By Kyle Casey, Staff Writer
With the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine drills starting on Saturday, the entire NFL world will be centered in on the more than 300 prospects who will workout in front of teams over the next few days.
The combine isn’t the end-all-be-all for a prospect’s draft stock, but many players head into Indy with something to prove. Whether it’s speed, strength, health or character concerns, a prospect must clear up the concerns surrounding him in order to avoid a rapid slide down draft boards.
Here are some prospects with something to prove in Indianapolis:
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones has decided to skip the on-field drills at the combine, which could work in his favor since he isn’t an elite athlete like fellow edge rushers Ezekiel Ansah and Dion Jordan. His main concern right now is whether or not he checks out medically with NFL teams. His spinal stenosis condition is well-documented and could severely hurt his draft stock. If teams are scared away by his spinal problem, then they could take Jones completely off their draft boards. Jones can dodge a bullet in the draft process by checking out medically at the combine.
Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame
While Te’o has major off-field concerns with his ongoing fake girlfriend saga, that isn’t the main problem for him heading into the combine. Te’o belongs in an inside linebacker class full of elite athletes, which doesn’t help his cause as just an average athlete. Te’o doesn’t need to wow teams in the 40-yard dash, but he must finish with a time that is close enough to the rest of his first round competition, making lack of speed less of a concern for teams.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
Despite having the ideal physical skill set to be an NFL quarterback, Bray’s inconsistencies in college and his maturity concerns have resulted in him being projected to go in the third or fourth round of April’s draft. Bray can’t prove much on the field at the combine, as quarterback workouts aren’t too important for teams in Indianapolis. Where he can take advantage of the combine is in interviews with teams, where he must prove that his immature past is indeed in the past and he’s ready to move on to life in the NFL.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Since Barkley has decided to not throw at the combine as he recovers from an injury to his throwing shoulder, he must take advantage of the interviews with teams. Fellow quarterback prospects Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson are known for their impressive football intelligence, so Barkley can’t afford to lose ground in that aspect. A team must have full faith in a quarterback prospect in order to hand the franchise over to him, so Barkley must prove that he has the “it” factor that NFL teams covet.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The 6’2 corner is one of the most physical defensive backs in the draft. However, in order to receive consideration to be the first corner taken in April’s draft, Rhodes must show that he can move his hips with ease and run well in the 40-yard dash. If Rhodes can prove that he is just as agile as he is physical, he could be the first corner taken in April.