Much to my surprise the COMBINE powers that be did indeed beat their own deadline for posting invitation info at their website. One might argue they came in just under the wire on this past Friday afternoon, but it’s a better performance than last year when the list leaked out via CBS Sportsline first. So here is a Draftnik’s first take on the list as released.
This group of invitees numbers 323, which is about the norm. As of today there will be 256 Draft PIcks allotted when the Draft starts, although things like inflate-gate, and piped-in crowd noise may result in a few forfeited picks before the end of April rolls around. So the Combine Committee has given itself a breathing space margin for error of about 67 players or about 26%. I bring that up because one of the stated goals of the Combine is to invite every eventual draftee. Now that is a tough goal to meet. Therefore, I am not going to nitpick and list every player I think should have been invited. WHat I will do, after a few miscellaneous observations, is present you with my All-Non-Invitee Prospect Team.
NICK MARSHALL is listed in the QB group for the Combine. Please Nick, do not go to someone and tell them you want to work out with the CB group like you did in Mobile. I look at the list of 15 invited QB and think you can rank in the top half of it handily. I say show your strong arm and athleticism and let NFL Personnel people decide whether you have a position change in your near football future. I would be happy to draft you on Day 3 as a QB if I had a team. You won’t be drafted earlier because you’re an aspiring CB. Patience young man.
I truly think the NFL is already turning the corner back to the realization of the importance of having a strong running game, headed by a top notch talent. A workhorse RB will remain a thing of the past overall, but teams are not going to delude themselves into thinking they can entrust their RB position to three URFA players every year. Injuries to GURLEY and others in the RB group have clouded things a bit, but that could be said of most position groups. 36 players are listed in the RB/FB group. Only the crowded WR group has more players, at 44. And I would still maintain that the 2-year draught of Round 1 RB picks is about to end.
I am amazed on an annual basis at some of the players who are listed in position groups where they clearly do not have an NFL future. The most glaring example this year is probably VICTOR BEASLEY/DE/CLEMSON. If he weighs more than 230 lbs. then he’s been eating Big Macs at his Performance Camp at every meal. He is listed as a DE for this Combine and that is just plain crazy. He belongs in the OLB group. So let the conversion process begin now. I have similar concerns about RANDY GREGORY still being shown as a DE. I wonder what he will weigh at the end of this month.
By my count I am showing that out of the 323 players anticipated to be in Indy at the end of the month 30 of them, 9.3% are from smaller, non-D1 schools. That’s about on a par for recent years, but could clearly have been higher without stretching the imagination too much. The small schools are very much back in the Draft picture for NFL teams.
I count 63 official Underclassmen in the Combine ranks, which is a petty high percentage of the 74 officially recognized underclassmen. Their number is almost always high because this is a great chance for NFL personnel people to play catch-up on information gathering about these guys whom they do not have a full scouting portfolio of info on right now. Underclassmen who were not invited should be a bit nervous right now about their potential Draft status.
Speaking of which, let me remind you again of the acknowledged importance of what goes on at the COMBINE proceedings. These are the areas of this Job Fair in order of their perceived importance as a scouting tool.
1) Medicals… this is by far the NFL teams’ best and most economical way of gauging the overall health of these players. For some it’s a check point during rehab of a known injury. And on occasion the medical exams can reveal an issue that teams, and maybe even the players, are not aware of. Teams don’t want to invest millions on damaged goods it they can avoid it. More than a few players tested in Indy will be brought back for a recheck as the Draft draws closer.
2) Physical Testing… this is a way to confirm, or cause questions about what scouts have physically seen on tape or in person on campus visits. Are they as quick, fast, strong ,etc. as perviously thought. It also shows how well guys concentrate and follow directions. And it can also provide a feel for how much a player wants to compete to be the best.
3) Interviews… these face to face contacts with players are essential, but the COMBINE only gives teams a 15-minute block of time to be with each of them, and a max number of players that can be scheduled per team. Only so much can be gleaned from such a small snippet of exposure. But it is a chance to start the dialogue and get a first blush impression on some potential employees.
So for now, let’s jump on to my Non-Combine All-Stars.
RB/SYNJYN DAVIS/GA TECH
H-B/CASEY PIERCE/KENT STATE
T/DONIEL GAMBRELL/NOTRE DAME COLLEGE
G/SHAQ MASON/GA TECH
C/DILLON DAY/MISS STATE
K/MARVIN KLOSS/SOUTH FLORIDA
DE/DEION BARNES/PENN STATE
DT/XAVIER WILLIAMS/N. IOWA
DT/JAMES CASTLEMAN/OKLAHOMA STATE
ILB/ZACH VIGIL/UTAH STATE
OLB/SHAQ RIDDICK/WEST VIRGINIA
CB/CODY RIGGS/NOTRE DAME
CB/BERNARD BLAKE/COLORADO STATE