For many NFL teams and draft prospects, the scouting combine is more about confirmation that revelation.
Drills act as one piece of the evaluation process and won’t trump all the previous scouting and research. And information gleamed from medical evaluations and interviews can be even more important than the testing.
Still, with individual workouts beginning Friday in Indianapolis, we decided to highlight some of the players who might be talked about after the combine. Here’s a look at 10 prospects who could stand out:
DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon: Buckner would stand out for his 6-7, 300-pound physique alone. But his strength and movement make him one of the most disruptive defenders in the draft. A more developed prospect than former teammate and current San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, Buckner offers a tantalizing package for an NFL defensive line coach to bring along.
Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State: The do-everything defensive back’s athleticism has been evident since his freshman season. Now he has the chance to showcase why he was a long jump champion and track standout. If teams are convinced he can play cornerback, his build (6-1, 202 pounds) will give him an advantage over his mostly diminutive competition in this class.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: Elliott’s well-rounded skill-set should stand out in a group of running backs filled with specialists. He should test well across the board, and his versatility as a ball-carrier puts him well ahead of his peers. Though they are distinct players, Elliott likely will draw comparisons to Todd Gurley as a running back worth an early first-round selection.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Don’t expect to establish even a preliminary pecking order among Lynch, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz based off the quarterbacks’ performances in Indianapolis. Still, the combine format should be a good showcase for the 6-foot-7 Lynch. His strong arm and ability to throw on the run should be evident, but he’ll need to convince teams in interviews he’s not just a long-term project.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: Coleman won’t run the 40-yard dash, according to an NFL Network report, as he recovers from a sports hernia injury. But even if he’s hampered, the speedy receiver could put on a show. Coleman is the draft’s leading deep threat, and his listed vertical of 45.1 inches would put him among the combine’s best performers of all time.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: This list could have been filled with defensive tackles, as the group is arguably the draft’s strongest and deepest position. But Nkemdiche will be in the spotlight regardless of how he performs. Even if he impresses with his power and initial burst, he has to answer for a marijuana possession arrest and subsequent suspension from his team’s bowl game.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia: Floyd has already displayed the bend and speed that 3-4 teams desire from their outside linebackers. The big question is how he’ll fill out his wiry frame. With playing strength being a potentially significant stumbling block, Floyd can demonstrate he’s shoring up his biggest weakness.
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson: A late bloomer, Dodd made a strong impression in his lone year as a starter and now stands with teammate Shaq Lawson as a potential first-round pick. His combination of strength and initial burst at 6-5, 275 pounds makes him a unique prospect as a defensive end. Teams also should appreciate his relentless approach.
Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State: It was difficult to limit the number of Buckeye products on this list, as many of the school’s 14 combine invitees appear headed for early-round selections. But Miller surely will catch attention, as he continues to impress after playing just one year at wide receiver. With his long speed and agility, Miller can build a strong case for himself if he shows more refinement at the combine.
Kyler Fackrell, OLB, Utah State: Fackrell is already 24 and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2014, but he offers intriguing value for a 3-4 team. His comfort level in rushing the passer and working in space should make him a natural fit at linebacker on the next level. Fackrell will need to hold his own athletically next to the draft’s other top edge players, but he should measure up.