10 players to watch in 2014 Combine

10 players to watch in 2014 Combine
February 17, 2014, 12:00 pm
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The NFL Combine, which starts on this week, will go a long way in determining the way the draft shakes out.

Here are 10 guys I'm interested in watching this weekend for a number of different reasons.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Johnny Football isn't even going to throw at the Combine but he's going to be watched closely. The one thing we all want to see from Manziel is something he can't control: his height. Manziel is listed at 6-foot-1 on his Texas A&M biography. We'll see if he comes in at 6-foot.

What we won't be able to see -- but it'll be important -- are his meetings with teams. There are some character concerns surrounding Manziel and he'll try to do his best to convince teams they shouldn't question his dedication.

Texans: Bill O'Brien and Rick Smith will be eager to see Manziel's height and they'll be eager to talk with him. He's very much in play for that top pick.

Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Bortles isn't as athletic as Manziel but he's focused on putting together a good Combine performance. Bortles might not throw in Indy, which isn't uncommon for quarterbacks. But if he does throw, everyone will be watching closely. He's still lesser known than Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater but his stock has soared.

Texans: O'Brien has said he likes Bortles, who beat O'Brien's Nittany Lions last season. He's a potential first-overall pick but might fall deeper in the first round if the Texans choose to gamble and trade away the top pick.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney is a physical freak, so of course we want to see what he does. He's said there's a chance he can run a 4.4 in the 40, which would be incredible for a 6-foot-6, 274-pound defensive end. Even if he doesn't run a 4.4, he's likely to put up some really impressive numbers in the other events.

Texans: Yeah, Clowney is a potential No. 1 pick. He's probably the best player in the draft.

Michael Sam, DE, Missouri

Manziel won't be surrounded by the biggest media group at the Combine. That'll belong to Sam this year. Sam announced that he's gay, which has been a major story since. The thing is, even without that announcement, he might have been a guy to watch at the Combine. He was the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 but there is worry about what position he'll play in the NFL. He has been labeled as a "tweener." It looks like Sam will be the first SEC Defensive Player of the Year to not go in the first round since the Texans took Demeco Ryans with the first pick in the second round in 2006.

Texans: Sam would have to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and some are worried he wouldn't be able to make the switch. He's projected to go in or after the third round. The Texans need outside linebackers so maybe it's a possibility.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

Hyde was a monster running back for Ohio State. The 235-pound bruiser ran for over 1,500 yards in 2013 and had an incredible average of 7.3 yards per attempt. But with that size comes concerns about his speed. We'll want to see what he does in the 40 and how athletic and agile he is.

Texans: The Texans need running backs but it would be surprising if they used a high pick on one.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Evans had a big year for the Aggies. He is a big, strong receiver and should do well for a receiver in the bench press. A lot of his big plays in college came from just being able to go up and get the ball, which will help him in the NFL but he'll be able to show off his actual receiver skills in Indy.

Texans: Evans will be a first-round pick after the Texans go.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins might be the second-most talented player in this draft after Clowney. He's ready to step into the NFL and be a star tomorrow. He's going to put on a show in Indy.

Texans: DeAndre Hopkins would love it, but the Texans won't be taking Watkins.

Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

It has been assumed for a long time that Jake Matthews from Texas A&M would be the first offensive tackle taken in this draft. But Robinson has a really good shot at overtaking him. He's dominant in the run game but needs to work on his pass protection. With a good performance in Indy, he has a chance to be taken as high as second-overall.

Texans: He'll go high in the draft but not to the Texans. They'll likely draft a tackle but it won't be as high as Robinson.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Before his junior season, Ebron put on about 10 extra pounds, getting him to 254 but said he didn't lose any speed. "Same speed. Same speed," Ebron said. "It looks illegal. It looks like it shouldn't be on the field, but it is."

With talk like that, we can't wait to see what he does this weekend.  

Texans: Nope. The Texans will probably focus on re-signing Garrett Graham if anything.

A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

McCarron didn't go the the Senior Bowl, a move that many thought was foolish. So he's going to have plenty to prove in Indy whether he throws or not. McCarron won a ton of football games for Alabama but is in the second tier of quarterback prospects in this class.

Texans: If the Texans take Clowney with the first pick, they'll need to draft a quarterback with one of their next picks. McCarron might be there at the start of the second round.