2017 NFL Draft Combine Preview: Players With Most To Gain/Lose

The on-field workouts at the 2017 NFL Combine begin tomorrow, as the offensive linemen and running back prospects kick off the highly publicized event in Indianapolis. On Saturday, the rest of the skill positions will take the field, which is then followed up by the defensive linemen and linebackers on Sunday. To close the event, the defensive backs will take the field on Monday. There is a lot to unpack here, whether it is measurements, interviews or press conferences. With that being said, I’m going to take a look and break down which players at each position have the most to gain, but also the most to lose as well. Although they still have a pro day to showcase their athleticism and talent, the Combine is an opportunity for these prospects to make a first impression. With that being said, here are my potential winners and losers at the Combine this week.

Quarterbacks

Most to Gain: Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
– Lubbock has an infamous history of producing spread quarterbacks incapable of handling the NFL game, and Patrick Mahomes has a chance to shake that narrative off of him this week. Even more so than the on-field workouts with his footwork and mechanics, the interviews behind the scenes are going to be important for Mahomes. If he can show off his skill-set cerebrally to NFL teams, he could rise from a late first round pick at best to a potential top 10 pick.

Most to Lose: Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
– Up to this point, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky has seen his stock steady as a consistent fixture in the early first round of mock drafts. The hurdles that I see in front of Trubisky are similar to Mahomes in that it is more about what happens behind the scenes. Trubisky only has 13 starts to his name, and I believe teams are going to want to see if he has the leadership qualities to be a potential franchise quarterback. If he fails to take charge in the interview process, he may fall behind the other top three quarterbacks heading into his pro day.

Running Backs

Most to Gain: Leonard Fournette
– This is the type of setting where Leonard Fournette will stand out in a big way. His freakish combination of size and athleticism is going to be evident on Friday, and I believe his 40-yard dash will be closer to 4.4 than to 4.5. If he tests like I think he will, Fournette may be a lock for the top 10.

Most to Lose: Dalvin Cook, Florida State
– For multiple reasons unrelated to what he does on the field, Dalvin Cook has the most to lose out of the running backs this week. First, he has to answer questions about a 2015 misdemeanor battery charge, where he was found not guilty less than two weeks before Florida State’s season opener. Second, his shoulders need to check out. Cook has a history of shoulder injuries dating back to high school with the latest one involving a surgery in April 2016. If Cook fails to check either of these boxes, he could be in for a draft day slide.

Wide Receivers

Most to Gain: Chad Hansen, California
– I expect Chad Hansen to excel in the athletic testing portion of the workout, specifically in the vertical and broad jumps, but I think a lot of people are interested to see what he does in the drills. The biggest question I have with Hansen is that he wasn’t asked to run a full route tree at California. If he can show scouts fluidity in and out of his routes on Saturday, I expect his stock to rise into the early second round conversation.

Most to Lose: Mike Williams, Clemson
– On the flip side, Mike Williams is someone I expect to do extremely well in the drill portion of the workout, but disappoint some with his athleticism, specifically his time in the 40-yard dash. If Williams can run under 4.55, that is a win for him. Anything over that may scare scouts and teams away from spending a high first round pick on him.

Tight Ends

Most to Gain: David Njoku, Miami
– The freakiest of freak athletes in this draft class is Miami tight end David Njoku. If he doesn’t dominate his workout on Saturday, I will be stunned. I think the broad and vertical jump numbers are going to be insane, as he holds the second best mark in the high jump in school history at Miami. Njoku is only 20 years old, and if he tests as well as I think he will, do not be surprised if you see his name in the top 10 of mock drafts.

Most to Lose: Jordan Leggett, Clemson

– I think Jordan Leggett is a fine football player with solid tape, but I’m not sure this is the type of setting where he is going to stand out athletically. In fact, I think his workout could make him stand out in the all of the wrong ways. This tight end class is deep and full of good athletes who will show out on Saturday, which means Leggett’s stock could lose steam because of his athleticism in comparison to a deep, athletic tight end class.

Offensive Linemen

Most to Gain: Garett Bolles, Utah

– Some teams may be scared off by the fact that Garret Bolles will be a 25 year old rookie, but I guarantee that he is going to blow the roof off with his athleticism on Friday. There are even some who believe he can run as fast as a 4.8 in the 40-yard dash. If his movement skills and athleticism are as good as advertised, he could see a big jump in his draft stock.

Most to Lose: Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

– After injuring his ankle at the Senior Bowl, Forrest Lamp has another opportunity to show scouts and teams his talent. There is a lot of hype surrounding Lamp as an athlete who can play both guard and tackle, but he needs to live up to it at some point. Most thought that time would come in Mobile, but he left because of a bum ankle. It is ‘put up or shut up’ time for Lamp, and if he fails to impress, his chances of being a first round pick may go from probable to slim at best.

Defensive Linemen/Edge Rushers

Most to Gain: Solomon Thomas, Stanford

– Solomon Thomas is going to be the talk of the town on the defensive side of the ball when the week is over. His rare athleticism is going to stand out in a big way on Sunday, and I expect nothing less than a dominant performance. Ideally, he can line up as a base end in a 4-3 with the ability to kick inside on third down, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if some coaches want to see how he moves standing up in coverage as well. He does a little bit of everything, and I believe the Combine is the perfect setting for him to showcase his talent.

Most to Lose: Malik McDowell, Michigan State

– For the record, I think Malik McDowell is one of the three best players in this draft class in terms of overall talent, but he’s going to have to answer tough character questions in the interview process. The biggest knock on McDowell is that he only made plays when he wanted to, pointing to a concern with his work ethic. Teams are going to ask him everything from the situation at Michigan State this year to if he quit on his team at the end of the year. The pressure is on, and if McDowell fails to answer any of these questions effectively in the eyes of evaluators, he could conceivably fall to the second day of the draft.

Linebackers

Most to Gain: Duke Riley, LSU

– As an under the radar linebacker prospect up to this point, LSU’s Duke Riley has a chance this week to really make a name for himself. He is one of the most fluid-moving linebackers in this class, and I believe he is going to test extremely well in the agility drills as a result. With top linebacker prospect Reuben Foster unavailable for the on-field portion of the workout, the opportunity is there for other linebackers to take the spotlight, and Riley is my pick to take advantage.

Most to Lose: Alex Anzalone, Florida

– Based on talent alone, Alex Anzalone has the ability to be a three-down starter in the middle of a defense for a long time, but he just can’t stay healthy. He has only played 18 games in four years because of his vast injury history. If a team is comfortable with his future projection after checking in with their medical staff, Anzalone could be a second round pick. On the other hand, he could be in for a draft day slide deep into the third day if teams are scared by his medical reports.

Defensive Backs

Most to Gain: Josh Jones, NC State

– NC State safety Josh Jones is another freak athlete in this class that should absolutely blow up the Combine this week. He reportedly ran a 4.33 laser-timed 40-yard dash last summer, and if he can get anywhere close to that time on Monday, his stock is going to soar. The drills are also going to be important for Jones, and I think he is going to impress scouts with his hip fluidity and movement skills. A good performance could put Jones squarely in the mix for a top-50 selection.

Most to Lose: Teez Tabor, Florida

– Florida cornerback Teez Tabor has to answer questions about his long speed, size, and attitude this week. First, he needs to run a reasonable 40-yard dash time to keep his stock up as a potential first round pick. Second, I think he is going to pass the threshold of 5105 for cornerbacks with his height, but is he going to get over 6 feet? The last question is arguably the most important, and that is the question of his character and attitude. The interview process is going to be extremely vital for Tabor, and he needs to convince decision makers that he won’t be a distraction. Tabor has the most to lose because outside of medical concerns, he has reasonable questions in all three phases of the Combine.

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