Sports Business

NFL Scouting Combine: Darkhorses to Watch

Sponsored by NFL Network
By Dave Doyle

Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, Syracuse: The brother of Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Arthur Jones and UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is generally slotted as a third-round draft pick. He’d be ranked higher if it wasn’t for a knee injury, which caused him to miss five games in 2011, and the perception that his skills are raw.

Jones is an explosive pass rusher and a solid fundamental tackler. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with work ethic and desire. But a strong all-around performance at the NFL Scouting Combine could cause Jones’ stock to surge and make a higher pick a strongly calculated gamble.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State: Hillman has drawn comparisons to Marshall Faulk, and not just because they both suited up for the Aztecs. With a similar frame (5-foot-10, 190 lbs.) and explosive capability, Hillman shoved Faulk aside in the San Diego State record book with 1,532 as a freshman in 2010, a school-best for a rookie, and followed up with 1,711 yards in 2011, good for third in the nation.

Hillman’s rolling the dice by coming out at age 20. Perhaps he feels he has proven all there is to prove against the competition in the Western Athletic Conference and needs to move on while his stock is highest. If Hillman can convince scouts that his strengths outweigh his lack of size and experience, he could turn into a Curtis Martin-like draft steal.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State: Several items in Weeden’s scouting report stand out as big red flags. Like the fact he’s 28 years old, limiting his window of opportunity. Or that he originally chose baseball over football, only returning after bouncing around the minor leagues for several years.

But then there are his undeniable strengths: His size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds). His maturity. His cannon of an arm, which propelled the Cowboys all the way to a victory in the Fiesta Bowl over much-hyped Stanford. If Weeden can project a decent sense of mobility at the NFL Scouting Combine, his stock can only rise.

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