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    Combine preview: What to watch for at Indy show

    Combine preview: What to watch for at Indy show

    By Chad Reuter
    The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

    Most NFL fans know what the combine (officially known as the National Invitation Camp) is all about. Hundreds of NFL personnel ascend on Indianapolis to poke, prod and pry into the lives of more than 100 players partaking in what amounts to a four-day job interview.

    Players arrive in Indy on a staggered schedule dictated mostly by their position group. First to arrive will be kicking specialists, offensive linemen and tight ends on Feb. 24. Skill-position players (QB/RB/WR) arrive on Day Two, while front seven defenders (DE/DT/LB) show up the next day. The defensive backs turn off the lights on their way out on March 2.

    On their first couple of days, they are checked both medically and mentally with rigorous physical tests and intelligence and personality exams (the infamous Wonderlic test).

    Every prospect is measured by a height strip affixed on a wall, weighed on a scale and closely studied under the skeptical eyes of scouts.

    Prospects also have meetings with NFL Players Association staff and up to 60 individual interviews with teams -- mostly before athletic testing begins.

    Forty-yard dash times and bench-press reps of 225 pounds make the headlines. And although teams will downplay the usefulness of the "track meet" with "guys in shorts," every general manager, coach and scout in the stadium pulls out their own stopwatch when the running starts.

    For the most part, teams arrive knowing which players will perform well. Evaluators have access to college weightlifting records and junior testing day performances that provide a general guide for who has already shown top strength and/or speed.

    Because underclassmen do not have the on-field or off-field track record of most seniors in the draft, many of the top storylines entering the 2010 combine involve players who declared early.



    Risers and Fallers: Players to watch at combine


    RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford: The Heisman Trophy finalist has been a bullish runner for the Cardinal, but will surprise some with his straight-line speed and agility to prove himself a better athlete than most believe.

    TE Jimmy Graham, Miami (Fla.): The former "U" basketball player should feel comfortable running and jumping in shorts. Teams will be more comfortable taking him in the late second round if he catches everything thrown his way and runs well in Indy's on-field sessions.

    DT Lamarr Houston, Texas: It's surprising how he's flying under the radar a bit despite playing for a high-profile Longhorns squad, but if he runs in the 4.9 range at over 300 pounds and lifts well, teams looking for a penetrating three-technique tackle -- or 3-4 defensive end -- will leave Indianapolis intrigued.

    OLB Koa Misi, Utah: Called one of the most athletic Utes by his coaches, Misi's underappreciated agility and speed at 6-3, 244 pounds will put him in the spotlight.

    WR Carlton Mitchell, South Florida: The 6-4, 200-pound receiver has better speed and footwork than most have credited him for and, as long as his hands are solid in the gauntlet, look for him to start getting second-round grades.

    CB Joshua Moore, Kansas State: Not many paid attention to KSU in 2009. Moore could fly up draft boards if he runs in the 4.4 range, as expected, and displays his fluidity in drills.

    OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale: Scouts at the Texas vs. the Nation practices said Veldheer could become an NFL player if given some time to develop. If he runs a sub-5.0 in the 40 and lifts as well as expected, teams will also accept him as an elite athlete worth drafting early.


    Battling for position

    Draft boards are set up before the combine, but there are debates among scouts as to how the positional pecking order should go are ongoing in April.


    A number of teams don't have either of these signal callers in their top 20 prospects. They aren't looking for franchise quarterbacks. Bradford's shoulder and Clausen's lack of height (word is he'll measure at 6-1 or less) are issues, and might decide which player teams rate higher.

    Teams might not see either player throw this week as many top quarterbacks wait until their pro day to throw in a familiar environment to familiar receivers.

    QB Colt McCoy (Texas)/Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan)/Tony Pike (Cincinnati)/Tim Tebow (Florida)

    Who's No. 3? It stands to reason there is great debate behind Bradford and Clausen.

    McCoy's moxie and athleticism could earn him the spot, but Tebow's character and value as a draw might cause a team to take a chance on him. LeFevour and Pike have their fans and interesting physical tools with which to work. Unlike Bradford and Clausen, these guys should be throwing to convince scouts of their accuracy on the run and that they can consistently deliver tight spirals. Jonathan Crompton (Tennessee) could possibly be in the conversation, but wasn't invited to Indianapolis.

    CB Dominique Franks (Oklahoma)/Kareem Jackson (Alabama)/Amari Spievey (Iowa)/Donovan Warren (Michigan)

    Which CB will stand out and separate himself from the others?


    Safeties Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech)/Reshad Jones (Georgia)/Major Wright (Florida)

    Which round will they be drafted? Definitely could depend on their Combine workout.


    Irish wide receiver Golden Tate must showcase his deep speed to justify being drafted in the first round.

    After Florida's Joe Haden and Eric Berry and Earl Thomas -- teams will have to decide if these players fit at cornerback or free safety -- there is a group of defensive backs looking to separate themselves into top 50 or top 75 prospects.

    You'll be hearing a lot about backpedals, transitions, and plant-and-drive capability with these guys as they try to prove they can mirror NFL receivers. There are also seniors in the fight, like corners Chris Cook (Virginia), Perrish Cox (Oklahoma State) and Devin McCourty (Rutgers), as well as South Florida teammates FS Nate Allen and CB Jerome Murphy.

    OLB Sergio Kindle (Texas)/Ricky Sapp (Clemson)

    The battle to be the top 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker is far from over. Kindle's name is better known to college football fans because of Texas' recent success, but don't be surprised if Sapp runs a faster 40 and puts up more bench-press reps. Their movement in drills could be crucial in teams' grading, especially since Sapp played with his hand down more often than Kindle in 2009.

    OT Bryan Bulaga (Iowa)/Anthony Davis (Rutgers)/Trent Williams (Oklahoma)

    Each team will rank Bulaga, Davis and Williams in a different order, depending upon if they view the player as a left or right tackle for a specific offensive scheme. Williams is solid but is best suited to the strong side. Davis is agile for his size but has maturity issues and may also be best at RT. Bulaga is probably a left tackle but had a thyroid issue this season, which might scare some teams from taking him in the top 10.

    DE/OLB Brandon Graham (Michigan)/Jerry Hughes (TCU)/Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech)

    Comparisons to former Wolverine and current Pittsburgh Steelers' starting OLB LaMarr Woodley are inevitable for Graham. Forty-yard dash times will be less important than shuttle times and agility drills for these guys as another undersized college defensive end converted to a 3-4 rush specialist, Larry English, showed with a 4.85 40 last year.

    WR Golden Tate (Notre Dame)/Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech)/Damian Williams (Southern Cal)

    Teams are divided on the value of the junior receivers coming into the combine. Tate must prove he has elite speed to be considered a first-round lock because he measured under 6 feet tall.

    The 6-3 Thomas has the opposite issue, looking to put scouts' doubts about his top-end speed to rest. Williams falls in between the two, and if he runs in the mid 4.4's at around 200 pounds, he could be the first player from the troika picked because of his return skills.

    Speed to burn

    Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson and Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey were two of the recent prospects who have broken the 4.3-second barrier in the 40-yard dash at Indianapolis. These are the top candidates to be the fastest runners in Indy this year, listed in alphabetical order:

    WR Brandon Banks, Kansas State
    FS Eric Berry, Tennessee
    RB Jahvid Best, California
    WR Marcus Easley, Connecticut
    WR Jacoby Ford, Clemson
    CB Joe Haden, Florida
    WR Trindon Holliday, LSU
    RB/WR Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
    WR Taylor Price, Ohio
    CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
    RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson

    Questions to answer

    Whether in interviews with teams or on the Lucas Oil Dome turf, these players have a lot to prove to NFL teams.

    RB LeGarrette Blount, Oregon: His transgression against Boise State and tough running at the Senior Bowl give teams the good and the bad of Blount. Scouts are here to find out which version is closer to the real Blount.

    WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: The NCAA suspension is an obvious interview topic, but Bryant also has to answer questions about his top-end speed. If he decides to not run until the pro day, teams will wonder what he has to hide.

    QB Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State: The two-time Walter Payton Award winner as the FCS' top player should get a shot to throw and work with receivers at the combine. As a quarterback, he might remind scouts of 2009 second-round pick Pat White. Nobody knows how he'll perform in another role, but it's clear from his open-field running as a scrambler he can make things happen.

    DE Greg Hardy, Ole Miss: His inability to stay healthy and questions about his maturity and work ethic make the combine a crucial event for Hardy.

    SS Myron Rolle, Florida State: The Rhodes Scholar looked strong and more fluid than scouts expected at the Senior Bowl after being out of football for a year studying at Oxford. He could also impress them with his overall workout in Indy. In addition, he's still trying to convince teams he really wants to play football.

    ILB Brandon Spikes, Florida: Spikes has to answer questions about his speed on the Lucas Oil Dome turf and more than a few teams will want an explanation for an ugly eye-gouging incident this season.

    QB Tim Tebow, Florida: Scouts believe Tebow showed improvement during Senior Bowl week practices, but he regressed during the game. Throwing better at the combine could improve his standing. As far as his team interviews go, he'll knock it out of the park.

    WR Mike Williams, Syracuse: After missing a year serving an academic suspension, Williams returned for a few games in 2009, being very productive before leaving the team under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Good interviews and strong hands could earn him an early second-round selection.

    Medical checks


    Cal running back Jahvid Best needs to prove he's healthy after his ugly landing during a leap into the end zone. (Getty Images) Teams will be very interested in what examinations performed reveal before these players hit the interview room and/or football field.

    WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech: Thomas broke his foot while working out Feb. 16, and his agent told the NFL Network that his client will be sidelined 4-6 weeks. Thomas won't be able to work out at the combine, and his ability to do any on-field work in front of scouts before the draft is in question. It's a significant setback for Thomas, who was primed to jump into the top 20 spots with a strong showing in the 40-yard dash and position drills in Indianapolis.

    RB Jahvid Best, Cal: Everyone has seen the unsettling video of Best's concussion, suffered upon landing on his back and neck after a leap into the end zone.

    CB Nolan Carroll, Maryland: He started the first two games of the year before breaking his leg. If healthy, he could be on the risers list as he's likely to run sub-4.4 40 and have a 40-inch vertical.

    DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham, Florida: A minor shoulder procedure kept Cunningham out of the Senior Bowl, but if that checks out and he looks as good as some expect in linebacker drills and testing, 3-4 teams will consider him in the top two rounds.

    WR Eric Decker, Minnesota: The Gopher was potentially on his way to a second-round slot before tearing ligaments in his left foot.

    WR Danario Alexander, Missouri: Alexander will miss the Combine following surgery to repair cartilage in his left knee Feb. 18, according to SI.com. Itís the fourth knee surgery for Alexander, who will miss an opportunity to impress NFL scouts who have questions about his straight-line speed and ability to get open against press coverage. Alexander played in the Senior Bowl last month despite some swelling in the knee during the week of practice, according to the SI.com report.

    TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma/Rob Gronkowski, Arizona: The top two tight ends in the draft have medical concerns to address. Gresham missed last season following surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee (he also had a torn ACL in his left knee as a high school senior). Gronkowski's back issues might be a bigger long-term concern, but he is a better all-around player when healthy.

    DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse: A knee injury kept the stout Jones out for each of Syracuse's last three games, and he tore a left pectoral muscle in February 2009 while lifting weights.

    CB Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (Pa.): The FCS All-American cornerback and returner had shoulder surgery on an injury suffered in season finale.

    RB Charles Scott, LSU/Keiland Williams, LSU: Scott broke his collarbone during the season, and then failed his physical at the Senior Bowl. Williams stood out at times in Scott's absence, but then broke his ankle against Ole Miss.

    RB James Starks, Buffalo: Injured before the season, Starks spent the entire year rehabbing a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

    CB Walter Thurmond III, Oregon: Looked like the next defensive back from the Ducks pipeline to the NFL before tearing the ACL in his right knee.

    DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern: The 6-7, 280-pound end tore his ACL in the bowl game after his junior year and looked more comfortable as the season progressed. A fully healthy knee at the combine could earn him a late first-round slot.

    Other prospects and their injury questions

    OG Jon Asamoah, Illinois: Shoulder injury suffered at Senior Bowl practice
    OT Jason Fox, Miami (Fla.): Left knee
    RB/KR Brandon James, Florida: Right foot
    ILB Micah Johnson, Kentucky: Knee
    DE Erik Lorig, Stanford: Groin
    TE Jeron Mastrud, Kansas State: Stress fracture in right foot
    RB Brandon Minor, Michigan: Torn left rotator cuff
    OG Dace Richardson, Iowa: Broken left ankle, past knee reconstruction
    OLB O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin: Torn ACL at Senior Bowl practice
    WR Ryan Wolfe, UNLV: broken left foot
    Buyer beware

    Be cautious of great 40 times and flashy workouts from players whose performance on the field wasn't consistently good enough to be rated as a surefire NFL star of tomorrow.

    Inconsistent play and a DUI arrest are serious concerns when evaluating Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

    OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: Looks the part of an NFL tackle and will run well, but Campbell is undisciplined and his pass protection technique needs work.

    WR Riley Cooper, Florida: Scouts will remember Cooper's half-hearted efforts on the Senior Bowl practice field -- even if Cooper looks every bit the two-sport athlete he is during testing.

    DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida: NFL scouts were not happy about Dunlap's uneven play last season, and they already know he'll put up freakish numbers at 6-6, 290 pounds. He'll also have questions to answer about his December DUI arrest.

    DE Everson Griffen, Southern Cal: He'll run 4.6 at 280 pounds and wow NFL personnel men with his physique, but a quick film review unveils only flashes of brilliance.

    SS Chad Jones, LSU: Word is that Jones is ready to light up the combine with sub 4.5-speed at 230-plus pounds. If he and fellow linebacker-sized Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays perform that feat and look fluid in defensive back drills, they could be considered "risers" by some -- and "workout warriors" by others because they weren't consistent playmakers.

    RB Joe McKnight, Southern Cal: The comparisons to Reggie Bush will continue during the combine, especially if he runs in the low-4.4's or high 4.3's and looks fluid in drills. His limitations as a back and inconsistent hands as a receiver will make him only a second- or third-round pick.

    DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: He'll run and jump with the best of them, and occasionally look like a superstar pass rusher. But concerns about his inexperience, multiple transfers and inconsistency defending the run or chasing down plays might trump his athleticism for some teams.

    DT D'Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech: Scouts marvel at his athleticism. However, Smith is unable to consistently get off blocks and once inside, doesn't make many plays. It's possible he could thrive as a 3-4 defensive end, but teams shouldn't bank a top-50 pick on it no matter how he works out in Indy.

    Chad Reuter is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

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    Re: Combine preview: What to watch for at Indy show

    For the most part, that was a fair and detailed article/list. Thanks for posting it.
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    Re: Combine preview: What to watch for at Indy show

    Scout & About: Look at a few NFL draft prospects
    An NFL college scouting director takes SN on his team's road to the April draft

    Sporting News

    Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010 - 12:29 p.m. ET

    The NFL Scouting Combine, which starts Wednesday in Indianapolis, is the biggest event in the pre-draft evaluation process. All 32 teams will be there, represented by their general managers, head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and doctors. It's a one-stop opportunity for them to gather information about more than 300 players from medical evaluations, interviews and on-field drills.

    When we interview players, we want genuine answers. Their agents have taught these kids and taken them through the interview process, a lot of which is staged. So the more unconventional questions you can ask will reveal a lot about who they are ó not just as football players but as people, too.

    A good Combine performance will definitely catapult a player up the draft board. But a bad one won't necessarily doom him. He will have a chance to come back later at his school's pro day and perform again.


    Five players I can't wait to see run the 40


    ANDRE ROBERTS, WR, THE CITADEL. Because he had such a very good Senior Bowl performance, I want to see if he can improve his 40 time. If he can run in the low 4.4s, it will help move him up a little bit.


    ANTHONY MCCOY, TE, USC. He was such a fluid athlete at the Senior Bowl. He has the prototypical size (6-5, 250) for the tight end position. He plays the game fast; I just want to confirm that he runs fast.

    NDAMUKONG SUH, DT, Nebraska. Everybody wants to see how the big fella runs.

    TAYLOR MAYS, S, USC. It's rare you see a guy his size (6-3, 230) run as fast as they all say he's going to run. If he runs really fast, holy smoke.

    SEAN WEATHERSPOON, OLB, Missouri. He's lost weight and performed well at the Senior Bowl. He says he was over 250 during the season and is down to 240 now. Hopefully, that will help his 40 time and he'll be better than he showed on tape during the season.


    Five non-Division I-A players who improved their stock at all-star games


    CLAY HARBOR, TE, MISSOURI STATE. He's a soft-handed, explosive guy who has shown routerunning skills. He looks to be a playmaker in terms of stretching the seams in the passing game.

    ADRIAN TRACY, DE, William & Mary. He was a highly productive Division I-AA player who has shown foot quickness, movement skills and the instincts to play outside linebacker.

    JARED VELDHEER, OT, Hillsdale (Mich.). A Division II player, he is as talented as Sebastian Vollmer, whom the Patriots drafted in the second round last year. He can bend, he can slideóhe's agile for a 6-7 guy.

    NATHAN OVERBAY, TE, Eastern Washington. He's got prototypical size, soft hands and blocks well. He has a chance to add quality depth to a roster.

    JOHN SKELTON, QB, Fordham. He's physically gifted with excellent arm strength and will be a good project for coaches, who can groom and refine his skills.

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    Re: Combine preview: What to watch for at Indy show

    Kirwan: Ten to watch at the combine

    http://www.nfl.com/combine/story?id=090 ... nfirm=true

    It is time to shift gears from the playing field and head to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to evaluate the draft prospects for 2010. I will be broadcasting my radio show from the combine Friday, Saturday and Sunday and posting my observations from the big event all week.

    We all know about the apparent top prospects this year, but really nothing has been decided yet. When Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh lines up to run the 40-yard dash, all eyes will be watching. The same holds true for the other projected top five picks -- if they decide to work out. We already know that quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will not throw at Lucas Oil Stadium, but there are many other athletes to evaluate. Remember, when certain prospects don't work out, it opens the door for others.

    Here are 10 players I have some real interest in watching perform. They are not household names yet, but they have a chance to be hot prospects and move into first-round contention or at least high in the second round.

    Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati
    Pike will measure at 6-foot-5, making him the tallest QB prospect. That will interest many coaches who value the importance of height in the NFL. I have watched this guy on tape in a number of games, and he will impress with his mobility -- a solid short shuttle time would not surprise me, and a sub-5.0 40 is not out of the question. Without Bradford and Clausen throwing, Pike will take center stage, and his arm strength and accuracy should shine. The guy threw 48 touchdown passes and just 17 interceptions in the last two years. At least seven teams are looking for a quarterback in this draft, and Pike could establish himself as a Joe Flacco-type by the end of the combine.

    Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
    Wilson jumped out at me during the Senior Bowl practices. Watching him on tape has only made me more intrigued. If Wilson comes into Indianapolis and runs a 4.39 40 and hits his short shuttle close to 4.0, then he will move up the draft board. Right now he sits somewhere around the No. 4 or No. 5 corner, but that could change dramatically. He has great punt return skills that demonstrate game speed, which really is more important than straight-line speed. I expect Wilson to be a topic of conversation all combine long.

    Brian Price, DT, UCLA
    There are two big-time defensive tackles at the top of draft boards right now (Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy), and they deserve to be there. Price is closer to the fourth- or fifth-best DT in the draft. He could run close to 5.0 at 300-plus pounds this weekend; his 10-yard time as well as the short shuttle may be even more important. Why do I think he's capable of posting impressive numbers in those tests? Because when I watch him play on tape, he is explosive and relentless. In the last two years, on a bad defense, he has 38 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. The 4-3 scheme is still the predominant defense in the NFL, and he is a fine "three-technique" candidate.

    Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
    We all know C.J. Spiller from Clemson is the top prospect in the running back class, viewed as the next Chris Johnson. But there are never enough backs in a draft, and Matthews has a chance to make a statement at the combine. He missed seven games in his career but still managed to rush for 3,280 yards and 39 touchdowns. His physical exams will be critical, but watch him shine in his interviews and come away as a very coachable player. There's a chance he runs a sub-4.5 40 at close to 220 pounds.

    Damian Williams, WR, USC
    Williams reminds me of Donald Driver. He plays faster than his speed times, though he is capable of running a sub-4.5. He will do an exceptional job in his interviews, giving coaches a sense of his maturity. His 14.2-yard punt return average points toward a very respectable short shuttle, and he should do well in the receiver gauntlet drill. Williams comes into Indianapolis as the fourth or fifth receiver candidate but could leave as the No. 3 receiver if he completes all the work.

    Matt Tennant, C, Boston College
    Tennant made an impression on me at Senior Bowl practice, and I was even more impressed after interviewing him. He is really smart and competitive, which will shine through in his team interviews. He has been starting at BC since Matt Ryan was the quarterback and looks like he will be the 12th Boston College offensive lineman to play in the NFL next year. Tennant will measure at 6-foot-4 and just under 300 pounds. I have watched him pull from the center position, and he should run close to 5.0 in the 40 with an impressive short shuttle as well. He's not the first center on the board right now, but he could be by the end of his Indy visit.



    Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
    Here's a guy who went to two different junior colleges and spent only one year at South Florida. Pierre-Paul will get some very tough interview questions, as coaches will want to know more about the one-year wonder. What they will see is a 6-foot-5, 265-pound raw athlete with long arms who can jump and really run. If you are in the market for potential, he could be the answer. His testing numbers should continue to push him up draft boards, but we shall see if measurables are enough for a guy that had 6.5 sacks last year.



    Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
    I talked with Gresham last week, and he assured me that he was 100 percent healthy and ready to do all the testing after missing his senior year with a knee injury. Had he elected to come out early, he was thought to be a possible first-round pick in 2009. Gresham caught 25 touchdowns in the two previous seasons, and this combine could reignite the first-round conversations. He told me he would measure at 6-foot-4, 260 and should run around 4.7. You may want your tight end slightly faster, but he did average more than 14 yards a catch in college. Gresham will have to answer a few questions about an off-the-field issue, but after discussing the matter with him, I don't think it will affect him much.

    Dexter McCluster, WR/RB, Mississippi
    Interested in one of the most dangerous players in the draft and not worried about size? McCluster is your man. Some draft grading systems will prevent him from being a top 50 player simply because he checks in at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. But the college production, Senior Bowl practices and his combine testing should eliminate all fears. He is speed training with Olympian Michael Johnson and should really run and jump in Indianapolis. McCluster has to get his shoulder checked out from an old injury, which shouldn't be a problem. Some GM looking for the next Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson is going to ignore the size and take this kid.

    Tyson Alualu, DL, California
    Some would say I am reaching for this guy when I only list 10 players. And sure, there are a number of other guys I can't wait to watch. But I just got done watching Alualu play three games on tape, and I just couldn't exclude him from this list. The guy can play anywhere on the defensive line because he's an athlete with a great motor. Alualu will excel in the running events at the combine and while he sits somewhere near the No. 7 defensive tackle on most boards, he should move up after this weekend. I saw the effort at Senior Bowl practices, and we will all see it again in the drills at the combine.
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