With the College All-Star Games all wrapped up, the next event on everyone's NFL Draft Calendar (what, not everyone has one of those?) will see the entire NFL community convene in Indianapolis for the second time in three weeks. The National Scouting Combine (February 22-26) will host over 300 prospects, all of whom are likely to be drafted. As always, however, there were some people left off the list who will be on the outside looking in as personnel-men poke and prod their peers for five days. Now, before you say "well who cares about who isn't going to Indianapolis, those guys won't amount to anything anyway," remember that there are several well-known players who parlayed a Combine snub into a successful NFL career and, in some cases, ended up as high draft selections.
The New England Patriots took tackle Sebastian Vollmer in the second round the year he failed to make the Combine cut. The Patriots roster also features two players in Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, both of whom have had success and didn't participate in Indianapolis in their respective draft years. And it doesn’t stop there, as players such as Jay Ratliff (Dallas Cowboys), Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants), Sam Shields (Green Bay Packers) and many others have achieved NFL glory despite not getting clocked in the 40-yard dash on national television. And oh yeah, let's not forget about Cincinnati tight end
Let's take the focus back to this year now, and talk about the biggest names left out of this year's event from each position, a group of players who will be moving forward in the draft process with even more motivation than with which they started.
G.J. Kinne, Tulsa, 6-2, 215 - One of the more underrated players in this draft class, Kinne is a coach's son who grew up in a football culture and originally signed with the University of Texas out of high school. After transferring to Tulsa, Kinne became one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history. Kinne displays decent accuracy, sneaky athleticism, and shows a certain moxie in the pocket. He has a good arm, and the ball flies out of his hand when he's under pressure. I have seen some compare him to former Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia, and I honestly think that's a very good comparison. He's not the biggest prospect, and he struggles making progressions from time to time, but he was a name that mildly surprised me as being left off of the Combine invite list.
Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky, 5-7, 208 - Rainey has been one of the most productive ball carriers in all of college football over the past four seasons. The former Hilltopper, despite his small stature, has led the nation in carries each of the past two seasons, and finished 2011 as the second-leading rusher in terms of yards per game. Rainey is a tough player who gives all-out effort on every down as a runner and blocker. He's a sure-handed receiver in the pass game as well, and could have a future in the return game at the next level. Though he doesn't have elite speed or quickness, Rainey is a prospect who will dare you to bet against him, just so he can prove you wrong down the road.
Michael Smith, Utah State, 5-8, 207 - If you follow the NFL Draft, you may think that this is a typo and that I'm naming the wrong Utah State running back. If that's the case, you would be wrong. In watching film on running back Robert Turbin (of whom I’m also a big fan), I noticed that his backfield-mate, Smith, was also a solid prospect in his own right. Though he isn't the biggest back and isn't going to run away from anyone in the NFL, Smith does all the little things right that coaches love. He is a very good blocker in the run game as well as in pass protection, and a reliable receiver who doesn't put the ball on the ground. Smith is also a productive contributor on special teams, which is huge for a third or fourth-string running back. While he may not get drafted, I'm of the belief that Smith will sign with a team and stick with a squad after training camp in August.
Lance Lewis, East Carolina, 6-0, 209 - A versatile receiver who produced from a number of different spots in the Pirate offense, Davis is a high-upside player who flashed ability at the Shrine Game. He's a physical prospect who exhibits good quickness off the line and excellent ball skills when the ball is in the air. He doesn't have elite speed or dynamic playmaking ability, but Lewis is the type of complete receiver teams covet in that he plays fast, loves to block, and fights for the football.
Kevin Koger, Michigan, 6-3, 262 - Koger was one of the biggest shocks to not make the cut, at least in my mind. The former Michigan Wolverine is one of the more athletic tight ends in the class, runs good routes, has soft hands, and exhibits good ball skills as a receiver. He needs to be coached up a bit as a blocker in terms of technique, but the effort is there and to see him not get an invite was surprising, especially considering he has only played one year in a pro style system (after playing in Rich Rodriguez's spread look for his first three seasons), I would think teams would want every chance to get an extra look at him. When it's all said and done, I think Koger can be a Jermichael Finley-esque weapon at the next level, and I would say he's a lock to hear his name called on draft weekend.
Levy Adcock, Oklahoma State, 6-6, 330 - Adcock may be one of the biggest head-scratchers of them all when it comes to 2012 Combine snubs. Widely considered in media circles as one of the top ten offensive linemen in the draft class, Adcock not only didn't get an invite to Indianapolis, but didn't play in the Senior Bowl either after declaring he had a knee injury. He's got good size, plays with a nastiness and shows decent athleticism as well with his ability to bend. While he doesn't have the quickest feet and may have to move inside to guard, his omission from the Combine roster was a shock to many in the draft community. Regardless, it's widely suspected that Adcock will still be drafted, and has the ability to develop into a starter down the road.
Brandon Brooks, Miami (Ohio), 6-4, 353 lbs - One of the apparent gems from the Shrine Game in January, Brooks was one of the most talked about linemen during the week of practice in St. Petersburg. A physical marvel who shows good athleticism for a man his size, Brooks followed up his week in practice with a strong showing in the game, plowing consistent holes in the run game, including on the game-winning touchdown run. An experienced four-year starter, I don't think this snub will affect Brooks' draft status too much, as he should still be one of the top interior linemen drafted as a solid mid-round selection.
Derek Dennis, Temple, 6-3, 315 - Another linemen who showed well down in St. Petersburg was Dennis, who played his college ball just a few miles up Broad Street from Lincoln Financial Field at Temple University. Dennis is a good athlete for the position, with the ability to get out to the second level while displaying solid lateral quickness and range as a pulling guard. While some wanted to see him play with better pad level throughout the week, he improved as practices went on and showed why he is considered to be one of the more intriguing linemen in the draft class. Look for Dennis to rebound from the snub and come back with a strong performance at his Pro Day a few weeks after the Combine.
Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View A&M, 6-2, 245 - Hamilton has been extremely productive over the past couple of seasons, setting the record for most sacks in SWAC history after transferring from Texas Tech. A solid pass rusher with an explosive first step, variety of pass rush moves, and good closing speed, the tools he brings to the table are tough to match when it comes down to pure raw ability. While he doesn't have a great motor, some hard coaching at the next level may change that (especially from a coach like Jim Washburn.) Of all the "small-school" prospects that failed to receive an invite, Hamilton was by far the biggest surprise, as most thought he would be a shoe-in to work out in Indianapolis in front of the NFL masses.
Kentrell Lockett, Mississippi , 6-5, 243 - Lockett showed at the Shrine Game a few weeks ago that he absolutely has the tools to be worthy of a draft selection. The former Ole Miss star is a ferocious pass rusher that plays with good pad level, quickness, and lateral agility. He has a variety of pass rush moves, but excels most when he transitions from speed to power as a bull rusher. He's got good size and the frame to put on more weight at the next level. Lockett did tear an ACL in the fall of 2010, but rebounded from that and put his sixth year of eligibility to good use in 2011.
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, Baylor, 6-1, 335 - The big nose tackle out of Baylor is another prospect who made some noise during the week of the Shrine Game, proving why he has as high an upside as any prospect in his class. He plays with a high motor, uses his hands well and exhibits good power at the point of attack. Jean-Baptiste is still raw, and plays a little out of control at times, but the ability is clearly there and I would have liked to see him work alongside his peers in Indianapolis.
Micanor Regis, Miami, 6-2, 309 - Along with Jean-Baptiste, Regis shined at the Shrine Game earlier this year and showed everyone that he too is worthy of a draft pick. The former Miami Hurricane displayed solid short area quickness and an explosive first step in St. Petersburg, proving to be one of the more active linemen in the game. Regis set up shop time and time again in the opposing backfield, verifying his penetration skills that he displayed during his time at "The U." While he will never be mistaken for the strongest player at his position, Regis makes up for that with his hand usage and suddenness as a pass rusher. It would not shock me to see a team take a late-round flier on him late, but if not he will be a priority free agent signing in a deep defensive tackle group.
Sammy Brown, Houston, 6-1, 243 - One of the most underrated pass rushers in this draft class, Brown made a living getting after the quarterback during his time with the Cougars. A very productive senior year helped him garner an invitation to the Players All Star Classic, where he again showed his speed off the edge and variety of pass rush moves to get to the quarterback. He has a quick first step, solid closing burst, and the ability to flatten out on the edge that will make teams that run a 3-4 scheme very intrigued on film. It's a shame that Brown was not invited to Indianapolis, because I feel confident he would have been one of the standout performers in the speed and agility drills. Still, we all know the premium set on pass rushers, so it won't surprise me to see him get drafted in the later rounds in April.
Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, 6-1, 241 - While Brown would have thrived at the Combine, Franklin is the type of player that could have seen his stock fall in Indianapolis. Not to be mistaken for an elite athlete, Franklin depends on his instincts and nose for the football to succeed on the field. One of the more productive defenders in the country based on tackles, Franklin is an experienced player that knows the ins and outs of the game. While he may not ever be a starter at the next level due to his athletic limitations, he should be able to develop into a very good backup and special teams player once he latches onto an NFL squad.
Donnie Fletcher, Boston College , 6-0, 201 - The lone Senior Bowl participant who didn't net a Combine invite, Fletcher raised perhaps the most eyebrows when his Combine exclusion was revealed. An experienced player out of the ACC, Fletcher is considered by many to be one of the better zone defenders at his position, and a great fit in a zone-scheme at the next level. He doesn't have great speed, and looks a bit stiff in his back pedal, but he has good ball skills and instincts when breaking on the football. By no means do I think that this will keep him from hearing his name called, but the fact that he didn't receive an invite does make you think that maybe he has more questions surrounding his game than previously thought. Regardless, he will have a lot to prove when his Pro Day comes around after the Combine.
Aaron Henry, Wisconsin, 5-11, 208 - Henry showed at the Shrine Game that he is one of the better cover safeties in this draft class, displaying good feet, fluid hips, and excellent range. The former Badger didn't always have the production to show for it, but his raw athletic ability is undeniably there. In a safety class that doesn't have a lot of standout names, I was shocked to see Henry left out of the group set for Indianapolis.