The NFL has begun its annual descent on the City of Indianapolis for the 2016 Scouting Combine. On Friday, the offensive linemen and running backs take to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first on-field workouts of the week. As we move toward the opening of the Combine, here is the latest draft buzz from scouting circles ...
1. It's usually this time of the year when people get a sense on the quarterbacks who may be rising up draft boards. The scouting community has pegged Kevin Hogan as the guy in 2016. Despite a somewhat erratic college career, he impressed several teams during the Senior Bowl with his arm strength and pass velocity. One criticism teams have of Hogan was his long wind-up. However, they may be pleasantly surprised when the Stanford senior works out at the Combine.
Since the Senior Bowl, Hogan has been working with John Ramsdell, a veteran NFL coach of 19 years whose student roster includes Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers and Cam Newton. Word circulating is Ramsdell has really helped Hogan shorten his throwing motion and the end result has been a hastened release and better velocity on passes. Teams believe Hogan has a great upside and will be a better pro passer than college thrower. A good throwing workout on Saturday will further improve his draft stock, which is seemingly on the rise.
2. Offensive tackle Jack Conklin is universally graded as a first-round pick, but not everyone in the league is certain he can handle the left tackle position in the NFL. His testing results at the Combine will go a long way in the final determination and word is Conklin will put up good numbers on Friday. The Michigan State junior is expected to tip the scales around 315 pounds, about 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season, and should time the 40-yard dash in the 4.9-second range.
I'm told last spring that the Michigan State coaches timed Conklin at 4.85-seconds. Scouts who believe Conklin can hold down the left tackle spot on Sundays point to the fact he played well against top-rated defensive end DeForest Buckner of Oregon early last season and was one of the few Spartans who looked sharp during the playoff loss to Alabama. Conklin is expected to interview well with teams and good testing marks could secure his place in the top half of the first round.
3. While most people concentrate on 40 times and bench press results at the Combine, scouts will tell you the medical exams and interviews are the greatest benefit from their week in Indianapolis. And no player has as much to gain or lose from the interview process as Florida receiver Demarcus Robinson. On film, Robinson grades as a top-15 prospect and would challenge Laquon Treadwell as the draft's best receiver. Besides his pass catching skill, he's expected to test like an Olympian when the receivers workout on Saturday.
But what about his checkered past?
Robinson was suspended from the Gators on four separate occasions - three times for marijuana use and once for missing curfew. Robinson hopes to communicate during Combine interviews that his marijuana days are behind him, but teams must calculate the risk/reward factor. If he's labeled a habitual marijuana user, Robinson will fall deep in the draft. If teams believe the talented wideout has moved on from past transgressions, he could end up as a second-day pick. Whatever the case, the team that ultimately selects Robinson could be looking at a future No. 1 receiver if he has indeed matured.
4. Expect Reggie Ragland, who tipped the scales at 259 pounds during Senior Bowl weigh-ins, to be much lighter at the Combine. Ragland spent most of the two weeks between Alabama winning the National Championship and Senior Bowl weigh-ins on the awards circuit where he found just a few available days to train.
5. When mentioning Clemson and the safety position in the same sentence people (outside of Philadelphia) automatically think of Jayron Kearse, but don't tell that to NFL scouts. Several league decision-makers rate teammate T.J. Green as the top safety from the Clemson program and believe he'll be selected a round earlier than Kearse. Green is a terrific athlete who lined up at safety, wide receiver and also played special teams for the Tigers. He's expected to test well during the Combine's final day, but interviews are critical for Green as teams want to measure his football IQ. Those who endorse Green point to the fact he was responsible for checking the Clemson secondary into the proper coverages all season long.