NFL Draft Center


2013 NFL SCOUTING COMBINE STORYLINES/PLAYERS TO WATCH

Draft season continues on as the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway this week and brings together all of the top prospects for NFL front offices and scouts to see as 333 potential draft picks will report to Indianapolis. The prospects will be on display off the field at the weigh-ins, medical exams, press conferences and team interviews and on the field in a multitude of measurable and football drills. A great performance by one of the top prospects at this year’s Combine could determine who the top prospect is and who the first overall pick might be.

1.   Can a consensus #1 prospect emerge with a great performance at the Combine?

The 2013 Scouting Combine might just be the most competitive one yet as this year the event will get underway with no clear consensus #1 prospect rated among scouts, analysts and other draft experts. Right now any one of about four or five prospects among a group that consists of Luke Joeckel, Star Lotulelei, Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore and Chance Warmack could be considered the top guy, but even they have their detractors. That’s why a fantastic performance at the Combine this year by any of these prospects or another could solidify them as the top dog. One of these prospects needs to do something to separate themselves from the group. If you don’t agree with that notion, just look at Central Michigan Left Tackle Eric Fisher who has skyrocketed up draft boards from a late first round pick into the top ten after a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl and one would have to think that he’s coming to Indianapolis with the mindset of outshining Joeckel at their position and putting himself into consideration for that top spot among 2013 prospects. Joeckel appears to be the favorite at the moment to be considered the top prospect and most likely first overall pick, but if he disappoints at the Combine there will be any number of guys ready to steal that spot from him. The Combine is as important as ever this year for these prospects.

2.   The Quarterback Competition Continues

Perhaps the most interesting storyline of the 2013 NFL Draft is the ongoing Quarterback competition between eight or nine prospects and who will emerge among them as the top signal-caller and a guy worthy of taking early in the draft. Six quarterbacks (Glennon, Jones, Wilson, Manuel, Nassib and Dysert) failed to do much to improve their draft stock at the Senior Bowl as the event was filled with highs and lows as all six had their good and bad moments. The Combine will bring three more quarterbacks back into the fold as seniors Geno Smith and Matt Barkley will attend the event after skipping the Senior Bowl along with underclassman Tyler Bray, who might just have the best pure arm of anyone this year. No real reason has been made for why Smith skipped the Senior Bowl and he will have some fence mending to do this week, while Barkley missed the event because he was still recovering from shoulder surgery and the same injury will apparently keep him from throwing and doing most of the drills at the Combine as well. This will be Bray’s first opportunity since the college football regular season ended to show off for scouts as Tennessee didn’t even make a bowl game this year. Despite struggling down the stretch and skipping out on the Senior Bowl festivities, Smith comes into the Combine still as the favorite among quarterbacks to be taken in the first round, although to who is still up in the air. The pressure will be on all of these quarterbacks to impress NFL front offices and scouts this week and a great performance could have a major impact on just where all of these guys will come off the board. It is that wide open between these quarterbacks. Dysert won’t compete in drills after tearing his hamstring last week.

3.   SEC Showcase

If you needed any more proof as to why the SEC dominates college football and wins the BCS National Championship every year, look no further than the 2013 NFL Draft and this week’s Scouting Combine. Of the 333 prospects invited to the event, 73 are from the SEC. LSU leads the way with 13 players at the event including a record 11 underclassmen, Georgia is next with 11 invitations, while Florida and Alabama have 10 each. South Carolina (7) and Texas A&M (6) will combine for 13 prospects at the Combine. Up to 20 SEC prospects could be selected in the first round including Luke Joeckel, who is currently one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs.

4.   The Medical Reports

Medical/Physical exams may be the most important aspect of the Combine for prospects where NFL team doctors will get their first chance to examine potential draft picks. A failed medical report or unreported injury could affect a prospect more than anything else that happens this week. There are quite a few notable prospects that will have all eyes on them as they pass through the exam starting with Matt Barkley, who was going to throw at the Combine, but now isn’t and was said to be almost fully healthy, but may be further off then has been reported. The condition of his throwing shoulder is probably the biggest storyline to watch in regards to the medical portion of the event. Marcus Lattimore’s entire draft stock may rest with what happens in his medical exam. After blowing out his knee for the second straight season, the running back with first round talent is facing a tough road back to being fully healthy and returning to the form that had him ranked as the top ball-carrier in the draft before the injury. Others to keep an eye on include Jarvis Jones, who will continue to downplay his spinal stenosis condition, Tank Carradine (ACL tear), Keenan Allen (PCL strain), Jesse Williams (knee), Barrett Jones (Lisfanc injury), Eddie Lacy (recent torn hamstring), Zac Dysert (recent hamstring tear), Denard Robinson (nagging elbow injury), Sean Renfree (torn pectoral muscle), Kiko Alonso (nagging wrist injury) and Dion Jordan (pending shoulder surgery).

5.   Manti Te’o faces the Media and Interview Room

If Manti Te’o wanted all the attention, he sure got it with this fake girlfriend hoax whether he was in on it or not and the toughest part as a result of it will take place this week when he will have to face the media firing squad and hoards of reporters at his news conference and even more so in private interviews with team front offices and coaching staffs. His stock has taken multiple hits with this hoax off the field and more importantly his dreadful performance on the field in the BCS National Championship against Alabama where he was completely dominated. He has a lot of making up to do this week both on and off the field if he wants to remain a first round possibility. Te’o’s not the only prospect in for a tough week of interviews and questions as Alec Ogletree and Tyrann Mathieu will also be under the microscope. Despite starting the season with a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules, Ogletree was still able to play his way into the top 20 prospects, but a DUI arrest just a few days ago have sent red flags soaring. Baltimore appears to be the biggest benefactor of Te’o’s and Ogletree’s issues as the chance of one of them falling to the Ravens is now a real possibility giving the Super Bowl Champions a shot at landing an instant replacement at middle linebacker for the retired Ray Lewis. Mathieu’s off the field problems over the last couple of years are well documented and the Combine will be his final chance to win a team over and have a chance of even being drafted.

6.   A lack of elite offensive weapons

It’s not the most glamorous year for top prospects as the 2013 class is dominated by the defensive and offensive lines. Just a handful of prospects at the offensive skill positions appear to have a chance to be selected in the first round this year. The quarterback class is quite underwhelming with just Geno Smith as a likely first round pick, while maybe two wide receivers like Corrdarrelle Patterson and Keenan Allen might crack the first 32 picks. Eddie Lacy appeared to be the only running back with a shot at being a first round pick, but a recent tear in his hamstring and not being able to compete at the Combine could prevent that. While there may be a lack of elite offensive playmakers in the draft this year, there is no shortage of prospects in rounds two through four that have the ability to make an impact on NFL offenses. In fact the mid-rounds are stocked full of guys with next-level talent as nine quarterbacks, 12 running backs and 15 or more wide receivers could come off the board in these rounds with a number these prospects still having the chance to crack the first round. The tight end position has a couple of nice prospects as well in Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed who should all be off the board in the first two days of the draft. While there isn’t an Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson or Calvin Johnson this year, there is still a ton of talent at the offensive skill positions.

7.   The New Test

A new aptitude test will be added to the Combine this year. It will focus on measuring a player’s learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, core intellect and their ability to respond to pressure or unexpected stimuli. There is no score, but will instead give a comprehensive look at a player’s non-physical capabilities, aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses. The exam will be 60 minutes and take place in a classroom environment the same way as the Wonderlic test is. The test results will be shared with one or two team executives to protect confidentiality and every team will receive one page of “coaching points” on every player who takes the exam. These points will assist teams to closer evaluate prospects and determine whether they will be able to fit in with the current roster and coaching staff/style. This new test will not replace the Wonderlic, but will instead help to support its results.

8.   Fast Man/Strong Man

Every year scouts and fans wonder “who the fastest man” and “who the strongest man” are at the Combine. This year the fastest man competition appears to be wide open as Ace Sanders, Marquise Goodwin, Tavon Austin, Markus Wheaton and Steve Williams lead the candidates from the wide receiver class, while Onterio McCalebb, Kenjon Barner and Andre Ellington appear to be the best bets among running backs to run the fastest 40 time. Cornerback Nickell Robey and Athlete Denard Robinson could also run in the 4.3s. Goodwin was actually a member of the American Olympic Track Team at the London Games where he competed and finished tenth in the long jump event and was the champion in the same event at the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials. Alabama’s Jesse Williams is the favorite to be this year’s strongest man and has the potential to break the bench press record. His weight room performances at Alabama are apparently legendary and he is said to have the ability to bench 600lbs. As for prospects who have the potential to star in drills across the board and be the event’s “Workout Warriors,” keep an eye on freaky athletes like Ezekiel Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Margus Hunt, Dion Jordan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Zaviar Gooden, while Lane Johnson, Menelik Watson and John Jenkins are expected to stand out among the bigger athletes.

9.   Small School Prospects

Every year the Combine gives a chance to a handful of the best small school prospects to compete and test their skills against the nation’s top draft eligible prospects for all the NFL to see. Each year at least one or two prospects emerge as player worth taking somewhere in the first three rounds. This year the best candidates to shine include Missouri Southern DT Brandon Williams, Tennessee-Martin DT Montori Hughes, Arkansas Pine-Bluff OT Terron Armstead and Florida International S Jonathon Cyprien. The Golden Panthers safety has already made a splash this year after a terrific Senior Bowl week.

Written By: Mark Scott

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