IRVING, Texas – By this time next week, we’ll be in Indianapolis at the 2016 NFL Combine.
As we’ve said before, we’re going to learn a lot about the upcoming NFL draft when all of this year’s invitees have a chance to get tested and interviewed. Names we haven’t considered before are going to rise to the forefront, while the guys at the top of the draft order have a chance to solidify – or hurt -- their status.
With all of that in mind, I want to take a look at a handful of the names I’m most interested to see, and what we can learn from them this week at Lucas Oil Field. Today I’ll have 10 offensive players worth noting, and I’ll come back tomorrow with 10 names on defense.
Here we go:
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
It is no secret that Paxton Lynch is my top-rated quarterback that I have studied for this draft. Lynch has been flying under the radar, but this Combine will be a great opportunity for him to shine. This will be the first chance for scouts to see him working from underneath center and how he handles his drops --which is the biggest question they have about him. These front offices need to feel comfortable that he can do that.
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
On my board he sits in the fourth round. There are moments where you see tremendous arm strength, but there are also snaps where the ball is all over the place. Like Paxton Lynch, he has had to work hard to get his footwork correct from playing underneath center. He will need to change the perspective in the scouts eyes that he can step in the huddle, call a play and execute it. This is one of the most intriguing players in the draft. He has the potential to make a front office look very smart -- or get everyone fired.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi
While the scouts were on the road in the fall, the number they had been carrying around for Laquon Treadwell speed-wise was 4.52. There are games where you see him separate vertically, but there are still scouts that have questions whether he really runs well enough. If he decides to run while at the Combine and he manages to hit that number or go below – he could put a lot of questions about his speed to bed before this draft and make him a consideration in the top five.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
This might be the one receiver in the draft that scouts have the most questions about. There are some that love his play making ability, while others are not willing to give him a pass due to the type of scheme he plays in. It will be interesting to see what he actually measures in height and weight. If he’s under 5-10, teams might be turned off by him -- despite the fact that for a short guy on tape, his leaping ability is very good.
Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal
I currently have him behind Josh Doctson on my board in the second round. Like Doctson, he has outstanding measureables. There is a reason that Jared Goff had the success that he did at Cal throwing the ball. He is able to find holes in the zone, and he will go get the ball. Doesn’t always play fast. He makes contested catches, and he gives great effort as a blocker. He’s not afraid to throw his body around. At times he lacks concentration, and he has snaps where he just flat drops the ball and then the next play makes an unreal catch. Routes are not tight and can be all over the place but his ability is impressive.
C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
Limited experience as a running back, which makes him intriguing as a prospect. He just runs on feel. Doesn’t have a real plan, but I have a feeling that one day he just might develop one. He’s physical with the ball in his hands, and he stays after his block as a pass protector. On top of that, he can make people miss in the hole. He can also slide over and help in pass pro. Has a nose for the end zone. Can catch the ball, natural hands. Just looks like one of those complete backs. I have a feeling that he should test very well.
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
My initial feeling is that Derrick Henry would not likely be a consideration for the Cowboys. With that said, I am curious what his 40-yard dash time might be. Scouts were carrying around a 4.54 time for him, and there were snaps where he played at that speed or better. Like Treadwell, if his time is that good or better, then he has a chance to get selected higher than I have him -- which is in the third round. There is a chance that Henry will likely wait until his Pro Day and run at Alabama, which has been something these Crimson Tide players have done in the past.
Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State
A former walk-on that lined up at left tackle for the Spartans. When you study him playing Alabama in the playoff game, his teammates were getting bullied by the Crimson Tide front seven -- but not him. He is as physically tough as any offensive tackle in this draft. He can play the type of game where he can matchup athletically with quicker defensive ends or play the power game as well. He’s working to put himself in that spot behind Laremy Tunsil as the second tackle off the board. With a good showing he could pass Taylor Decker and Ronnie Stanley for that spot.
Chris Westerman, OL, Arizona State
Cody Whitehair from Kansas State is currently the first guard on my draft board and I have him in the second round. The next guard on my board is Westerman, and I have him in the third round. I thought the tape was really close between the two, but I put Whitehair ahead due to his ability to line up at tackle as well. The reason that I am interested in Westerman is that I believe that he could be a starter at guard but help you as a center. I like his potential to be that swing player inside, which is something the Cowboys will need to address. He would be an upgrade to the current situation.
Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
My first exposure to Nick Vannett was during the Senior Bowl and I have to say that I was impressed -- not only as a blocker, but to athletically get up the field on routes. Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry appears to be the odds-on favorite to be the first one taken off the board, but I would keep an eye on Vannett -- especially if his 40 time and bench press numbers are better than Henry’s. I have no questions about Henry and his ability to get up the field and catch the ball, but I do have concerns about his strength and point-of-attack blocking. With a strong Combine, Vannett could make scouts reconsider who that top tight end might be.