The NFL released its final list of combine particpants on Thursday, and of the 300-plus draft prospects invited to February's showcase in Indianapolis, six hail from Gary Patterson's program. Those invited are quarterback Trevone Boykin, offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, kicker Jaden Oberkrom, safety Derrick Kindred and wide receivers Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson.
The combine will give this group of former TCU stars a chance to prove themselves, which is important, since all of them experienced some notable set backs during the 2015-2016 season.
Doctson, who's regarded by many as the most valued player of the six, will have a lot prove since he was sidelined for the Frogs' last three games and the Senior Bowl with a wrist injury. The Blientikoff Award finalists will need to show scouts that he's jsut a sure-handed as he was when he was healthy. And as a player who's not necessarily known for his break away speed, he'll need to run a respectable 40 time, in order to still be considered as a late-first to second round selection.
Though Doctson is considered to be the best former Frog available in the draft, Trevone Boykin will have the most to prove after the incident that earned him a suspension for the Alamo Bowl. It also appears that some scout aren't neccesarily sold on him as a quarterback prospect, since he turned down an invite to the Senior Bowl because he was not willing to play as a wide receiver.
At the combine, Boykin will have to be consistent in passing drills, and do his best to impress scouts with his character he displayed before his arrest in San Antonio. Many of those who followed Boykin's collegiate career know he has the potential to make it as a passer in the NFL, but he has to captilize on every opportunity he's given to show his talent if he wants to hear his name called in the early rounds.
Though many TCU fans will be primarily focused on the perfromances of Boykin and Doctson, perhaps the player who can increase his draft stock the most is Kolby Listenbee. The former Horned Frog wide receiver and track star is a burner – many believe that he's been the fastest player college football over the past two seasons, and perhaps the fastest in this year's draft class. If Listenbee can run an impressive 40 yard-dash in the 4.3 range, he could shoot up the draft boards.
Even though he missed a few games last season with a leg injury, can be a player a team will reach for in the early rounds because of his high ceiling, but for that to happen, he'll need to wow the scouts with his speed and athleticism.
Like Listenbee, Derrick Kindred will need to post eye-opening results to inflate his draft value. Kindred is regarded a heavy hitter with good ball skills, but scouts are concerned with his technique that has resulted in missed tackles and blown coverages down field. He'll need to work on his tackling and cover skills if he wants to make it as an NFL free safety, but at the combine, he'll he have to run a fast forty and quick shuttles if he wants to become a guaranteed draft pick.
Last year, former TCU safety Chris Hackett went undrafted despite leading the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2014. There were concerns about Hackett's tackling and deep ball coverage, but what may have cost him the most was his 4.81 forty time, which was the slowest among all defensive backs who participated in the combine. So if Kindred wants to hear his name called at the draft, he not only he has to show that he has good mechanics, but that he has the speed to compete as an NFL defensive back.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai is another ex-TCU player who can be compared to a member of last year's combine participants. Last year, offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje was a guy many draft analysts didn't have on their draft boards, but was selected in the six round by the Chicago Bears. According to Vaitai's NFL draft profile, his main weakness is his overall athletic ability, which were concern's with Fabuluje as well. He's a big guy, who stands at 6'6" and weighs in at 296 pounds, but has trouble with his footwork and hand strength. Draft analysts had similar concerns about Fabuluje's mechanics, but after the combine, it appeared he made impression based on how he was able to perform in drills for a guy his size. Vaitai needs to do the same, and if he can, he could hear his name called in the later rounds.
Another guy who could hear his name called in the later rounds is Jaden Oberkrom, who may end up being the best kicker in the 2016 draft class.
During his four year career at TCU, Oberkrom was nothing but consistent, as he holds the Big 12's career field goal record with 79. Although the four year starter has NFL range and accuracy, the tragectory on his kicks are not as uniform as they should be. And despite his reliability through out his college career, he's missed some chip shots, including the two kicks inside 30 yards he couldn't knock in this season, and the four PATs that were blocked over the past two years. And though Oberkrom has a strong leg, which resulted in plenty of touchbacks over the past few seasons, he needs to improve his hangtime on his kickoffs, according to his draft profile. So at the combine, Oberkrom, like any kicker, needs to be consistent. That's easier said than done, but that's really what it comes down to for kickers.
As far consistency is concerned, TCU 's head coach Gary Patterson has been able to routinely develop NFL talent. During Patterson's 15 years at TCU, he's produces a total of 36 NFL draft picks and has at least two players drafted each year. So if TCU's combine participants are able to impress come Feb. 23, that fact will likely still hold for the man in charge.