The NFL Scouting Combine begins Friday, and there are seven Sooners scheduled to participate, hoping to increase their stock for the NFL Draft in the final days of April.
It’ll be a big day for everyone. Every second clocked, every rep counted: This is a chance for players to rise or to fall. It’s time to nitpick.
Sooners Illustrated looks at the offensive players:
Nila Kasitati, OG (6-foot-4, 315 pounds)
What they’re saying: The fundamentals are there with Kasitati. He’s got good initial punch and solid toughness for the interior of an NFL offensive line. He has the base ability and enough skills to compete for an NFL roster spot. But he doesn’t have a glaring strength. His arm length could be an issue and doesn’t have excellent lateral quickness needed for interior pass protection or pulling on run plays. He’s a stout stay-at-home kind of blocker but reactivity is not his strong suit. Medically, he could draw some concern too after having heart surgery in 2012 and a number of injuries through his career.
What he needs to prove: Kasitati has to show that he can improve. That’ll be tough to do in the scouting combine, but quickness is something Kasitati can show. Ultimately, he needs a good performance to move on to a team’s draft board. Right now, he’s probably an undrafted free agent who gets signed in the first week, which is sometimes better than being draft late.
When he’s up: Friday
Key drill: 3-cone drill and bench press.
Draft round ceiling: Sixth round
Sterling Shepard, WR (5-foot-10, 193 pounds)
What they’re saying: Shepard was the star of Senior Bowl practice and played his way up draft board. He’s a really smooth route runner with exceptional quickness. Shepard has great hands and an AFC area scout told NFL.com that Shepard is “going to be a star in the pros.” He had just eight recorded drops with 253 catches in his career. Over the middle, down the field, on the sideline: Shepard has proven he can catch the ball anywhere. His character and work ethic is at a professional level. He could be an elite slot receiver. The potential volume slot receiver is still a little undersized and could be hampered by physical cornerbacks in press coverage, where he can be forced to re-route and over-work to get off the line. But Shepard is tough and has always played with a chip on his shoulder.
What he needs to prove: It’s simple. Shepard has to show that Senior Bowl practice wasn’t a fluke. He made one-on-one defenders look silly much of the week and played his way into a potential first-day pick. Still likely to land as a second-day selection, Shepard possesses everything that coaches want in a reliable receiver. He can’t grow taller or bigger in a week, but proving that all those other skills are fine-tuned would help him climb in the NFL Draft.
When he’s up: Saturday
Key drill: 40-yard dash – but the splits.
Draft round ceiling: Late first-round pick.