponent up. Doesn’t have the athletic ability of some of the other tackles in this draft but his toughness is impressive. Will need to play inside or at right tackle.

Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, Kentucky – 17|DE3: Have a feeling that he will be gone before the Dallas Cowboys select at 27 because of his ability to stand up and play on his feet which makes him a possibility for 3-4 teams looking for an outside linebacker that can rush or a 4-3 scheme that will put his hand on the ground and let him rush. At 6-4, 267 he is the ideal height and weight for a just that job. Could see him as a left end fit with the Cowboys.

Alex Carter, CB, Stanford – 65|CB7: At 6-0, 200 he is a stout looking player on tape. There is nothing really flashy or fancy in the way he goes about his job but he is technique sound and it is rare where you see him miss an assignment or be out of position on a ball. He is comfortable playing in man coverage or backed off. Is the type of player that Rod Marinelli has played with for years in his secondary and had success with.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama – 77|RB7: My favorite running back in this upcoming draft is Todd Gurley but if you asked me to name another that I would like to have on my squad, I would have to go with T.J. Yeldon. It’s not that I am not a fan of Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson or Jay Ajayi but I just feel like that you can do more with Yeldon as that complete back much like what DeMarco Murray does for the Cowboys. I don’t see him just as that 3rd down guy. He has had productive games carrying the ball against quality SEC teams and it’s that kind of ability I want from my running back.

Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas – 68|DE8: Earlier I wrote about Alex Carter from Stanford and how I felt like he wasn’t flashy or fancy in the way that he played but very steady in the way he went about his job. Trey Flowers is very similar in the way that he plays the game. You are not going to see the huge burst or explosive quickness but what you are going to see is a guy that is always around the ball and in the middle of piles. He is going to be stout on the edge and when the ball heads in his direct, he is going to make the tackle. I don’t expect his combine numbers to be great but I am interested in how he does test out.

Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson – 97|DT11: I would compare this player to Aaron Donald. Traits wise they are both similar in height and weight but also share that explosive first step off the ball. Like Donald, Jarrett is also very good on the move and extremely active in the way he plays. When he can get the corner, he can be difficult to block. There were several snaps in games I studied where he was in the backfield before the blocker had a chance to react. Could see the Cowboys take a look at him as a disruptive under tackle. Height will scare folks off but not Rod Marinelli.

Anthony Jefferson, S, UCLA – 192|S7: Is a player that I first watched play at the Senior Bowl earlier in the year and came away impressed in his ability to not only play with range out of the middle of the field but in one-on-one coverage as well. Once back at Valley Ranch, I sat down and watched him not only play safety for the Bruins but I also saw him line up at cornerback and carry Arizona State’s fine receiver Jalen Strong all over the field and hold him in check. There is a lot to like about his game because of how he can play two spots in the secondary.

Markus Golden, DE, Missouri – 116|OLB10: Has a stout build to him with explosive quickness. Can put pressure on a blocker right now. Very quick with his hands and feet. Will work through traffic and chase from the backside. When he can capture the edge, he can be a hard man to block. If he has problems it is when he rushes down the middle and he doesn’t always show the power to throw blockers off but you don’t see him get bounced around as much as one might think at 6-2, 260 pounds.

Todd Gurley, RB Georgia – 22|RB2: Would be a Top 10 player in this draft regardless of position if he were healthy. Will not be able to work out for the scouts at the Combine but news will travel fast in Indianapolis of how far along his injured knee has come since November. Will have the knee checked out again in April before the draft. Is one of those players that you would consider taking a chance on if you get the okay from the medical staff.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | NFL Analyst/Former NFL scout

Top-32 Scouting Combine Draft ranking

His name is Leonard Williams.

The USC defensive tackle is the best player in this draft ­­ regardless of position. Williams moves well for a man who is 6­5, 325 pounds. And reports from league personnel are that he is a heck of a kid. When the Texans transitioned to a 3-­4 defense, some wondered where J.J. Watt would play. Anywhere he wants. He is that good, and that versatile. The same goes for Williams. He played defensive tackle at USC, but he could easily move to a down end in the 3­-4 scheme and be a disruptive force like Watt is for the Texans.

That’s why he sits atop the Top-32 for the 2015 NFL Draft class. He’s one spot above Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, likely the first player taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston is more NFL ready than Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. He anticipates throws better than Mariota. I know he has some off field issues that he will need to address with teams here in Indy, but he’s the best pure quarterback.

1. Leonard Williams, DT, USC: ­­ This kid has a chance to be truly special. And the word is he loves the game and works at it.

2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: ­­ The more I watch, the more I like. I know there are off field concerns, but he is an NFL passer. That’s good enough for me.

3. Dante Fowler Jr. DE, Florida: ­­ Teams will love his speed and toughness off the edge. That’s why I’ve moved him above Randy Gregory. He is already good at using his hands.

4. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: ­­ Big and fast, which is why I give him a slight edge over Amari Cooper, who is more polished.

5. Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: ­­ I loved him in 2013, but I thought he was just OK in 2014. Is he big enough to play down end on a regular basis? I am not sure.

6. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama: ­­ He is a polished receiver who made a ton of big plays at Alabama. He is easily the best route runner in this class of good receivers.

7. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: ­­ He can fly, but I worry about his pocket ability. He doesn’t anticipate throws well enough, but some of that is because of the offensive design. He can spin it better than most.

8. Brandon Scherff, G­T, Iowa: ­­ He was a left tackle at Iowa, but I think he slides inside and plays guard in the NFL. Ravens guard Marshal Yanda did the same thing coming out of Iowa, and look at him now.

9. Marcus Peters, CB, Washington: ­­ I know he has off-the-field concerns ­­ getting kicked off the team last season ­­ but he is a silky smooth corner who can excel in man coverage.

10. Danny Shelton, DT, Washington: ­­ A 330­pound power player who has some good quickness to go with it. He can be an inside force.

11. Landon Collins, S, Alabama: ­­ He is a big ­hitting safety who some scouts think is better than Ha Ha Clinton­-Dix, a former Alabama player who started for Green Bay as a rookie.

12. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State: ­­ A big corner at 6­1 who has played a lot of man coverage for the Spartans.

13. Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA: ­­ There is great value in fast linebackers who can stay on the field for three downs. Kendricks is that type of player.

14. Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State: ­­ A big thumper in the middle who has good speed to go with his size. He is 6­4, 250 pounds, which is big for the position.

15. T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pittsburgh: ­­ He’s a raw, athletic tackle who is just learning the position. Has a chance to be really dominant with those feet.

16. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington: ­­ I know some scouts wonder if he can play linebacker at 230 pounds. He can run, hit and cover.

17. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin: ­­ I wouldn’t draft a back in the first round, but this kid reminds me of Jamaal Charles. That’s special.

18. Shane Ray, DE, Missouri: ­­ He emerged as a big-time pass rusher last season, getting 13 1/2 sacks. But where was he before that when Michael Sam and Kony Ealy started. That’s concerning.

19. Paul Dawson, ILB, TCU: ­­ Here’s another fast linebacker who can run and cover. He sometimes gets too aggressive, but, boy, can he run to the football.

20. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville: ­­ He missed seven games last season after breaking his foot in the preseason, but he’s got big-time skills that translate to the next level. He’s 6­foot-3, 210 pounds.

21. Alvin “Bud” Dupree, OLB, Kentucky: ­­ He can play standing up or with his hand on the ground. He plays with a violent style.

22. Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas: ­­ He is big and strong at 6­4, 320 pounds, but he also moves well for a big man.

23. La’el Collins, OT, LSU: ­­ Another big (6­5, 322) tackle who shows a lot of athletic ability. Not always consistent, but talent is there.

24. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: ­­ I wouldn’t draft him in the first round, but he has the talent to be a star runner. He is coming off a torn ACL.

25. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson: ­­ He’s a smaller edge rusher, but he has the speed teams love off the corner. Looks like a 3­4 outside linebacker to me.

26. Jalen Collins, CB, LSU: ­­ At 6­2, he has the length teams crave. He has played a lot of man coverage.

EDITORS REMINDER: The Dallas Cowboys hold the #27th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Keeping an eye on the Top 20-32 ranked prospects might be a good indication of a potentially available player that’ll be sitting on the board when Dallas drafts.

27. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State: ­­ He is 6­4, 320 pounds and plays with great quickness for a man that size. He has the tools to be a better NFL player than he was a college player.

28. Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota: ­­ He’s the most complete tight end in a weak class. He can play inline and can move outside. He’s also a willing blocker.

29. Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan: ­­ I put him on this list as a tight end rather than a receiver. I think he has Jimmy Graham­-like skills.

30. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State: ­­ This kid can flat out run. He can stretch a defense and pull a double team, which is huge for an offense. That’s why I have him rated higher than most.

31. P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State: ­­ Here’s another corner with good size and the ability to excel playing man coverage.

32. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami: ­­ At 6­5, 320 pounds, he has the look of a prototype left tackle, but, like some others in this class, he is raw.

Courtesy: Pete Prisco | Senior NFL Columnist

NFL COMBINE EXPLAINED: Making sense of all the drills and tests

Think of a NFL prospect as a puzzle. A lot of pieces make up each player and evaluators try to gather as many puzzle pieces as possible to create a clearer picture of who that prospect will be at the NFL level.

And for many prospects, the NFL combine is one of the crucial and important corner pieces.

The NFL combine could be divided into four critical areas that NFL teams will focus on: agility tests and drills, one-on-one interviews, medical evaluations and verified measurements. The combine is much more than only the 40-yard dash, and agility tests and drills can provide context with every prospect placed on the same field under the same circumstances.

Some label the combine as nothing more than the “Underwear Olympics,” but as one pro scout pointed out: “Those who don’t value the combine don’t know how to properly use it.” So for the combine novices, this is a step-by-step breakdown of each agility test, including examples of how a prospect’s performance can help or hurt his final draft grade.

40-yard dash
This test is used to measure vertical speed and acceleration.

Steps explained by NFL combine handbook:
1. Player starts in a 3-point stance.
2. After player hears, “You can go” from Director, he must hold for a 2-count before running.
3. No rolling starts. No quick starts.
4. Timer will start watch when player’s down-hand separates from the surface.
5. Player will run the 40-yard dash twice.
6. After running the 40-yard dash, players return to player holding area near starting line.

One classic example of a 40-yard dash boosting a player’s draft stock is WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was drafted seventh overall by the Raiders in 2009. The Maryland receiver had only 42 catches as a junior and was considered a project, but he was expected to blow up the combine and didn’t disappoint. Heyward-Bey ran a 4.25 40-yard dash and Al Davis couldn’t help himself, drafting the raw athlete in the top 10. Other skill players who vaulted up draft boards after impressive 40-yard dash times: East Carolina RB Chris Johnson (4.24 in 2008), Tennessee State CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (4.29 in 2008) and Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill (4.28 in 2012).

On the flip side, poor 40-yard dash times have contributed to knocking prospects down draft boards. Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict went undrafted for several reasons, largely because of his poor attitude and conditioning issues. And his 5.0 time in the 40 not only showed his questionable speed, but also suspect work ethic. At the 2013 combine, Clemson RB Andre Ellington turned heads for the wrong reasons when he ran a 4.61 40, which is one reason he slipped to the sixth round. But a hamstring issue was the main culprit behind his poor testing times, allowing the Cardinals to find a gem with the 187th pick.

10-yard split
The first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash, this test is used to measure initial quickness and burst. Steps are the same as the 40-yard dash.

Memphis DT Dontari Poe tipped the scales at 346 pounds during the 2012 NFL Combine and impressed when he recorded 44 reps on the bench. He was expected to perform well in the other drills, but few expected the numbers he produced, including a 1.67-second 10-yard split and 4.89 40-yard dash. Poe’s remarkable combine performance helped him on draft day when he was drafted 11th overall by the Chiefs. At last year’s combine, Michigan OT Taylor Lewan (1.71) and Auburn OT Greg Robinson (1.72) were considered two of the top offensive linemen in the 2014 class each had exceptional 10-yard splits. Robinson was off the board at No. 2 overall to the Rams and Lewan was drafted 11th overall by the Titans.

20-yard split
The first 20 yards of the 40-yard dash, this test is used to measure sustained quickness and burst. Steps are the same as the 40-yard dash.

Going into the 2012 combine, LSU’s Morris Claiborne and Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick were the two most talked-about cornerback prospects. But after his performance in Indianapolis, South Carolina CB Stephon Gilmore received more ink. He set a modern combine record with a 2.40 20-yard split, besting the previous record of 2.41 set previously by Chris Johnson and C.J. Spiller. Gilmore was drafted 10th overall by the Buffalo Bills and is one of the NFL’s best young players at his position.

20-yard short shuttle
This test is used to measure agility and lateral movement.

Steps as explained by NFL Combine handbook:
1. While facing the Drill Director, player starts in a 3-point stance with legs straddling the line equally.
2. Player must have hand squarely on the start line and hold the position for 2 seconds.
3. After player hears, “You can go” from Director he may start drill.
4. Player will run to the right line 5 yards away and touch the line with right hand. Player will then sprint 10 yards to the left and touch the line with left hand.
5. After the last line touch, player will sprint through the finish line, which is the starting point of the drill.
6. All players will complete one run to the right and one run to the left. (2 attempts)
7. Down hand is same as running direction. Left hand to the Left — Right hand to the Right.
8. It is the responsibility of the player not to slip and adjust to the surface.

One of the best recorded short shuttle times in combine history was 3.75 by CB Dunta Robinson in 2004. Coming out of South Carolina, he was viewed as a possible first-round pick entering the pre-draft process, but an exceptional combine performance, including a 4.34 40 and record-setting short shuttle time, showed he had the agility and sudden footwork to play the position in the NFL. Robinson was drafted 10th overall by Houston. Former Iowa WR Kevin Kasper has the fastest 20-yard shuttle time (3.73) since 2000.

One player who saw his draft stock drop, WR Allen Hurns, did not impress at the 2014 combine, including a 4.50 short shuttle time (second-worst among receivers last year). Hurns went undrafted, but put together a strong rookie season for the Jaguars (51 catches, 677 yards, six TDs).

Vertical jump
This test is used to measure lower body explosion and leaping ability.

Steps as explained by NFL Combine handbook:
1. Director will measure 18 and/or 24 inches down from the bottom marker on the Vertec and place a piece of tape at each mark.
2. Player will stand with his right side (ankle, hip, shoulder; left side if left handed) against the Vertec and extend his arm upward as far as possible.
3. Director will extend the Vertec to the top of the players’ extended hand at the top edge of tape and tighten in place. The bottom marker will represent 18 or 24 inches for that player.
4. Player starts jump with both feet planted on the ground.
5. Player may swing arms and dip knees.
6. Players may not shuffle feet before take-off as this will result in a scratch and jump will not count.
7. Player attempts 2 jumps touching the highest slat-marker on the Vertec from the floor.
8. That mark represents the players’ vertical jump.

One of the best “workout warriors” in recent memory — Maryland TE Vernon Davis — wasn’t a well-known player, but changed that after a dominant performance at the 2006 combine. He blazed a 4.38 40-yard dash and recorded a 42-inch vertical, two of the best-ever measures for the position. A two-time Pro Bowler, the 49ers drafted Davis sixth overall in 2006. A year earlier, North Carolina FS Gerald Sensabaugh entered the combine as a fringe draftable player. But after an impressive combine outing, including a record 46-inches in the vertical jump, Sensabaugh secured himself as a draftable player and had an eight-year NFL career with the Jaguars and Cowboys.

At the 2008 combine, Michigan RB Mike Hart registered only 28 inches in the vertical jump, one of the lowest numbers in the drill among running backs over the past decade. Nonetheless he was drafted in the sixth round by the Colts, mostly due to his résumé.

Broad jump
This test is used to measure lower body explosion and balance.

Steps as explained by NFL Combine handbook:
1. Each player receives two attempts at the Standing Broad Jump.
2. Players must start with both feet/toes totally behind start line for valid jump.
3. Players may swing arms and bend knees prior to jumping.
4. Upon landing, player must maintain control, landing balanced with both feet planted.
5. Upon landing player may also fall forward, but not backwards.
6. Jumps are measured from heal of the foot nearest to the initial jump line.
7. Jumps are measured to the nearest whole inch.
8. Results are recorded in feet and inches jumped.

Coming out of Southern Miss in 2013, LB Jamie Collins was somewhat of an enigma because he looked athletic on film, but there were questions about his position. But after his Combine performance, including a record 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump, those questions became less significant as coaches just wanted the chance to work with such an athletic marvel. The Patriots landed Collins in the second round (52nd overall) and the 25-year old is one of the up-and-coming stars in the AFC.

Former Alabama WR Julio Jones turned heads with his 2011 combine performance, including an outstanding 11-3 broad jump. The average broad jump result for wide receivers over the last five years? 9-11. Jones was drafted sixth overall by the Falcons and is one of the league’s best receivers.

3-cone drill
This test is used to measure agility, flexibility and change of direction.

Steps as explained by NFL Combine handbook:
1. Cones are set 5 yards apart forming an “L” shape.
2. Player will start the drill in a 3-point stance.
3. With player in start position Drill Director will release player by saying “You can go”.
4. Director will start the stopwatch the instant the player’s hand separates from the surface.
5. The player will sprint forward 5 yards touching the line and returning to the start line touching that line before running around the cones.
6. Player must touch lines with Right Hand.
7. When running around the cones, the player will maintain outside leverage until the last cone. On the last cone, the player will circle around the cone before returning to the finish line.
8. The player will again maintain outside leverage while running around the cones on his way back to the finish line.
9. Player may not touch cone or place hand on surface when making turn around a cone.

Few knew Buster Skrine’s name leading up to the 2011 combine, but he was exceptional at Lucas Oil Stadium, recording a 4.37 40 and a 37-inch vertical. But it was his 6.44 3-cone drill that really wowed, the third-best time recorded since 2000. Skrine went from fringe draftable to the fifth round and he has developed well the past four seasons and hits free agency in a few weeks as one of the top cornerbacks available.

Bench press
This test is used to measure upper body strength (bench press strength, not functional strength)

Steps as explained by NFL Combine handbook:
1. Warm up at 185-lb bench or pushups if desired
2. Keep both feet on the ground
3. Keep buttocks on the bench.
4. Fully extend arms on every repetition.
5. DO NOT bounce the bar off their chest
6. DO NOT short-arm the repetition.
7. Fouls will result in the deduction of a repetition
8. Director counts the player’s repetitions.
9. Total number of repetitions is recorded, minus deducted repetitions, if any

Entering the 2011 combine, Oregon State DT Stephen Paea was unaware of the combine bench-press record, set the previous year at 45 reps. But once he found out, he was determined to set a new mark. Paea, who was drafted 53rd overall by the Bears, hammered out 49 reps, a record that stands and secured his standing as a second-round pick.

The 2013 combine was a forgettable performance for DE Damontre Moore, who left Texas A&M early with hopes of being a high first-round pick. Most of his results were passable (4.84 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical jump), but he managed only 12 reps on the bench press, which presented strength and work-ethic concerns. Not including quarterbacks or specialists, the universal bottom number on the bench press is 15 reps, anything below that is a red flag. Moore slipped to the third round where the Giants drafted him 81st overall.

Courtesy: Dane Brugler | NFLDraftScout Senior Analyst

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