Ten players to watch during NFL Combine

Ten players to watch during NFL Combine
February 20, 2013, 5:15 pm
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The NFL Combine, which starts on Saturday, 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.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

Te'o certainly has the most unique story heading into the draft. His Combine would have been intriguing even without the fake girlfriend subplot. Te'o struggled in the National Championship Game and his speed, among other things, has been questioned. If he has a good Combine, it could go a long way in solidifying his spot in the first round. If he struggles, as some expect him to, his stock could fall even further.

And then, there are the Combine interviews with teams. Oh to be a fly on the wall ...

Texans: There are some that think the Texans would be in the market for Te'o, but I find it pretty unlikely. As long as Brian Cushing is coming back, there's no reason to invest a lot of money in a linebacker that plays next to him. Cushing stays on the field on third down; the other inside 'backer doesn't.

Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU

Mathieu, we suspect, is a high-round talent. But off-the-field issues raise a giant red flag. As is the case for Te'o, the interviews with teams will be interesting and really important, especially for some NFL teams more than others.

Also, Mathieu has been away from the game for a while. I want to see what kind of shape he's in, if he kept up his work ethic while he wasn't playing in games. With a guy who has off-the-field concerns, it's probably pretty important to these teams to see that he's serious about his career.

Texans: Probably not. Not their type of guy. They don't need a corner.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, Texas

Why do I want to see Goodwin? Well, this one’s pretty obvious. The 5-9, 180-pounder from Texas isn’t just a good athlete, he’s an Olympic athlete. Goodwin won the long-jump at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials and finished 10th in the London Olympics.

He’s obviously going to jump well and should have a really fast 40 time. He’d turn heads but everyone will already be watching.

Texans: Maybe. He’s already in the state and the Texans need another wideout. We’ll have to see how well he does at the combine. His gaudy numbers might make a team jump a little higher to get him than he might be worth.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

A lot of folks thinks Patterson will be the first wideout taken in the draft and his Combine will likely go a long way in stamping his spot. He’s big – 6-3, 200-plus – and is fast too. It’ll be fun to watch this guy run the 40 but it will also be important to watch him run routes. He doesn’t have a ton of Division 1 experience, so he’ll be drafted on potential. It will be important to see his football skills as much as possible; we already know he’s athletic.

Texans: He’ll likely be off the board before the Texans pick and probably isn’t worth trading up to snatch.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

I don’t necessarily think he’s the best receiver in the draft, I just think he might be one of the best when all is said and done. Hopkins had over 1,400 receiving yards while winning the No. 1 receiver job from Sammy Watkins in 2013. And, at least in college, had great hands.

And Hopkins is pretty big too. He’s 6-1, 200 pounds. He’ll probably go real late in the first round or early in the second round.

Texans: Very possible. There’s a good chance he’ll be around when they pick and like we all know, the Texans need a receiver. It would go against what we know about the Texans – they don’t like taking skill players early – but this might be a time where they finally see the value.

Another guy who might be there is Cal's Keenan Allen. Allen is considered by many to be one of the best receivers in the draft but he won't perform at the Combine, according to ESPN. The big question mark around the big WR is his speed. He will reportedly work out for NFL teams at Cal in April.

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

He’s 6-5 and has reportedly packed on 15 pounds to reach 245. I want to see how he carries that new weight at the Combine. He was a defensive end at LSU but would seemingly be a fit as an outside backer in a 3-4.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock isn’t too high on Mingo but did admit Mingo has a ton of speed and has a future as a pass rusher. It’s just that Mayock doesn’t see him as a top 10 pick right now.

Texans: He won’t be there most likely.  

Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan

As Robinson switches positions, he has to be able to show he can play his new one. We haven’t seen Robinson as a receiver, so he needs to prove he can run routes and catch passes.

We know he’s going to put up a good 40 time but that won’t matter as much as his ability to show he has the skill to be a receiver in the NFL.

Texans: The Texans need a receiver that can play right now. Robinson isn’t that guy.

Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

Mayock said that he thinks Warmack is the best player in the draft even though he’s a guard. Normally, the flashy offsensive linemen are the tackles, the guys who have to battle against speedy and powerful edge rushers. But Warmack, according to Mayock, is the draft’s best player.

It’s not every year that you hear that an offensive guard is the best player in the draft. Now, we all want to see how he does in Indianapolis.

Texans: Nope. He’ll be long gone, maybe even first overall. The Texans would probably love to have him though as guard is their weakest position on the line.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

Talk about a physical freak. Ansah is 6-5, 274. He’s being compared to J.J. Watt as a fierce pass rusher and a physical force. Ansah had 62 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. What makes him even more like Watt is that he’s versatile. Ansah played inside at the nose, on the outside like and end and on the edge like an outside linebacker.

He’s a phenomenal athlete and should put up some eye-popping performances at the Combine.

Texans: The Texans don’t need the next J.J. Watt. They already have the original and have far more pressing needs.

Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

This looks to be a pretty good safety class and Vaccaro might be the best of the bunch, which is saying something. He replaced Earl Thomas at Texas and didn’t disappoint. He’ll most likely be a first-round pick.

Texans: Vaccaro will likely be gone by 27. The Texans’ biggest priority this offseason will be to sign Glover Quin, but what if they can’t? Would they franchise tag him? Would they look for a different free agent? Would they look toward the draft? If they choose the latter, they could trade up for Vaccaro or they can see who is left at 27. There are probably only two first-round safeties this year. The other one is Matt Elam, from Florida, who will likely go late in the first round or early in the second.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

Lattimore won’t even be competing in the Combine but he will be interesting to keep an eye on. Lattimore had a pretty nasty knee injury but will be at the Combine with Dr. James Andrews. Lattimore won’t compete but will be checked out by doctors in Indianapolis and Andrews will be there to answer questions about Lattimore’s surgery and recovery.

Texans: Nope.