Top Ten Players to Watch at This Week’s NFL Combine
We believe the Combine is the most over-hyped event in the entire scouting process and really has very little predictive power concerning a player’s future NFL prospects.
And we love it.
Don’t get us wrong– there are times when the numbers can come in handy, particularly when attempting to decipher a player’s ability to transition to a new position at the next level. Will that cornerback who played primarily cover two in college fit well on an NFL team who runs mostly man coverage? Not if he runs a 4.7. How well will a particular linemen fit into a zone blocking scheme? His short shuttle time could be a good predictor of that.
More than anything, forty times, vertical jumps, and so on should be a confirmation of what a scout saw on film, not a determining factor about his ability to play pro football. In this top ten list, we will examine a few of the players whose times and measurements could matter for the Cowboys. This will give you a chance to look for certain things during the Combine if you, like us, would rather watch NFL Network than work.
1. Ole Miss WR/RB/Returner Dexter McCluster’s Forty Time
We will list a few forties in this list that will just be fun to watch. This is one of them, although it could also be important. McCluster weighs 165 pounds. At that weight, he has got to run a sub 4.4 forty. Dexter is currently our second-round pick for the Cowboys, and he sure would make a nice return man and specialty player.
2. USC OT Charles Brown‘s Bench Press Reps
The bench press is even more pointless than all of the running drills, as there is just no way to project a player’s performance based on how many times he can throw up 225 pounds. It can unveil a player’s work ethic, but other than that it is more of a show than anything else.
For USC tackle Charles Brown, though, it could be a bit more important. Brown is a sub-300 pound OT who figures to excel in a zone-blocking scheme or West Coast offense. The Cowboys generally value gigantic, strong linemen, but if they want to upgrade their pass protection as bad as we think they do, Brown could get a look. His upper body strength, which has been in question, would be an important issue for Dallas, so this event could be telling.
3. Clemson WR/Returner Jacoby Ford’s Position Drills
Like McCluster, Ford is lightning fast. He has a chance to be the fastest player at the Combine, but he will have to compete with LSU’s Trindon Holliday. The two are no strangers to racing one another, as they’ve done so many times on the track. Holliday usually won.
We know Ford’s forty will be outstanding, but teams will be more interested in his ability to stop, cut, catch, and run routes. They know he is a track star, but can he be a football star?
4. Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick‘s Interviews
Okay, so Odrick’s interviews aren’t exactly something we can watch, but they will certainly be an important factor in where he gets selected in the draft. Odrick is certainly talented, but he has some character concerns after being arrested last March. Odrick is a certain first round pick if teams deem his arrest a one-time event.
We currently have Odrick as the Cowboys’ first round selection at pick number 27, and he would play defensive end in the Cowboys 3-4 scheme.
5. LSU RB/WR/Returner Trindon Holliday’s Forty Time
When getting recruited to LSU out of high school, Holliday ran a 4.28 forty-yard dash in basketball sneakers without going down into a track stance. The coaches didn’t believe their watches and made him run again. The result: 4.27.
Holliday is one of the fastest people in the world. The only problem is that he is 5’5”, 161 pounds. He is definitely not more than a return guy at the next level, but he could be worth a late-round selection if Dallas has yet to upgrade KR/PR by that time. Check out this 100-meter dash during which he got off to a bad start.
Holliday said he will beat Chris Johnson’s record 4.24 from two years ago. We don’t doubt him.
6. Hillsdale OT Jared Veldheer’s Position Drills
We currently have Veldheer as Dallas’ third-round pick in our Cowboys-only mock draft. With a good Combine and Pro Day, he probably won’t last that long. Veldheer is absolutely massive (6’9”, 321 pounds), so, unlike USC’s Charles Brown, he is the prototypical Cowboys’ lineman.
Coming from a DII school, though, there are questions concerning his mechanics. Did he just overpower smaller defenders at Hillsdale, or is he a legitimate NFL tackle? His footwork and agility at the Combine should go a long way in determining his draft stock.
7. LSU OT Ciron Black’s Short Shuttle Time
Black, now projected to go anywhere from round three to round five, was actually a consensus first-rounder before this past season. In fact, Mel Kiper had him in the top five on his Big Board.
The problem, in our eyes, is that Black was at the wrong position in college. Instead of left tackle, Ciron is probably better suited at right tackle or one of the guard positions. His size (6’5”, 315 pounds) and run-blocking skills are superb, but he doesn’t have good agility.
If his short shuttle time is respectable, however, Black could be moved to a guard/right tackle backup spot for the Cowboys, becoming an upgrade over Cory Procter. The low risk and high reward that Ciron presents makes him the perfect mid-round selection, even if the Cowboys have already selected a lineman.
8. Kentucky ILB Micah Johnson‘s Physical
The results of Johnson’s physical will be the most important factor in determining what grade scouts give him. If teams consider him healthy despite his knee injury, he could be selected in the third round where we think he is well worth the risk. Johnson is an every-down type linebacker who has the requisite size to eventually replace Keith Brooking inside.
9. Alabama CB/Returner Javier Arenas’ Forty/Short Shuttle Time
The Cowboys aren’t going to upgrade their cornerback spot in the early rounds, but if Arenas drops to the back of the third round, his return abilities make him a possibility. He averaged 15.4 yards on punt returns and 29.0 on kickoff returns.
At just 5’9” though, Arenas will have to display excellent speed and quickness to be drafted by the Cowboys. If they invest a third round pick in Arenas, the team will want him to come in and at least compete for the nickel spot. Adding Arenas could also allow Dallas to move Alan Ball to free safety full time to compete with Ken Hamlin.
10. Georgia Tech S Morgan Burnett’s Forty Time
Burnett has the ability to defend the run and pass with equal success. At 210 pounds, he has prototypical size to come up in run support, yet still be able to make plays on the ball.
Burnett will need to run a low 4.5, though, to show that he is capable of being more than what safety Roy Williams was late in his Cowboys’ career. If Burnett is in the high 4.6’s, it will be unlikely that he can play anything other than strong safety for Dallas, but the team needs a ball-hawking free safety more than anything.
Burnett will be the feature of our next “Potential Draft Picks” Series.
Combine Workout Schedule
Friday, February 20: Kickers/Punters
Saturday, February 21: Offensive Linemen/Tight Ends
Sunday, February 22: Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers/Running Backs
Monday, February 23: Defensive Linemen/Linebackers
Tuesday, February 24: Cornerbacks/Safeties