After the two-part round table NFL Scouting Combine preview last week, here's the "official" one, I guess, to coincide with the event's actual start. In order to fulfill the "Mega" and "Spectacular" parts of the title, I've gladly entrusted the dynamic duo of Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) and Anthony Hart (@KeeepSwinging) to lend their opinions and analysis. Below I present the lists of ten prospects we each picked to highlight, players we're anxiously looking forward to see perform in these glorified underwear Olympics. In total, that makes for 30 of the 333 invitees. From a personal standpoint, I wanted to focus on guys I have not yet mentioned before. (Editor's note: Mike and Dan will have a running commentary throughout this weekend during the draft, so follow them for updates and answers on your favorite prospects.)
All height, weight and 40-yard dash times are unofficial and according to NFLDraftScout.com; I'll update exact measurements as they're released.
Cornellius "Tank" Carradine - DE - Florida State - 6041 / 265 - 4.75 - DOB: 2/16/89
I've been saying it on Twitter, but for the Bleeding Green Nation record: Based purely on play, I think Cornellius "Tank" Carradine is the best 4-3 DE prospect in the draft, and he's also shown the requisite athleticism to stand up and play 3-4 OLB. If not for the torn ACL in his right knee that befell him against Florida in the penultimate game of the regular season, I'd regard him as a slam dunk top-15 pick. He's that good. I'd watch Florida State games to get a look at the more-hyped Bjoern Werner, of whom I've been a fan since he started playing. Every time, though, my eyes would be drawn to his monstrous, imposing partner of a defensive end. Tank made his presence known as a rotational player in 2011, but nothing like what he showed in 2012 after filling Brandon Jenkins' injury-caused void in the starting lineup. He emerged as a legit force, a dominant player who boasted a sublimely well-rounded game, rushing the passer and setting the edge with equal skill. Carradine uses his hands so well and flashes a variety of pass rush moves. He showed an impressive ability to combine speed, suddenness and power and sneaky quickness to dip around offensive tackles. To me, the more I watched, the more I became convinced that Carradine eclipsed Werner as a pro prospect. The ACL tear means his status for 2013 is a question mark; as a result, he's become undervalued. Understandably so.
For Carradine, the Combine is all about his medical exam and how the knee checks out. How's the ACL healing, and what's the timetable for his return? Regardless, you have to think Tank will be likely to start training camp on the PUP list, right? However, if he can return to full strength for even half the season and, most importantly, for 2014 and beyond, some team will find the return on their investment well worth the risk.
Kapron Lewis-Moore - DE/DT (5-Tech) - Notre Dame - 6035 / 306 - 4.95 - DOB: 1/24/90
A personal favorite and undervalued prospect whose stock will be adversely affected due to injury. One way I know a player is for real: He shows up on tape even when I'm focusing on another player. That's Lewis-Moore (henceforth KLM) to a T. As someone who felt KLM was the unsung hero of the Notre Dame defense (for which he served as a designated captain) all season, it was crushing to watch his knee buckle (ACL tear) and him crumple to the field in anguish during the BCS National Championship, especially as the Fighting Irish were getting their asses handed to them and the game drifted further out of reach. What makes it even more disheartening is that KLM's 2011 season was cut short by a knee injury. He'll almost certainly have to go on IR and miss the entire 2013 season, so this is another risky investment if any team chooses to devote a draft pick.
Draftbreakdown.com only has one cutup that focuses on KLM, but you can just as easily watch him in the Manti Te'o cutups.
Quanterus Smith - DE/OLB - Western Kentucky - 6045 / 248 - 4.74 - DOB: 11/26/89
D.J. Fluker still has nightmares about Quanterrus Smith. Ok, perhaps not since the game was a blowout. But still, that's how much of a thorn he was in Alabama's side -- relatively speaking, of course -- during their matchup, recording 3.0 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss. Despite notching 12.5 sacks, they all came in just four games. Smith, who finished the season fourth in the nation in tackles for loss (18.5), is a blur around the edge and, though he played 4-3 DE at WKU, has the body type and skill set that indicates he's best served as a 3-4 OLB pass rusher in the NFL. Unfortunately, he tore the ACL in his left knee against Louisiana-Lafeyette late in the season. Double unfortunately: That torn ACL robbed us all the chance to watch him go up against Central Michigan's Eric Fisher in the Little Caesars Bowl. Like the first two prospects on my list, Smith's draft stock will depend heavily on how his medical exam goes.
DeVonte Holloman - OLB - South Carolina - 6014 / 246 - 4.64 - DOB: 2/12/91
Easily one of my five favorite defensive prospects in the draft, Holloman profiles as a prototype for the growing revolution taking place in NFL defenses that emphasizes versatile, hybrid players who can shape shift and play multiple positions at any time. Like Kapron Lewis-Moore, Holloman made his presence known even when I wasn't focusing on him (had my eye on Devin Taylor and D.J. Swearinger instead). Fast, instinctive, disciplined, athletic, uncanny awareness, sheds blocks with ease (really want to see how long his arms are), excels in coverage and is a good tackler who packs a wallop. A former safety who can cover RBs out of the backfield, TEs over the middle or patrol the deep half as a center fielder, he really can do it all. A defender for the new age, I imagine player personnel executives can't help but drool over Holloman during tape study.
Marquess Wilson - WR - Washington State - 6031 / 188 - 4.53 - DOB: 9/14/92
A consistent, high-level producer in each of his three college seasons who's likely to slide in the draft due to an unceremonious and bizarre exit from Washington State, during which he claimed abuse at the hands of Mike Leach and his coaching staff. I imagine Wilson's interview process will be quite rigorous and uncomfortable. He has a slender yet sinewy, wiry build which belies underrated toughness and a willingness to go up and fight in traffic to make catches. Not considered a burner, but I'd classify his speed as deceptive due to long strides and quick acceleration. Great vision and dangerous after the catch. Wilson is a strictly hands catcher (translates very well to the NFL) who had more drops than I anticipated but benefited from the volume of passes directed his way. I'll tell you this: Chip Kelly is intimately familiar with Marquess, who racked up big numbers against Oregon's secondary each of the last two seasons, to the tune of 11 catches for 126 yards in 2011 and 12 catches for 182 yards and 1 TD in 2012.
Brandon Kaufman - WR - Eastern Washington - 6042 / 215 - 4.58 - DOB: 10/26/90
The first time Brandon Kaufman ever popped up on my radar? During 2011 draft preparation when I was researching his teammate, RB Taiwan Jones. Kaufman was coming off a 76-catch, 1214-yard, 15-TD -- three of which were game-winners -- masterpiece of a season. Once a fairly sought after high school recruit, Kaufman saw his FBS offers dry up after tearing an ACL in 2008. Obviously, what stands out about Kaufman is his sheer size. Speed is not his game, but he's a fierce competitor with a flair for the dramatic and definite NFL skill set. A huge target who flashes big play ability in addition to being a possession receiver. Against Washington State this season, he went off for 5 catches, 142 yards and 2 TD, including a 93-yarder. In 14 games, he recorded 93 catches, 1850 yards, and 18 TD (link). A big time talent, no doubt, I think Kaufman is one of the real sleepers in a deep WR class, a potential gem and steal in the mid-late rounds.
Watch: http://draftbreakdown.com/players/brandon-kaufman (cut up the Washington State tape, please)
Chris Jones - DT - Bowling Green - 6016 / 302 - 5.02 - DOB: 7/12/90
I knew Chris Jones' name because he was among the nation's leaders in tackles for loss in 2012 (19 total and 44 combined over the last three seasons), adding 12.5 sacks for good measure. Yet it was not until a few days ago that I took my first look at him on tape. It didn't take long for me to find myself falling for the guy. Lightning quick off the snap with impressive balance and an array of pass rush moves; converts speed to power beautifully, is consistently able to get leverage on blockers, collapses the pocket and has a motor that never stops.
Daxton Swanson - CB - Sam Houston State - 5102 / 187 - 4.53 - DOB: 3/21/91
Cool name. A Toledo transfer, the first time I ever even heard of Daxton Swanson was during the Texas vs. Nation Game last month. Doesn't stand out as a physical specimen and his speed appears average at best, but CBS Sports's Dane Brugler raved about his cover skills, writing:
Sam Houston cornerback Daxton Swanson (5-10, 187) turned a few heads on day one of practice, displaying the athleticism and quickness that NFL scouts desire at the position. He looked balanced in coverage with the awareness and discipline to react to the ball in the air, competing with the receiver and even coming down with the interception on several throws. Talking to scouts after practice, Swanson is definitely a prospect who helped himself at practice on Tuesday.
Brandon Hepburn - ILB - Florida A&M - 6023 / 242 - 4.62 - DOB: 12/6/89
I came some close to putting "Don't Call Me Audrey" before the Hepburn. Anyway, here's what I know: He's got an NFL LB's build and, if the 40 time is to be believed, should be one of the fastest at his position. That size and speed combination is a good base skill set. Now, as for what Hepburn is like as a player -- I can't tell you beyond what I read in print and box scores. If you can find some Florida A&M tape, let me know. Off the field, how can I not be charmed by a guy who graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is pursuing a graduate degree in the same field? How smart is this dude? Observe:
During his summer internship, he successfully found a way to kill certain cancer cells in rats using copper-loaded nanoparticles. He dreams of owning a biochemical company so he can lead research that will eradicate deadly diseases.
Uh, pretty smart. Sounds like Hepburn's going to play NFL football and save the world at the same time. Not too shabby.
Luke Marquardt - OT - Azusa Pacific - 6087 / 312 - 5.34 - DOB: 3/23/90
Long, strong, down to get the friction on (maybe?). The only things I know about Marquardt are his mammoth height (a King Dunlapian ~6'9"!!) and the glowing, pre-Senior Bowl reports I read about him piquing the interest of NFL scouts due to his unique blend of size and athleticism. Oh, and that he missed the entire 2012 season with a broken foot. Given that Marquardt starred collegiately at Azusa Pacific, it should come as no surprise that I've never actually seen him play.
Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye):
Robert Alford - CB - Southeastern Louisiana - 5097 / 186 - 4.42 - DOB: ?
Alford is one of the "buzz guys" of the Senior Bowl game (5 tackles, 1 PD). He comes from a small school and is not a guy you will find a ton of video on, so getting a good look at him at the Combine is essential from a fan or scout perspective. Alford has average cornerback size (5'10" 186 lbs.), so it will be interesting to see how his 40 times and shuttle drills will differentiate him from the other likely 2nd day defensive backs.
Tavon Austin - WR - West Virginia - 5084 / 175 - 4.38 - DOB: 3/15/91
While Geno Smith may be the star coming out of West Virginia, his WR Tavon Austin is a major prospect as well. If you watch the tape (vs. Kansas 2012; vs. Oklahoma 2012), you can see that Austin's speed and surprising strength for his size is a big factor in Smith's success. A lot of scouts and analysts have compared Austin to DeSean Jackson, who was a 2nd round pick in 2008. Austin's performance during the Combine in his position drills could turn him into a first round lock (Editor's note: He most definitely already is, methinks).
Johnthan Banks - CB - Mississippi State - 6012 / 185 - 4.52 - DOB: 10/3/89
Johnthan Banks is considered one of the top CB prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. He is a bigger corner at 6'2" and 185 lbs, but his value will likely be assessed according to his speed and quickness. Like most DBs, Banks will have to bank (pun intended) on sharp times in his shuttles drills and 40-yard dash. Check out some of these videos on Banks: vs. Texas A&M 2012 , vs. Tennessee 2012.
Aaron Dobson - WR - Marshall - 6025 / 203 - 4.53 - DOB: ?/?/91
You may remember Aaron Dobson from this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCdFFFAxLz0. He is a tall, well built WR from Marshall who could be a huge threat in the redzone. As a team that is constantly talked about needing big pass catchers, the Eagles fanbase should take notice of the 6'3" beast. Where he will really be able to show he can play big, instead of just be a big WR, is in the vertical jump.
Gavin Escobar - TE - San Diego State - 6052 / 255 - 4.78 - DOB: 2/3/91
Gavin Escober is a guy that caught the eye of Dan and myself. Eagles fans are bullish about upgrading the depth at the tight end position, and Escobar could be an intriguing pickup for the Birds. If the team invests in a tight end early, Chip Kelly is going to want to make sure that the new addition can block as well as catch. The bench press and skill drills could push Escobar into the top of the 2nd day selections.
Mike Glennon - QB - North Carolina State - 6064 / 220 - 5.12 - DOB: 12/12/89
Mike Glennon is talked about a lot but does not seem to have a precise rank among the top QBs in this year's class. Glennon recently announced that he would throw at the Combine, which is probably to his benefit. As a guy who is considered inconsistent on tape (vs. UNC, vs. Clemson) by most analysts, a strong showing could see Glennon go from borderline first rounder to top-10 pick.
Khaseem Greene - OLB - Rutgers - 6004 / 236 - 4.64 - DOB: 2/4/89
Khaseem Greene played OLB at Rutgers, but could also slide inside in the 3-4. He is a very good athlete and has a ton of range. Greene's extent of versatility will likely be dictated by what he weighs at the Combine and what he runs in the 40. He is likely a long shot for the Eagles but an interesting prospect nonetheless.
Travis Kelce - TE - Cincinnati - 6052 / 260 - 4.68 - DOB: 10/5/89
Travis Kelce is the younger brother of Eagles center Jason Kelce, but he is more than just a namesake. Kelce is a playmaker who can really be a difference-maker (vs. USF 2012, vs. Duke 2012). Everyone knows he can make plays, but his speed and strength at the Combine is something to take into account when a team is determining when to take the former Bearcat.
Editor's note: Kelce is the #1 TE on my board -- ahead of Ertz and Eifert -- because of how proficient he is with the dirtier, forgotten details of the position. The dude blocks his ass off -- he does it so well -- and will be a major weapon in the run game. Originally recruited as a QB, he boasts underrated speed and athleticism with nascent receiving skills that will continue to improve, resulting in a prospect whose ceiling is sky-high. I'd be okay taking Travis Kelce at 35, if only because I doubt he'll still be there when the Eagles pick early in the third round.
Alex Okafor - OLB/DE - Texas - 6045 / 261 - 4.78 - DOB: 2/8/91
The SAM spot in Billy Davis's 4-3 under is extremely important. The Eagles need a guy who is athletic enough to cover and also rush the passer. The Eagles may also be in the market for a Trent Cole replacement, and both are spots Okafor could assume if the team chooses to take him in the 2nd round. Like most prospects, speed, strength and weight will go a long way toward deciding Okafor's fate.
Quinton Patton - WR - Louisiana Tech - 6000 / 202 - 4.52 - DOB: 8/9/90
Quinton Patton has somehow been able to fly under the radar during the draft process among fans. Patton showed his great hands at the Senior Bowl and now has a chance to build on that great performance at the Combine. It will be interesting to see how he does in the WR drills, along with the speeds evaluations.
Anthony Hart (@KeeepSwinging):
Matt Scott - QB - Arizona - 6016 / 202 - 4.68 - DOB: 9/20/90
After being Nick Foles' backup, Scott had a chance to shine this season in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense, where he was able to showcase his arm and athleticism. He's a raw prospect with only a few starts, but having a nice throwing session and running a good 40 could push Scott from the 4th or 5th round into the 3rd. Here's Scott in the redzone using the threat of his legs to make a pass play.
Jordan Rodgers - QB - Vanderbilt - 6010 / 212 - 4.79 - DOB: 8/30/88
Another athletic prospect who can be found late in the draft. Rodgers led Vandy to one of the better seasons in their history in 2012. Granted he had a very good supporting cast, but the 6'1 senior had some great moments of his own. He's not a burner with his feet, but he can extend plays and get himself out of trouble. A good showing in passing drills at the Combine could secure him as a draftable player, and a team may think he can develop on the bench like his brother did.
Xavier Nixon - OT - Florida - 6054 / 311 - 5.23 - DOB: 9/17/90
Nixon is a tremendous athlete who dominated top talent many times throughout the season, most notably against LSU's stud pass rushers. Florida also had a ton of success running behind him vs Florida State, when Nixon shut down FSU defensive end Tank Carradine. However, Nixon was very up and down. If he played at his best more consistently he'd be in the first round talk with the other stud tackles in this class, but his bad moments will keep him out of the first and may even push him into the 3rd round. If he can demonstrate his work ethic and shine in interviews, a team might grab him early and hope they can coach 'Good Xavier' to show up more often.
Omoregie Uzzi - OG - Georgia Tech - 6031 / 302 - 5.26 - DOB: ?
Uzzi is a cookie-cutter guard for a zone blocking scheme. He anchored an o-line that allowed Georgia Tech to rush for the 4th most yards per game in the nation last season. Uzzi has a fast first step, can get to the second level, and is an effective cut-blocker. Showing his strength on the bench press could push his draft stock up a bit and lock him into the middle rounds.
Brandon Jenkins - DE/OLB - Florida State - 6024 / 260 - 4.69 - DOB: 2/9/90
Jenkins was primed to have a huge season in 2012 and solidify himself as a first round pick, but he broke his foot during the first week of the season. Assuming he's healed well and trained hard, he could be an absolute steal. Jenkins played in a two-point stance all over the place in college, making him a great fit for a creative 3-4 scheme. If he can show that his injury hasn't cost him his explosiveness, he could move into early 2nd round consideration.
Chase Thomas - OLB - Stanford - 6031 / 241 - 4.74 - DOB: 6/10/89
Thomas has been a very productive player in his time at Stanford. He's shown the ability to rush the passer and cover down the field. He plays with a lot of hustle, as demonstrated here. At 6'3 and 241 pounds, he could be a natural fit for the SAM spot in Bill Davis's scheme. I'm looking forward to seeing him in coverage drills and the 3-cone.
Jesse Williams - NT - Alabama - 6032 / 320 - 4.94 - DOB: 11/2/90
The Austrailian only started playing football at age 15. He went to JUCO and from there on to Alabama, where he took over the massive gap left by the departure of Terrance Cody. Williams isn't quite as big as Cody at 6'3 320, but he's got tremendous athleticism to go along with his big size. He played 5-technique in his first season at Alabama, but would play inside on passing downs. He moved to NT this year and continued to have success. Williams is likely a two-down player at the next level, but could be a dominant run-stuffer. I'm most looking forward to seeing him on the bench, where he could break a few records.
Marc Anthony - CB - California - 5113 / 193 - 4.54 - DOB: 11/14/89
Anthony had a nice showing at the Senior Bowl, which put him on a lot of people's radars. A talented corner with good size and long arms who presses and plays physical, health issues have kept him from gaining notoriety. If he can stay healthy, which is a big if with him, he could develop into a nice corner at the next level. Here he is with close, physical coverage against Stanford this year. The medical tests will be the biggest ones for him at the Combine.
D.J. Swearinger - S - South Carolina - 5112 / 210 - 4.56 - DOB: ?
Not a particularly tall drink of water, but very stout, Swearinger has been a spark for South Carolina's defense this year. He has decent coverage skills and actually mixed in at corner, but with the way he delivers hits (see the first play in this video) you want him at safety. This aggressive nature does get him into trouble, he will probably drive teams crazy with holding and helmet to helmet hit penalties when he starts out, but if he can keep his head about him he could be a very good player found in the later rounds. I'm looking forward to seeing his 10-yard split to see if he has the acceleration to cover well in the NFL.
Shawn Williams - SS - Georgia - 5117 / 211 - 4.54 - DOB: 5/13/91
A tough, thick player who has a lot of those 'fiery leadership' qualities that Eagles fans love so much, Williams is a good but not elite prospect. He isn't the ballhawk that teammate S Baccari Rambo is, but he's the better tackler and can hold his own in coverage. Williams has mixed in at linebacker and been a special teams stud for Georgia, so his versatility could make him very attractive to teams in the late 2nd/early 3rd round. Like with many big defensive backs, his 40 time will be very important. Williams can be a bit stiff and delayed in coverage and he could be liability if he doesn't have the speed to recover.
*Note: I highly recommend that anybody who's really into the draft and on twitter follow the posters of the YouTube videos I linked to as they are tremendous resources.