Who’s On The Hot Seat At The Combine?

February 23rd, 2010

The Bucs probably have their eye on this manbeast's medical testing at the combine

The 2010 NFL scouting combine kicks off in Indianapolis on Thursday.

So what the heck really goes on there?

In this article, NFL Draft guru Justin Pawlowski goes inside the combine to break down its five key elements, and Pawlowski identifies and analyzes players who need success in specific areas. 

Some, such as former Syracuse Orangemen Mike Williams and Arthur Jones, are guys undoubtedly on the Bucs’ radar. 



Measurements (height/weight):
People sometimes tend to get too caught up in a player’s height and weight. Don’t get me wrong, I find it extremely important. Ideally, you want a player who not only will be able to take a pounding in the NFL, but deliver a pounding as well. Teams also want players who can control themselves and not allow their weight to get the best of them. Here are a couple of players that will turn heads when they take their shirts off.

Terrance Cody – DT – Alabama
This one seems fairly obvious. Cody’s strength is his massive size, however, his biggest weakness might also be that massive size. Before the Senior Bowl, pictures circulated of Mount Cody carrying a few extra pounds. The scale doesn’t lie as he ended up weighing in at 370+ lbs. Mike Mayock even said it “wasn’t a clean 370”. Cody’s ideal weight is right around 355-360 lbs.

Vladimir Ducasse – OG – UMASS
I’m not so sure his height and weight will be a surprise, but when Ducasse takes off his shirt in front of those scouts, they’ll be drooling. I know, sounds odd, but it’s true.  Ducasse stands at 6’5’’ and 330 lbs.  He carries his weight extremely well and has the look of a dominant lineman. This should bode well for him.

Medical (Physical):
The medical portion of the combine might be the most important. If a player can’t stay healthy, then it really doesn’t matter how fast, how strong, or how great of a leader a player could be. When players show a consistent pattern of injuries in college, teams must know if that player can put those injuries behind him or if those injuries will continue. In 2005, the Bucs selected offensive lineman Chris Colmer in the third round out of N.C. State after he had numerous injuries in college. He never played a down in the NFL. Here are a couple of players who need to prove they’re healthy:

Arthur Jones – DT – Syracuse
I’ve been saying it, and I’ll continue to say it.  Arthur Jones has first-round talent, but his injuries will force him to the second round or beyond. Jones played nine games in 2009, but was forced to miss the final three because of a torn lateral meniscus. Despite missing those games, Jones was named 1st Team All-Big East for the second year in a row. If Jones can convince teams that he is healthy and can stay healthy, we could see his stock rise. The problem for Jones is that this is a pretty deep draft at defensive tackle and a knock like injuries could really hurt him. One team could get a huge steal if Jones falls to the third round. …Bucs?

Jahvid Best – RB – Cal
Best had a horrific injury in 2009. Many many thought he broke his neck and was paralyzed. Luckily for Best, he did not break his neck and had full movement in all his extremities after sustaining a concussion against Oregon St. There might be questions as to whether Best can carry the load in the NFL. The medical tests will be important for Best to remain a high second or late first-round selection.

Interviews (with NFL teams):
Other than being healthy, the most important factor of the combine is that teams can sit down, one on one, with players and get to know them better. This process is crucial to finding out the true player behind the mask. Teams can see the intelligence of a player by testing him on a board or the character of a person by asking what he would do in certain circumstances. This is also the area where players who might have had trouble in college have a chance to explain those problems face to face with their future employers. Here are a couple of players in need of great interviews:

Jimmy Clausen – QB – Notre Dame
When you watch Clausen on film, you see a kid with all the tools. He has the arm strength, accuracy, and mobility for a pro-style offense. One of the main questions with Clausen is his leadership ability. In his interview, Clausen must show confidence, but also be sure to not come across as cocky. Quarterbacks are very tough to judge, so Clausen has to make whatever team interviews him as comfortable with him as possible.

Mike Williams – WR – Syracuse
Pretty simple here. Williams must try and convince NFL teams that his problems are in the past and that he is ready to be a mature NFL player. This guy can be unbelievable when he wants to, but there is just so much baggage here. In 2007, Williams was forced off the team because of academic issues. Again, in 2009, Williams decided to quit the team without warning halfway through the season. There is a lot of money at stake here. Hopefully, Williams has it all together so we can enjoy his talents on the football field. I’d love to see the Bucs take a flier on Williams in the third round. Without his baggage, I think Mike Williams is neck and neck with Dez Bryant as the most talented receiver in the draft.

Individual Skills (timing, strength, etc…):
This part is probably the most overrated part of the combine, however, still very important. Neither a 40-yard dash time nor a bench press ever scored a touchdown, but both could help evaluate a slight difference between two athletes. The NFL is full of very strong and very fast athletes. I would simply use this portion of the combine as an arena to tell me whether a player can keep up with the superior athletes in the NFL. What I mean is, if a receiver or corner runs a 4.7 or 4.8 40-yard dash, I have to seriously consider eliminating them from my board. That goes the other way, as well, if one of those players runs a 4.2 40-yard dash, maybe I go back and watch their film a little more. Hell, you can’t teach speed. These are players who need to dazzle in these drills:

Chris Cook – CB – Virginia
Gotta love the size of Cook at 6’1’’ and over 210 lbs. Size is great, but can he put it to good use? There are many issues with Cook (durability, academic ineligibility, etc.), but if you can play, NFL teams have shown a sense of forgiveness. Cook needs to run a good 40-yard dash time to show his ability to stay with some of the faster receivers in football.

Brandon Spikes – MLB – Florida
Speed is the biggest question with Spikes. We know he’s a physical football player who will stick his nose into traffic, but can he cover the keep middle in the Tampa 2 defense?  Spikes 40-yard dash time will show teams what type of defense Spikes is best suited for. The more defenses a player is suited for, the higher he could be drafted. Spikes is limited right now, which could force him to slide a little on draft day.

Individual Drills (Drills based on player’s position):
I consider these drills a little more important than the “individual skills”, but still not a deal-breaker for me. If a player shows good movement, ability to track the ball in the air, or supreme accuracy on his passes, then I’ll go back and watch their film again. One workout would never be a deal-breaker for me.  However, it’s still very important, especially for players making a change of position. So without further adieu, here are a couple players in need of good performances in their individual drills:

Jerry Hughes – DE/OLB – TCU
I guess you could really put any defensive end that’s making the switch to outside linebacker here. Hughes was relentless at getting to the passer at TCU, but can he drop into coverage as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense? If he, or any prospect like him, succeeds in these drills, they’ll see their stock rise significantly.

Damian Williams – WR – USC
There’s been a ton of talk the past few weeks about Williams and his lack of flash entering the draft. When you have a draft with flashy players at receiver and you’re not flashy, it’s tough to stand out. I don’t expect much from Williams in terms of measureables — 40 times, bench press, etc…  The only place Williams could stand out iis in the individual drills, and he might have to, to remain a second-round pick. There is a log jam of receivers for the second and third rounds, and most are flashy with tremendous ability. Williams must show that he is a reliable receiver to remain in that group.

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