The second in a two-part round table feature previewing next week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Check out part one here. My own personal preview will go up early next week, with Mike Kaye and Anthony Hart guest-starring. Enjoy.
With the NFL Scouting Combine now less than a week away, the Bleeding Green Nation round table continues to chug along. Here are the final participants for part two of the feature: Rohan (@MrRohanSharma / BGN -- rohan915) and Patrick (BGN -- armchairGM).
1) Here's the official Combine invite list: http://www.nflcombine.net/players/official-invite-list. What are your initial reactions? Which names, aside from the obvious, jump out at you and pique your interest? Who are you most excited to see? Which players are you surprised not to see invited/feel should have been invited?
Rohan (@MrRohanSharma / BGN -- rohan915): I think the first name that jumped out at me is Robert Alford, CB from Southeastern Louisiana University. Not many people know about this player, but they should. This CB is one of the most athletic corners in the draft. He is roughly 5'10/ 5'11 (I've seen reports saying he's 6'0), he can reportedly run the 40 in either 4.33-4.45, and has great instincts. From the videos I have seen on him, he's good at jostling with the WR and staying on him. He's also a damn good punt returner, something this team really needs. I think his biggest drawback, which may turn some Eagles fans off, is that he's not a sure tackler. It is not that he shies away from hitting people; he's just not always able to completely wrap his arms and get the guy down. I haven't seen a lot of tape on Alford because he's from a small school, but it seems like his upside can be similar to an Asante Samuel who wants to hit.
Another name that jumps out at me is Marcus Davis, WR from Virginia Tech. This guy is big. He's 6'4" and can reportedly run the 40 in 4.45. Despite these great attributes, he's projected to go near the bottom of the draft. He's only had one full year of starting, and he has been benched due to showing poor/no effort on a block. Actually, Deadspin gave him some serious crap about his missed blocks in a game against FSU. But, he handled it in a very mature way. I think Davis has the raw skill and physical abilities to be a major red zone threat and with a strong head coach like Chip Kelly, he can develop into a playmaker. I think he's going to shine in the combine and is definitely worth a flyer in the 5th round
In terms of players I'm excited to see, no one get me more excited than seeing Geno Smith. I think him not going to the Senior Bowl actually helped him, due to no one really standing out in the Senior Bowl. I would say it definitely generates more interest on him. Many of you may scoff at my pick, but the position where we need the most help is quarterback. As SBN Blogger from MTD Dan Kadar puts it, "If a team needs a quarterback, that is the team's biggest need." You can skate by with a shaky secondary, but you aren't worth jack in the NFL without a good starting QB. I personally don't trust Nick Foles because he hasn't really shown me anything to get excited about. And for the people who want Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Football, for all we know they pull a Matt Barkley. I'm not saying we should trade up for him, but if he falls to us at #4 you'd have to consider it.
Patrick (@patrickcausey / BGN -- armchairGM): I will be looking forward to watching the following players the Eagles can target with the number 4 overall pick: Star Lotulelei, Luke Joeckel, Jarvis Jones, and Dee Milliner. If the Eagles end up with any of these four, I'll be happy. I think they are the four best players in the draft.
But outside of that:
Matt Elam, Safety, University of Florida: This is a guy I am really excited to watch. Selfishly, I am hoping that NFL scouts stay true to form and obsess over his lack of ideal size (5'10", 202 lbs) so that his stock will drop just enough for the Eagles to grab him in the second round. Yes, I know, it's horrible to wish ill will on someone's draft stock, but Elam is a beast -- repeat, A BEAST. And after having to suffer through the likes of Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett pretending to play safety for the last several years, I think we have earned the right to think that way. Elam would solidify the back end with a level of tenacity Eagles fans have been dying to see since Brian Dawkins left for the Broncos four years ago.
Rohan (@MrRohanSharma / BGN -- rohan915): Two words: Justin Hunter. Hunter is a WR from Tennessee. This guy could be a stud at the combine depending if his ACL injury holds him back. He's a track star and has tremendous upside. I expect him to really dominate the broad jump and the vertical leap, as he was USA junior national champion in the long jump and represented the USA at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships. He's also pretty fast, reportedly running a 4.48 in the 40. As I briefly mentioned earlier, his ACL injury has caused him to take a step back this year. But before, he was getting comparisons to Randy Moss.
Another prospect who I think is going to have a big Combine performance is Margus Hunt, DE from SMU. Margus is a very raw athlete from motherflipping Estonia, but he has tons of potential. He is 6'8" and 275 pounds, but don't let that fool you; Hunt can run the 40 in 4.6, which is just mind-blowing for his size. He is crazy strong and very much the definition of "Workout Warrior." I've seen him beat OL like they were the redheaded stepchildren of rented mules. I highly recommend people watch his highlight tape against Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. The guy is an animal.
Patrick (@patrickcausey / BGN -- armchairGM):
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: I know it is odd to have an offensive lineman here, since you do not normally associate offensive linemen with explosive athletes. But what if I told you that the 6'6", 302-pound Johnson can apparently do a 360 dunk off one dribble? And what if I told you that Johnson supposedly ran a 4.71 40? At 6'6", 302 pounds! Folk stories abound in Norman, Oklahoma, about what Johnson can do in the gym. I think the Combine provides the perfect venue to showcase his rare athleticism.
Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon: Dion Jordan might be the best athlete amongst front seven prospects. He was recruited to Oregon as a tight end but eventually converted to a defensive end. What he lacks in size (Editor's note: bulk) and strength, he makes up for in pure athleticism. I expect Jordan to outshine every defense lineman in the 40, cone drills and long jump. Teams will worry about his lack of size (Editor's note: bulk) and strength for good reason. But a team looking for an explosive athlete that can set the edge on pass rushing downs will come away from the Combine impressed. (Note to Chip Kelly: Don't... just don't do it. You already ruined my offseason re-signing Vick. Don't reach for this kid at 4. I'm not playing, Chip.)
Giovani Bernard, RB, UNC: He has a chance to jump Eddie Lacy of Alabama as the first running back drafted this year. While he is small at 5'10", 205 lbs (Editor's note: that's small?), he was an electrifying playmaker for the Tar Heels as a runner, pass catcher and kick returner. He runs a 4.52 40, and provides the type of versatility that teams covet in the NFL today. He will likely be compared to the Saints Darren Sproles, but I think he can be more of an every-down running back. Expect him to perform well at the Combine and push for a shot to be taken in the first round.
A future superstar who could see his stock drop at the combine: Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE, Georgia. Jarvis Jones is the perfect example of the problems with putting too much stock in the Combine. While he is a solid athlete, he does not possess elite athleticism like Von Miller, or even Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo. Coaches and scouts that fixate on "measurables" will likely come away disappointed with Jones' performance. While passing on Jones because of his performance at the Combine would be borderline GM malpractice, there are valid concerns over his injury history. Halfway through his freshman year, Jones suffered a neck injury that almost ended his career. After USC's doctors refused to clear him medically, Jones transferred to UGA and redshirted in 2010 before bursting on the national scene. Teams interested in Jones will be hypersensitive to his physical and his stock could drop precipitously if the the doctors determine there are signs of a long-term injury.
Player whose stock could rise that will end up being a bust: EJ Manuel, QB, FSU. Like I said before, the NFL is a copycat league. The pistol offense just took the NFL by storm, like the wildcat and 3-4 defense before it. Enter Manuel. A quarterback with great athleticism and a strong arm, he should shine at the combine. His performance will likely entice at least one NFL head coach into believing that he holds "the key" to fixing Manuel's lack of consistency and bad decision-making. Put me in the column of those who think Manuel will be more Tavaris Jackson than Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson. He is not a good decision maker and his numbers are inflated from playing against the cupcake ACC. Don't believe me? Look no further than his performance against the only elite defense he faced all season-the Florida Gators-18 for 32, 182 yards, 54.5% completion percentage, 1 TD and 3 INTs.
Interview: I would love to be a fly on the wall for the interviews of Manti Te'o, and I suspect that his stock will plummet if he does not nail them. On a side note, I wonder what his awareness rating will be for Madden? Can it go lower than 0? (Editor's note: Awareness for when he's getting duped by a fake Internet girlfriend? That'll be at 0 or below. But his football awareness is pretty damn good.)
3) Which player(s) do you expect will do the most to boost their draft stock at the Combine?
Rohan (@MrRohanSharma / BGN -- rohan915): There are three prospects in my mind that need to have a good Combine: Manti Te'o, Da'Rick Rodgers, and Matt Barkley.
This time last year, numerous of Eagles fans were hoping and praying that Manti would declare and fall into our laps. People thought if Manti came out last year, he would easily be a top 10 pick. Even this year, everyone had high expectations of Manti and expected him to even be a top 10 pick. Manti did come second in Heisman voting and helped his team go to the BCS Championship game. However in the BCS National Championship Game, Manti really faltered. He was completely neutralized by Alabama and looked very mediocre in the defeat. The whole girlfriend hoax added more fuel to the fire and had scouts questioning his intelligence and honesty. This caused him to tumble to near the bottom of the first round. A lot of eyes will be on Te'o to see how he will perform at the Combine. If Manti has a bad performance, he could easily fall to the 2nd round or worse. It's up to Manti to silence the critics.
Da'Rick Rodgers is a WR from Tennessee Tech by way of Tennessee. He was suspended from Tennessee due to unknown issues, but reports later came out that it was drug-related. Rogers has also been arrested in the past for bar fights and he does have some maturity issues. To me he seems like a walking red flag. However, Rodgers has too much talent to ignore. I expect him to do well at the Combine because he knows if he messes up he could freefall even further down the draft boards. If he does well however, he could easily shoot up. (Editor's note: Questionable choice of words, given why he left Tennessee!)
Finally, we have Matt Barkley, a cautionary tale for upcoming talented quarterbacks coming into the NFL. Barkley He was at one point seen as the undisputed number one overall pick for 2013. Many people wanted him to come out for the draft last year because he was viewed as a close third to Luck and RGIII. Boy, what a different a year makes; after only throwing 7 interceptions in 2011, Barkley threw 15 in 2012. His completion percentage also took a nosedive from 69.1 percent to 63.6. Add to the fact that USC quarterbacks really don't perform in the NFL (Carson Palmer is sort of the exception), and Barkley is looking at an uphill battle. For what it's worth, I've seen mocks on MTD and NFL.com that put Tyler Wilson and Mike Glennon respectively over Barkley. What's going in Barkley's favor right now is that this is a weak QB class, so someone (LOLJets?) might over-draft him on reputation alone. If Barkley can pull off an awesome Combine, people might start to reconsider him.
Patrick (@patrickcausey / BGN -- armchairGM):
Stock on the Rise: Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU. The NFL is a copy-cat league. From the wildcat to the pistol offense, the league is constantly looking to replicate past successes. As with these offenses, NFL player personnel are notorious for looking for the "next Peyton Manning" (see: Luck, Andrew) the "next Michael Vick" (see: Griffin III, Robert) or the "next Adrian Peterson" (see: ... well, no one). Enter Ezekiel Ansah, the 6-6, 270 pound linebacker from BYU that is drawing comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. Ansah immigrated to the US from Ghana, and like Pierre-Paul, Ansah has been limited in his football experience. From all accounts, Ansah is a physical freak, possessing a rare combination of explosiveness and closing speed for an athlete his size. If he shows up big at the Combine like he did at the Senior Bowl -- and it says here that he will -- then expect his draft stock to soar even higher.