The 2017 NFL Combine – Players to watch.

It is that time of year again. The NFL world heads to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana to see the top prospects in the draft be tested. Starting on Friday March 3rd (Today as of posting) to Monday March 6th we will see players be tested on they 40 yard, 3 cone, broad jump, vertical jump and position drills. Teams will also interview prospect as the penultimate step towards the NFL draft (Which we will once again be bringing you live coverage of) starts.

The schedule for the Combine:

Friday 3rd March: Running Backs, Offensive Lineman and Special Teams.
Saturday 4th March: Quarterbacks, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
Sunday 5th March: Defensive Line and Linebackers.
Monday 6th March: Defensive Backs.

So who are the players to watch. USKSports will be selecting a player at each position that  will be interesting to watch (given their hype or ability to make or break their draft stock) minus special teams players. Be sure to check back after each day to see our review of our player to watch. It is considered a very even draft for players with most of the 1st/Early 2nd  round prospects considered to be very close in talent. It is a deep, team building draft rather than a top heavy superstar draft (Outside of Myles Garrett).

Running Back: Leonard Fournette, LSU. The first of 2 LSU players to watch. Leonard Fournette was a dominant Back in college. He is considered the only threat to Myles Garrett for the number 1 pick to Cleveland. Universal belief that he could be the next generational Running Back that could give a huge be-birth to the value of a Running Back (Along with Ezekiel Elliott) for the next 10 years. He weighed in a 240 pounds. This is heavy for an NFL RB but teams are not worried as a lot of it is muscle rather than fat. He has a lot of hype and intrigue around him, which is why he is a player to watch.

Combine Numbers:

Offensive Lineman: Ill admit I’m not an expert on Offensive Lineman. I know their importance but I have no idea how to assess them. So I will rely on experts for this one. Ill go with Garett Bolles, Utah. He will face a tough week compared to other lineman that could heavily affect his draft stock. Only a 1 year starter at Utah after transferring from Junior College, 25 when the season starts. Off-the-field issues may also be a factor but a good combine, solid interviews and a good pro day could put the concerns to bed. If he puts on a good show and reassures teams about his past then he will end up going in the first round. He could fall completely out of the 1st and maybe even the 2nd round, as teams have become more weary of guys with off-the-field issues.

Combine Numbers:
40 Yard Dash – 4.91 seconds.
Vertical Jump – 28 Inches
Broad Jump – 115 Inches
Bench Press – DNP

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech. Considered the 4th best QB in the QB draft class. A raw prospect who will need a few years to develop. He could tempt a team into taking him with a first round pick, to a team with an ageing QB. A good performance showing flashes of his potential will blow teams away in a Quarterback desperate league. He is not the safest pick but he is a player with a high ceiling and all the traits that teams look for. Not as much hype as Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson or DeShone Kizer but has much more intrigue as teams look for value at QB. If he performs well look for a team to trade into the backend of the first round to get a jump on the other potentially QB needy teams at the start of round 2 or for a team like The Cardinals or The Steelers start to future proof behind their QBs.

Wide Receiver: Zay Jones, East Carolina. A small school receiver who caught 400 balls, with 158 coming in his senior year, in 4 years in College. He has great hands and improved his route running. He impressed at the Senior bowl. He broke the NCAA record for receptions and has the size to play in the NFL at 6 ft 1. He lacked touchdowns, despite his massive yardage and catches he scored just 23 touchdowns. He will likely just secure his status as a 2nd round player at best with a good show at the combine but he could open some eyes to an international fanbase in the NFL. This is the opportunity to make himself a household name amongst the draft buzz but his school will hold him back in the eyes of some fans but he has the potential to step up considering he caught almost everything thrown his way.

Tight End: David Njoku, Miami. The position has grown more important since New England revitalised the position. O.J Howard is the top TE in the draft but Njoku is a first round bubble player and the number 2 TE in the draft class. A good performance could see him creep up into the 20’s. He is being hailed as an ‘athletic freak’ and the chance to put on a good show will make his draft stock soar.

Defensive Line: Myles Garrett, Texas A & M. He has to be the most anticipated non-QB/RB in Indianapolis. The consensus Number 1 pick has the opportunity to wow The Browns and make other teams jealous with a top performance at The Combine. It was an easy choice for the must watch Defensive Lineman. A consensus number 1 always has eyes all over them with teams in the top 5 hoping that they fall if the Browns were to take someone else (Fournette should he blow the combine away). The Browns are open to trading the number 1 pick so there could be an opportunity for a team to get their hands on Garrett.

Linebacker: T.J Watt, Wisconsin. Purely for being a Watt. He will come in with a big reputation simply because he is J.J Watt’s brother. He will need to prove that he can step out of his brother’s shadow as an OLB. How he handles being compared to his brother could help or hurt him. He seems like he will be more than happy to be compared to his brother but he will need a good showing to prove that he is seperate from his brother and capable of being a solid NFL player. He is projected as a late 1st/2nd round player.

Defensive Back: Jamal Adams/Malik Hooker, LSU/Ohio State. It was hard to split them. They are two players who could go anywhere from 2 down to the middle of the 1st round. Jamal Adams is a great box safety who can hit hard and force fumbles for a good LSU team. Malik Hooker is a great safety in the backend with good hands. Both players will go high in the draft. A blow away performance could see either of them go to The 49ers at 2 (Particularly with a former NFL Safety as their GM).

Wildcard: Jabrill Peppers, Michigan. What position will he play at NFL level? He played Linebacker, Edge Rusher, Safety and Running Back at Michigan. He is projected as a Safety but doesn’t have natural hands and lacks real playing time at any position he could potentially play. He needs to shine in position drills for whatever position(s) he ends up  testing for.

Remember to share this with your friends and tune into the combine. Follow us on Twitter @USK_Sports


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