The official list of invitations for the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is out. You can expect plenty of coverage from us on the Journey to the Draft podcast driven by AAA leading up to, through, and after the week of festivities in Indianapolis.
First, let's recognize a handful of players who did not get that invitation. Fear not, however, because there are plenty of players who shared that fate and went on to have illustrious NFL careers. From big-time playmaking receivers like Tyreek Hill, Adam Thielen, and Doug Baldwin, or sticky cover corners like Malcolm Butler or Chris Harris, players advance from this slight to NFL stardom.
Thirty-three players who were not invited to last year's Combine ended up being drafted, while 117 players who attended the event were not selected by a team last April. Here, I've picked 22 players whose lack of an invitation to Indianapolis surprised me.
QB Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State
Stevens, a Penn State transfer, is an athletic passer with intriguing arm talent. He started only one season of college football, and battled injuries throughout, but has the tools to compete for a job down the road. He was one of the more intriguing prospects present at the East-West Shrine Bowl in January.
RB Rodney Smith, Minnesota
A sixth-year senior who was granted an extra year of eligibility due to an injury in 2018, Smith was a standout zone runner for the Gophers. He boasts solid vision and physical tools to be a complementary piece in an NFL backfield.
WR Mason Kinsey, Berry College
A crafty route runner who put up big numbers at the D-III level, Kinsey went to the East-West Shrine Bowl last month and had a solid week of practice. He's not the biggest or fastest, but he's an advanced route runner with confident hands and the toughness to work through contact.
WR Ja'Marcus Bradley, Louisiana
A former high school quarterback who led his team in touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, Bradley is the first of two Cajuns on this list who I'm surprised is not getting the call up to Indianapolis. A smooth operator at 6-0, 198 pounds, Bradley flashes very good route running skills and is pretty good after the catch. He, too, had a strong week of practice at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
WR Jonathon Johnson, Missouri
Another player who had a solid week of practice at the Shrine Bowl, Johnson is small but he's explosive. A longtime return man for the Tigers, Johnson is a twitched-up playmaker who can separate and is fun to watch with the ball in his hands despite his 5-8, 170-pound frame.
TE Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan
Ricci is built similarly to former Eagles tight end Trey Burton, and as a former high school quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-tight end, he's following a similar path to the NFL. Ricci is an intriguing athlete with legitimate receiving skills, allowing him to finish the season second in the country in touchdowns (8) at the position and as a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award as the top tight end in college football.
OL Kevin Dotson, Louisiana
Most people in attendance at the Shrine Bowl would have named Dotson as one of the most impressive players there throughout the week of practice. A big, strong four-year starter at guard, Dotson showed off better-than-expected foot quickness in St. Petersburg. Dotson is perhaps the biggest surprise of all of the players on this list.
OL Gage Cervenka, Clemson
A converted defensive tackle known for his prowess in the weight room, Cervenka is surely disappointed he won't be able to show off his abilities in Indianapolis. A dominant high school wrestler who went 199-1 in his career (a background trait many evaluators look for in linemen), Cervenka is a tough, powerful player inside at 6-3, 324 pounds.
OL Julian Good-Jones, Iowa State
Good-Jones started the last two years at left tackle, but played center in 2017 and at right tackle in 2016, so his versatility alone makes him an intriguing player when projecting to the NFL. A smart player with solid athleticism, he also set the school record for the Cyclones with 49 straight starts in his career.
OL Darrin Paulo, Utah
Paulo can develop into a swing tackle and fits best into a zone run scheme in the NFL. He needs refinement, but he has solid tools to work with and has started the last three years for the Utes at tackle (one at left, two at right).
OL John Phillips, Boston College
Phillips started 30 games for the Eagles and was a key part of opening up holes for All-ACC running back AJ Dillon. A first-team all-conference selection himself this past year, it's a bit of a surprise that the large guard (listed at 6-6, 305 pounds) didn't make it to Indy.
EDGE Bryce Huff, Memphis
An undersized pass rusher at 6-2, 254 pounds, Huff has a squatty frame and isn't the most explosive athlete off the ball. However, he plays with a really high motor, can close from behind, and was productive in his final season on campus, allowing him to earn second-team All-AAC honors.
EDGE Oluwole Betiku, Illinois
Betiku moved to America from Nigeria as a high school sophomore after being "discovered" at a sports camp, got an offer from the University of Maryland before ever playing a down of organized football, then committed to USC after racking up 12 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in his first season as a junior. Fast forward a few years, Betiku graduated from USC, transferred to Illinois, then finished his career with nine sacks this season playing for Lovie Smith. An impressive physical specimen whose first set of weights were made of spare car parts and who is also an avid painter, Betiku is one of the most fascinating stories in this entire class. It's a shame we won't see him in Indianapolis.
DL Bravvion Roy, Baylor
Roy is 332 pounds, but he's impressive with his quickness off the ball. He was moved all up and down the line for the Bears this year. He doesn't have the best-looking frame, but his burst and power would have been fun to see on display in drills.
DL Breiden Fehoko, LSU
A Texas Tech transfer who started two seasons for LSU, Fehoko is a stout run defender who can eat up blocks up front. He's not a disruptive pass rusher, but there are certainly tools to work with. The five-star recruit will have to wait until his Pro Day to show himself off to scouts.
LB Tae Crowder, Georgia
He's not explosive, but Crowder is a fluid athlete with really good instincts in zone coverage. Ranked by most recruiting services as a receiver coming out of high school, Crowder made the full-time switch to defense in 2017 and can fill a role at the bottom of the depth chart as a special teams player at the next level.
LB David Reese, Florida
Reese is a classic thumper who has been productive as a tackler in the middle of the Gators' defense over the last three seasons. He has athletic limitations, for sure, but I was still a bit shocked to see the senior left off the Combine list because of his abilities to defend the run.
CB Manny Patterson, Maine
Patterson is small, but he's a really impressive athlete who will raise eyebrows during the Pro Day circuit in March. A pure man-to-man corner who projects best inside because of his 5-9, 185-pound frame, Patterson can run with anyone and will chase receivers all day long in the secondary. He's an interesting player to watch through the process.
CB Chris Williamson, Minnesota
A Florida transfer, Williamson was one of the better players down at the Shrine Bowl in January. A fluid athlete with really good instincts in off coverage, the senior has inside-outside versatility in the secondary and has traits to be a nickel corner in the NFL.
CB Jace Whittaker, Arizona
Like Williamson, I think Whittaker transitions best as a nickel corner in the NFL, and he saw plenty of reps on the inside for the Wildcats. A scrappy defender with instincts and ball skills, Whittaker has battled injury during his time in the desert, but he's a football player who I think will claw his way onto an NFL roster.
S Levonta Taylor, Florida State
Taylor was the No. 1 defensive back in the entire country coming out of high school, and he played every spot in the secondary throughout his career with the Seminoles. An explosive athlete who would have surely stood out in athletic testing, Taylor will now have to wait until FSU's Pro Day to prove his wares to teams.
S Luther Kirk, Illinois State
Kirk is a lanky ballhawk who can play in the post and make plays from sideline to sideline. Kirk has speed and toughness. I'm very, very surprised he isn't making the trip out to Indianapolis, but he played at a lower level of competition and needs to get stronger.