It happens every year around this time.
The NFL Scouting Combine rolls around and a few hundred of the best college prospects travel to Indianapolis to be tested in almost every way imaginable. Some prospects come in with a target on their back while others come in with nothing to lose. With this select group of potential NFL stars set to take part in the most important ‘interview' of their lives, here's a look at the players with everything to lose and gain this the week in Indy.
EVERYTHING TO LOSE
WR A.J. Green
This isn't as much of a knock on Green, instead it's more about being at the top of a position where errors can easily be singled out. If Green struggles even slightly to catch the ball during field drills at the Combine – which is always a crapshoot depending on who's throwing the ball – the gap between him and Julio Jones of Alabama could close dramatically. Green's hands have rarely come into question, and all of his measurables should be off the chart, but a case of the dropsies in Indianapolis could spell disaster for the top receiving prospect in the draft.
OLB Von Miller
Outside of Da'Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn, there appear to be very few elite pass rushers in this year's draft class. Because of that, Miller's value has skyrocketed. There's no question Miller can be a contributor at the next level but is he worthy of a top 10 or even a top five pick? Miller had an astounding 17 sacks as a junior in 2009 and followed that up with 11 sacks as a senior. Despite the impressive stat line, Miller might not be the every-down player he's being touted as and any lack of physicality at the Combine could hurt his stock.
QB Blaine Gabbert
How Gabbert continues to be hyped as the top quarterback in this year's draft is puzzling. Throughout his college career at Missouri, Gabbert was thought to be just another product of the spread offense that might get a shot as a mid-round draft pick. Now, Gabbert is being projected in the top 10 in mock draft after mock draft. Gabbert has decided not to throw at the Combine – like many other QBs in the past – which might cause his stock to drop, at least for the time being. More importantly for Gabbert will be his ability to break down a pro-style offense in the interview process.
EVERYTHING TO GAIN
Peterson is already considered an elite prospect in this year's draft but physical, shut-down cornerbacks are almost impossible to find in the NFL. Peterson possesses the rare blend of size, speed, cover skills and the ability to contribute in run support. Those qualities will make him an instant starter in the league and possibly a Pro Bowl caliber player within a year or two. Depending on what the other top prospects do in Indianapolis, Peterson could gradually rise to be the first player selected – regardless of his Combine performance.
OL Nate Solder
Let's face it, tackle – particularly left tackle – has become one of the most important positions in football. In past drafts, there have been multiple tackle prospects that have worked their way into the top 10 of the draft. While that could still be a long shot for Solder, a lights out performance in Indy could be the beginning of his ascent up draft boards. Solder appears to be a lock to be selected as the first offensive lineman later this April, and could cause a team to reach earlier than expected with anything more than an adequate showing at the Combine.
QB Cam Newton
So, you thought we forgot about the fastest rising player in this year's draft. Not so fast. You've probably heard that Newton is a physical specimen due to his incredible size and arm strength. But unlike other players that have boasted those abilities coming out of the college ranks, Newton can also make plays with his feet and has the quality intangibles everyone is looking for. All Newton needs to do is maintain the momentum he's gained in the past month, and even if he doesn't, NFL personnel will still be left thinking of what his tremendous skill set could develop into.
Questions or comments? Contact Brad Wilbricht at firstname.lastname@example.org
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