With the clock starting to tick down to the 2016 draft – it’s only a matter of time before a countdown clock starts inexorably winding down somewhere on the Internet, if it hasn’t already – the paralysis by over-analysis has already begun.
One would think that the biggest factor in where a player gets drafted would be the most simple – what did he put on tape? Some players are great practice players, but when they bright lights come on they choke. Others may not be the best citizens, but when they’re between the white lines they are truly in their element.
However, there are instances when it would appear the biggest factor that comes into play for draft stock happened recently at the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Whether it’s medical checks, workout numbers or team interviews, somehow those seem to find a way to often trump two, three or four years of game film that show how a player performs in the clutch and how his game might translate to the NFL.
For some players, the combine was a great event, pushing their stock higher or solidifying their spot as an elite prospect. For others, it was an Indiana nightmare, blowing up much of the momentum they had built during their college careers. For every combine winner, there are just as many losers.
These are Viking Update’s picks for who were the winners and losers in Indy and how their performances may impact their draft stock two months from now – for better or worse.
QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State. There were some concerns about how Wentz would fare at both the Senior Bowl and the combine coming from a small school that didn’t face elite competition. He dismissed many of those doubts and has vaulted himself (for now) ahead of Jared Goff as the top QB on some draft lists, which may result in him going No. 2 to Cleveland.
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State. In a class that weakens quickly, he did everything right, looking smooth, poised and extremely accurate under the bright lights. He went from a late-round pick to a premium pick late on Day 2 or early Day 3.
RB Keith Marshall, Georgia. With Ezekiel Elliott likely to be the only running back garnering Day 1 consideration, the rest of the running back crop was looking to make a statement. Marshall did just that, running a 4.31-second 40 – the fastest time of any offensive player at the combine. He has a lot of tread on the tire being a part-time player and has an exciting mix of speed and intangibles that will likely elevate him into Day 2.
RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama. Overshadowed by teammate Derrick Henry, Drake took the stage in Indianapolis and opened a lot of eyes. He showcased his athleticism during drills and may have transformed himself from a middle-of-Day 3 pick into Day 2 because he didn’t show any flaws and was as impressive in all phases of the workouts as just about any back that worked out.
WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame. He was a borderline first-round prospect heading into Indy, but came away very much in the discussion. He ran a blazing 4.32 40 with a 33½-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-6 long jump. He also displayed fluid, smooth motion during the receiving workouts. He couldn’t have done much better.
WR Josh Doctson, TCU. His game film is impressive, but some scouts didn’t feel his speed and route-running were worthy of first-round consideration. After running a 4.5 40 and showing good burst and acceleration, he seems to be a near-lock to go in the first round to a team like Minnesota or Cincinnati in the final third of the first round. Probably more importantly, he was exceptional in the receiver drills.
OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State. Perhaps no offensive tackle increased his stock more. He showed excellent speed (5.0 in the 40) and agility in drills and looked more natural and smoother than the vast majority of his competition. He may have solidified his spot as a top-20 pick and is almost sure to come off the board on the draft’s opening night.
OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana. In a top-heavy offensive tackle class, Spriggs put up some great numbers and stood out in many of the drills. Once thought to be a late Day 2 prospect, he has pushed himself into the second round and could be a “rising” pick either very late on Day 1 or early on Day 2.
DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson. He looked as explosive as any player in the defensive line group and was especially strong in the short shuttle group (4.21 seconds). He was a player who needed to test well to solidify his spot in the top half of the first round and did everything well, looking to have cemented his position among the blue-chip DEs in the first round.
DT Andrew Billings, Baylor. He seemed like a niche player at 6-foot-1, 311 pounds, but showed amazing speed and agility for a man his size, running a 5.05 40 and not looking lost in any of the positional drills that test agility and balance. He looked like a player who could fit in a 3-4 or a 4-3 and helped his stock immensely.
DT/DE Sheldon Rankins, Louisville. Seen by many as a second-round prospect, he dominated the week of practice at the Senior Bowl, continually getting singled out for his performance and backed that up at the combine with an impressive workout. With the versatility to play inside in a 4-3 or as an edge-setter in a 3-4, Rankins likely will be viewed by some teams as one of the first defensive linemen to come off the board.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State. He put together one of the most impressive measurable drills of any player in Indianapolis, running a 4.63 40 with a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump. While he isn’t elite – too “straight-linish” for many scouts, he showed the burst and athleticism that might sneak him into the first round.
LB Myles Jack, UCLA. He’s still recovering from a knee injury that ended his 2015 season, but he got a lot of positives about his rehab to date and he did a strong job in selling himself during interviews. A player who was dropped into the bottom half of the first round by some scouts due to medical concerns coming in, he would appear to have solidified his spot in the top 10 and possibly even the top five.
OLB Kamalei Correa, Boise State. Viewed as a tweener type who may not have the speed to be a 4-3 outside defender and too small for a 3-4, he looked extremely impressive in drills, displaying fluid hips when asked to flip and showing strong change-of-direction skills. He may not have moved his way into the first round, but he made his case to be in the discussion.
OLB Darron Lee, Ohio State. With the recent trend of combo safety/linebacker types no longer seen as tweeners, but seen as weapons, he had a huge couple of days at the combine, running a 4.47 40 with a 35½-inch vertical jump and an 11-0 broad jump. He still has the stigma of being undersized, but showed enough to appear to be one of a half-dozen Buckeyes that are going to get drafted in the first round.
CB William Jackson, Houston. After skipping the Senior Bowl, his draft stock took a hit, but he was as smooth as just about any defensive back working out at the combine. He put himself back in the conversation among the top corners and is building the much-needed momentum that gets a player vaulting up draft boards throughout the league.
CB Eli Apple, Ohio State. He needed to show that he has the requisite skills to be a cover corner at the next level and didn’t disappoint, running an impressive 4.40 40 and showed very fluid hips and agility in the position drills. He had something to prove and did, likely locking down a spot late in the first round.
CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama. Few players made more money in Indianapolis than Jones. Viewed as a Day 3 prospect, he performed as well as anyone at his skill level, showing good speed, movement and adjustment ability. He isn’t going to be one of the top corners off the board, but he went from a late-round guy to a mid-round guy with a lot of upside for the scouts who fell in love with him.