With the combine coming up we’ll get a chance to see how all these high profile prospects in action stack up. While running cone drills in shorts is hardly a measure of one’s worth on the field, the process has the ability to soar one’s stock while plummeting someone else’s. Here’s ten players that are worth keeping a close eye on; because the combine for these players will have an enormous impact on where they end up getting drafting.
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa is viewed by many as the top prospect in this draft, and with the Titans set at quarterback there’s a strong chance they’ll select him first overall. In some ways he can only stand to hurt his stock as there’s nowhere to go but down. He’ll need a big combine to prove he’s as advertised.
Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Jack is viewed as a do it all linebacker that can rush the passer, drop back in coverage, play the run, and sprint sideline to sideline. He’s the most complete linebacker in this draft and worthy of a top 10 selection. The concern is a torn meniscus that ended his season at UCLA in late September. By all accounts he’s moving well and rehab has gone swimmingly – he should be ready to go for a season opener. But make no mistake, teams will be studying that knee very closely if they’re going to consider taking Jack high in the first round. How he moves and how his medical evaluations pan out will dictate a lot.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Wentz on paper is everything you want in a quarterback and most expect him to light up the combine. He’ll need to show he has prototypical strength and size because the lack of real competition in college is the big knock against him. He’s a very intriguing prospect based on his measurables and success, though. With a really good combine it’s not out of the question that Wentz could be the first quarterback taken.
Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Spence was kicked off the Ohio State team for multiple failed drug tests. By all accounts he’s turned around his life and made the most of his time at Eastern Kentucky. He’s viewed as the best and most explosive pass rusher in the draft and his showing at the Senior Bowl cemented that. But while his talent is undeniable, he’ll still need to confirm that at the combine to tempt teams to take that risk. Interviews will be huge for Spence and he should expect to get grilled repeatedly about his past.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
Rankins didn’t perform at the Senior Bowl due to a knee injury so that will have to be examined very closely. He’s been rocketing up the boards lately and his stock is way up, but he’ll need the clear the medical hurdle to prove he’s worth of a top 15 pick.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Not long ago Nkemdiche was viewed as a possible 1st overall pick. Elite talent is not in question when it comes to him. Nkemdiche was suspended and did not play in the Sugar Bowl after he fell out of a window and marijuana was found in his room. Character is a major question mark for this player and he’ll need to prove he can mature from the experience.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
The 40 time in particular will be huge for Miller. Miller is a former quarterback that is raw and inexperienced at receiver. He only had 26 receptions for 341 yards in college, so it’s all potential at this point. But some think his rare combination of size, speed and athleticism will make him one of the first receivers to be taken in the draft. He’s rumored to have 4.3 speed and he’ll need to show he’s one of the fastest players at the combine to entice a team to want to develop him by investing a high draft pick.
Jaylon Smith, OLB, Notre Dame
Arguably the best linebacker in the draft prior to his knee injury. And while many think Myles Jack’s injury should be ok, Smith’s injury on the other hand is a major concern. There’s questions about whether he’ll even be able to play at all in 2016. Smith tore is ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl so his rehab is still relatively new. Many still believe Smith will go in the first round but his medical evaluation will mean everything.
Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
Big, athletic quarterbacks that can run are the new trend in the NFL. Prescott certainly fits that mold. In addition, he’s been extremely productive and a fantastic field general. From a character and leadership standpoint, Prescott is a no brainer. The big concern is with his mechanics, so teams will be paying close attention to that at the combine. Prescott will need to show a good release point, accuracy and balance throwing the ball to raise his stock.
Deion Jones, OLB, LSU
He’s been a trendy player shooting up boards lately due to his production, speed and playmaking ability. But while Jones is an exciting prospect, he’s very light in the pads. At 219lbs he needs to show up bigger at the combine, showing added bulk and strength. He’ll also need to do this while not losing speed – one of his biggest assets. Otherwise, he’s a do it all player that will be a steal for someone.