|An incomplete list of guys to keep an eye on in Indianapolis||02.23.11 at 9:21 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, the combine has arrived. The groups are flying into Indianapolis, and Thursday we’ll get access to the offensive linemen, tight ends, and special teamers. Of course, that’s just part of the process, as all positions will work out and undergo major scrutiny over the weekend and into next week.
Make no mistake: Everybody invited is worth keeping an eye on, and everybody has something to prove. For that reason, it is impossible to really get a sense of who is worth keeping an eye on, and for that reason we’ll be posting content on as many players as possible from Lucas Oil Stadium.
Still, if you’re wondering which guys will be interesting to watch and who might have a little more to gain (or lose), here’s an incomplete list:
The other top cornerbacks: Ras I Dowling, Jimmy Smith, Aaron Williams, Brandon Harris
Quick: Who is the third-best cornerback in this draft? Everybody knows that Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara should go in the first 10 or so picks, but there are lots of other teams that may seek a corner in the first round, and the talented bunch that follows Peterson and Amukamara doesn’t have a clear-cut leader at this point. Harris should impress in the 40-yard-dash, but if Smith posts even a modest one, would his size/speed combo make him more draftable? Dowling, who could have potentially been ahead of these guys if his senior season not been derailed by injuries, just needs to prove his health.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Many draftniks see Williams as the second-best back in this draft and someone capable of going in the first round. What teams might be seeing is somebody who was good as a freshman. What he hasn’t been able to produce on the field he will have to make up for in the 40-yard-dash if he wants to separate himself from the rest of the quarterbacks in the second-to-third round range.
The offensive tackles
There isn’t a consensus top offensive tackle in this draft, and the reigning Outland Trophy winner (Gabe Carimi) could go as late as the late first or early second round. That means lots of guys have the opportunity to stand out. Nate Solder’s got the size and Tyron Smith has the athleticism. Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo has the benefit of a long line of Eagle linemen before him that have found success in the NFL.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Our twitter feed runneth over. We asked what players you wanted to hear about at the combine and most of the answers were along the lines of “Mark Ingram and the good pass-rushers.” Deal.
In all seriousness, Ingram would really need to mess up in Indianapolis to not be the first running back taken. He has been training in New Orleans and is reportedly the lightest he’s ever been since getting to Alabama. We’ll see if that helps his 40 time.
Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Quinn has something to prove both physically and from a character standpoint. He got tied up in the infamous UNC football scandal with teammates Marvin Austin (see below), Greg Little and other athletes. Physically, he can catapult himself into the top 5 discussion (if he isn’t already).
Quarterbacks who are throwing
As riled up as everybody might get over a cocky comment Cam Newton made about wanting to be an icon, they’ll still be watching when he throws on Sunday. His talent is undeniable, and it’s a treat for combine fanatics that a guy who may be the first quarterback off the board isn’t taking the traditional route and avoiding position drills.
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Undoubtedly the biggest no-brainer on this list. All of these guys want to prove themselves as capable NFL players, but only two on this list can do so after a trying medical scare (Quinn had a brain tumor his senior year of high school). One of the draft’s more inspiring stories, Herzlich has shaken Ewings sarcoma and now the player once considered a first-round prospect must do the same with his late-round grade.
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina
The granddaddy of improper benefits himself. Austin’s tweets from a party prompted an NCAA investigation that uncovered the defensive tackle, some UNC teammates, and even Alabama star Marcell Dareus, had attended an agent’s party in South Beach. Two of those players (Dareus and Quinn), have top 10 grades. Austin just has some explaining to do.
Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
Think of Heyward’s Tommy John surgery as Rob Gronkowski’s back surgery a year ago. He probably doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, but it will be a very big deal for interested parties, and that may include the Patriots.
Jordan Todman, RB, UConn
Todman’s combine could be the difference between him being one of the better second-tier running backs in this class or falling to the third or fourth round. He showed that he could handle the load without Donald Brown around, and being able to run a sub-4.40 40 could make him worth a high second-round pick to some teams.
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