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Will WSU's Gabe Marks receive NFL combine invite? How about Shalom Luani?

THE OFFICIAL NFL combine invitees list was still embargoed as of Monday afternoon but in looking around cyberspace on the draft prospects for a pair of Cougars, an invitation to the Feb. 28 - March 6 event would have the potential to boost their stock in a major way.

WSU's best bets for combine invites from this chair are wide receiver Gabe Marks and safety Shalom Luani (although you could make an argument for center Riley Sorenson too).  Marks would seem like a slam dunk, until you go look at where the sites concerned with the NFL draft peg the Cougar wideout.

Back in January, a survey of Marks’ draft forecast varied widely -- the most prolific pass catcher in the history of the Pac-12 conference was projected to go anywhere between the third and seventh rounds.  Today, Marks isn’t being mentioned as often as he was last month (in the media and around cyberspace, anyway). 

Marks by all accounts had an exceptional East-West Shrine Game practice week in front of NFL scouts. His performance in the game itself wasn’t as stellar. How much the game itself influenced scouts is impossible to know: NFL types are notorious for trying to keep their evaluations under wraps. The guess here is that Marks' game performance, while not helpful, wouldn't undo all the good that was done in practice week. But it did, maybe, hinder his value among the cyberspace gurus.

A quick check shows NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says Marks’ draft slotting will be heavily influenced by his 40 time. On ESPN.com today, Marks is rated the No. 33 wide receiver draft prospect, while ourlads.com rates him No. 25.  For comparison, 31 wide receivers were drafted last year by NFL teams. NFLDraftScout.com pegs Marks as a 7th round/free agent prospect.

Draftwire/USA Today said in January that Marks “could end up being a solid value anywhere on Day 3” in Rounds 4-7. But in the rankings published three days ago, Draftwire/USA Today does not list Marks among his top 30 wide receiver prospects.  No other Cougar made its positional lists either.

And that’s a little surprising from this chair – that Luani isn’t being talked about by the NFL gurus out in cyberspace. 

Sure, there are safeties who undoubtedly rate higher than Luani strictly in terms of coverage. But with Deone Bucannon popularizing the recent NFL trend of hybrid safety-linebackers, hard hitters who can play both in the box and out in coverage in the NFL, that would seem to fit Luani very nicely in terms of an NFL future.

If Marks and Luani do receive NFL combine invites, they’ll of course have the chance to boost their stock in a major way.  Sorenson could also be in that group, ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper recently pegged Sorenson as his No. 10 center prospect. WR River Cracraft would have also been a combine prospect before his knee injury later in the 2016 season

Other names on the list of Cougar hopefuls would include OL Eduardo Middleton and DT Robert Barber. They and others will have a chance to shine at WSU’s Pro Day, where NFL scouts come to Pullman and watch Cougar seniors go through drills. It takes place at Wazzu on March 9.

NOTABLE NOTE:
NFL.com briefly listed the combine invites on Monday before taking it down without explanation. No word on if Marks, Luani or other Cougars were among the expected 335 or so names. Before the list was taken down, SEC scribe Cole Cubelic saw the list and said the Power conference breakdown was as follows:
SEC: 66
ACC: 60
Big Ten: 51
Pac-12: 47
Big-12: 18


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