NFL Combine Elite Players
by Trevor Whenham - 02/19/2008
For players with first day NFL Draft potential, and especially for those that could go in the first round, the Combine this week in Indianapolis can be absolutely crucial. Those that can show that they measure up well compared to the rest of their class can find themselves moving up draft boards, and in the early rounds a move up even a few picks can mean hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. Here's a look at four elite NFL Draft prospects who are expected to participate in at least some of the Combine drills and could be rewarded handsomely by that choice if it goes well, or regret the decision to participate if it doesn't.
Chris Long, DE, Virginia - Howie's son has more buzz than any player in the draft right now, and it is all positive. He's impressing scouts and the media with his intensity, intelligence and apparent commitment to excellence. He came into the season with huge expectations, and he more than lived up to them. The rumors now are that Miami is favoring him at the top of the draft if they decide to keep their pick. Given the lofty opinions of Long, it's pleasantly surprising that he has decided to participate fully in the Combine. A lot of players in his position in recent years have opted to work out privately instead. The only drill he likely won't do is the bench press because of a sore thumb. Long has been working very hard for the Combine, and it seems likely that he should measure up very well. If he does, and especially if he looks good compared to other top prospects like Glenn Dorsey and Jake Long, then he could make it very hard for teams to decide not to pick him first. No matter how unlikely it might be, though, a poor performance could drop him down the board and cost him millions.
Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville - This is a quarterback class that isn't as deep or competitive as recent classes. Matt Ryan of Boston College seems to have distinguished himself as the top prospect, but it's fairly wide open behind that. Brohm has the best chance of being the second choice, and he could help that cause in Indianapolis. He's coming off a disappointing senior season, but he is a prototypical NFLer in many ways, and he performed better personally than his team did. There is a chance that he could slip down into the second round, but he could secure what he likely deserves - a mid-to-late first round choice - if he measures well, and particularly if he shows in the passing drills that he is working to address the concerns about his release point that some scouts have. He's not seen as a scrambler, so the purely athletic drills won't matter much unless he is a long way from the existing modest expectations on either the positive or negative sides.
Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State - Lowery only played two years at San Jose State after starting at a junior college, but he made the most of them - he was an All-American both times. The cornerback class is reasonably deep, but it lacks the runaway top prospects of some years. Given that, Lowery has the stats to grab the eye of scouts - he had 13 interceptions in just two seasons. There's a bit of a catch in the eyes of many, though - he plays for a lousy team in a weak conference. That makes what he does at the Combine even more important. If he can show that he has the speed that he needs to have, which could be a question, and if he can effectively address the concerns some have about his overall strength, then he could easily be among the first DBs chosen. A disappointing performance, though, could drop him behind a bunch of other players who have as much to offer as Lowery in many ways.
Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky - Woodson is an example of just how cruel the draft process can be. Halfway through the season Kentucky was unstoppable, and there was talk that Woodson could even be the top pick in the draft. Since then, though, the team struggled, Woodson looked mortal more often than not, and everything about the player has been called into question. Pretty much every aspect of his passing game, which was seen as a strength months ago, is now under question. Scouts question his accuracy on short passes, his strength on longer passes, and his delivery and footwork in all aspects of his game. Woodson is in a freefall, but he could stop the bleeding, and could even move up several spots in a relatively average quarterback class, if he has an outstanding performance in the passing drills. He's in a very fortunate position in once sense - because of the negative perceptions surrounding him he has nothing much left to lose, so he can only improve his standing if he comes through in a big way.