Draft fans! The NFL Scouting Combine takes place this week in Indianapolis! That means the 2019 NFL Draft is right around the corner. So what should you be looking for this Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday? Precisely who should you be watching? Every year there are a handful of athletes that “blow up” the Combine and surge to the top of draft boards. Advanced athletic statistics can do wonders for predicting success at the next level. Which athletes are must see this weekend? Read along below to find out.
Nasir Adderley: The world knows Adderley has the ideal temperament to play in the NFL, but can the FCS stars’ athleticism translate? The Packers defense under Mike Pettine played with a single safety high on over 60% of snaps in 2018. Will he run fast enough at the combine to convince teams he is single-high safety material? Read me gush about Adderley’s skillset here:
Brian Burns: Question marks remain about Burns’ weight heading into the combine. Will he be able to bulk up from his 230-pound playing weight at Florida State and maintain his top-notch athleticism? How will Burns test in comparison to other high end edge rushers? Can he solidify his status as a top three pass-rusher in the draft? Much will be revealed on Sunday.
D.K. Metcalf: Metcalf is widely expected to destroy the combine. Rumours swirled on Thursday, after measuring 6’3 228 pounds, that the wideout from Ole Miss is walking around with only 1.6% body fat! He smashed out 27 reps on the bench press Friday, and is widely expected to run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash this Saturday. Metcalf is can’t miss TV, and could sneak into the top ten with the otherworldly workout he is expected to put up.
Rashan Gary: Many believe the defensive lineman was played out of position on the edge at the University of Michigan, where he was nearly always double-teamed. But does he have the size and strength to play inside at the next level? Does he have the bend to remain outside? Watch for Gary’s performance Sunday to make jaws drop in the stands at the combine, and make him a surefire top ten pick.
Hakeem Butler: The 6’6 late season highlight reel staple will have to confirm to NFL scouts that he can run fast enough to be a difference maker at the next level. We know he can jump out of the gym, and possesses the largest catch radius of any receiver in the draft. Nonetheless, he will have to demonstrate that he has the speed and quickness needed separate from NFL corners. If he is able to run the 40 in the 4.5 range, and shows well in the 3-cone and hands drills, Butler has a chance to sneak into the late first round.
Ed Oliver: At this time last year Oliver was locked in as a top-five draft pick for the 2019 class. The number one player in the country as a senior in high school, Oliver was widely expected to be the number 1 overall pick this year. Oh, how times change. Oliver will not only need to test well, but also answer questions off the field about his temperament and heavily publicized arguments with coaches at Houston. With the defensive talent so stacked at the top of most scouts big boards, Oliver could be the one who falls through the cracks. Rumour has it he will test closer to the scores of a linebacker than a defensive tackle. If he is able to impress in interviews, and runs the way he does on tape, unfortunately for the Packers there’s no way he makes it to pick 12.
Oshane Ximines: No player from Old Dominion has ever been drafted to play in the National Football League. Defensive end Oshane Ximines is about to change that in a big way. The standout senior played well at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and now has a chance to “wow” teams at the combine. Generally mocked as a top-100 pick, he will need to put up decent numbers to signal to teams he can be successful at getting to the quarterback in the NFL. An ESPN mock draft recently had him headed to Green Bay at pick 30. While I believe this to be far too high, with an outstanding showing in Indianapolis, Ximines could become a Packers target in as early as the 2nd round.
Noah Fant: Fant consistently ran right past some of the fastest corners in college football the last few years, can he do that in the NFL? Can he demolish the field of tight end prospects and tear down his teammate TJ Hockenson’s case as TE 1? Fant has the ability to break tight end records at the combine. However, he also needs to show he has the strength and overall bulk needed to play tight end at the next level. Look for Fant to put up Eric Ebron type numbers and entertain the crowd in Indy.
Jachai Polite: Repeatedly mocked to Green Bay as Clay Matthews’ successor in the first round, the edge rusher from Florida will need to show out this weekend. While he possesses all the athletic ability in the world, will he be able to add weight to his frame and still ruin the competition? Can he outperform Burns, Bosa, Josh Allen and other prospects by such a margin that he forces himself into the top-ten conversation? Polite will be an interesting case study this weekend.
Most importantly Packers fans, do not hold every number that comes out of the combine as gospel. While a players’ performance at the combine can be indicative of NFL success, athletic scores, much like statistics, do not always paint a full picture. Every year multiple players like Brandon Flowers, Vontaze Burfict, and “Mr. Big Chest” himself, Antonio Brown, fail to test well but become Pro Bowl or even All-Pro players at the next level. Most recently, Orlando Brown Jr., now of the Baltimore Ravens, may have had the worst combine of all time just last spring. Yet, he was able to press on and have a productive rookie season, significantly contributing to the Ravens postseason birth . The trick, as always, is picking them out.Nick is a lifelong Packers fan. 4th and 26 was on his 13th birthday, unlucky. Follow him @CANDRAFTGEEK647 on Twitter for all your Packers draft needs and questions.