NFL Draft – 2013 Scouting Combine Preview

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For some, the football season ended shortly after Ray Lewis hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans. And while that was officially the final day of the season, the truth is the NFL never really goes away. This weekend is further proof of that, as over 300 of the best college football players in the country head to Indianapolis for the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, all in preparation for April’s NFL Draft.

Prospective pro’s will spend the weekend undergoing mandatory medical tests and 15-minute interviews with NFL front-office staff members and coaches, in addition to physical drills—which are performed at the athlete’s discretion.

While the mere mention of the Combine can induce some people to roll their eyes, dismissing it as nothing more than a glorified workout, the truth is that there is a lot of useful information that comes out of the “Underwear Olympics”. The key to the Combine is finding the middle ground when evaluating participants—using the event as a barometer for natural athletic ability, more so than football ability. The exercises offer scouts additional information that can be used to compare players who possess similar grades, and also alert them to prospects who may have flown under the radar.

Today I’ll go over a few of the events that I’m anticipating, along with a list of the prospects that I believe Jets fans should keep an eye on. Disclaimer: This is a concise list of Combine events that doesn’t begin to explain the excessive amount of exercises that will take place during the four-day event.

For a complete description of all Combine tests and drills, click here.

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LB 45-Degree Pass Drop and Catch Drill 

The Jets have been plagued by their linebacker corps for what feels like an eternity, but with the abundance of linebacker prospects in the 2013 Draft, Gang Green should be able to find a solution. While New York will have a bevy of ‘backers to choose from, finding a three-down linebacker needs to be a priority. With offenses leaning on the passing game more and more, having linebackers capable of contributing in coverage really can’t be understated.

The ‘Pass Drop and Catch Drill’ is a great way to analyze how stiff or fluid a linebacker is. In the ever-evolving passing league, having linebackers that can stay on the field is paramount, and this drill highlights the ‘backers ability to backpedal and change directions, in addition to his acceleration and straight-line speed.

Who to look for: Kiko Alonso (Oregon), Vince Williams (Florida State), John Bostic (Florida), Alec Ogletree (Georgia).

Backpedal, Turn, Catch Drill

There are a number of comparable drills for defensive backs at the Combine that highlight some of the most important traits to succeed in the NFL. First and foremost, the DB is sent into a 10-yard backpedal, followed by a quick change of direction as the player sprints back to the start line. Next the DB has to plant and turn, before locating the football and making a play on it.

The drill (and its variations) goes a long way in helping scouts analyze a defensive back’s ability to change directions and accelerate, just as if he was covering a wide receiver in man coverage. It also weeds out some of the players who struggle to get their head around to find the football.

Prospects To Watch: Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State), Robert Alford (CB, Southeastern Louisiana), Tyrann Mathieu (S, LSU), Duke Williams (S, Nevada)

3-Cone “L” Drill

The three-cone “L” drill applies to a number of different positions but will offer the Jets an opportunity to identify the pass rushers with the best combination of speed and balance. The point of the exercise is to see which athletes can best “rip” and accelerate around the L-shaped cones.

For potential edge rushers like Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo, and Demontre Moore, this exercise will give teams another perspective of their ability to accelerate and stay balanced as they fight to get around edge on their way to the quarterback.

Prospects To Watch: Dion Jordan (Oregon), Barkevious Mingo (LSU), Bjorn Werner (Florida State), Demontre Moore (Texas A&M), Ezekiel Ansah (BYU)

Running Back Off-Tackle Reaction Drill

After a few years of watching Shonn Green consistently lower his shoulder into oncoming defenders –instead of actually trying to get around them– Jets fans are ready for a change. The ‘Off-Tackle Reaction Drill’ gives teams an opportunity to analyze a running back’s vision and footwork, as well as his ability to change directions and accelerate.

The test simulates a running back hitting the hole, making a defender miss and accelerating up field. It’s important for the prospect to keep his feet churning through the pads, his eyes up and focused on the defender, and for him to plant his foot and cut when evading the defender.

Prospects To Watch: Giovani Bernard (UNC), Stepfan Taylor (Stanford), Andre Ellington (Clemson), Eddie Lacy (Alabama), Johnathan Franklin (UCLA), Joseph Randle (OSU)

Short Shuttle Run (5-10-5 Drill)

To be successful in the NFL athletes must be explosive, flexible and able to change directions quickly—this drill puts an emphasis on all of those things. An important exercise for almost every positional group, I’ll be most interested to see how the linebackers and offensive lineman perform, as explosiveness in short bursts, lateral quickness, and an ability to bend are important traits for both position groups.

Prospects To Watch: Chance Warmack (Guard, Alabama), Barrett Jones (T/C/G, Alabama), Larry Hughes (Guard, Kentucky), Kiko Alonzo (LB, Oregon), Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)

40-Yard Dash

40-Yard Dash

Ahhhh, the 40-yard dash. It might be the most overrated event of the weekend, and at the same time the most popular. Skill players are the ones that tend to benefit from running it the most, but the truth is if you didn’t already know if someone was fast, then you either haven’t been paying attention, or their speed just doesn’t translate to the field.

It’s not often that a player runs 40 yards in a straight line during a game, and while an athlete may be able to record an impressive time without pads, it doesn’t necessarily make them a shoe in to do the same during games.

In addition to the 40-yard time, participants are timed at the 20-yard mark (with lineman also timed at 10 yards).

While it won’t tell you all that much about a football player, it’s one of the events that people tend to gravitate towards…and gives us a chance to see Rich Eisen sprint in a suit, which is always amusing.

2013 NFL Scouting Combine Schedule

  • Saturday, Feb. 23: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams
  • Sunday, Feb. 24: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers
  • Monday, Feb. 25: Defensive linemen, linebackers
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26: Defensive backs