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Weighty issues at NFL Combine
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy: He was forced to miss almost all of the Longhorns’ National Championship Game loss to Alabama after injuring his right shoulder. But thanks to the ailments of other top prospects, McCoy will be in the Combine spotlight during quarterback workouts. Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford (shoulder) and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen (toe) are still on the mend. Florida’s Tim Tebow and Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour (more on him below) also have decided to wait until their on-campus pro days to throw. An impressive showing could help vault McCoy into the late first-round/early second-round stratosphere.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant: Ineligible to play since September, Bryant has used his NCAA ban as combine motivation. “I just want (the NFL) to see that I've still got it,” Bryant told the Associated Press last week. Few scouts doubt Bryant's standout physical skills, which netted him 29 touchdowns and 2,425 receiving yards in just 28 college games. The bigger questions are character concerns and whether Bryant’s suspension for lying to an NCAA investigator is reason for concern at the pro level. Bryant will have a chance to state his case as a top 15 pick during 15-minute interviews with individual teams.
Dez Bryant's physical abilities aren't in question by the NFL, but he may have character issues to answer.
Southern Cal safety Taylor Mays: We know he can hit. But how well Mays runs in the 40-yard dash and other speed tests will go a long way toward determining his draft future. Mays, 6-feet-3, 231 pounds, struggled at the Senior Bowl in pass coverage and may not have the agility needed to shadow tight ends or the occasional slot receiver. Mays is a likely first-round safety pick but may slide into the second if NFL teams see him more as a linebacker conversion project. One potential fit is Seattle, where former Trojans coach Pete Carroll can have a trusted hand help run his new defense.
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: As the draft’s top prospect, nobody would have raised an eyebrow had Suh opted to leave his cleats at home. Suh, though, has said he will work alongside his peers. Some would argue there is more downside than upside should Suh not test well. But the willingness to compete in a high-pressure environment should help cement Suh atop this class.
Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour: On the flip side, we have this promising-but-relatively-obscure MAC player who is forgoing the chance to impress NFL bigwigs. Huh? Unless there’s an injury he’s hiding, LeFevour is making a big mistake by waiting until his pro day to throw. Big-name quarterbacks like Bradford and Clausen have earned the right to work in comfortable surroundings with their college receivers. The same goes for Tebow, who is trying to overhaul his technique. LeFevour? Not so much. Even if he isn’t a pure passer, LeFevour once again showed he could move an offense with his arm and legs at the Senior Bowl. Here’s hoping a competitive guy with legitimate NFL potential changes his mind and throws Sunday.
Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams: Besides his on-field performance, Williams can greatly improve his already solid draft stock through meetings with NFL executives. Williams is eager to give his side of the story regarding his in-season departure from Syracuse. Williams, 6-2, 210 pounds, is Syracuse’s top draft prospect.
Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount: It was the punch heard round the NFL even though it was thrown in Idaho. Blount ruined his 2009 season and reputation by slugging an unsuspecting Boise State player at the end of the Ducks’ season opener. Blount returned from suspension late in the season and looked Jonathan Stewart-like in the Senior Bowl, but he still must convince NFL teams future anger issues aren’t on the horizon.
Clemson running back C.J. Spiller: There isn’t a consensus on who will be the first running back drafted. Spiller can help stake his claim Sunday when running the 40-yard dash. The blazing times posted by Chris Johnson and Ronnie Brown were boosts to their draft standings in 2008 and 2005, respectively. Spiller, who may clock in the high 4.3s, has the chance for the same lift.
Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham: Bradford wasn’t the only key Sooner who missed almost all of 2009. Gresham went down early with torn knee cartilage but is now healthy enough to participate in combine drills. Gresham needs to impress while jostling with Florida’s Aaron Hernandez to become the first tight end selected.