What to watch for at the NFL Scouting Combine

NFL Scouting Combine

Defensive back Eric Rowe of Utah in action during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Time (and the NFL) waits for no man. Less than three weeks removed from Super Bowl 50 and we’re already discussing the NFL Scouting Combine. Will Heisman winner Derrick Henry’s draft stock plummet? Will Ezekiel Elliot be a top-10 pick? Will Cal’s Jared Goff excel as a rookie? Here are some things to look out for in Indianapolis.

What is Derrick Henry’s ceiling?

Henry dominated the SEC this past season, rushing for conference-records 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. In addition to the Heisman Trophy, he was named an All-American and won the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards as the best running back and best offensive player in college football. But at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, Henry is a bit on the stocky side. He has a bruising, downhill running style and his legs have seen a ton of mileage as he carried the ball 395 times in 2015, which raises questions about his long-term durability.

We’ve seen oversized running backs like Brandon Jacobs and LeGarrette Blount (and even Eddie George) have some success at the next level, but mainly in a tandem backfield system. Henry needs to prove he can be more than just a complementary option who is just a two-down back. At Alabama, he was a workhorse, and didn’t show any signs of wearing down at the end of the season, but it’ll be hard for him to sustain such a high production rate in the NFL. If Henry can show signs of improvement in his lateral quickness and receiving ability out of the backfield, he should be a lock to go in the first two rounds of the draft.

Is Ezekiel Elliot a one-hit wonder?

Elliot really has had just two years of major college experience at Ohio State. What we’ve seen from him in those two years has been very impressive. But will he be able to replicate that production at the next level? Elliot has a ton of upside due to the vision and footwork he’s displayed. He’s shown a strong ability to break through to the second level of the defense and bounce off of tackles. The 6-foot, 225-pound speedster has ideal size for the position and is without a doubt the top running back prospect at the combine.

But take all that praise with a grain of salt. Football in the NFL is much faster than at the college level, so Elliot will likely be on a level playing field once he enters the league, and probably won’t get away from defenders as easily as he did in Ohio State. He has the potential to be great, but his level of greatness will be determined by the adjustments he will make at the next level.

Is Jared Goff a franchise quarterback?

As per usual with college quarterbacks, the main question surrounding Goff is whether he can run a pro-style offense. He comes from an up-tempo spread attack at Cal and mainly took snaps from the shotgun formation. He’s shown impressive accuracy on his short, intermediate and deep passes, and the ability to put the right amount of touch or zip on the ball to connect on his timing routes. He doesn’t have a cannon by any means, but he has shown the ability to make good decisions from the pocket.

Although Goff showed signs of improvement in 2015, he still needs to develop his ability to recognize coverages and blitzes in his pre-snap reads. When under pressure, his mechanics sometimes fall to the wayside, and he fires off some passes when he’s off-balance, sacrificing accuracy and velocity for the sake of getting the ball out of his hands and avoiding hits. Goff must demonstrate that he’s able to drop back and deliver from inside the pocket. The quarterback class is thin this year, so teams might end up spending an early pick on him, putting the future of their franchise in his hands.

Potential Darkhorses

Braxton Miller, WR/QB, Ohio State – Miller is as good an athlete as any player in the Combine and his upside is tremendous, but he is still learning the wide receiver position. The on-field drills will be of utmost importance as he’ll need to show that he can be a polished receiver.

Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford – Garnett won the Outland Trophy in 2015 as the nation’s best interior lineman, but he’s flown under the radar leading up to the Combine. At a physically imposing 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, Garnett has the physical tools to be successful, but must show improvements in his ability to be a lead blocker in the run game.

Victor Ochi, DE/OLB, Stony Brook – Ochi is receiving a lot of praise from scouts leading up to the Combine thanks to a strong performance in the Shrine Game, but is undersized for the position at 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds. He was a disruptive force for Stony Brook, racking up 50.5 tackles and 23.5 sacks in his career, and could wreak havoc on opposing offenses if placed in the right defensive scheme.

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