Post Combine Watch List

March 9, 2016

I find it amusing, and perhaps a bit pathetic, that in today’s world of what’s happening now, things from a week ago are like ancient history. Hey folks, the NFL COMBINE, which many people can’t even see in their rear view mirror anymore, ended one week and a day ago. Come on folks that is not ancient history. And football fans who treat it as such may be dooming themselves to repeated failure as they ignore the “past”.
I have been compiling, and double checking info, on a list of 20 players who I felt showed enough in Indy to make people think twice about their status and rankings as Pro Prospects for the April Draft.

CALEB BENENOCH/OT/UCLA 6’054″/311 lbs 4.98/40 10″H/34 1/8″A
This early entrant for the 2016 Draft started 35 consecutive games for the Bruins in 3 seasons with the team. Check the numbers above carefully and realize that only two other players from the OL group of 46, who ran, were able to run sub-5.00/40’s. His hand size and arm length are superior for what NFL coaches want to see from their OT. He also moved pretty well in on-field drill work. Expect this guy to be making some extra team visits in the next month or so because those Combine numbers put him in a high potential bracket.

JUSTON BURRIS/CB/S/NC STATE 6’002″/212 lbs 4.53/40 8 7/8″H/31 1/2″A
Mark me down as a guy who has been impressed with what I have seen from BURRIS this post-season. he showed well at the Shrine Game venue, and his posted numbers above paint a pretty picture of a guy who played all over the secondary for the Wolfpack, and who I think will rank in the top dozen or so of the S prospects in this draft class. He is stout in run support and will look more athletic than most as a S. He’s also a nice Special Teams candidate while he finds his niche in someone’s secondary.

JOE DAHL/OG/WASHINGTON STATE 6’041″/304 5.18/40 9 1/8″H/33 1/8″A
Even though he played OT in the Mike Leach passing offense for Wazoo, he projects even better moving inside for his pro career. That is where he spend the bulk of his time at the Senior Bowl and he matched up quite well against an elite group of DL prospects in Mobile. His lack of ideal height and speed/quickness out at OT, all but disappear on the interior. His 33+” arms are highly desirous on the inside. For a year or so he can back up almost every OL spot for some pro team and then compete for a starting job inside when his transition is complete.

LEONARD FLOYD/OLB/GEORGIA 6’055″/244 lbs 4.60/40 10 1/8″H/33 1/8″A
FLOYD won the tale of the tape, big time, in Indy. For several years I have marveled as his nose for the ball and speed to sack a QB, or chase them from the pocket for the Bulldogs. But I had also nicknamed him the THIN MAN because of his long, skinny frame. I have openly questioned his body’s ability to hold up in the NFL. Then he checked in taller and heavier than I had imagined. On top of that he posted that 4.60/40 at his heavier weight. Let’s hope the feed bag at his Performance Camp is the reason for his weight gain and it can be sustained. But suffice it to say for right now he’s back to being a very hot prospect as an NFL edge-rusher and maybe more.

T.J. GREEN/S/CLEMSON 6’024″/209 4.34/40 9 5/8″H/32″A
We all knew the ex-WR was a good athlete, but I heard gasps from personnel people when he posted the sub-4.40 40-time. The catch here is that he’s still very raw in coverage and his tackling ability leaves a bit to be desired. But he did improve significantly on the field last season. His tackling may not scare too many RB, but in 15 games he haJAVON HARGARd 95 tackles. With the 2016 S class not being elite by a long shot his Combine numbers offer hope that he has a high ceiling, long term.

JAVON HARGRAVE/DT/S CAROLINA STATE 6’013″/309 4.93/40 9 5/8″H/32″A
The small school standout got attention with his solid work at the Shrine venue in January. Enough that he got the Senior Bowl call-up and looked good there. But when he ran his sub-5second 40-time in Indy the bells and whistles really went off. He is not huge, but he has that highly desirable bubble-butt for a low slung DL candidate. Unless he really screwed the pooch in interviews I don’t see how HARGRAVE has not moved into Top 100 Draft consideration with his post-season performances.

HARGRAVE’s teammate hasn’t made as a big a splash, but is certainly on the radar for a lot more folks than he had been. His workout numbers are very appealing and he looked solid in his week at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The TE group is less than overwhelming this year so a guy with his measurables and who can run a bit has to be looking draftable right now.

WILLIAM JACKSON/CB/HOUSTON 6’003″/190 4.37/40 9 1/4″H/31 3/4″A
JACKSON was very highly regarded going into the 2015 regular season. For some reason he lost a bit of his luster when teams seemed to question his fluidity and speed. Despite 23 PBU and 5 INT on the season it felt like his attraction had slipped with personnel people and he might be a Saturday draft pick. Hello Combine and a 4.37/40-time. Now he may on the cusp of Round 1, which is where he deserves to be IMO.

JONATHAN JONES/CB/AUBURN 5’091″/186 4.33/40 8 3/4″H/30 1/4″A
Remember the old sports adage that “speed kills”. Despite his diminutive size JONES is rising up Draft lists because he has proven that he is probably the fastest CB in this year’s group. He showed well in Mobile at Senior Bowl practices and the game. He’s not afraid to throw himself into the action as evidenced by his 69 tackles during the 2015 season. But clearly his highest value comes from his ability to turn and run with even the fastest of receivers. He is another guy who more than likely has pushed his draft stock into a Friday selection slot.

MATT JUDON/DE/GRAND VALLEY STATE 6’030″/275 lbs 4.73/40 9 1/2″H/33 7’8″A
JUDON was scheduled to strut his stuff at the Shrine Game venue, but lingering maladies from the 2015 season kept him home instead. Despite playing at the lower level of competition his 20 sacks last season are hard to ignore. Then he looked like a specimen at the Combine. His long arms and speed have a lot to do with his sack totals, but his overall athleticism gives reason to believe that he will use it to good advantage under NFL level coaching. The only question left to answer is how high he will be drafted based on his potential and athletic tools. His pro prospects are rising as personnel people now go back to look at more tape of him.

JOHN LUNSFORD/K/LIBERTY 6’014″/214 4.74/40 10 1/8″H/32 7/8″A
I got to know LUNSFORD a bit chatting on the sidelines at Shrine Game practices. He’s a smart young man, who is quick to proclaim he’s an athlete, not just a Kicker. He has a booming leg, but needs to improve his kicking fundamentals to improve his mid-range accuracy. He currently holds the FBS record with 12 career 50+yard field goals to his credit. In 2015 35 of his 59 kick-offs were touchbacks. But overall he was only 13 of 24 overall on FG attempts in 2015. He has the size and athleticism if he can just hook-up with a kicking guru who can help him improve his accuracy. He may be worthy of a 7th Round, Compensatory Draft Pick for some team looking for a strong legged kicker to develop.

KEITH MARSHALL/RB/GEORGIA 5’11/219 4.31/40 9 3/8″H/31 5/8″A
It seems like a very long time ago, but as a true freshman at Georgia MARSHALL was more highly thought of than fellow recruit TODD GURLEY. Then he blew out his knee and looked like the next MARCUS LATTIMORE tale of woe. He carried less than a hundred times in 2015 and I certainly figured he would never return to his freshman form. Well, he burned the Combine with that sizzling 4.31/40 at 219 lbs and let’s just say a lot more team doctors would love to check him out in the next month plus. It is hard to really gauge if he’s back to being a top prospect, or at the very least draftable again. How soon will someone roll the dice on his legs and gamble on greatness? At least now the question is back on the table.

MARQUEZ NORTH/WR/TENNESSEE 6’024″/223 4.48/40 10 1/4″H/33 3/8″A
Here’s another young man who had me scratching my head when I saw his name on the official Underclassmen Declared list back in mid-January. Hobbled by a serious knee injury after a solid freshman season NORTH played in only 28 games for the Vols and had 74 catches for 874 yards and 5 TD. That’s his entire career, not a single season. Not exactly awe inspiring numbers to personnel people to be sure. But after seeing his workout numbers and watching his post them at the Combine I think the question now becomes not whether he’s draftable, but how high. In this year’s WR group that 4.48/40 is pretty good, especially at 223 lbs. Big hands and long arms also get your attention. He’s another guy who went to Indy primarily because they needed to get more info on the underclassman. And now he’s on the radar as a legit pro prospect.

TYVIS POWELL/S/OHIO STATE 6’026″/211 4.46/40 9 3/8″H/31 3/4″A
POWELL is climbing up Draft charts, in what may be a record breaking group of prospects from one school in one draft. POWELL was one of the Combine leading 14 Buckeyes, and clearly helped his stock. His nice size and impressive 40-time, on the heels of a solid week at the Senior Bowl have this 4 year Junior, in the top echelon of the S group. He’s a good tackler, with ball skills (3 PBU/3 INT in 2015) and clearly demonstrated that he has the size and measurables to compete with the best for a job in the NFL. Another guy now poised to vie for a Top 100 Draft slot.

STERLING SHEPARD/WR/RS/OKLAHOMA 5’102″/194 4.48/40 9 3/4″H/30 3/8″A
After an outstanding college career for the Sooners a lot of folks were surprised when SHEPARD went back for his senior season. But the move paid off when he and new QB BAKER MAYFIELD clicked and he posted 86 catches for 1288 yards and 11 TD. That’s not to mention some clutch return work as well. Breaking the 4.50 mark at the Combine was huge for him, showing he had decent speed to go with his great quickness. He also helped himself when a lot of media and personnel folks began comparing him to RANDALL COBB/Packers as he completed his Combine workouts. I believe he too is looking more and more like a Friday Draft prospect now after a productive stay in Indy.

ISAAC SEUMALO/OL/OREGON STATE 6’307″/303 5.19/40 9 7/8″H/33″A
IN 2013, before a foot injury, SEUMALO was one of the hot young prospects who looked like he could play anywhere along an OL. Although SEUMALO apparently passed his Combine medical tests he clearly may not be quite the athlete he was pre-injury as evidenced by his 5.19/40. But I think overall he has at least reclaimed his status as a very good Interior OL candidate. He has nice size, a wide base and more than adequate hand size and arm length to do battle in a phone booth as a OC or OG. He had a good 2015 season that was obscured because the Beavers struggled mightily under new HC GARY ANDERSON. In fact it is speculated that the change in offensive system was a factor in ISAAC’s decision to come out early.

CHARLES TAPPER/DE/OKLAHOMA 6’025″/271 4.59/40 11 1/2″H/34 3/8″A
TAPPER was a significant part of the Sooners march to a Play-Off spot this past season. He helped anchor the Defense playing both inside and outside along their D-front. TAPPER was invited to the Senior Bowl and acquitted himself well, though he did not dominate. Running his 4.59/40 in Indy at 271 lbs has to make you wonder about his potential to stand up in a 3-4 scheme at least some of the time. His 34″+ arms & 11″+ hands are attention getters. I know more than a few folks now view him as having potential to be a more productive pro than he was as a collegian. And he had a very nice college career. My guess is that some team is going to fall in luv with his size and athleticism and draft him in Round 3 based on the potential he flashed at the Combine.

JOE THUNEY/OG/NC STATE 6’045″/304 4.95/40 9 5/8″H/32 1/4″A
The fifth-year graduate student may have indeed worked his way into a draftable prospect, especially this post season. But first let’s go back and remember he played out at OT for the Wolfpack this season, and that he officially credited with not allowing a single sack from his position. He was at the Shrine venue, but I can’t tell you he caught my eye as anyone special. But he did catch my eye as a better natural athlete than I thought at the Combine. Sub-5.00/40’s by offensive lineman were very hard to come by this year as I mentioned earlier. He also packed a solid 304 lbs on his frame. If you project him at OG, then I think he’s elevated himself to being draftable. I have also heard his Wonderlic was good and he impressed in interviews while in Indy.

STEVE WEATHERLY/OLB/DE/VANDERBILT 6’043″/267 4.61/40 10 1/4″H/34 1/2″A
Since JAMES FRANKLIN left Nashville it might be kind to say the Commodores have struggled on the football field. So I will confess I was a bit surprised when I saw WEATHERLY’s name on the Combine invite list. Then I saw his numbers, and his physique and my imagination has been running wild ever since. I fully intend to watch some game tape of this guy in the next few weeks. Once again, like TAPPER, if we look at his 40-time, and his hand & arm measurements one have to wonder if he isn’t athletic enough to stand-up full time as a pro, especially in a 3-4 scheme. I would expect that this good looking athlete will make a few more team visits than most of us thought he would pre-Combine. His emergence as a prospect is another example of the positive that can come from the exposure generated at the annual Combine. Well done Steve W.

CONNOR WUJCIAK/DT/BOSTON COLLEGE 6’024″/291 4.91/40 10″H/33 1/4″A
The BC Eagles have not been a very good football team in recent years. But don’t blame the Defense for their poor showings. And don’t think the coaching staff was molding top notch D with smoke and mirrors. There have been some prospect level defenders on that team, and WUJCIAK was one of their best last season. Though a bit lean, he’s strong and muscled. And his sub-5.00/40 shows some athleticism for an inside guy. In 12 games last season CONNOR posted 11 TFL and 4.5 Sacks while being a very disruptive inside force in disrupting the pocket and moving opposing QB off their mark. He was at the Shrine venue but limped off the practice field after 1 day. he rehabbed his minor leg issue and came back to post solid numbers in Indy. I can see this player earning an NFL roster spot with a 4-3 scheme defensive base set.

There are a lot more names who did themselves a lot of good with what they were able to do at the Combine this year. But these are 20 who I felt made a quantum leap toward being drafted and playing as pros next year. This is why I value the Combine, even though I know game tape is still the most important aspect of evaluation. Back to the game tape I will go, with a bit of a different attitude when the game tape rolls.

Congrats to these players for chasing their dream to play football for pay!

Pigskin Paul