When it comes to evaluating a player, the best way has always been and forever will be watching the college tape. However, if two players are ranked similarly, there must be a tie breaker. The combine serves this purpose.
Exactly how much emphasis is put on the combine is certainly up for debate, but over the last few years the underwear olympics has become an event in itself. Who will run the fastest 40? Who will have the most reps? Who will establish himself as the best overall athlete?
This year there are plenty of players to watch with plenty of story lines and even though the combine may not hold quite the stock among scouts as it does among fans, guess what? We fans are already football famished and are in need of healthy debate and discussion on the NFL’s upcoming rookie class.
So exactly who should we keep an eye on this weekend when the combine hits?
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Watkins is hands down the best wide receiver in this draft class. He’s been compared to Julio Jones and A.J. Green when they entered the draft back in 2011. Watkins had quite the campaign at Clemson in 2013, finishing with 101 receptions, 1464 yards and 12 TDs. The 6’1, 205lbs. receiver could launch himself into top five consideration with a great 40 time.
Nov 30, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) rushes the passer against the Clemson Tigers in the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jadaveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Well, duh. This is most likely the biggest story to watch looking towards Indianapolis. Clowney has not been very secretive about how bad he wants to blow up the combine. I’m thinking that he does it. Clowney is already a top 5 lock, but with if a 6’5 272lbs. DE ran a 4.4 40, then he would more than likely lock up the top spot overall. That would certainly be something to see.
Austin Seferian Jenkins, TE, Washington & Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: I lumped these two together because they have similar skill sets. Jenkins is taller standing at 6’6, but both could certainly find themselves serving comparable roles on whichever team decides to draft them. You’re not drafting these guys to stay in and block. You’re drafting either one of these guys to create mismatches. I’m not quite sure as to how teams have them ranked, but a stellar combine showing by either one would create separation between the two.
Blake Bortles, QB, University of Central Florida: Bortles will be throwing at the combine. This is something that most top 10 QBs do not do, which is interesting because Bortles is widely considered a top ten pick. If he’s able to connect on a consistent basis with wide receivers he’s never worked with before and display accuracy, I don’t see why it wouldn’t give him a slight boost in the eyes of scouts.
There will always be guys who completely dominate these drills, but it doesn’t always mean that they will do so on Sundays. With these aforementioned prospects though, the combine will mean something. Are there any players in particular aside from these that you are excited about seeing?
-David R. Johns