10 prospects most in need of a strong NFL combine performance

Gordon McGuinness takes a look at which players need to make a statement in Indianapolis.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

10 prospects most in need of a strong NFL combine performance

While it’s often far too easy to put too much stock into things liked timed speed over football speed, the NFL scouting combine does often shape the rhetoric surrounding a player. When the football world migrates to Indianapolis this week, all eyes will be on how fast a player can run, how much they can lift, whether or not they choose to throw the ball, and how the look in shorts.

Here are ten players who would benefit most from a strong combine:

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Treadwell is in contention to be the top wide receiver off the board come draft day, but while there are lots of things he does do well, the lack of separation shown on film has definitely been a concern to us and many others. A 40-yard dash time in the 4.4-5s won’t change what we saw looking back at his play in 2014 and 2015, but it would give his stock a boost in that regard.

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Coleman is one of Treadwell’s biggest competitors to be the top receiver drafted, and the Baylor playmaker is the only receiver in the top 10 of our big board so far. A lot of people are worried about Coleman’s height, with the majority expecting him to come in at 5-10. That hasn’t stopped him dominating so far, but testing well in the wide variety of tests would go a long way to diverting attention away from his height and more to his ability as a receiver, where his 3.97 yards per route run were the second-best in this draft class.

Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor

Power is Andrew Billings’ biggest asset, and he has an opportunity to show that off and generate some buzz in Indianapolis. He graded well against the run and as a pass rusher for us in 2015, finishing the season with 30 tackles resulting in a defensive stop, and might just break the record of 49 reps in the bench press set by Stephen Paea in 2011.

Brandon Allen, QB, Arkansas

In an interesting group of quarterbacks, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen is in the discussion to be the third best signal caller in the class. Much of the pre draft discussion has centered around the size of his hands, but that certainly didn’t limit his ability to throw in the ball in the SEC. Allen had outstanding performances against Ole Miss and Mississippi State in 2015, and perhaps a strong showing in Indianapolis will get people to focus more on his on the field performances than the size of his hands.

Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

With the ninth-highest pass rushing grade amongst players on the defensive interior in this draft class, Nkemdiche has the type of skill set that NFL teams fall in love with, and certainly showed the production to be a top player during the 2015 season. The biggest question marks for him come off the field so he — perhaps more than any other player — needs to have a good set of interviews with NFL teams. Nkemdiche needs to shift the focus to things like his 37 total pressures in 2015, rather than the off-field stuff.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

Our fifth-lowest graded quarterback in this draft class in 2015, and lowest graded in 2014, Christian Hackenberg is not the quarterback that we would be looking to draft this offseason. He does still have people fighting his corner though, and the fact that he looks the part certainly helps him. A strong week in interviews and throwing the football might push him up some draft boards, though we’ll still fall back on the 2014 and 2015 film where he really didn’t play like an NFL quarterback prospect.

Derrick Henry, HB, Alabama

The Heisman trophy winning running back had a strong 2015 season, and finished the year with our second highest rushing grade amongst draft eligible running backs, and leading the class with 76 missed tackles forced. There are concerns over his workload at Alabama though, and while they aren’t going to go away despite how fast he can run, a better than expected 40 yard dash time would certainly be a boost to his draft stock.

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

He’s graded inside the top three amongst draft eligible tackles in the past two years, but Jack Conklin’s draft stock appears to have taken a hit due to some concern about his athleticism. That’s certainly a part of the evaluation process, and he would benefit from a strong combine to somewhat disprove that assertion. Conklin needs to focus attention on his skills as a pass blocker, where he allowed just 13 total pressures in 2015.

Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona

He’s becoming the forgotten man in a draft class that has plenty of talented linebackers at the top of the class, with concerns about his ability to cover at an NFL level. While he’s not a Miles Jack-type coverage linebacker in the sense that you can easily ask him to cover in the slot, Wright did a solid job playing what was in front of him. His 2015 season was ruined by injury, but his 2014 season saw him as the highest-graded linebacker in this draft class by a considerable distance. He’ll be hoping to impress some people with how he tests in Indianapolis, and draw attention to the things he does really well on film.

Darian Thompson, S, Boise State

With the fifth-best overall grade, and 14th-best in coverage, Boise State’s Thompson is in the mix to be the top safety off the board in the draft. He does have his limitations, and he’s shown a penchant for taking a bad angle a few too many times for our liking, but he has the type of natural ability to really wow and create some buzz in Indianapolis.

| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

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