As much as NFL teams might not want to admit it, the NFL Scouting Combine plays a huge role in the draft process that causes prospects to rise dramatically after just one workout. Today, the National Football Post takes a look at players who can thank the combine for their boosted draft stock last week.
RB Ben Tate, Houston Texans
When evaluating Tate’s game, there’s a lot to like about the productive SEC runner. He runs angry, exhibits natural vision inside, possesses the short-area quickness to side step would-be tacklers and loves to finish runs. However, a great burst and breakaway speed are two attributes that didn’t pop out on the tape, which had me confident projecting him as a solid No. 2 back in the NFL. But after he scorched a low 4.4 40 time at the combine, Tate’s stock soared immediately as a potential big-time workhorse back with breakaway away speed. That’s just not the case. Tate isn’t going to run away from anyone based off his tape and I my opinion isn’t nearly as effective as a guy like Anthony Dixon. However, speed wins out on draft day, which is why we saw Tate go in round two and Dixon fall to the sixth. But it’s a simple case of 40 times taking on more weight than play speed. I still think Dixon will end up being the better back.
DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Philadelphia Eagles
I love the passion Te’o-Nesheim brings to the game -- his motor, his work rate and his willingness to play each and every play until the whistle. However, after evaluating him last season, I thought he was more of a late-round, try-hard guy who could make the occasional play at the next level as a pass rusher because of his effort. However, after an impressive combine workout that saw him post top numbers in the vertical jump (37 inches), three-cone (6.91 seconds) and short-shuttle (4.18 seconds), Te’o-Nesheim began to move up draft boards, which ultimately landed him a spot in the third round. I still think there’s a place for him as a potential hard-working pass rusher who can fill out a roster, but he doesn’t have the first step, anchor or lateral suddenness to consistently win in any area of the game vs. NFL-caliber linemen.
OLB Keenan Clayton, Philadelphia Eagles
When watching Clayton during the 2009 season, it was obvious he had the explosiveness and straight-line speed to make plays in pursuit. He also did a nice job getting a deep drop in coverage and had some range when asked to track the football. But he looked more like a SS/OLB hybrid to me and was simply too mechanical and not instinctive enough to make plays consistently in coverage. He always seemed to put himself in position but was never was able to close on the deal. Because of that, I thought he was more of a late-round size/speed guy who could cave out a niche on special teams. That was before he lit up the combine with a 4.59 40, 41½-inch vertical and 27 reps on the bench. The Eagles took him in the fourth round hoping to hit on the gifted size/speed athlete, but I just don’t think he has the anchor, instincts or fluidity to start on the weak side and isn’t anything more than a potential special teams ace.
CB Chris Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Cook is limited in the type of schemes he can fit into at the next level, as it’s simply tougher for a taller/longer corner to break down and change directions when asked to play in off coverage. However, I will say Cook does a nice job getting his hands on receivers and re-routing them off the line, giving him a lot of upside as a press cover man. And any time you get a corner with his size (6-2) running in the mid 4.4 range at the combine, scheme limitations or not, the guy is going to come off the board earlier than people think. I’ll admit the Cover 2 scheme in Minnesota is a great fit for him as he can press off the line, click and close on plays underneath and not have to worry about consistently transitioning out of his back-pedal in order to run with receivers down the field. But if there was one corner who really saw a real spike in his stock following his combine workout, it was Cook.
DL Mike Neal, Green Bay Packers
Neal is another guy I liked during the season. He displayed an intriguing combination of get-off burst and power to his game, although he wasn’t dominant in any area. But as I watched him during the postseason process at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, it quickly became obvious that any time he tried to overpower a bigger, more physical lineman at the point of attack, he simply didn’t have the elite strength or played with the leverage needed to consistently win on contact. However, after posting 31 reps on the bench at the combine, Neal was considered a prospect who possessed outstanding strength and power at the point of attack, which was something that failed to consistently show up on tape. He does have a good-looking frame and possesses the ability to add more girth and muscle to his lower half, but I really think he jumped up draft boards because of his weight room numbers. I simply don’t see him being ready to come in and consistently win at the point vs. NFL-caliber linemen.
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