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NFL Combine Report: NFL Draft Stock Up, Stock Down

The Combine is over. People are rising and falling, falling and rising all over the place. You will see most of the same names, and we mentioned some of them over the course of the Combine. We hear complaints about the attention paid to the Combine, and yes, it can be excessive. However, the extent to which teams blindly follow Combine numbers is overstated. The interviews and the whole process is important, often just to show the player has the discipline to prepare. Players who weren’t expected to be fast are not docked when they meet expectations. It is when the results at the combine differ with perceptions that the scouts then have to re-assess and take a closer look at a player.

Here are 8 names that you heard over the course of Combine week, and my quick take of how much they have really been impacted.

POSITIVE COMBINE

WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech. I talked about Hill on Sunday. Other receivers ran fast times, but they were mostly punt returner types or smaller guys. Hill, meanwhile, is tall and can also leap. The combine will not shoot him past some safer choices at the top. He’s also not slipping to the fourth round. Over half the guys drafted at wide receiver by the start of the second round don’t ever turn into starters. His physical gifts will have a team that views him as a second receiver with upside to stretch the field pull the trigger no later than early second round. If he can provide what Torrey Smith gave to the Baltimore offense as a deep threat, while learning the position, he will be worth the risk. His upside is that of Vincent Jackson, another fast receiver with size, who came into the league as a project, and Hill will have to develop as a receiver to get there. (I recommend this read by Matt Waldman which breaks down some flaws in Hill’s game as well)

NT/DT Dontari Poe, Memphis. Poe made a splash as a really big butt that ran a fast 40 time. Nose tackles aren’t typically judged by their speed, though, unless they pull a Vince Wilfork and intercept Philip Rivers. He was a good player on a bad team at Memphis, making scouting more difficult, so you can bet scouts will be trying to scour his tape. Given that half the league plays a version of the 3/4, Poe will be in demand as a fit at nose tackle with athleticism. All it takes is one team and he is in the conversation by mid-first round.

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College. Sometimes the combine merely confirms a player, and that is the case with Kuechly. His on-field performance is good, and he put up good Combine numbers and will probably be on the wish list of every team in the NFC East.

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor. Yes, the 40 time won’t make him an early pick. His passing ability will do that, but also being a freakish athlete who can escape trouble and make plays doesn’t hurt. More importantly, Griffin was the most popular player at the interviews with the media, and several slipped him “check yes or no” boxes. If there was any doubt before, he doesn’t get past Cleveland at #4, and the only issue is whether a team gives up enough picks to move up in front of that.

 

NEGATIVE COMBINE

LB Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State. Burfict certainly ranks up there in the notoriety versus performance category, especially last year when his effort was inconsistent. When you are a physical freak like a Lawrence Taylor, teams will forgive your foibles. When you show up at the combine and run slower than most defensive linemen, blame your coaches, and offer half-hearted explanations for your issues, teams aren’t going to want to deal with it. I guarantee several teams have removed him from consideration on the first two days of the draft. All it takes is one team to take a chance, but his stock is definitely going to be way down from where he appeared to be a year ago.

CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama. Jenkins was dismissed from Florida and finished with North Alabama. He had multiple arrests, and had to answer those questions. Some teams will appreciate the honesty; others will appreciate that they do not want to deal with a player so frequently in the news for the wrong things. Then came his disclosure about having four kids already at the age of 23, setting a pace that will challenge Antonio Cromartie. (the names? Janoris, Jr., Legend, Janorian, and Paris). Some teams may be concerned about all this stuff, though he is talented and someone will take a chance. After all, the rookie wage scale means that you don’t have to pay big until the second contract.

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor. This is one where the 40 time supposedly hurt a player. However, Wright was very productive, showed quickness in games, and runs excellent routes. Maybe teams don’t jump at him in the Top 10, which I thought was a stretch anyway. I suspect, though, that the reports of Wright’s demise will be greatly exaggerated. Teams will see the productivity and the game film and he will go mid to late first round.

DT Michael Brockers, LSU. The redshirt sophomore is viewed as a boom/bust guy with upside, but he showed up to the Combine and did not perform well, adding weight and not showing as much quickness or strength as expected. I add Brockers here just so I can add Vinny Cerrato’s assessment: “If I’m drafting a defensive tackle, I don’t want a part-time guy.” Cue Albert Haynesworth jokes. That comment may start shooting his stock back up.

[photo via US Presswire]

 

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